One Day at a Time was cancelled after three glorious seasons. I, like everyone else on the internet, couldn’t be more annoyed about it. As soon as the news of its cancellation came out through its showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellet, the hashtag #saveodaat and #wegotyou starting trending on Twitter. The Netflix series first aired in January 2017 and since then has maintained an almost perfect critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The series introduces to us, a second generation Cuban-American immigrant family. We see Penelope Alvarez who is a recently single war veteran raising two teenagers, Elena and Alex, with her mother, Lydia Alvarez and the help of her landlord-turned-family Schneider and her boss Dr Berkowitz.
Why Representation Matters
The producer and writer for the show, Gloria Calderon Kellet along with co-creator Mike Royce, have created a show that is based on the principles of inclusivity. From the writers to the producers and the directors, all include voices that are too easily ignored by the mainstream media. These not only include Latinx crew but also women and LGBTQIA+ writers.
Social issues regarding being immigrants, voting, consent, catcalling among many others are talked about.
It showcases stories of brown and queer experiences without tokenising them. Social issues regarding being immigrants, voting, consent, catcalling among many others are talked about. This is done in a manner where these experiences aren’t downplayed and the trauma caused during these are validated. Some of the most heartbreaking episodes include monologues by the cast about their character’s challenges which resonate with the working middle class. But they also manage to deliver lighthearted laughs throughout the 20-minute episodes.
Above anything else, One Day At A Time is a show about relationships.
Breaking Down The Characters
The first season does a marvellous job of introducing us to the characters. Much of the season focuses on fifteen-year-old Elena who is unapologetically herself even if people tell her that she is “too much”. She is a strong, opinionated young woman who talks about all kinds of social justices including politics, climate change, and feminism. While her character is bold, we also see her be extremely vulnerable and try to work through her struggles regarding her sexuality. Due to the presence of queer writers, Elena’s journey is extremely realistic and related to teenagers like herself who are coming to terms with their sexuality. We see her come out and people taking it well and some not too well.
The first season also covers other topics like queer sex talk, experimentation around sexuality, the
We see Rita Moreno as Lydia gracefully tackle all the hardships that come with moving to a country which you know nothing about. She is the personification of the ‘American dream’.
In season two, the show sheds lights on the importance of voting and how it affects the everyday lives of the marginalised class. When Lydia reveals that she is in fact only a green card holder and not a citizen, it forces Elena to vocalise her fear that has been increased by the Trump administration’s deportation policies. She voices not only her own fear but the anxiety of millions that has resurfaced due to the administration’s practices.
Lydia shares her culture with everyone who is willing to learn, she is the epitome of resilience and warmth. Her relationship with Alex, her grandson only deepens throughout the seasons. She is the typical maternal authority figures who constantly worries about her family. Although a traditionalist, she makes always proves to be a touchstone for her family and understands their struggles.
Elena’s journey is extremely realistic and related to teenagers like herself who are coming to terms with their sexuality.
Penelope Alvarez shows us that there is humility in asking for help. She as a war veteran struggles from PTSD. Through her, we see a critique of the system in which asking for help is looked down upon. We see her build a support system for herself through her friends and family. The show dives into the struggles of living with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. It urges us to ask for help because we can’t do it all alone. Penelope also serves as a reminder that it is never too late to achieve your dreams and that women do not necessarily need to be in a romantic relationship to be happy.
Alex stands to portray racism that is faced by people who are not white-passing. This opens up a new area where we are forced to acknowledge and confront our privilege and realise that even though we might be people of colour, we all have different experiences based on certain privileges. The writers explain the rhetoric of the chant “Build the wall” often used by supporters of the current administration and show how they have emboldened the open racists. This also acknowledges the fact that Trump is just a symptom of the real problem of racism. In the intergenerational family, everyone who is not white-passing has faced some nuanced version of this racist rhetoric.
Schneider’s struggle with addiction and finding his place in this chosen family portray the modern dynamics of family. Through his upper, white class lens we see the issues of gentrification and male privilege explained. Dr Berkowitz serves as a secondary father figure who is always there to help the family whenever needed be it driving lessons or pushing Penelope to attain her dreams.
As a Brown woman, who is an unapologetic feminist, watching a show with such strong female characters with powerful representation getting cancelled almost feels like a personal attack. I found pieces of myself in every character, not only did I laugh but I sobbed tears of both joy and sorrow as I watched the show. It’s time to bring it back because being represented is just getting started.
Featured Image Source: CNN Philippines