Wednesday, June 17, 2020

One Day At A Time Review: How to Have a Latino Conversation About Politics [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]

Words cannot express how much I love One Day at a Time. If I had the money to take out full-page magazine ads with t-shirt sales and billboards and endless GIFs of Rita Moreno being fabulous, I would. Alas I am monetarily strapped, so I sit here and review. When Hollywood shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, One Day At A Time was in the middle of their comeback fourth season on Pop TV. The Alvarez family was back and better than ever! A global lockdown could have been the end of the season, but executive producers Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon-Kellett weren’t having it. If the season was going to end early, it was going out in style!
This is how we find One Day At A Time in its latest, groundbreaking animated episode entitled “The Politics Episode.” Not only is every Alvarez family member now in cartoon form, but the familiar voices of Gloria Estefan (reprising her role as Lydia’s sister Mirtha), Melissa Fumero (returning as Mirtha’s daughter Estrellita), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (debuting as Estrellita’s husband Juanito) have joined in on the fun! I should clarify: this episode was fun for us as viewers, but not so much for Penelope Alvarez. Because while we dance for joy at hearing the voices of their portrayers, Penelope groans at the thought of welcoming her conservative, Trump-voting cousins into her home. Lest you think all Latinos are on the same wavelength regarding today’s politics, this episode shatters that illusion pretty firmly.
It’s important to note that this episode was written prior to the current Black Lives Matter protests which broke out weeks ago. The core conflict of this episode actually goes back almost two years, when at the end of the third season opener — spoiler alert — Penelope learned that her favorite cousin Estrellita had voted for Trump. This deep political divide in the family has not been brought up again until now, and no one could have predicted how important the timing would be.
Because Latinos don’t send families to hotels (seriously, not even at 200+ attendee weddings), the Reyes cousins will be staying with the Alvarez family while they’re in L.A. attending a baptism. In the half hour that it takes for the Uber to arrive, the Alvarez family frantically works through different scenarios of how to get through the visit. Schneider’s suggestion that they keep their feelings inside like white people (his words) does not work. Latinos only do that until they explode, or the tequila and/or rum kicks in. More often than not, this actually happens at the same time, hence why Lydia spends most of the episode downing a bottle of rum.
I’m not going to lie, the idea of Mirtha and Lydia settling things with a talent contest probably had the most merit. The animated preview was so great that I’m advocating for the real thing in season five! Elena’s idea of using old dirt against the incoming family members doesn’t work either, because whatever dirt you have on your prima, your prima has on you. Just trust me on this one.
In the end, Elena offers up a solid argument for why the Reyes family probably feels the way they do: that Cubans once trusted a man who made all kinds of promises and it worked out horribly. So why not support a candidate who can get you the most important thing you want, like pro-life rights? Again, this is still a hugely taboo subject in highly Catholic Latino families. In the end, both families decide to listen to each other with open hearts because at the end of the day, they are family.
Though this story was originally meant to be performed in front of a live studio audience episode, its shift into animation helped the episode shine in many more ways. Had this actually been filmed in the studio, it actually would have been really difficult to schedule Lin-Manuel Miranda into the episode, given his jam-packed schedule. And this makes me more eager for him to film a full, in-studio episode. There is also no way we would have gotten those hilarious brawls between Penelope and Estrellita and Lydia and Mirtha in a live episode. Rita Moreno is 88. She should not be fighting; she should be dancing. Perhaps a dance contest is in order the next time Gloria Estefan is in town?
How do you think One Day At A Time handled politics in this supercharged time? Would you like to see the Reyes family return for season five? 


Post a Comment