There’s no doubt that Top Boy, with its strong acting and depiction of modern masculinity in London’s poorest neighborhoods, has had a lasting impact on television.
However, as the series comes to an end, it’s clearer than ever that while the show may be named Top Boy, its most important and emotional moments revolve around its female characters.
If you’ve been following Ronan Bennett’s Top Boy: Summerhouse since it first aired on UK’s Channel 4 in 2011, you’d notice a significant change in how the Netflix revival portrays its female characters.
In the original series, women had limited storylines, which led to Letitia Wright, who played Chantelle in Season 1, leaving the show. Wright explained to Net-A-Porter, “I appreciate what they’ve created, but I felt a strong desire to portray Black girls differently.”
With the Netflix reboot, the series has evolved and now emphasizes storylines led by women, giving them equal time and depth of development as the male characters.
Revived by Drake and Adel Future Nur in 2019 for Netflix, the show made a conscious effort to highlight female leads alongside the main characters, Dushane and Sully (played by Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson).
Bringing in directors like Myriam Raja and Nia DaCosta for the Netflix reboot also contributed positively. For instance, there’s Jaq (played by Jasmine Jobson), a loyal member of the Summerhouse crew who consistently demonstrates that women can excel in any role, even in male-dominated environments. Then there’s Shelley (played by Simbi Ajikawo, known as Little Simz), a single parent and aspiring business owner who strives for a better life for herself and her child while creating a supportive community for the women around her.
These characters play a crucial role in showcasing Top Boy’s brilliance as a multi-faceted story with various perspectives.
It seems that the larger Netflix platform encouraged Ronan Bennett and co-writer Daniel West to explore the rich experiences of women in addressing important issues like homophobia, domestic abuse, and postpartum depression.
Top Boy‘s emphasis on female-driven narratives extends beyond the typical focus on drugs and violence. It delves into how societal issues like gentrification and deportation disproportionately affect lower-income communities, compelling individuals to seek quick ways to support their families.
In the final season, the series underscores the resilience of women within these communities, a recurring theme. The show vividly portrays the harsh daily challenges, particularly those impacting women. For example, Amma, Ats’ mother, loses her son due to deportation threats, as she can no longer work.
The last season of the show also highlights the significance of young women. Erin’s (played by Savanah Graham) storyline with Stefan (played by Araloyin Oshunremi), while providing lighthearted moments, also serves as a platform for essential conversations about sexual health, empowerment, respect, and dealing with grief, particularly when a loved one is violently taken away.