What do we think of the new “To All The Boys…” spinoff?
It’s been a few weeks since XO, Kitty premiered, and I still know many people who are hesitant to give it a chance. So let me nip it in the bud, XO, Kitty is a polarizing piece of media, maybe even more controversial than the last two movies of the To All The Boys franchise. After all, many review it as an extended version of the good vibes we got from the OG Jenny Han titles. It’s a feel-good series, all about the romance that makes you kick your feet and giggle like you’re 16 again. You know, those types of titles that don’t require you theorizing on the next episode 24/7.
On the other hand, it puts in little to no effort to contextualize Korean culture, kind of using the fact that she enrolled into an international school as an excuse. Think: the ridiculousness of Emily In Paris of Emily not learning French and expecting to be understood, except it’s Kitty Covey (Anna Cathcart) in Seoul, South Korea. So to the trained eye, it feels like a piece of fanfiction you’d read when you were none the wiser with all the clichés and predictable plotlines. Throw in a badly photoshopped poster and you might just be brought back to the AsianFanFics era. (If you know, you know.)
If that isn’t your cup of tea, then these are what make the show definite hatewatch material. But TBH, everything we dislike about XO, Kitty ends there. And word of caution, don’t let the straightbait or cuteness fool you. It’s a lot to unpack.
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XO, Kitty follows the youngest Covey sister to Seoul, where she enrolls in the Korean Independent School of Seoul (K.I.S.S.) to surprise her long-distance boyfriend, Dae (Minyoung Choi). It’s her turn to learn the ropes about the birds and bees of romance. As how fanfiction goes, the big reveal turns awry when Kitty discovers that Dae’s been “cheating” on her with Yuri (Gia Kim). Throw in the fact that she is accidentally put in the male dorms, specifically Dae’s room that he shares with Q (Anthony Kevyan) and Minho (Sang Heon Lee), you’d think the writers’ room spun a wheel of fanfic tropes, threw darts and called it a day. Well, kind of.
But it’s 2023, and we need to give Jenny Han and her collaborators their flowers. Because while it plays up on the predictability we found in To All The Boys, this show lets the youngest Covey run free, get knocked down and try again. Totally not a plot twist or a spoiler alert but: XO, Kitty is unabashedly queer and diverse, two aspects that make it a more bearable watch. Apart from Kitty working her magic on Q and Florian (Théo Augier Bonaventure), our main character will have her own road to self-discovery. How so? Let’s just say that a baby gay is about to get a rude awakening from the unlikeliest person in school.
But XO, Kitty also flips in on its own, making it a worthier watch. Kitty runs to Seoul with absolutely zero knowledge about South Korea and its culture? We have a white girl, Madison (Jocelyn Shelfo), who might never beat the Koreaboo allegations but proved to be an interesting character. The application to K.I.S.S. was all to be with Dae again? Whoops—Kitty finds herself at the crossroads of growing up and has to come to terms with the fact that she might like girls, too. The trip to Seoul means reconnecting with her mom in some way? She gets more than she bargained for by unraveling the deepest, darkest secrets of the class of ‘93.
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So even if the XO, Kitty soundtrack sounds more like a K-Pop ON playlist on Spotify than a TV show, the writers know how to make you stay ‘til the end. Eventually, the big move to Seoul isn’t just some boy-chasing endeavor but Katherine Song Covey’s path to finding herself on her own. It’s Yuri Han’s road to acceptance, regardless of her family’s picture-perfect reputation. With 10 episodes that finish a little over 30 minutes, XO, Kitty packs a lot of twists in one season that you end up pressing “Next Episode” until there’s nothing left.
XO, Kitty ends the same way it started: messy. And that might be a good thing for any hopefuls that season two will be greenlit soon. Kitty’s future in Seoul isn’t guaranteed, and she’s torn in three different directions. It ends with a cliffhanger with someone completely unexpected leading the romance race. TBH, it’s reminiscent of how To All The Boys I Loved Before ended with John Ambrose McClaren appearing with a letter from LJ, just when things with Peter have gotten so, so sweet. So if you’ve been meaning to feel alive again, leave your disbelief at the door and binge-watch XO, Kitty.
Catch all episodes of “XO, Kitty” on Netflix.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver