'Grand Army' Episode 2: With different stances on punishment, show gives taste of how privilege works
The show tries to present a nuanced picture of how class, race and gender and their specific power dynamics intersect in a public school institution
In Episode 1, Joey feels humiliated after she is told to cover up by a teacher who decidedly oversteps her authority. In Episode 2, she takes her revenge. She rallies 'the troops', getting girls from the dance group, the drama troupe, the Equality society, and other groups to join her 'free the nipple' campaign, challenging them to go braless to support her .
The next day, she walks into class in a barely-there white tee, which reads 'Free the Nipple', and goes braless. The teacher who slut-shamed her in the first episode at first tries to ignore her. But when Joey pours water on herself to elicit a reaction, the teacher finally orders her to get out of class. She then becomes the headache of the (male) administrator, who is unable to answer Joey's questions about how her body is not the problem, while his reaction to it is. She is surrounded by her "woke boys" lining up behind her wearing "free the nipple" tees themselves. The teacher then has to come into the office and apologize to her for calling her a prostitute and making her miss class.
Later, we see Joey being celebrated by her cheerleading gang who celebrates being her 'slut squad'. In essence, the disciplinary apparatus is scared of the power she holds as the young, vulnerable White teenage girl. Joey, herself, and the others around her, see her as claiming her power — not knowing that she is claiming a power that already exists for her. Her "woke boys" are with her because in their teen boy brains, anything that gets their homegirl to strip off is a good thing — none of Joey's feminist politics actually gets through to them.
The show also acknowledges through social media messages from her POC peers about Joey's campaign being amplified by her privilege while Black girls die without their voices getting heard. Ironically, Joey is all about "consequences for their action" for Owen and Jayson playing a prank on Dominique. She does not realize that she too is replicating the sort of logic that her teacher had about her. Going braless = prostitute. Prank = suspending Black students or throwing them out of school.
Owen is suspended pending a trial for taking out the wallet from Dom's bag while Jayson gets a lighter sentence of a seven-day suspension. Social class seems to play into this a bit because Owen comes from a poor Black family while Jayson comes from a middle-class Black one. Their concerns around the punishment is valid because Owen and Jayson do give back the $200 Dominique lost, earning the cash by busking.
After they are suspended, Joey looks at Dom with her too round eyes and says, "that's unfair!" to which Dom says, "you think!" While Dom is also angry at Owen and Jayson, she doesn't accuse them of stealing but Joey does, judging them. For her, it is a way to show female solidarity but it backfires spectacularly. The show tries, with mixed results, to present a nuanced picture of how class, race and gender and their specific power dynamics intersect in a public school institution — especially in the way the disciplinary apparatus deals with kids from different backgrounds.
'Grand Army' premiered on Netflix on October 16.