Control Z: Mexican high school appeals to all teenagers with hacking theme

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Netflix

Teens love (and fear) this high school drama that speaks to their problems.

When the second season of Netflix’s Control Z came out in August 20021, the show had more demand than 87.1% of all drama shows in the United States. The show spent time trending as number one in the U.S. as well as all over Latin America. Its massive success here is even more significant considering it’s from Mexico and is originally in Spanish.

There are so many shows about high school that try to appeal to this demographic. However, these shows often miss the mark on how high school and students are represented. Even in this show, the actors do not look like teenagers. What makes Control Z best show for Gen Z?

A graph showing the popularity of Control Z compared to other titles in the Teen Drama genre. Graph curiosity of Parrot Analytics.

Control Z is about a high school (El Colegio National) in Mexico City, with stereotypical jocks and mean girl groups. However, relationships get more complicated when a hacker finds out people’s secrets and reveals them to the school through social media.  Although he is identified in Season 1 the mystery begins again in Season 2 when suddenly a different hack begins.

I binge watched the second season in a couple of days.  My favorite character is Sofia Herrera because she is courageously struggling with mental health issues while solving the mystery of the hacker.

Sofia Herrera is the “weird girl.” She spends some time in a mental health facility, and her struggle with mental health is a big part of her character.

Natalia Alexander is much less likable, at first.  She is more of the stereotypical rich mean girl. She runs activities, such as school events, and has a bigger group of friends. Meanwhile, her sister Maria is like the more misunderstood type, an opposite of Natalia.  In the second season, she gets more screen time, and her relationship with Pablo develops into some real complications.

Raul is another smart, popular kid at school. Javier is the new kid at school, with a famous dad, and he quickly becomes good friends with Sofia.

One of the reasons Control Z is so special is the way it caters to Gen Z. The show heavily relies on social media and demonstrates its influence and power. Macarena Garcia, who plays Natalia, in an interview said that “Uno se mete a Instagram, a TikTok y no se da cuenta del poder que tiene las redes sociales…” Meaning, people get onto Instagram, TikTok and they do not realize the power that social media holds. The show’s examples of cyber-bullying and harassment over the internet is something many teens deal with today. The hacker sends out secrets about the characters and sends messages to them, harassing them.

I think an anonymous account has annoyed us all at least once. However, the purpose of the show is to reveal more into the serious side of how powerful the internet is and the problems it can cause.

Control Z touches on many other important topics as well. Sofia struggles with anxiety.  The second season touches more on her problems. In many scenes she has anxiety attacks and struggles to take her medication. In a specific scene, she has an attack so bad that she passes out and goes to hospital.

Darle la voz a los problemas que pasan en la vida cotidiana es muy importante.”

— Andrés Baida

I have never suffered an anxiety that serious, but seeing someone who also struggles with it, represented can help many Gen Z kids to see that they’re not alone. This representation is important for this generation because Gen Z has more anxiety than previous generations. Seventy five percent of Gen Z from 18 to 23 have left jobs due to mental health reasons. A lot of this anxiety can be drawn back to extended social media use. A study shows that teens that are on social media more than about four hours a day, are more likely to be unhappy.

Ana Valeria Becerrill who plays Sofia, also cares about the topic of mental health. In an interview, she said “Me puse a investigar muy a fondo la ansiedad, la depresión y otras enfermedades de salud mental como autolesionarse porque algo que me importaba y me sigue importando mucho es dar una buena representación.” In this quote she is saying that she really looked into anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems like self-harm because it is important for her to give a good representation of it.

Sofia is also relatable to many teens due to her family situation. Her parents aren’t together, and her mom starts dating the principal. The couple gets engaged (sort of less believable). Her struggle with accepting her mom’s fiance and getting used to not having her parents together, is something familiar to many teens.

The stories of other characters can be very similar to other high school experiences. Perhaps the most obvious one is Luis. Luis is very quiet and talks to very few people. He is a victim of bullying  and gets picked on relentlessly.

Natalia is also a character I think many people can relate to. While her story is a little dramatic, the core still holds true. She is popular, comes from a wealthy family and seems like she has everything together. She makes a mistake in the early episodes, and ends up in trouble trying to fix the problems that come with it.

There are way too many characters with complicated stories to go over them all, but here is a list of some good representation and topics this show has and touches on. Teen pregnancy, trans discrimination, sexuality and coming to terms with it, abortion, broken families, drug use, mental health/self harm, and bullying.

While Control Z has many good depictions of what high school students go through today, every show has inaccuracies. Now of course the show is dramatized for entertainment, so it won’t be the most accurate. Becerril even talked about this in an interview. She said, “Si está aficionado y …tiene que dramatizar más… pero creo que es una serie que te engancha.” Meaning that it is fiction and dramatized but it is a show that hooks you.

In another interview Garcia said, “Evidentemente esto tiene como un drama y tiene toda una historia y tiene como una trama, pero al final del día habla de las redes sociales y del cuidado que tenemos que tener en su uso.” In this quote she explains that the show obviously has a lot of drama and a story but at the end of the day it talks about social media and that we should be careful with it.

Garcia’s quote explains best how I feel about the show. That it’s dramatic and all, but it has it’s good lessons. For example, the hacker situation is very dramatic. The way there are whole videos made and edited to expose these students’ secrets so widely is not likely. However the core of the situation is something that does happen in schools. There are “exposing accounts” for different schools that I have come across and that have followed me.

While that situation is kind of accurate, there are some others that are very dramatic. In the last episode of Season 1, for example, Luis gets killed by his classmate, Gerry, beating him up. This situation was definitely inaccurate from a high school student’s perspective. I do not doubt that kids in school are taunted and bullied, but I have never witnessed physical harm, especially to that extreme, between students.

Overall, I think Control Z does a good job of representing high school experiences. I see myself in Sofi and can see many other students feeling represented by other characters. The obvious dramatization is expected from almost any show, but the characters and their stories are executed well to represent high schoolers and their unique experiences.

Netflix confirmed a Season 3, said to be released around November 2022.