Julie and the Phantoms on Coping with Loss

Julie and the Phantoms on Coping with Loss

Photo Credit: Spoiler TV

How a teen show has helped me understand death

Athena Bucci, The Mike Staff Writer

Being quarantined during the pandemic has managed to take a hit on all of us. The longing for connection, the need to be outside, and realizing the things we take for granted are just a few things I’ve learned from everything that has happened this year. But my story is a little bit different than most.

When the school year was approaching, I was miserable and so lost. Even now, I question everything. The worst part is that I had lost my passion for writing. I used to write a lot and never doubted myself, but now I can only write if it’s for school. I force myself to take creative writing classes just to have an excuse to write, but I never feel proud of my work.

One day my sister gathered me into our basement and told me about this Netflix show that just came out called Julie and the Phantoms. She had already watched it once and had me watch it with her again. I wasn’t really interested in seeing it, mainly because I thought it would be another teen show with the same stereotypical characters: the shy and awkward protagonist, her overly confident and supportive best friend, the rich and popular antagonist who throws petty remarks at the protagonist, etc. But after one episode I was already in love with the whole series.

Julie and the Phantoms was directed by the creator of High School Musical, Kenny Ortega. Julie Molina (Madison Reyes) lost her passion for music after her mom died. While cleaning out her garage, she finds a demo of a 90’s rock band and the ghosts of three of the members, Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Reggie (Jeremy Shada), and Alex (Owen Joyner) appear in front of her. They soon learn that when they play music together everyone is able to see and hear them, and decide to form their own band. 

I never thought I could love a teen show as much as I did with Julie and the Phantoms. But I love everything about it; the music, the dancing, the little quirks, and yes, even the cheesy and stereotypical stuff. But this show has a message that goes a bit deeper than I first realized. 

I lost two very important people in my life this year, for reasons unrelated to COVID, which have impacted me greatly. The first was my dad’s mom, my Italian grandmother, who had been sick since May 2019. The second was mom’s dad, my Greek grandfather, who suddenly died six months later. I never experienced death as something that could have such a big effect on my life the way these two had. I only have my Greek grandmother left, who my sister, my cousin, and I had to take turns staying with until she moved in with us in September.

It took me a while to learn that I connected with the protagonist in the same way. Julie grew up learning and writing music with her mom, so it was hard for her to continue after her mom passed. For me, when I write I am taken to a whole other world, one where I am free to think beyond my wildest imaginations. After my grandma, it was really hard for me to go throughout my day without wanting to just burst into tears. When COVID came, it became harder to deal with while being trapped inside. I tried reading more, going on walks in my neighbourhood, but I couldn’t write. I figured, maybe it will just take time, which most things do, until my grandpa went as well, and soon everything hit me twice as hard. 

Everything suddenly changed. I felt so trapped, and didn’t know who or where to turn to. I was brought back from my world of writing stories to the harsh reality. 

The show deals with death in an important way. Luke, Reggie, and Alex had died in 1995 and reappear in 2020 to learn that almost everyone and everything they knew was gone. They had trouble reaching out to the ones that weren’t, knowing that they died without ever getting the chance to say goodbye. There was no way to undo it all, no way to make things right with the people they cared about. 

It still hurts to know that I won’t get to see or talk to my grandparents again. I will never get to say any unspoken words, no more “I love you”, and no chance of bringing them back. Even after all this time, I’m still trying to cope with everything. But I know that it’s going to take time. For Julie, it was almost a year before she could play the piano and sing again. 2020 is almost over, but if there’s one thing that Julie and the Phantoms has taught me, it’s that you can’t do anything about the past, no matter how much you still want to hold onto it. Everything that happens is here in the present; don’t leave everything unsaid and don’t be afraid to take risks.