Vida’s series premiere flies directly in the face of peoples’ fears that they wouldn’t be able to understand a story such as this unless they themselves were Latinx or queer. A lot of the success of Vida and it’s relatability is due to the amazing writing behind the scenes of this show. They are the creators and drivers of this beautifully unique and diverse journey we’re on. But a lot of it is also due to the fact that these are human stories. And if you can’t connect with that, no matter how messed up they are, then what are you? Honestly, I don’t want to know.
Two Sisters, One Big Hot Mess
When it comes to sisters on TV there’s always this stereotypical dynamic that appears. You have one sister who is spot-on with her rules, the responsible one of the family, and the one who always ends up having zero fun. And then you have the other sister who is the playful, flirtatious, and always up for a good time. And at first glance it seems that Vida has fallen into the same old trope. It only took a couple minutes for me to realize that this show was going to do it oh so differently.
Emma is the responsible one of the family. She’s the one that has the big fancy job and plays it by the rules. She looks like a well-put-together woman in the minute or so that she takes to prepare herself before she steps out onto the street where the bar is at. She’s trying to fool herself that she is as calm and collected as others perceive her to be. The reality is that she’s angry. Angry that she’ll never get to make peace with her mother. Angry that she wasn’t told that her mother was sick or married to a woman. And probably really angry that she still cares. She’s hurting.
Lyn, the wild child of the family who’s always up for a good time and ended up sleeping with an ex-boyfriend at her mother’s funeral, could also be taken for face value. But she’s just as fucked up as her sister is. She uses sex to exert her control and assure herself that things are under her control and no different than they were before she returned home or before her mother’s death. Also, she can’t adult for even five minutes and lets others do the dirty work for her. And just like Emma, she’s hurting.
This special blend of writing and kicking stereotypes in the face when it comes to sisters like this, or women like this, honestly leaves you with two interesting as hell characters that are more than the cookie cutter relationship you’re used to. They might not get along all the time and they might be different as hell, but you best believe that they will surprise you with how much they love each other or how much they’re willing to go through to have each other’s backs. Because that’s what family is, that’s what having a sister is: complicated as fuck but unbreakable.
Mom is a Hypocrite
Vidalia is a hypocrite. You can see it in the way that Emma acts after finding out that her mother was married and in every single action that follows. My guess is that Emma came out to her mother and it did not go well. That caused the distance between them, that caused the anger, and that’s what ultimately separated them. Now, Emma (and Lyn) will never get the benefit of asking her why she did the things that she did or why she hid her marriage for so long. They will have to make peace with the women they knew for themselves. And that blows.
I’ve never experienced this kind of loss and I’m not looking forward to it anytime soon. But I think for the first time in my life I understand how frayed a death leaves the people that are left behind. It’s a heartbreaking realization to finally understand that you have to fix this and your bond with the loved one that has passed all by yourself. It’s a one sided conversation. But that’s how things end up sometimes. There is no Hollywood ending or surprise twist where everything turns out all right and Vidalia was actually in the hospital surrounded by flan and had her name mixed up with another woman so they accidentally declared her dead. This isn’t a novela after all.
This is why I love Vida even more than I can truly express and why I’m having trouble finding the words needed right now. They’re not falling into a stereotype or what people expect from a show like this. Vida is paving it’s own way and telling a human story that anyone with a loved one or a secret can relate to. *insert heart eyes here*
Putas and Being a White Latina
Let’s be blunt about something. Mari calling out Emma and Lyn for being ‘white latina’s annoyed the hell out of me. I’ve had to deal with this particular problem for my entire time in the United States. Back in Puerto Rico, my birth place, this wasn’t an issue. It didn’t matter what you looked like, you were Latinx and that’s it. My grandpa was dark skinned, my grandpa red-haired and freckled, and my sisters light haired and light eyed. None of them were any less Latinx than the person before them.
Things changed when I came to the US.
I have to admit that this thought/attitude on this particular issue might be ignorance on my part. I am afforded “privileges” in the States because I don’t look like the stereotypical Latina that Hollywood likes to act is the norm. I understand that. I also understand that I didn’t pick this. I didn’t choose to be treated differently because of the color of my skin, just like others that are darker skinned than me didn’t choose to be looked at differently or as if they were dangerous or up to no good.
Looking at Emma & Lynn and Mari, I see a divide formed out of jealousy and anger, not at Emma & Lynn being light skinned, but against the fucking world for treating people that look like Mari any different from Emma & Lynn. *sigh* This is such a complicated conversation and I feel like Elena from One Day at a Time when she realized she was a ‘white Latina.’ And if we’re going to change anything, even one iota in the future, we need to have these conversations and break down what has divided our community along these lines.
So, hit me with your thoughts, let’s have a conversation, and become better informed Latina’s because of it. That’s how we’re going to change things and that’s how we’re going to support each other.
Vida airs Sundays at 8:30 on Starz.