"Trinkets" is more about the excitement of friendship than theft.
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
At first glance, the Netflix series Trinkets resembles the structure of John Hughes’ 1985 film The Breakfast Club. Elodie Davis (Briannie Hildebrand), Moe Truax (Kiana Madeira), and Tabitha Foster (Quintessa Swindell) inhabit separate spheres at their Portland high school but find themselves at the same shoplifters anonymous meeting where they initiate a unique bond. Over time, their shared vice leads to an unexpectedly fierce alliance that allows the girls to lean on each other through grief, heartbreak and intimate-partner abuse. While watching the first three episodes, I was anticipating a focus on the exhilarating aspects of petty theft and a Gen-Z analysis of crime and insatiable want, like the 2013 Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring or Harmony Korine’s more lurid, female crime thriller Spring Breakers about millennials. Instead, Trinkets devotes most of its storytelling to the excitement of female friendship, rewriting tired tropes of cruel high school girls, false friendships and superficiality.
Elodie, the central character, is a queer introvert who moves to Portland to live with her father after the death of her mother. Soon after her arrival, she gets caught stealing party items from a store and is forced by her father to attend a self-help group for kleptomaniacs in a church basement. She recognizes Tabitha, a popular girl with wealthy parents, from her school as well as Moe, a too-cool-for-school outsider who greets her with a crumbed-up note that says “DIE.” After the meeting, they end up in a luxury store where they engage in a game of “who can rack up the priciest items in thirty minutes?” It’s one of the few times the show really underscores the dexterity required to shoplift and the sensation it arouses, something the aforementioned The Bling Ring demonstrates repeatedly within a loose narrative. Trinkets is also a departure from many popular high school shows that revel in the salaciousness of reckless, juvenile behavior like 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, and the recent HBO show Euphoria that employs technically mesmerizing sequences to depict the main character’s drug use.
Trinkets spends less time presenting the compelling nature of crime in favor of depicting the glorious enticement of newfound friendship. The show is most thoughtful when the characters’ criminal activities are driven by their mutual affection for one another, like in episode three titled “Pussy Palace” when Elodie, Moe and Tabitha visit a sex store. After Moe and Tabitha share their sexual experiences with one another, Elodie abashedly admits that she’s a virgin and doesn’t have a girlfriend, the opposite of what she relayed to the girls upon meeting them. Rather than poking fun, Moe recommends she take a clitoral massager from a display, cheekily telling her “you have to love yourself before you love someone else.” I appreciated the sly subversion of this platitude mostly meant to advise young girls with sexist notions of respectability. It’s also refreshing that Moe and Tabitha don’t lecture Elodie on stepping out of her comfort zone, a mostly futile instruction to introverts and people with social anxiety.
As the show progresses, Elodie, Moe, and Tabitha become more invested in each other’s lives as the motives and traumas behind their shoplifting addictions become more obvious. Elodie is suffering from grief but also guilt that she survived the drunk-driver accident that killed her mother. She rationalizes filling this emotional gap with stolen items, saying, “there are forces that can randomly take people away; there should be forces that randomly give you things for free.” Moe’s backstory involves some deception, but we mostly see her struggle to open herself up to romantic love. It’s Tabitha’s predicament that actually drives the narrative of the show. When her boyfriend Brady’s (Brandon Butler) controlling behavior spirals into physical abuse, Tabitha calls off their relationship. As the cycle of abuse goes, Tabitha’s attempts to move on are preceded by petty acts of retaliation by Brady and his refusal to leave her alone. What’s just as disturbing is her mother Lori’s (Joy Bryant) blatant dismissal of her cries for help. But where Lori lacks practical concern as a parent, Moe and Elodie exhibit rightful outrage.
While Tabitha is initially reluctant to breakup with Brandy - like many victims of abuse - it’s refreshing to see young women able to discern cues of toxic, male behavior and express a firm stance on it. When Chris Brown was charged with assaulting Rihanna in 2009, I was surrounded by teenage girls who were more interested in what Rihanna did to make him upset than believing that he was a monster or at least did a monstrous thing. I’m reiterating this not as a judgement of young girls but rather a moral indictment on a culture that tells women and girls to look inward if man or boy mistreats them. In the midst of national discussions around violence against women, it’s hard to track whether Generation Z cares more about these issues than previous ones. Teenagers in 2019 have been labeled the socially conscious or “woke” generation, and they’ve certainly earned the title in certain areas. At the same time, they’re the same group of young adults that propelled the recently deceased rapper and admitted domestic abuser XXXTentacion to success and continue to honor his memory a year after his death. Trinkets doesn’t gloss over the complicated ways young people respond to abuse, but it provides a portrait of what urgency around this issue would like if people just listened to women in Moe and Elodie’s response to Tabitha.
The show takes its most dramatic turn in the middle of the season when the girls end up wrecking Brady’s car, putting their futures at risk beyond the liability of their shoplifting habits. The resulting dynamic is a lower-stakes Thelma and Louise, a fierce friendship demanding loyalty, sacrifice and resulting in a bit of disaster. In the last episode, Elodie looks over a river with Moe and Tabitha behind her and remarks, “something about this all feels a little fated.” It’s a sentiment that reverberates through the entire show and so many other stories depicting the forlorn dichotomy of security and peril when girls rebel together.