lingering questions

Every Question I Had While Watching the Netflix Teen Movie Work It

You gotta love a ragtag team of dancing teens! Photo: Elly Dassas/Netflix

Disney Channel alum Sabrina Carpenter has been elevating whatever material she finds herself working with since the days of Girl Meets World, and I mentally prepared myself for that to be the case again, going into Netflix’s original teen dance movie Work It, in which Carpenter plays a type A but totally clumsy high-school senior who has to start a dance team for reasons. But Work It is a rare actually good entry in the emerging genre of Netflix teen movies, buoyed by well-choreographed dance numbers, cute boys, genuinely clever dialogue, and a Sharpay-tier performance from Keiynan Lonsdale (and if you know me, you know Sharpay-tier is the highest tier). It’s still a Netflix teen movie, so I felt very old and very confused throughout the whole thing. Here are a ton of questions I had while watching Work It, with maybe, like, two answers. I had to learn what a dance belt was the hard way, and now you do, too.

Does this high school just frequently host assemblies for its dance crew to show off its latest routines, tied to nothing? If so, why didn’t I go to this high school?

How did the captain of a high-school dance team in North Carolina master the elements of vogue?

Can the Thunderbirds compete on season two of Legendary? 

Did anyone else have an out-of-body experience during the opening credits when the words “Producer: Alicia Keys” flashed across the screen? Just me?

Noooooo, are we still starting movies with voice-overs that say, “Albert Einstein once said”?

Wait. Did Albert Einstein actually say that “dancers are the athletes of God,” or is that just one of those misattributed Facebook boomer memes?

Sabrina Carpenter plays Quinn, a type A student who does a million extracurriculars, including running the AV booth for the Thunderbirds performance. Why is this high-school AV setup so high-tech, though? She looks like she’s piloting drones or running the soundboard for Enigma.

When fictional parents name their fictional babies “Jazz,” is it because they know they’re destined to grow up to become the Cool Best Friend character?

Oh, it’s Jas.

Does Quinn wear her top button done up to look like a fuckboy on purpose or by accident? Maybe she’s just an Alex Delany fan?

Quinn’s best friend Jazz Jas is on the dance team, whose dance-prodigy captain, by the way, GOES BY THE NAME JULLIARD. I live! (This one’s not a question, more a gasp of appreciation.)

Quinn’s one motivating life force is getting into Duke, because it’s where her late dad went. And Quinn’s mom wants her to go premed so that “pretty soon, you’ll be Dr. Quinn.” Why did she pass up the obvious Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman joke? Do kids these days not know who Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is? Is When Calls the Heart the modern version of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman? 

What commercial do I recognize her mom from? (Oh, of course. I know her from every Canadian commercial. She’s like Canada’s Flo from Progressive.)

Why does Quinn not appreciate her mom’s pre-Duke-interview “pump-up jam,” “Get on Your Feet”?

Why does American teen culture overprogram a certain demographic of kids to do this sort of “overachieving” extracurricular stuff to fluff out their applications to impossible colleges, forcing them to take it seriously, and then bombard them with media where the moral is to punish and shame them for taking it so seriously? Which is to say, why can’t all teen movies just be Teen Wolf? 

Does RuPaul get royalties when Michelle Buteau (playing a Duke admissions officer) calls Quinn “squirrel friend”?

How does Michelle Buteau spin every line into gold?:

Michelle Buteau: What are you passionate about?

Quinn: Duke. 

Michelle Buteau: That’s sad. Unless it’s a guy named Duke ‘cause that’s really hot.

Does Quinn’s sartorial style qualify as what the teens nowadays are calling “dark academia”? And what is the difference between “dark academia” and just “preppy”?

Duke admissions officer Michelle Buteau told Quinn to lighten up, be more daring and less nerdy. So why is Quinn following up with an email that begins with “Winston Churchill once said”?

How many full tubes of Boy Brow does it take for Sabrina Carpenter to make her eyebrows look so Groucho? Why do her eyebrows give me the same uncanny effect as John Travolta’s sprayed-on toupee?

What is it about Sabrina Carpenter’s fake typing that makes it the least convincing fake typing I’ve ever seen?


Is this a musical? Is this strictly diegetic? Are these dance battles just normal occurrences because most of the bystanders seem pretty unbothered?

Why does their high school look like a pharmaceutical-company campus run by Martin Shkreli?


Quinn’s house and neighborhood are just so blatantly, unmistakably Toronto. Why do films that so clearly take place in Toronto — that don’t even try to hide the look of it — continue to insist on being set somewhere different? If you film a Toronto teen, doth they not vogue?

Why has Quinn’s ballet-recital footage from when she was 5 in crisp HD instead of shaky, grainy camcorder thrown me into a midlife crisis?

Sabrina Carpenter the person was born before 9/11, but her character was born after 9/11. This never comes up, but how does this affect her performance?

Where did Sabrina learn how to make this face?

And how do I get the picture out of my head forever? Photo: Netlfix/Netflix

Why are learning-how-to-dance montages so satisfying?

Why does Jas go along with Quinn’s scheme to pull her out of the most successful dance team in the state during her senior year to start a new one, all so that Quinn can make good on a lie to a Duke admissions officer?

How many years will Jordan Fisher have to spend doing solely teen movies? Ten? More??? 

Wait, so does this movie want us to root for the white girl whose only motivation to enter the big dance competition is so she can pad out her résumé and get into Duke, where she’s already a legacy, while rooting against the queer Black kid with a lifelong passion for dance and a God-given talent?

Ooh, are they recruiting a ragtag team of misfits?

How does Robbie (the kid they find in the karate class) pull that Buddy Holly look off?

Does this movie appropriate bisexual lighting for heterosexual purposes?

Why don’t all movies include a sequence where a man in a tight black T-shirt teaches a girl how to dance? Just drop it in there somewhere, Marvel! Let Tom Holland DANCE!

Why does the Jake Taylor Dance Crew (fronted by Jake Taylor, played by Jordan Fisher) ruin its otherwise deeply sexy “Go Up” video with suspenders, of all things? And why was Jake the only one on the team who didn’t have to wear them?

Where does Quinn get her khakis? I’m thinking Uniqlo?

Who came up with the idea to name the dance studio where Jordan Fisher teaches “Lil’ Stompers”? Why does that sound like a diaper company?

WHY is Sabrina so committed to the top button?

How many dance montages can one movie sustain in a 93-minute run time?

Is this the first movie to have a character crush on a mattress salesman? Because that is grounds for physical comedy!

Is Liza Koshy, who plays Jas, the only example of a YouTuber-to-actress crossover who’s kind of really good at it? Because she’s fun here.

Okay, they made a Raptors joke. Does that make this, canonically, a Toronto film? Please?

Where can I buy the Thunderbirds’ pink-and-white uniforms?

It is very funny that Quinn’s team does its first performance for a man at the retirement home who’s “not allowed to watch 50 Shades of Gray anymore after what happened last time.” Ten comedy points.

“Did he just fall asleep to Big Freedia?” Jas is asking all the good questions and stealing my bit.

Oops, did their mediocre dancing kill the horny old man?

It did.

Why is the fact that the word MOTIVATION is written on Quinn’s bedroom wall in multicolor sticker letters so tragicomic?

Is Keiynan Lonsdale (Julliard) somehow doing more brilliant comedic work just holding an iced coffee and acting threatening than anything Will Ferrell did in Eurovision? And why is the answer to that question yes?

Were they not able to get Jerry from Cheer to make a cameo?

Wait, what are dance belts? Do they exist just to prevent involuntary penile movement in male dancers?


How long did it take for this movie’s location scouts to find the most romantic, gorgeous highway underpass for Jordan Fisher and Sabrina Carpenter to tango under?

What does human contact feel like? I don’t remember! Photo: Netflix/Netflix

Is this movie sponsored by Casper? So much mattress stuff.

Why would Juilliard (the school) try to extinguish Julliard (the boy)’s fire?

How long until Jas gets her own movie?

Was the part after Quinn quits the team and Priya’s filming the whole time and then it smash-cuts to Jordan Fisher being all like “I saw the Instagram!” supposed to be funny?

Why wouldn’t Jordan Fisher’s dance-studio boss let him practice in the studio on evenings when it wasn’t rented out? And would his after-hours dance practices in the studio really be a fireable offense?

Is the old lady at the nursing home talking about how much she likes Queer Eye product placement?

Will Netflix ever stop making movies where Jordan Fisher woos a girl who volunteers at a very luxe-looking nursing home?

Is Quinn suddenly able to dance now because she made out with a boy?

Is that long wide shot of Quinn running to Jake’s house a direct homage to the legendary Saoirse Ronan in the classic film from 2019 Little Women?

Is Quinn’s hair finally down to project how she feels comfortable in her body now because she’s kissed a boy and therefore can dance? Photo: Netflix/Netflix

Quinn tells Jake that she thought “dancing was going to get me into Duke and that Duke would make me happy, but dancing makes me happy!” And don’t you hate it when that happens?

How much does Jake pay a month for that massive exposed-brick-loft studio apartment?

If Jake Taylor’s already graduated from high school, how old is he supposed to be? And is Sabrina Carpenter’s character 18 yet? Hmmm. Sus.

Are those Jordan Fisher’s actual tattoos?

No tea, no shade, but he doesn’t seem like the type.

Did you think this wasn’t a movie where a granny dances hip-hop and swears? Because you thought wrong.

Why did the scene where Quinn and Jas make up in the bathroom move me to laughter and move me?

Wait, is this a good movie?

Why is one of the running gags that Robbie doesn’t know what “TBD” stands for? Is that something that people don’t know what it means?

Do you think on the first take of Quinn’s “prayer to Beyoncé” scene, Sabrina accidentally just called it Homecoming and someone from Netflix corrected her so that she had to call it “the Netflix special Homecoming”? 

Why does this movie give us, like, zero dialogue from most of the dance team? They all have fun-seeming personalities! Is anyone gonna tell Netflix you can’t just cast a bunch of POC backup characters and then not really let them speak?

Is there a proper term for what I like to call “the Sharpay dilemma,” where the viewer roots for the villain despite the film’s wishes because they are just so clearly in the right?

Why couldn’t they have given the Work It! dance tournament more fun color commentary from the judges? Was John Michael Higgins booked?

What is this K-Pop bop the Thunderbirds do their final dance to? (It’s “I Am the Best” by 2NE1.)

Is it just me or does TBD’s final dance have big Team Sweden from Netflix’s Eurovision vibes?

All right, so how drastically was Quinn supposed to have improved? Because she’s still not … great.

Do I love their final dance number because it’s actually good or because it reminds me of the “Get on Your Feet” scene from Parks and Recreation? Or, third option, “Why not both?”

“Juilliard? I don’t know her.” —Julliard the character speaking of Juilliard the place.

So Jas and Julliard have been scouted by the New York Dance Academy, and Michelle Buteau has been fired from Duke and hired by NYU. Are they setting us up for a sequel?

Is this one of the best entries in the Netflix teen-movie canon?

Every Question I Had While Watching Work It