I’ll start with the disclaimer – the reason I took so long to binge watch One Day At A Time is that I was sure I wasn’t going to like it, sure in that latina way that comes from a generation of strong woman who are sure of things they have no way of knowing. I just wasn’t going to like it. It was going to hit too close to home, and it was going to make light of things that I realize might be ridiculous but that I hold dear to my heart, and I just …wasn’t going to like it.
How very wrong I was.
In fact, I was so wrong that it’s hard to quantify all the ways in which I was. Not only because I did enjoy it – wait, no, I loved it – but because the show managed to strike that hard balance between being respectful, poking fun at some things and still making clear that only the people who are allowed to make fun of latinx culture are – well, the people who belong to that culture.
Kinda like your sister, you know? It’s okay if you make fun of her, but if someone else tries it, then it’s war.
Plus, they did characterization right, turned stereotypes on their heads and gave us a good amount of old fashion fun. They also had a believable and well-developed coming out story, reaffirmed the bonds of family AND made me love the white clueless dude.
Yes, I love Schneider, and if that isn’t the biggest surprise of this, then I don’t even know what is.
So, consider this part of my penance. The show blew my mind in such a way that I’m now committed to writing about it till you give it a chance to blow your mind too. Because snap judgments are bad and you should be better than me and all that.
Now, despite the sorta inane rant I just started this on, there is a point to this piece, I swear. And that point is about latinx representation – aka we’re not all maids/janitors and yes, our food is awesome, but we’re all not just the food. We’re people, and we’re not even that different from you.
That doesn’t mean that we’re the same, though. Every culture has its own idiosyncrasies, its own generational clashes, its own particular outdated customs they cling to. Every culture also has its own stories that are tied to the way people grow up, the way members of its community relate to each other.
Despite the common misconception that we’re all the same, there are subtle differences between all countries in Latin America. And yet, this felt surprisingly universal within the community. Yes, it was Cuba, but it could have been Colombia or Guatemala just as well. And that’s a sign of good writing.
And, also, probably a sign of how starved we are to see ourselves – or something that resembles it – on the TV, but that’s a matter for another day.
Today, what matters is that One Day at A Time made me feel something I didn’t expect to feel from watching a TV show – it made me feel like I had a place. It made me feel like I belonged. It made me feel real.
Why does representation matter? It matters because of that. Even when you don’t think it does.
Some people will say, but all One Day at A Time does is play on latinx stereotypes, because some people just like to rob others of joy. But I’m here to say – yes, it does, but it never reduces characters to just these stereotypes or implies that it’s impossible to break out of them.
And that’s what makes it different. That’s what makes it important. That’s why you should stop reading this and go queue up Netflix, whether you are latinx like me or not.
One Day At a Time is an universal show that just happens to portrait one particular culture. It’s a show about family, a show about growing up, a show about letting go and a show about how, sometimes – love – not romantic love, but a mother’s love, can transcended everything.
The good, the bad, the ugly and the quinces.
One Day At a Time is available to stream on Netflix right now.