Freeform’s Recovery Road was recently cancelled after one season, and I’m so upset.
Recovery Road tells the story of mixed-race teenager Maddie Graham as she enters a sober house to overcome her drug addiction. On Freeform’s website, Maddie is described as a “whip-smart” student who’s “thrust into a completely alien world” as she tries to navigate the all-too familiar teenage struggles of school and romance. Although initially in denial about her addiction, she eventually learns to get along with the various people around her and comes to terms with being an addict. It’s a transformation that’s human and sincere.
Despite how new it was, RR was exciting, compelling, and very well-received by the general audience. Not to mention – Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes gave it some pretty solid scores. But then, on May 13th, Executive Producer Holly Sorensen announced on Twitter that the show had been cancelled.
It was well-received by critics, so why cancel it? Didn’t it fit the usual mold of Freeform’s typical teenage drama tropes of backstabbing, dark/trendy suspense, and conventional plot twists?
To amount of mixed race and interracial representation on the show was the main thing that impressed me, personally. If Freeform doesn’t allow the show a second chance to emphasize the struggle of addiction, relapse, and improving identity development, at least have the show continue for the sake of mixed race visibility. I wanted more than the ten episodes I got online.
Here are five reasons why Recovery Road needs to return to Freeform for mixed race visibility. And don’t worry, I will try my absolute best not to spoil anything, for those who intend to watch it on Freeform’s website.
1. It will continue to shine a light on how mixed race girls may get into drug addiction.
In the first episode, the viewer sees how Maddie didn’t expose herself to alcohol and other drugs until after her father died in a car accident (caused by a drunk driver.) Her father had white descent, and her mother has African American descent. In a later episode, she explains to her new friend Wes (played by Sebastian de Souza) that she viewed herself as an alien growing up. To experience that kind of social struggle, and then lose a part of her identity by losing her father, can be very straining for a mixed race person. Additionally, it was interesting to analyze that coupled with the struggle of addiction. Addiction does not affect a certain “type” of person – it’s race-blind.
2. It could open up an opportunity for multiracial visibility.
Maddie’s mother, Charlotte Graham (played by Sharon Leal), could be implied to be monoracial, placing Maddie’s racial identity in a binary. However, Sharon Leal is African American and Asian American, and Jessica Sula is Afro-Latina, Asian, and white. When I first heard of the show and saw the diversity among the cast, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to shed light on biracial parents and their multiracial children.
I can’t help but think that this was a formula created by the show’s creators on purpose, but simply fell by the wayside due to the mere ten-episode arc they were given. If this show were to be given a second chance, I’d root for an expansion of a multiracial storyline all the way.
3. It shows the humanity behind single-mother parenthood.
Seeing Charlotte trying harder and harder, and getting better and better, at reconciling her relationship with her daughter always made my heart happy. After Maddie’s father died and Maddie became more involved in drugs, her relationship with her mother wasn’t as open. According to her mother in the first episode, Maddie was closer to her father, and he was usually able to pick up on anything that was wrong with her. Maddie’s stay in the sober house contributed to her willingness to become more open with her mother about the difficulties of being away from friends and withdrawal. Therefore, even though a part of her may be lost, there is part of Maddie who is still with her: Charlotte. Viewers should be allowed to see that relationship continue to evolve through different obstacles the show could have offered if allowed a second season.
4. It displays the family dynamic of various interracial families.
Besides Maddie being a member of an interracial family, her fellow resident in the sober house Margarita, played by Paula Jai Parker, is a Jamaican woman who runs a restaurant with her white husband, and their biracial son works for them. Before entering the sober house, Maddie’s roommate Trish, played by Kyla Pratt, is a black woman in a relationship with a white man, and it’s implied that they have a child together (this isn’t a spoiler, you have to watch it to see what I mean). Moreover, there was no single point in the show where Maddie or Margarita’s son is exoticized or prodded upon by other characters for their multiraciality. To the creators and writers of Recovery Road, I say thank you, for that. The show’s cancellation means a huge missed opportunity for interracial visibility.
5. It shows the stigma of mental health and addiction for mixed race women and other women of color.
The viewer can see other women of color – the character Trish especially – struggling to cope with their mental health and staying sober. However, to see a mixed race woman of color trying to cope may be new for most viewers. Maddie has a lot of difficulty trying to hide from her friends that she’s been living in a sober house. Referring back to Maddie’s “alien” comment about herself can help the viewer see how mixed race women may struggle with personal issues such as these as much as monoracial women of color, if not more. Seeing Maddie struggle harder and harder with keeping secrets to herself was intriguing to see, especially as someone who has been to therapy and has attempted to keep secrets from others for a long time. This show had so much potential to expand on this!
So again, um…what? Why Freeform? Why?
If this is truly the last we’ll ever see of Recovery Road, I do hope that new projects can emerge with similar topics such as this show. But, if the channel is willing to bring back the show despite the announcement of cancellation, hopefully these five reasons would be taken into consideration in order to expand on mixed race visibility on the show.