Do you ever see someone’s thumbprint on a piece of fiction so clearly that you can’t imagine that work being by anyone else?
That’s how I was feeling watching DRTY Diana, the latest web series from Yonas Michael. The series follows Nyaomi, a 26 year old former punk rocker who has quit her job at an ad agency and is floating through life untethered. It’s weirdly funny for how true it is, but also darkly depressing just because of how true it is. The series is supposed to be eight episodes long and has released six so far. The latest episode has Nyaomi hiring a male escort in what ended up being my favorite episode of the series so far.
This isn’t really a review though. I’m unfortunately a little close to the subject on this one to talk about it objectively. Not because I was involved in the show, but because I’m friends with Michael. I have been since college when the first things on his YouTube channel was a reality show about his life and I took his video camera around a friend’s 21st birthday party.
Really though, so much of our friendship/working relationship was forged in the fires of Sophomores, his first scripted web series. I played Hannah Wyatt on the show, a part that initially started off as a background extra, but grew into a full blown character as she ended up having a crucial part in the series finale. She was really just an exaggerated version of me and I probably committed a fair amount of copyright infringement being my own wardrobe person, but it was seriously some of the most fun I had in college working on that show. I also have an IMDb page for it.
Looking back at Sophomores, it does kind of show that it was made by college students on very little budget. Only a few of us were Actors with a capitol A (Joseph Shepherd for example, who played Luke on Sophomores and Austin on DRTY Diana), but watching DRTY Diana is like seeing the evolution of Michael’s style. While not as dark and raw as Diana is, Sophomores was engrained with that same kind of cynicism and real life ridiculousness that can’t be made up. It was Yonas Michael and Sharon Ezra’s take on college life while still being in college, which I think spoke leagues to the stories the show was trying to tell. It was cynical in it’s own way, but also had a little tinge of hope to it that the characters could sort their problems out. Well, between Kyla Kane trying to raise a demon to eat the Bardell dorms and the ongoing murder investigation in season 2.
Diana not so much, but that isn’t a bad thing. It actually speaks honestly about young adult life post college in the same way Sophomores did about college itself. It doesn’t shy away from unemployment, depression, disillusionment and just generally trying to find the Next Right Thing when you don’t know what that is. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m still kind of there. I’m 25, I’ve never had a full-time job but not for a lack of trying and I’m just starting to form ideas about what I want for the rest of my life.
Plus, it’s nice to see parts of Michael in the show itself. The love of the 27 club, indie and punk rock. The sarcasm and feeling of being an outsider. The unironic love of certain things others would view as silly. Real talk, my ringtone for him was ‘Whip My Hair’ because he legitimately liked the song.
DRTY Diana feels like it was cut from the same cloth that was being woven with Sophomores. While not a direct sequel by any means, seeing the level of progression Michael has made as a creator while still keeping root in the themes he started to explore then makes me excited to see where he’s going next. I say this as both a fan and a friend.DRTY Diana and Sophomores can both be viewed at the Generalization Y YouTube page. The next episode of DRTY Diana comes out on Sunday (spoiler alert: it’s pretty great too and includes the phrase “feminist blood cult”), so you have plenty of time to catch up between now and then.