Original Title: Rita
English Title: Rita
Year: 2012 – Present
“Remember those girls we just saw? The ones with piercings and eyeliner? They are not the evil ones. Evil doesn’t look like evil. Evil has a pageboy and does its homework.” That’s the advice the titular Rita gives a new teacher on her first day at her school. It sums up her teaching philosophy pretty well, Rita is the cool teacher, she smokes, she swears, and of course, she’s able to reach the students that nobody else can. She also sleeps with the school principal, and her student’s father all while refusing to listen to any form of authority. Nobody’s perfect.
On the surface, Denmark’s Rita does seem like a lot of bad American sitcoms, with the one teacher who, “gets it,” and has a prodigious ability to reach unreachable students. However, what makes this show better than any of those sitcoms is that while Rita is a great teacher, we also get to see those myriads of ways that her life is a total and complete mess. A single mother, with three nearly-grown children, it’s evident from the first episode that Rita didn’t have a great childhood and never had the chance to fully grow up herself, “Do you remember asking me why I became a teacher? It was to protect children from their teachers.” So while seeing Rita teach poetry to uninterested teenagers is fun, the true heart of the show comes from her life outside of the classroom.
There’s been fours season of Rita so far, with a fifth coming out any day now. The first couple of seasons focus more on her family life and relationships. With the latter two being more interested in Rita’s work in the school and relationships with fellow teachers. There’s a fairly dark storyline in the fourth season the looks back on Rita’s past and answers some questions about how she ended up like she is, but thankfully the show never loses the sense of fun that makes it so entertaining.
Rita is a welcome alternative to the dreary Nordic Noir mysteries that we are used to seeing from Scandinavia. While its plots can almost border on soap opera, it’s nice to see Northern Europe with the sun shining and without brooding humorless detectives. Also, while Rita doesn’t delve deep into Danish education philosophies, it is an intriguing look at an academic system that is fairly different from what is offered in many other parts of the world.
It’s also worth noting that there is an American version of Rita in production, starring Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey, but it’s hard to imagine the show truly translating to American culture. It’s hard to imagine a mainstream American audience being forgiving enough to let Rita get passed her mistakes, so it may need to be watered down to an extent that it’s just another goofy school sitcom. It’s unfortunate because the joy of Rita is watching a woman make mistakes and do things that many might consider wrong, but ultimately forgiving her because we see she is doing the best she can.
Subs & Dubs: Just subtitles with this one.
Where to Watch: Rita is available worldwide on Netflix.