When you imagine the typical high school drama series, you might think of “Riverdale” or “Degrassi.” The Spanish Netflix original “Elite” is another classic show to add to that list. “Elite” captures the pressure of growing up and creating an identity in a setting where wealth and social status play a huge role. When class differences cause chaos between the students, murder is an inevitable outcome. The gripping dramatization and suspenseful plot line will have you on the edge of your seat. More than that, the series reimagines played-out tropes and brings a fresh new twist to a teenage drama.
“Elite” follows the lives of students attending Las Encinas, an exclusive private school in Spain. Three students receive scholarships to attend Las Encinas after faulty construction causes their public high school to collapse. The wealthy members of Las Encinas find it hard to accept the new kids because of the glaring class divide.
The school expectedly has its cliques, with Lucrecia (Danna Paola), Guzmán (Miguel Bernardeau), Polo (Álvaro Rico) and Carla (Ester Expósito) making up the snobby rich kid gang. The group of transfer students consists of Nadia (Mina El Hammani), Samuel (Itzan Escamilla) and Christian (Miguel Herran). The central plot of the series begins with the differences in social status but follows each character on a journey of self-discovery and forming unlikely friendships. The directors of “Elite” provide in-depth character development and surprising turns of events, making this show a one-of-a-kind teenage thriller.
Here are five ways “Elite” is different from its American predecessors:
1. The minority representation is unmatched
One of the most commendable aspects of the show is the casting of a Muslim girl, Nadia, as a lead character. Her prominent role in the series shows the difficulties of growing up in a strict religious household while still wanting to experience life and create an identity. Further, the series displays a wide variety of sexual orientations. Nearly every part of the LGBTQ+ community is represented with lesbian mothers, polyamorous relationships and a few of the students questioning their sexuality throughout the series.
Individuals with HIV also receive the representation that is commonly missed in other teen dramas. Marina, a main character in the series, sheds light on the stigmatization and ridicule faced daily by those living with HIV. It is evident that the casting directors carefully considered how to maximize the impact of their diverse, yet organized cast.
2. Students are defying parents and choosing to find themselves
While rebelling against authority figures isn’t a theme unique to “Elite,” the characters disobey their guardians in ways that are much more consequential. For example, Nadia and Omar, siblings from a strict Muslim household, defy their parents with their choices in romantic partners, the mistakes they make and their decisions for their post-high school futures. Both Nadia and Omar choose to better themselves and do what makes them happy instead of conforming to the mold their parents made for them.
While many other shows portray teenage insolence as doing drugs and sneaking out, the characters in “Elite” must make far more serious decisions. In Season 2, one character defies her parents by confessing to crimes that would endanger the family business. When it comes to doing the right thing or protecting corrupt parents, the waters become murky for the characters in “Elite.” The ways in which young adults typically disobey parents are no match for the Earth-shattering and devastating decisions the students at Las Encinas are forced to make.
3. “Elite” shows why wealth isn’t always a good thing
Upon first entering their new high school, the three transfer students are convinced that the lives of the wealthy students at Las Encinas must be perfect. The events that unfold prove that everything is not always what it seems. Though the rich students can buy fancy cars, pay expensive tuition and throw elaborate parties, the grades they receive and the relationships they form must be earned.
One student tries to pay her way to better grades by bribing a teacher. This eventually blows up in her face and lands her in the principal’s office. Another student attempts to buy the affection of a partner through fancy watches and exotic vacations, but the relationship ultimately falls apart. The students start to realize that though their families are wealthy, not everything has a price tag. “Elite” stands apart from other teen dramas like “Gossip Girl” by showing that despite their high status, the lives of the rich kids are far from perfect. With each episode, it becomes clearer that the privilege of the wealthy can quickly turn into a curse.
4. The show is a drama-filled murder mystery
Like its predecessors, the show takes place at a high school, which is undoubtedly the perfect landscape for intense drama. But if you’re about to start the series expecting it to be a sequel of “Zoey 101,” you might be disturbed but also pleasantly surprised. The nail-biting drama that occurs in “Elite” sets it a step above other shows like it. Each season revolves around a new death or missing person, and each episode reveals more and more about the night of the incident. The clash between the rich kids and the transfer students provides an unparalleled premise for a high-school drama and proves to be an effective way of perpetuating complications.
5. The series covers a variety of dilemmas
Previous shows in the genre like “Glee” and “Degrassi” showcase the characteristic issues that often accompany teenage angst such as drug dealing, pregnancy, flunking, sexually transmitted diseases and homelessness. However, “Elite” kicks the drama up a notch and covers those problems and then some, like murder, robbery, embezzlement and inappropriate sexual relationships. The characters experience every emotion, from love and hatred to lust, jealousy and murderous rage. Though they are only teenagers, the issues portrayed in the series are much heavier than the average high school rom-com. The complex themes covered in the series make it more suited for college-aged individuals who can better understand what’s going on.
Despite the many difficulties the students face in their time at Las Encinas, the characters display great maturation by the end of the third season. Unlikely friendships begin to form when the students realize that with class differences cast aside, they all unexpectedly have a lot in common. Even the “sworn enemies” of the school begin to bond after discovering they both share toxic home environments, relationship problems and secrets they’re sworn to keep. The wide range of topics covered in the series make “Elite” relatable to audience members belonging to any race, gender or socioeconomic status.
The show, complete with a diverse cast and riveting plot, continues to impress fans around the globe. The premise of the series is relatable but also unpredictable enough to keep viewers excited for the next season. Watching “Elite” will surely leave any college student reminiscing about the simpler days before adulthood and feeling thankful that their high school experience paled in comparison to the crazy antics that ensue at Las Encinas.