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Cristina Escobar

SBTB Key Art

The Saved by the Bell reboot premiered last week and it appears to be… good? There’s nostalgia yes, but that doesn’t usually equal rave reviews from the establishment (like the New York Times). Of course, we believe its success can be found in its latindad – it stars TWO Latinas in Haskiri Velazquez and Alycia Pascual-Pena and Maria Lopez (you may know him from The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia) is a producer. But what do Latinas think? Turns out, we’re pretty into it.

SAVED BY THE BELL -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Haskiri Velazquez as Daisy -- (Photo by: Casey Durkin/Peacock)

Meet Saved by the Bell’s Haskiri Velazquez, Bayside High’s new Zack Morris

For EW, our favorite Station 19 fan Rosy Cordero notes that the new Zack Morris is a Latinx woman (and interviews the actress who plays her): “Haskiri Velazquez is taking over Zack’s power to freeze time and break the fourth wall as the character Daisy Jimenez on Peacock’s Saved by the Bell revival… [And] she’s elated about what the character will mean to young Latinas.” Read her full coverage.

SAVED BY THE BELL -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mitchell Hoog as Mac Morris, Josie Totah as Lexi, Alycia Pascual-Pena as Aisha, Haskiri Velazquez as Daisy -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/Peacock)

TV Review: Saved by the Bell Hilariously Returns on Peacock

Meanwhile Diandra of Diandra Reviews it All raves, “Saved By The Bell (2020) is fantastic, and the funniest show to come out this year, which, again, is surprising. The original Saved by the Bell (SBTB) was not really funny. It was campy, colorful, and one of those shows that was so bad it was good. The reboot embraces the original’s 90s colorfulness and camp and vamps it up with Gen-Z’s flashiness, activism, and irreverent humor.” Read her full review.

Meet the Reinvented Saved by the Bell Leading Latinx Ladies, Haskiri Velazquez, and Alycia Pascual-Peña

For Hola!, Jovita Trujillo interviewed not one but both Latina stars, declaring, “Fans of the original show can expect to find easter eggs throughout the season. But even more exciting, they can expect to fall in love with the new Latinx leading ladies Haskiri Velazquez and Alycia Pascual-Peña. Pascual-Peña is a young, up-and-coming, Afro-Latina actress from New York. She’ll next be seen in the upcoming film Moxie, directed by Amy Poehler. On the other hand, Velazquez is a multitalented up-and-coming actress making her mark as one of the most exciting newcomers in the industry.” Read the full interview.

Saved by the Bell original cast

Saved by the Bell Reboot: Is it Worth Your Time?

EIC of Fangirlish and friend of LatinaMedia.co, Lissete Lanuza Sáenz is also a fan (in spite of herself), writing “New characters, a new outlook and some diversity make this the right reboot for the year 2020, and I cannot believe I’m typing this, one of the best reboots so far… A Black teenager and two Latinas, one of them Afro-latina, carry this reboot to new heights, not just because they’re allowed to be who they are and sometimes argue in Spanish – but because the show is never about their identities, but somehow those identities aren’t sanitized either.” Read her full review.

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THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT (L to R) ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as BETH HARMON in episode 104 of THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

We’re still talking about The Queen’s Gambit. There was the initial wave of fawning reviews, then the more nuanced takes (yes the ‘magical negro’ is a problem), the reminder that star Anya Taylor-Joy is (white) Latina, and it goes on. So what do Latina critics think? Let’s dive in.

The Queen’s Gambit Offers a Winning Combo of Escapism and Period Drama

A.V. Club’s Danette Chavez gave it a B, noting “The Queen’s Gambit is like a more introspective The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Both series are sumptuous period dramas that track a woman’s rise in a male-dominated field. But The Queen’s Gambit is actually aware that its protagonist can occasionally be a jerk. For all the assured direction and exotic locales—including a jaunt to Paris—Beth’s internal journey is the most captivating element of The Queen’s Gambit. The series may border on wish fulfillment at times, but at least it casts a spell.” Read her full review.

THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT (L to R) ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as BETH HARMON in episode 105 of THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Anya Taylor-Joy Explains that Awkward Sex Scene in The Queen’s Gambit

In her Refinery29 interview with Anya Taylor-Joy, Ariana Romero focuses on our favorite topic: sex. She writes, “Most series would only be brave enough to have one cringe-worthy sex scene like Beth’s first. The Queen’s Gambit is chock full of them — and devoid of the nudity and XXX hookups that so many supposedly sexy dramas gorge themselves with just to prove their edge.” Read her full coverage.

THE QUEENÕS GAMBIT (L to R) ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as BETH HARMON in episode 105 of THE QUEENÕS GAMBIT Cr. KEN WORONER/NETFLIX © 2020

The Queen’s Gambit Shows the Protective Power of Beautiful Clothes

While over at VICE, Alex Zaragoza focuses on the fashion. She notes, “Watching Beth dress up in luxurious coats and chic shift dresses as she faces off against chess masters, I couldn’t stop thinking about how she seemed to use fashion as a way of shielding herself against the traumas and stresses of her life… In some ways, the show couldn’t have come at a better time: As we continue to live our lives indoors, clad in sweatpants and comfy tie-dye, we could use a little fashion escapism.” Read her full commentary.

THE QUEENÕS GAMBIT (L to R) ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as BETH HARMON in episode 105 of THE QUEENÕS GAMBIT Cr. KEN WORONER/NETFLIX © 2020

Everything We Know About The Queen’s Gambit Season 2

With the future focus of Seventeen, Tamara Fuentes’ coverage is all about the possibility of a second season (unlikely) but gets some good commentary in: “The Queen’s Gambit is the latest Netflix hit that has viewers buzzing over the crazy world of chess. If you didn’t know how competitive the game was, this series will certainly open your eyes… As a woman, Beth is not taken seriously in her path to become one of the best players of all time.” Read her full coverage.

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Eater's Guide to the World

Remember restaurants? I do — even if I haven’t eaten in one since March. I used to love going to fancy and hole-in-the-wall places trying familiar dishes or new foods entirely. It was fun and communal and it’s gone now, thanks Coronavirus. Cooking at home is not the same, no matter how healthy your sourdough starter. Luckily we still have food TV.

Pardon my metaphor but cooking shows are the comfort food of television, both unchallenging and pleasant to consume. Hulu’s Eater’s Guide to the World is all these things but it’s also a vision into what our media would be if it reflected actual reality. You know — if it weren’t so white, so male, so in love with the powers that be.

In Eater’s Guide to the World, Los Angeles is as important as New York, each getting their own episodes and cameos. Latin America takes up two-out-of-the-three trips abroad (it IS the closest) with episodes focusing on Mexico and Costa Rica (and the third, Morocco). In a slight to colonizers everywhere, the show doesn’t even bother with Europe, something those of us with roots in the global south have to cackle at. In this world, cabbies have as much culinary insight as academics. In the New York episode, we spend time at a 24-hour badminton club mostly filled with cab drivers (and one student!) learning about their favorite snacks. And Eater’s Guide to the World takes their late-night gastronomic preferences as seriously as it does Dr. Sharon Suh who appears in the first episode and presents her theory on mindful eating. Both groups get equal time and the same tone, making them of equal interest and giving them the same level of respect.

Eater's Guide to the World
This close-up of a NY empanada makes me want to check my frig and do my nails — not usually impulses I get at the same time!

This is the world I actually live in. It’s delicious and brown and egalitarian. I don’t define a person’s worth by the power, money or accolades they have. Instead, I try to treat everyone with respect, knowing everyone has a story and something to contribute. Now I don’t normally turn to cooking shows for validation of this worldview or political commentary. But as a Latina TV critic, it is rare that I see a mainstream show that makes me feel seen and Eater’s Guide to the World does just that.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. Maya Rudolph is a great narrator but the mix of edgy and earnest lines they stick her with can feel forced. For example, there’s lots of swearing in the show but it doesn’t really do much, just signal that they’re trying to be cool. I mean, I’m an adult — I only notice swearing when it’s trying too hard (and it’s trying too hard here). This attempt at edginess is particularly silly when paired with lines like calling the Costa Rican abuela “95 years young” — talk about cheesy and precious at its worst (even if Rudolph does what she can with it).

Plus, for me, the entire concept of the first episode “Dining Alone in the Pacific Northwest” doesn’t work. You can’t really capture what it’s like to eat alone since by having a film crew there the eater’s not alone, particularly when they’re speaking directly to the camera,. But thankfully, the other themes are compelling (eating on the hood of your car in LA, where to stop on your way to the airport), so go ahead and skip the first episode, circling back if you’re still hungry at the end.

Eater's Guide to the World
Have had this. Would recommend.

Overall, this show’s appealing view of humanity manages to be both sweet and savory (get it? wink, wink). The culinary delights mostly come from POC hands and the white folks that do appear are not more “normal” than their darker counterparts. The implied viewer is adventurous and multicultural, as interested in what drag queens eat after finishing their sets as in lost maiz varieties having a renaissance in Mexico. It’s nice. And it’s a reminder that food is a universal language, one that Eater’s Guide to the World uses to show it is both normal and delicious to be Latina, Black, queer, Asian, etc. ¡Buen provecho!

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Presidents Better than Trump

The man has been voted out of office and we are breathing a sigh of relief. In fact, we’re ready to have the last laugh That’s why we’re imagining the fictional (actual or would-be) Presidents who would have done a better job the last four years. This is definitely not a list of best TV and movie presidents (there are many of those). No one played by Harrison Ford, Geena Davis, or Dennis Haysbert appears on it. There’s no President Bartlett or his equally improbable and impressive peers. We’re not talking the greats here. No, this is a list of presidential villains, traitors, and idiots. A list of fictional ne’er-do-wells who would all make better Presidents than the 45th person who actually held the office. Shall we?

House of Cards (2013–2018)

There are three Presidents on House of Cards per my count and they’re all better than one Donald Trump! There’s Garrett Walker, who’s kind-hearted but easily influenced. There’s Frank Underwood, who’s an evil murderer and master manipulator (or what you might call a skilled politician). And there’s my favorite, Claire Underwood, who is cold, calculating, and ruthless but actually interested in governing. See how they all have an upside?

Wag the Dog (1997)

To distract from a sex scandal, the President in this film fakes a war, distracting the American people and hoping to look like a hero. He’s clearly ok with lying but at least appears to know the difference between fact and fiction. Plus, the idea that a sex scandal is embarrassing (rather than something to be proud of) and the military is myth-making magic (rather than comprised of “losers”) undergirds Wag the Dog and reminds us of simpler times.

Veep (2012–2019)

We’re going to focus on the titular Selina Meyer here since she does become President and we never see President Hughes anyway. Like someone else we know, she’s an incompetent narcissist who lacks basic human abilities but at least is genuinely funny. Plus, while she may be racist, her brand of prejudice is more the microaggression kind and less the refuses-to-condemn-white-supremacy, separates-you-from-your-kids kind.

Dave (1993)

In Dave, a random guy who does Presidential impersonations ends up taking the office after the actual President falls into a coma during a love affair gone wrong. Titular everyman Dave turns out to be a good person, more driven by doing what’s right than seeking power, fame, or fortune. I’d take a Trump impersonator who cares about things like the homeless and full employment instead of what we had any day.

SCANDAL – “Transfer of Power” – In the final days of his presidency, Fitz uses his power to make some unexpected changes, on “Scandal,” airing THURSDAY, MAY 18 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) TONY GOLDWYN, BELLAMY YOUNG

Scandal (2012–2018)

Scandal’s Fitzgerald “Fitz” Thomas Grant III is not a great guy. He cheats on his wife, abuses his mistress, and you know, undermines democracy. Sure, he doesn’t know his team steals the election for him but he does know about the secret, extra-governmental force B613 and is cool with it. Yet, I’d rather have him (or his (ex)wife Millie) as President than Donald — at least you’d know that hyper-competent if morally-questionable Olivia Pope would really be at the helm.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004 and 1962)

Yes, the would-be-President in question here is brainwashed and mind-controlled, but he fights the powers that would see such a comprised figure in office, resisting his programming to the point of turning his gun on himself. Manchurian Candidate Raymond Shaw is a tragic figure, but ultimately a hero unlike, say, someone who willingly collaborates with a foreign power for personal gain…

Homeland (2011–2020)

Our (white) girl Carrie Mathison makes it through several US Presidents and while none of them make the best choices, we’d still take any of them over the Donald. There’s Elizabeth Keane, a stand-in for the actual 2016 favorite Hilary Clinton. Keane survives an assassination attempt only to turn on the entire intelligence community and endanger American ideals (like innocent until proven guilty). She’s a complicated figure but she does the right thing in the end, resigning so as to heal the country. A Biden-like centrist takes over but is quickly dispatched (helicopter goes bye-bye) and replaced with the most Trump-like character on this list, President Benjamin Hayes. He’s an idiot who’s quick to be influenced by other idiots and sees what he wants to see. But! He eventually learns, believes, and responds appropriately to the truth. Sounds pretty good, huh?

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Justina Machado in One Day at a Time

It’s no wonder that Justina Machado broke out on Six Feet Under. The show centers on the whitey, white, white undertaker Fisher family and the quietness that consumes them. Machado plays Vanessa Diaz, wife of expert corpse restorer and eventual partner Frederico. And she pops against Six Feet Under’s muted background, stealing every scene she’s in with warmth, humor, and humanity. In the nearly ten years since Six Feet Under premiered, we’ve learned to expect such amazing performances from Puerto Rican Machado. And we’re grateful for it.

It’s hard to make a Latinx show without her – she’s Carmen on Elena of Avalar, Reina on Devious Maids, and Maya on Superstore. And even when she’s surrounded by loud and proud fellow Latinxs, she stands out. Remember Darci Factor on Jane the Virgin? As the match-maker reality star, Machado met our favorite Jamie Camil’s Rogelia De La Vega toe to toe, managing to be just as silly, ridiculous, and likeable. She also got possibly the best line on Queen of the South (“Is America as bad as everybody says it is?”) believably playing an over-the-top street-smart, kept Mexican woman who learns how to run her own product after her cartel-member husband is executed for his lack of loyalty. And she did it wearing “leather” jeggings for half a season. A true reina.

With that killer resume, Machado is having a much deserved moment right now. She’s killing it on Dancing with the Stars, making it to the top tier with no sign of stopping. Her One Day At A Time just aired three episodes on CBS, having made the leap from Netflix to CBS’s Pop. And by all accounts, (and our bias) she’s a genuinely nice person.

That’s what makes her Penelope on ODAAT so great. Yes, she’s funny and relatable as the veteran mom trying to raise two kids with the help of her aging but unstoppable mother (national treasure Rita Moreno). But the real reason the show works so well is just how much we root for Machado. We want her to succeed at work (get your RN), at home (get those kids to college), in love (climb that mountain of a man), and really everywhere she goes. She’s the heart and soul of the show and we can watch her do that forever.

In fact, Justina Machado is one of those actors who you’ll watch whatever they’re in because they’re in it. This is our love letter to her, a Latina queen in a time when it’s pretty hard to even get on TV. One Day at a Time should be a studio-exec no brainer but it’s fighting for renewal again because of the prejudice against Latinx content (don’t tell us it’s the ratings – it’s not). There’s still not enough parts for Latinas, even as Machado’s talent obviously is keeping her pretty busy (did you see her dramatic side in the 2020 Netflix film All Together Now?). For now, we just want to celebrate Latinx excellence and excellence is Justina Machado.

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Hollywood Diversity Report 2020

There’s lots of talk about diversity in Hollywood right now. And we want to believe it’s working, that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian femmes are finally getting the TV deals that pipe their stories into our living rooms. But is it all talk?

We DMed Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, Director of Research and Civic Engagement at UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences to find out. Along with professor Darnell Hunt, Dr. Ramón co-authors the center’s reports on diversity in Hollywood, including their recently released 2020 findings. We took our Twitter relationship to the next level (email) and what follows is a dressed-up version of our “conversation.”

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Hi! Thanks for emailing with me. I’ve followed you on Twitter for a long time and am always so grateful for your insight. You bring this super important, data-driven perspective to the conversation on diversity in Hollywood and you do it as a Latina. So my first question for you is: can you share what’s the most important takeaway from this year’s report?

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: Thank you. In terms of the 2020 report in film and television, we found that although the percentage of people of color in front of the camera has increased, the numbers behind the camera are relatively stagnant. Most importantly, we find that diversity in front of AND behind the camera appeals to most audiences. We continue to show that diversity sells.

Latinas are powerful and should never underestimate that power… Tell Hollywood what you want to see through social media, on your smartphone, with your TV remote, and at the movie box office.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: That makes sense to me. We want authentic stories, not just brown bodies on screen. And to have that, we have to be involved in the story’s creation. So tell me, why is researching diversity in Hollywood important?

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: The images we see on screen permeate throughout our society. Films and TV are not just entertainment. Media, especially television, acts as a dominant socialization agent. Visual media teaches us how the world works and our place in it. In our culture, media consumption has become an essential part of our daily lives. Considering that people of color are about 40 percent of the population and growing, their underrepresentation in all the major fields of the entertainment industry is particularly problematic and harmful for these communities socially and politically.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: So true and so frustrating, particularly to me as a Latina. We share that same box on the census — what drew you as a Latina to this work? Why is it important to you personally?

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: Professionally, I’m a researcher and social psychologist. I’ve always been fascinated by how people view the world and how their perceptions are shaped by it. The way TV and movies shape people’s perceptions about race and ethnicity falls in line with those interests. Also, I’m a native Angeleno, who is the daughter of Mexican and Peruvian immigrants. So, I grew up not far from Hollywood yet never felt truly represented by the industry. And, this issue is very important to me personally as a Latina. I want to see my own experiences on screen, and I want my young daughter to grow up seeing multidimensional characters who look like her on screen as well.

TV and movies shape people’s perceptions about race and ethnicity.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Why should Latinas and femme Latinxs care about diversity in Hollywood? I’m a media fan but sometimes I get so frustrated and think we should just burn the whole thing down. I mean, like you said, LA is a Latinx town and even though we’re surrounding the industry, we’re banging on the door, we’re subscribing to their streaming platforms, they consistently fail to do right by us.

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: Others’ views of underrepresented groups are influenced by the images they see in the media. When there is limited representation, stereotypical characterizations can easily predominate. This has been the case for the Latinx community. It’s in our community’s best interest to advocate for itself and demand change.

Increased and meaningful representation in the entertainment industry will likely have a domino effect on how society perceives Latinxs and how Latinx kids perceive themselves. Advocating for representation in areas like government and the tech industry is as important as advocating for representation in Hollywood. At 18 percent of the population, we should demand that we are proportionally represented, particularly considering our high consumption of movies and streaming television. We shouldn’t be satisfied with minimal representation. We need to understand the power we have as consumers.

Plus, Latinas are often the “herstorians” and archivists of their families. They have so many stories to tell.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Ha! I love that. I know whenever I post autobiographical stories it’s the women in my family who speak up. They offer extra details about the familly. They keep track of the narrative. Sometimes, I think that’s half the reason I co-founded latinamedia.co — to have better conversations with my tias. What’s your goal with the Hollywood Diversity Report?

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: The goal has always been to document the relationship between diversity and the bottom line. In the end, we want to provide industry players and advocacy groups with the data they need for their work.

I grew up not far from Hollywood yet never felt truly represented by the industry… I want to see my own experiences on screen, and I want my young daughter to grow up seeing multidimensional characters who look like her on screen as well.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Money talks! The entertainment industry is a business and it’s so valuable to be able to say, “this is affecting your bottom line.” I’m so grateful you are doing this. Anything you’d like to add?

DR. ANA-CHRISTINA RAMÓN: Lastly, I want to make sure every person understands the power they have to influence what they see on TV and in the movies. Most people don’t think they have any power to advocate for themselves in a field they do not belong to. But, virtually everyone partakes in the entertainment industry as a consumer in the U.S. So, be vocal about what you want and choose the content that most appeals to you.

Latinas are powerful and should never underestimate that power. Use it to create change in the entertainment industry. Tell Hollywood what you want to see through social media, on your smartphone, with your TV remote, and at the movie box office.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Truer words have never been spoken. And that’s what we’re all about here, using our consumer power, our voices to demand better representation. Gracias otra vez. This has been amazing!

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Scandal, Killing Eve, and Roswell

We have no idea what’s going to happen. We don’t know who’s going to win the election, when we’ll know the results, or how Trump and his cronies will respond to any of it. We do know that sitting in front of the TV, watching mostly white male pundits flap their jaws in the face of all this uncertainly sounds like torture. They don’t know what’s going to happen either and they’ll mostly just repeat themselves as facts trickle in.

It’s only the future of the free world at stake! There’s got to be a better way. So while we’ll definitely be following favorites like Soledad O’Brien and Maria Hinojosa on Twitter, we need something to watch so as not to go insane. And we bet you do too.

Flowers
No

The Political

If you just can’t think of anything besides politics, we don’t blame you. It’s pretty all-consuming right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn off CNN and escape the 2020 election cycle for a hot minute, assuming you already did your thing in terms of participation (and I bet you did because voter turn out is HIGH and I got A LOT of texts about the candidates/propositions/etc.).

So if you want to feel optimistic about the power of democracy, check out No. Starring our forever crush Gael Garcia Bernal, this delightful film follows how Chile overturned brutal dictator Pinochet through optimism and voting. Sounds good right?

If you’re more reveling in cynicism, go back to 1999’s Election, starring Reese Witherspoon. This high school satire has a scathing view of ambition, politics, and general human nature so it just might be what you want to watch right now.

Or if you’re more in the middle, feeling neither hopeful nor an impending sense of doom, go ahead and re-watch Scandal. At least in this fictional universe, everyone in office is beautiful and election rigging is purely a domestic affair.

Jane the Virgin

The Warm and Fuzzy

But maybe you want to get as far away from politics as humanly possible. Maybe you just want to watch something under a warm blanket that makes you feel cozy and optimistic. In that case, binge our favorite family comedies and restore your sense of basic human decency.

Jane the Virginwill always hold a special place in our hearts and now that we know how the whole love triangle thing ends, we can watch without worrying. So perhaps start your re-watch election night and just keep going until we know who the next President is?

Or take this moment to enjoy One Day At A Time. It’s one of the rare shows about a Latinx family being made right now and its star power is undeniable (as they said on the premiere of This is Us, “you don’t cancel Rita Moreno”).

If you’re too worried about your actual family to watch a Latinx show, let us suggest Schitt’s Creek. Make it through the first few episodes where every Rose family member is undeniably horrible and you’ll find a show that critiques whiteness and privilege as it celebrates humanity’s flaws, foibles, and capacity to change. Comforting, right?

Killing Eve

The Ultimate Distractions

But perhaps you’re not in the mood to be comforted. Maybe you just need something that will distract you long enough to know what the next fight will be. If that’s your situation, watch Killing Eve. You’ll be dying to know what happens next, what Villanelle wears next, and how Sandra Oh manages to be so incredible at everything she does.

If lady spies aren’t your thing (or you’re watching with a man-friend), slip into early aughts nostalgia with the newest Roswell. I believe it technically takes place today but the songs and costumes harken to an earlier era. Plus star Jeanine Mason is the heroine we need right now.

Lastly, let us recommend Away. Go ahead and skip the first episode of this Hilary Swank vehicle if you want to get distracted and you’ll quickly be sucked into the real-life dangers astronauts face. This series gets so much drama out of a spacewalk, a case of mono, even just watering a plant, it’s amazing. Plus, you know, human goodness triumphs in the end.

Flowers

So happy viewing — we’ll make it through this all together and as AOC says, no matter who wins, “We have to be better. We’re not good enough right now.”

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Latinxs in Space

Latinxs in Space

by Cristina Escobar

Sci-fi is singular because of where it can take us— with Star Trek, I get this sense of hope that humanity will learn to rise above the prejudices that define our current world. With Battlestar Galactica, I question fate and the limits of human ingenuity. With Star Wars, I delve into the delightful idea that all living beings are connected and that life itself has its own power (the Force — you dummies). It’s a way to reflect on and examine our current reality without having to look directly at it, like when you watch an eclipse’s reflection rather than looking directly at the sun.

And that holds true even for race. While most shows in space have done away with the social construct of race as we know it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still affect how we view those shows. We, the audience aren’t living in a post-racial reality so, of course, our understanding of say Blackness colors our interpretations of a Lando Calrissian or a Captain Benjamin Sisko. Shows like Battlestar and The Expanse use their futuristic setting to comment on the present in ways that other shows can’t (or won’t), further lending their sci-fi credentials to a social justice framing of our modern times.

All of which is to say, I just want to see some Latinxs in space. In these dark times, I want to envision a future where we keep our culture and our difference but our fates are not determined by them. I want to visit a future where together we “boldy go where no one has gone before.” You know? And I want that future to include Latinxs. For our stories, our bodies, our futures to be just as important as everyone else’s. So join me in celebrating these, my favorite Latinxs in space:

Captain William Adama

Battlestar Galactica: Edward James Olmos as Captain William Adama

Can humanity survive itself? Maybe not! But our chances are a lot better with Edward James Olmos (and Mary McDonnell) in charge. Olmos plays Captain William Adama and while it’s not clear that “Latinxs” exist in a future in which humanity doesn’t even know where Earth is, the name “Adama” paired with the casting of Olmos is surely a nod to our continued existence. Plus, Olmos plays a Latinx type we can all recognize — the sidelined leader sticking to the old ways, long after they fell out of fashion. I certainly wish we had more of this type of leadership, now throwback to Stand and Deliver.

Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres

Star Trek: Roxann Dawson as Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres

Sometimes I think we’d be better off ditching “Latinx” and instead embracing a term like “mestizo” (mestizx?), one that recognizes that our identity is not founded in the place of Latin America but rather in the aftermath of colonization and the ensuing, fraught mixing of our ancestors’ cultures. We’re “ni de aquí, ni de allá” no matter where we are or presumably, how far we go. That’s what makes Roxann Dawson’s half-human, half Klingon B’Elanna Torres so Latina even as there’s no such thing in Star Trek. Played by a Latina, Torres’s name, identity struggles, and stereotypically “hot” temper clearly make her one of ours. And as a kid, I watched her week in and week out, rooting for Engineer Torres without really knowing why (it was her latinidad).

Shout out to Voyager for actually featuring TWO Latinx actors, the other being Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay. As the first (and I believe still only) Native American main character in the Star Trek universe, we can’t claim him as “Latinx” though. And indeed Chakotay knows clearly who he is and where’s he from, making him B’Elanna’s opposite even as he is her ally. Who else recognizes that dynamic?

Other notable Star Trek Latinxs include Wilson Cruz as Doctor Hugh Culber in Discovery and of course the formidable Ricardo Montalbán as Khan. I will always love Cruz (and Claire Danes for that matter) as watching My So Called Life was a formative experience for me. Doctor Culber starts off boring but gains depth once he comes back to life and must decide which aspects of his former life he wants to resume. Montalbán was amazing throughout, his delicious evilness made the movie, arguably the best of the original series’ films. That said, evil and savage isn’t really the direction I’m looking for. Plus Kahn was white-washed in the reboot with the part played with much less vigor by the Anglo Benedict Cumberbatch (loved him as Sherlock thorough — maybe stay in your lane?). So honorable mentions to both.

Zoe Alleyne Washburne

Firefly: Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne

Like so many before me, I’m still lamenting that Fireflyonly got one season (kind of like Pearson) but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne (plus, Serenity was fun). Yes, she’s second in command and yes, she’s married to a white guy, but that doesn’t keep Alleyne Washburne from taking center stage and delivering some of the best lines of the show (see “big damn heroes”).

Captain Andor

Star Wars: Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Jeron Andor

My favorite thing about Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Jeron Andor is his accent. Imagine a future in which we travel the planets meeting entirely new species with the assistance of sentient robot helpers AND still have to learn English as a second language. It’s delightful! Seriously though, Luna showing up and speaking English like he normally does, even in space, is a powerful reminder that an accent doesn’t define a person, their intelligence, or potential.

And of course, Luna isn’t the only Latinx in the Star Wars universe. We also have Oscar Issac as Pilot Poe Dameron and Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian. Which means Latinxs TOTALLY exist in Star Wars, just as long as you’re male, white-passing, and incredibly attractive (plus, hopefully, paired with a powerful brunette).

Naomi Nagata

The Expanse: Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata

Dominique Tipper’s Naomi Nagata is a badass. She manages to be the smartest person in the room, the most compassionate, and the best in a crisis while never falling into the trap of “strong Black female.” Nagata’s accent alone deserves a dissertation and The Expanse pairs her with a diverse cast and a troubled premise — in this future, we’ve just found more ways to divide humanity into false hierarchies. So of course, it falls on Afrolatina Tipper to reluctantly save us. ¡Gracias Mamá!

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Vampires vs. the Bronx

Trick-or-treating may be canceled but Halloween in all its scary, campy glory is not. So let us invite you to check out the latest from Netflix, Vampires vs. the Bronx. Confronted with vampires, gentrification, and maple scones, our heroes are young Afrolatinos, their protective, Catholic moms, and, of course, the local bodega. Don’t believe us? Check out what these three Latina critics have to say:

Vampires vs. the Bronx

Young Afro-Latinos Shine in Netflix’s Vampires vs. the Bronx

“We have been asking for films centering young Latino kids, specifically Afro-Latinos, in TV & film stories for decades,” writes Kathia Woods in Remezcla and we couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, Vampires vs. the Bronx delivers in what Woods calls “campy fun at its best.” Need another reason to watch? Remember, it’s “impossible to not stress how seeing a young Afro-Latino centered in this adventure will help similar children know that they matter and are vital to the Latinx diaspora.” Read her full review.

Vampires vs. the Bronx

Vampires vs. the Bronx Review: Netflix’s New Film Explores How Gentrification Affects Communities of Color

Melissa Linares of The Young Folks writes, “This latest entry into the horror/comedy genre borrows some elements from other vampire fighting franchises, although a moment with garlic adobo is a type of specific comedy that’ll have you laughing out loud… What this movie leaves you feeling, however, is that there is power in community and that the voices and stories of people of color matter and should be heard, no matter how hard others try to silence them.” Read her full review.

Vampires vs. the Bronx

Vampires vs. The Bronx is Opening the Door For New Vampire Fans

At But Why Tho?, Kate Sánchez says through the film, “I realized for the first time how equipped a Latinx household is to face on blood-sucking gentrifiers if it should ever come to it… Vampires vs. the Bronx thrives as a film because of how [Director Oz] Rodriguez has worked Latinidad into the very core of the narrative.” Read her full review.

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AWAY (L to R) RAY PANTHAKI as RAM ARYA and HILARY SWANK as EMMA GREEN, in episode 109 of AWAY. Cr. DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX © 2020

At latinamedia.co, we don’t care what white guys think. Not about movies, TV, or politics. It’s not that they never have good ideas, it’s just that we’re so tired of hearing their perspective, particularly on things that are not meant for them. So when a show is made for us – for Latinas, for women, for Latinx folks – we want to know what our community has to say about it, not the white guys who usually sound off. And we think you do too. That’s why we created this series, “What Latina Critics Have to Say.” ¡Disfruta!

Flowers

Cruising Rotten Tomatoes, you’d think the only people with opinions on Hilary Swank’s Away are dudes with names like “Ben,” “Brian,” and “Bill.” Seriously, on their main page for the show, there were four times as many men whose names start with B (and I didn’t cheat and count the “Robert”) than there are women, let alone women of color, when we checked. These bros give the woman-led show a measly “critic score” of 54. But women like space/STEM/astronauts too. Hell, we might even be the intended audience for Away. So what do women critics have to say? And by “women” we mean Latinas, obvi:

AWAY (L to R) HILARY SWANK as EMMA GREEN in episode 101 of AWAY Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

TV Review: Netflix’s Away Is The Grey’s Anatomy of Space

As people who want to live in Shondaland, we get everything we need to know about Away from the Dianda Reviews It All headline (we’re in!). Specifically, she writes, “The heart of Away is what keeps you hooked long enough to see it grow and become the show it wants to be; a realistic, grounded reflection… that everyone struggles, everyone dreams, and, in that, everyone is everyone.” Read Diandra’s full review.

AWAY (L to R) VIVIAN WU as LU WANG, MARK IVANIR as MISHA POPOV, HILARY SWANK as EMMA GREEN, RAY PANTHAKI as RAM ARYA, and ATO ESSANDOH as DR. KWESI WEISBERG-ABBAN in episode 101 of AWAY. Cr. DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX © 2020

In Netflix’s Away, Hilary Swank’s Gotta Leave This Doomed Earth to Save This Doomed Earth

Laura Bradley over at the Daily Beast also has lots of positive things to say about Away. She writes, “Enter Netflix’s Away—a gripping drama that embraces this galaxy of thematic potential while also grounding its action in reality. Oh, and its lead is a powerful, multi-faceted Hilary Swank—whose tenacity brings the show’s stakes to life in visceral, at times unsettling ways.” Want more reasons to watch? Check out her full review.

AWAY (L to R) BRIAN MARKINSON as GEORGE LANE and GABRIELLE ROSE as DARLENE in episode 101 of AWAY Cr. DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX © 2020

Why Netflix’s Away Finale Will Actually Make You Feel Better For Once

And for those ready for spoilers, Refinery29’s Ariana Romero breaks down Away’s finale, saying why it’s the show we need now, “When you listen to [showcreator] Hinderaker speak, it seems inevitable that the Atlas crew can get through anything if they continue to support each other. That message is a much needed emotional balm during our divided times.” Read her full coverage.

Flowers
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