Reality television has monopolized the TV screen for years. From “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” to “The Bachelor,” audiences around the world are immersed in the overwhelmingly ridiculous lives of celebrities or those who want to be celebrities. Nevertheless, the genre is expanding to encompass people of different backgrounds, with different stories. This includes Amazon Prime’s new docuseries “Always Jane.”
This four-part series focuses on Jane Noury, a transgender teenager, and the Noury family throughout her transitioning period. The audience is given a glimpse into their world at a time that precedes much change: Jane prepares for college, awaits her gender-affirming surgery and takes a chance on modeling. Fortunately for her, she is supported by her parents, two sisters and grandfather throughout it all.
While “Always Jane” takes on a sensitive and highly relevant topic, the first episode falls short of its potential. Undoubtedly, the show is engaging and the audience can’t help but fall in love with the Nourys: They are the quintessential boisterous and overprotective family. In fact, throughout the pilot, Jane reiterates how grateful she is for her parents and their unwavering love during what is an extremely pivotal time in her life.
And so, as we watch the show, we can’t help but feel relief and pure happiness for Jane, who is a lively, passionate and silly teenage girl. However, while the series aims to present the difficulties that a trans teen like Jane faces in the political and social climate of today’s world, it doesn’t entirely live up to this goal.
The way the story is presented is too simplified and superficial. Through videos Jane takes of herself and clips of her day-to-day life, the only thing the show reveals is how strong she is as an individual and how understanding her family has been throughout her transition. However, it doesn’t touch on the fact that a support system and the acceptance of friends and family is not a luxury that every person in the LGBTQ+ community is lucky enough to have.
So while Jane discusses her past issues of bullying and self-acceptance, the series only barely scratches the surface of what is a much larger issue. And inevitably, this undermines the main intention of the show: to address the larger struggles transgender people endure on a daily basis.
“Always Jane” doesn’t necessarily devalue Jane’s journey and the many obstacles that came with her decision to transition. Yet, it doesn’t dive into those obstacles nearly as much as it otherwise could have. Simply put, the tribulations Jane has experienced and will continue to experience as a trans woman are only briefly mentioned but not further developed within the episode. For instance, her mother Laura explains that there was a process the family had to go through in order for Jane to play on the girls’ soccer team at school; however, nothing else like this is addressed. The audience isn’t explicitly told what that process was like, how long it took or how it affected Jane personally. Instead, it is mentioned and never talked about again.
So, while “Always Jane” attempts to show viewers the implications of being a young trans person in the 21st century, it does so in a very surface-level way. Rather than being privy to the adversity Jane faces, we are just onlookers into the life of a teenager as she gets into college, hangs out with her friends and spends time with her family.
Daily Arts Writer Molly Hirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.