Author

Cristina Escobar

Julie and the Phantoms

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’ve launched this new series, “What Latina Critics Have to Say.” ¡Disfruta!

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We can’t help but root for Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms. This import from Brazil (it’s a remake of Julie e os Fantasmas) stars Boricua Madison Reyes, singing and dancing and reminding us of  the High School Musical stars of old. We wish more Latinas, and particularly Afrolatinas, were paid to review the show but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate those who were:

Julie and the Phantoms

Everything We Know About Julie and the Phantoms Season 2

Over at Seventeen, Tamara Fuentes calls Julie and the Phantoms a “gem of a series” and summarizes it like this, “Julie and the Phantoms is Kenny Ortega’s latest hit and the High School Musical and Descendants creator is taking things to the next level with his brand new series.” Find out more by reading her full article.

Julie and the Phantoms

Kenny Ortega’s New Show Julie And The Phantoms Has Ghosts, Music, And Teen Drama — Here’s What Happens In The First Episode

Evelina Zaragoza Medina writes up the show in true BuzzFeed fashion – with lots of gifs and images. Our favorite quote of hers: “Music? A Latinx lead? A ghost rock band?? That’s too many good things to ignore, so I checked out the pilot.” Check out her listicle.

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, MADISON REYES as JULIE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, and CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE in episode 106 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS Cr. KAILEY SCHWERMAN/NETFLIX © 2020

Julie and the Phantoms Review – Ghosts, Grunge and 90s Nostalgia

Ellen E. Jones of the Guardian made us feel old with this glowing review: “Netflix might just be on to something with Julie and the Phantoms, a sweet show carefully confected to unite every post-Saved By the Bell generation of TV-watching teens, from the My So Called Lifers (now in their 40s) to the High School Musical heads (late 20s).” Read her whole review.

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, MADISON REYES as JULIE, and CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE in episode 101 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS Cr. KAILEY SCHWERMAN/NETFLIX © 2020

Boricua Rising Star Madison Reyes Rocks the Lead in Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms

Really, we can’t say enough about Reyes’s talent and Jhoni Jackson writing for Remezcla agrees, “Reyes embodies singer-songwriter Julie in the 9-episode series… Reyes stood out to [creator Kenny Ortega] as more than just a natural fit, but also the absolute ideal—despite having zero prior TV or film credits—among a nationwide talent search.” Read her full coverage.

JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS (L to R) JADAH MARIE as FLYNN, MADISON REYES as JULIE, CHARLIE GILLESPIE as LUKE, OWEN JOYNER as ALEX, and JEREMY SHADA as REGGIE in episode 102 of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms Is FANTASTIC!

On her YouTube channel, Kristen Maldonado can’t stop talking about the songs, declaring “Another huge highlight of the show for me was the music… Not only are [the songs] catchy, they also really reflect the moments that our characters are dealing with, the issues that they’re going through, the situations they’re in. I thought it was just spot on.” Watch her full review.

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Five Hopes for the Third Season of “Charmed”

Are shows starting to film again? The Conners is back in production,The Witcher is filming in London. With so many seasons cut short last TV year, the one show that keeps pulling on my imagination is the CW’s Latinx reboot of Charmed.

The first season of Charmed was fantastic, led by Jane the Virgin showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman. The powers that be didn’t love it though and they rebooted the reboot in the second season with new showrunners, a new setting, and a new vibe. Just one problem — it didn’t work. And I’m not the only one in Charmed fandom who noticed.

That said, the second season was starting to turn around. They were beginning to comment on the stale setting of a co-working space (yawn) by critiquing the extremely wealthy techie who owns it. It turns out that type of power messes you (and the rest of the world) up. There were more nods and interest taken in the Latinx/POC casting with Melissa’s dad Ray becoming a more fleshed-out character. But there’s still a long way to go. So here are some ideas (I’m giving them away for free!) on how to make the third season of Charmed, well, good again:

1. Make it About More

Charmed

I love brujas as much (really a lot more) than just about anyone but the magical universe of Charmed just isn’t enough if it doesn’t acknowledge our current reality. The first season tackled rape culture and identity issues while the second season… didn’t. So for the third season, may I suggest something topical? I’m not usually one to root for Coronavirus programming but Charmed is perfectly set up to handle it. What if the pandemic resulted from the season two collision of the magical world and the human one? Can’t you imagine a Trump-like demon delighting in their destruction? Wouldn’t it be AMAZING to see three brown and Black women save us by working together? Pay attention CW and make my dreams come true!

2. Ditch Abby

Abby of Charmed

Maggie’s ex’s half-sister has to go. Her connection to the Charmed Ones is tenuous (did you follow all those degrees of separation?) and her (love) interest in Harry makes no sense (he’s just boring). She’s not a good foil to “good-girl” Macy either, who has literal demon blood. There’s enough difference between the three sisters — we don’t need a fourth lady in the mix. With her whiteness (she’s so white, she’s British!), Abby takes over, commanding far too much attention. Add in the misogynistic way they portray her bisexuality (here for male consumption!) and there’s nothing redeeming about Abby. I, for one, am ready to say goodbye!

3. Give Harry a Personality

Harry of Charmed

As the stuffy chair of the women’s studies department, Harry had quirks, jokes, and a personality. In season two, he’s got nothing. He doesn’t bake. He has no interests and no back story (his memories have been whipped so I guess there’s some rationale for the lack of complexity…). But the fact that Abby and Macy fight over him is beyond belief. He’s walking white bread. Now a nerdy, good white guy can be fun but he can’t be all earnest looks and skinny jeans. Make Harry have a personality again, perhaps by re-merging him with his dark-lighter and giving him back his memories. That would certainly set him up to be more interesting. Just don’t get confused — he’s not the focus (and take him off the stupid posters while you’re at).

4. Keep Ray Around

Ray of Charmed

I enjoyed Ray’s episode, his role as the well-meaning but fumbling Latino Dad. He brought complexity to Maggie and Mel’s relationship, revealing a bit of their childhood and how they responded differently to the same situation. More than that, it allowed our Latina heroines to relax in the way you only can with your gente. They’re mostly in mixed spaces and while I appreciate that, it’s nice to have some moments with people who know where you’re coming from. Plus, Felix Solis’s comedic timing is just a joy.

5. Focus on the Sisters

Charmed Sisters Hugging

So in conclusion, make Charmed about its three WOC stars. Really that’s it. If the show’s team can acknowledge, understand, and dramatize the ways women of color exist in this world we’ll have compelling TV again. I’m talking badass women who save the world with our natural and supernatural abilities, working together, even as we disagree. If that’s hard for this team to imagine (and it was for the second season’s team, hence all the time spent with Abby and Harry), then hire some new folks! Get some Black and brown women in there. Let us tell our own fairytales already.

This story has been corrected. A previous version mixed up the sisters’ names. All those M’s…

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Lyn from "Vida" and Alexis from "Schitt's Creek"

We women are rewarded for being pretty, especially a particular, male-identified, cis, hetero type of pretty — skinny, long hair, etc. It’s the sort of look that gets you lots of compliments and Instagram followers. It’s a look that’s wildly overrepresented on TV, even when it makes no logical sense (how did those residents of Seattle Grace find time to get their hair blown out?!?!).

Of course, there’s been push back. And thanks to it, we have more women of different sizes, more definitions of beauty than ever before. But the “pretty girl” type persists as an ideal we’re all supposed to strive for. That’s why I loved the arcs of Alexis Rose in Schitt’s Creek and Lyn Hernandez in Vida — they expose the myth of the pretty girl by centering her perspective.

It may sound counterintuitive, what with how often we see them, but pretty girls don’t usually get to be the heroes of their own stories. They can be beautiful, unknowable objects (a la Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), vapid narcissists who deserve a little humiliation (one million seasons of America’s Next Top Model and its clones), or corpses over which men can learn things or hatch revenge plots (see nearly every procedural ever). But something new is happening on Schitt’s Creek and Vida — pretty girls are getting an interior life and it’s more interesting, funny, and feminist than we could have imagined.

Alexis and Lyn both start their shows as the pretty ideal. They fit the type and have gotten the rewards in terms of men’s attention and society’s validation. In most shows, that’d be it. They’d be a love interest or foil. But in Schitt’s Creek and Vida, we see what it’s like to live in their strappy sandals and it turns out, it’s very limiting. The “rewards” of pretty-dom come with serious downsides — relying on men for validation, having to change who you are for your partner of the hour, only having a surface-level understanding of who you are.

And both Lyn and Alexis are not happy. They don’t have to reject prettiness, but they do have to find things to value about themselves outside of their looks (and ability to attract rich men). Lyn’s journey is about learning to value her aesthetic point of view, run the bar, and find a core to herself that’s not selfish or superficial. Alexis goes back to high school, gets her associates, starts a company, and re-negotiates her relationship to men, starting to see them as actual people, not cash machines or status boosters.

I’d love to talk about the ways Lyn and Alexis are similar all day. I’d love to just talk about women and how far we’ve come. But there’s a problem. You see Annie Murphy’s Alexis Rose is white and Melissa Barrera’s Lyn Hernandez is not and their paths diverge in all the sorry, frustrating, predictable ways you can imagine. Murphy got that Emmy nomination and Barrera didn’t. Likewise, Schitt’s Creek is getting all this critical love and touted as a “universal” story that’s changing the world. And it is a great show! A ‘universal’ (whatever that means) show! But so is Vida.

In fact, the two shows have a lot of similarities in addition to their deconstructing the ideal of the pretty girl. They both focus on very specific communities and don’t really venture out of them — Schitt’s Creek has its rural Canadian town and Vida has Boyle Heights. Both have a fish-out-of-water premise with our heroes landing in those communities as outsiders and having to adjust their identities accordingly. Both shows are unapologetically queer and have been lauded for that prospective. Both are really great. One also just happens to be white.

And to the white folks go the prizes even when Lyn’s very latinaness is part of what makes her so groundbreaking. Women of color are even less likely to have our agency portrayed on-screen than our white counterparts and when you throw in sexuality, it gets even more fraught. Women of color are portrayed as the outside temptresses, the other women, the ones with the destructive sexuality that threatens the white family (see the conservative uproar over WAP, like it had anything to do with them). Or we’re sexless mammies come to nurture you or make you laugh (from Gone with the Wind to Bridesmaids). Lyn is none of those things — she’s a flawed Chicana who’s learning to be better, to trust herself, to make her own definition of success. As such she’s just as, if not more, interesting/hilarious/important than Alexis. I just wish she’d be recognized as such.

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The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia

I was going to be a scientist. I finished all the math classes available at my public school as a sophomore. I loved physics. It spoke to my nerdy soul. I got to college and registered for the courses. I did well. My professors encouraged me. But then I looked around.

. . .

 

There aren’t exactly a lot of Latina scientists in popular culture. We’re more likely to be portrayed as maids or spicy (profession-less) temptresses. We’ve got Liz Ortecho on Roswell: New Mexico, but remember the character was whitewashed in the original TV version (despite being Latina in the books). We’ve got Callie Torres in Grey’s Anatomy, but in a show full of an ever-changing roster of doctors, one or two Latinas is not enough. One of the sisters, Macy, on the Latinx Charmed reboot is a scientist. She’s played by a Black actress, but it’s something, I guess.

That’s why The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia is important. Ashley isn’t just a Latina scientist, she’s a Doogie-Howser-level scientist, a kid genius who’s more perplexed by the behavior of her fellow teens than breaking barriers in robotics.

. . .

 

The physics program at my college was small. I’d be spending four years with the same dozen kids (less as folks dropped out) pursuing the major. There was one other girl in that group. The boys either couldn’t look me in the eye (nerds) or thought they were God’s gift to womankind (athlete/engineer/hotshots). I wish I’d befriended that other girl. But I was 18 and inexperienced and didn’t (she was perfectly nice). Instead, I tried to fit in with the jocks. Back then, I was enjoying the freedom from my smartypants high school reputation. I wanted to at least try on being cool. It was fun for a while. But it wasn’t me and I knew it couldn’t last.

. . .

 

Ashley Garcia and friends
Look at this friend group! Our girl Ashley is living the dream, a Veronica Lodge with her own show and without the murder

We meet Ashley after she’s graduated. She’s done with school having gotten her Ph.D. and landed her dream job. But we do learn about her time at university and she did better in the friend department than I did. Yes, she founded a club with no other members (“Girls Code” or should it be “Girl Codes”?!?). But was her lack of popularity because of her age, personality, gender, race, or some combination of all of them? We don’t know but we do know she wasn’t always alone.

She had at least one good friend, Ava, who becomes her colleague at JPL and the season one-love interest of her uncle/father-figure. Ava and Ashley don’t get into too much trouble — Ashley’s still never kissed anyone, hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol, despite graduating high school, college, and graduate school. No, these girls do things like make (and perform!) a song about meteorites to explain Ava’s research. It is both very nerdy and very cute. If only I’d been so lucky.

. . .

 

There were no meteorite-related performances for me, although something large-rock-adjacent would have been my type of fun. Being (or trying to be) “cool” limited my options. The nerd boys were probably more interesting, more kind than the set I fell into. But they were too scared to talk to me. If only they could have seen me in my high school band uniform, or watching Star Trek, or even in my glasses instead of contacts. But they didn’t, probably because I hid that part of me. I thought I had to choose.

. . .

 

JPL, Ashley's workplace, is woman-led
Ashley works at a cutting-edge engineering firm with lots of natural light, independence, and women-mentors. If only JPL were real…

Ashley gets to be nerdy and pretty. When I first tuned into the show, I was a bit worried. During the pilot episode, it seems like Ashley is all nerd and like with so much TV that features smart women, we’re supposed to pretend like we don’t see what a beautiful, charismatic girl she is. But by the second episode, they’ve done away with that concept and by the second season, Ashley’s dating the high school quarterback.

Tad is handsome and sweet and racially ambiguous (he says he’s “one-third” Mexican). His reputation as a player and his on-and-off-again dancer girlfriend aren’t enough to keep Ashley away. She gets the prize boy, helping him see himself as more than the handsome jock while he opens the door for her to enjoy teenage stuff like missing curfew. Tad likes her because she’s smart (and also pretty and kind). They go to the dance together, they kiss, he helps organize her surprise quince. What could be a better fantasy?

. . .

 

At some point, I decided I didn’t want science to be my life. I didn’t want to spend my time at college with these people, let alone the rest of my life. I had other loves, other interests. I jumped ship. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I’d kept going, become a physicist. Would I be a professor now? Would I work in a lab? Would I be a trailblazer? Or a burnout?

. . .

 

Ashley with boyfriend Tad
How many shows have you seen where the smart girl gets the quarterback without having to change a single thing about herself? And, she’s a woman of color!

Ashley’s universe is pretty awesome. Her’s is a sanitized version of the teen years — there’s no sex or drugs. At one point, the kids drink soda out of red cups. And they’re of all racial groups without a microaggression insight. Her work life is great as well. There are apparently men at JPL but we don’t hear much from them. Instead, it’s Ava who we see as Ashley’s main co-worker and Dr. Ling as her boss. This is a woman-led engineering firm and I’m here for it.

There is some acknowledgment of the turbulence the rest of us experience. We learn about Tad’s background because he knows all about the Chicano Movement — he had an uncle who wrote for La Raza. And in my favorite episode, season two’s “Failure Is Not An Option,” we see Ashley struggle when her robot isn’t selected for the next space mission. She’s accustomed to always being the smartest one in the room and when she’s not, she reads it as failure. She has no idea how to learn and cope with not being the best. Ashley’s reaction — to assume that there’s something inherently wrong with her, to mope and try to hold it in — is exactly how so many of my accomplished women friends act. Our entire gender’s been socialized to respond this way, to see the regular bumps and bruises of learning as signs that we should give up. Some of us do. I have. Ashley doesn’t.

You see in “Failure Is Not An Option,” Ashley admits that there aren’t a lot of Latinas in her field. And she feels tremendous pressure to represent us, both by being the only one in the room and by holding the door open to the next. Over the course of the episode, Ashley learns that “rebounding from failure is more important than never failing in the first place.” It’s a heartening reminder that real Ashley’s face obstacles, exist, and succeed.

. . .

 

Back in college, I couldn’t imagine a life like Ashley’s — one where I got to be myself and be successful in science. One where picking physics didn’t mean I’d always be alone. I wish I’d had the opportunity to pick between my interests without measuring their gradients of inclusiveness, sexism, diversity, and racism. But I didn’t.

I wonder if it would have been different had The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia been around when I was a kid. Maybe. And I hope it is different now for the young Cristina’s and Ashley’s coming up. Let’s expand the universe for them.

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How Do You Solve A Problem Like the Emmys?

The Emmys (and Hollywood in general) has a race problem — even if the 2020 nominations are a step in the right direction. People of color are FINALLY represented in every major category with Black women earning the majority of spots in “Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie!”

In fact, Black people are overrepresented in this year’s actor nominations, earning a third of the nominations despite making up just 13% of the US population. And I, for one, think it’s about time. Black people have created much of American culture with little to no recognition since at least the invention of jazz. And if you look at the Emmy nominations historically, we’ll need MANY more years like this one before we get anywhere close to that 13% (which really should be more, because of the legacy of Black artists — see above).

There’s just one problem: No Latinxs or Latinx shows (Pose was mightily overlooked) were nominated this year. And in the history of the Emmys, only one afrolatino has won — Jharrel Jerome’s barrier-breaking win — and we didn’t see more Afrolatinx artists nominated this year. Sandra Oh is representing all Asian people AGAIN in the major categories and while I’ll love her forever, that just isn’t right (for example, Asian men exist!).

So how do you solve a problem like the Emmys? Well, let’s start with something that should be obvious — you don’t go around competing for the “minority” spot. I have no interest in non-Black Latinxs actors taking nominations from other people of color, particularly AfroLatinx and Black actors and artists who had to fight harder to get where they are and have been opening up doors for the rest of us. Anti-blackness is real and wrong, wherever it shows up. No, instead, we non-Black Latinx folks need to work with a BIPOC coalition to advance representation behind the camera, as cultural gatekeepers, and on-screen. Here’s how it should work:

Behind the Camera

Let’s celebrate queens like Shonda Rhimes. She’s BEEN lifting up all our stories

We need to shout from the rooftops for Cheryl L. Bedford’s Women of Color Unite, the largest group of women of color in film and television. Did you know they recently teamed up with the Bitch Pack for #StartWith8Hollywood, creating the largest diversity and inclusion initiative in the industry? Let’s thank them, support, and sign up!

For Latinx-specific group’s like L.A. CollabLatinx Directors, and NALIP, we need to ensure ALL of the Latinx community is represented if anything over-indexing Black and LGBTQ folks to ensure we’re not just creating more mess (aka white supremacism) as we go. These programs are good but, of course, the main thing we need is for BIPOC to get hired behind the camera so we can recognize more of our own AND authentically represent our experiences. Let’s get (at least) proportional representation as studio executives, writers, and directors. Then, we’ll really be getting somewhere.

As Cultural Gatekeepers

Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” was famously panned by white male critics. But it wasn’t about (or for) them FOR ONCE

One of the reasons that hasn’t happened is because of institutions like the Emmys. Part of me wants to throw these awards shows out but the truth is, they do help determine who gets a project greenlighted and how big of a budget goes with it. So if we have to play, then let’s get on some more even footing. TV and film criticism is also largely a white, male game and that’s got to change (obvi — that’s why we created latinamedia.co). Rotten Tomatoes has tried to include more BIPOC women but we still need more (from them and major newsrooms across the country). Hire us, pay us, and recognize us. In the meantime, let’s storm the academies (televisionfilmwhatever) and make sure new members are overwhelmingly BIPOC. Apply if you’re eligible!

On-Screen

We agree with Issa Rae — we’re rooting for everyone Black!

As we move the needle off-screen, we’ll get more, more diverse, and more meaningful representation on screen. This is the final product we all get to consume. Think InsecureVidaFresh Off the Boat. For too long, these stories have been ignored in favor of plain white ones, and in too many cases, that’s still happening. Think about which shows get canceled (without marketing) and which get nominated for awards. But also think about what these shows mean to you now and what having Spider-verse or The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia would have meant to young you. Imagine it. And then help make it happen for everyone.

This piece has been updated. An earlier version implied Sandra Oh was the only Asian nominee when she is the only Asian actor nominated in a major category.

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‘Bring Me An Avocado’ Brings Clarity to the Gender Divide in Parenting

The patriarch in Maria Mealla’s Bring Me An Avocado is your average good dad but a woefully inadequate parent. While George makes enough money to keep his wife Robin and two kids on the “good toilet paper,” it’s not enough to keep Robin from worrying. He clearly loves his daughters, taking time to kick the ball around with them and play pretend. As a writer, he’s got a cool, creative job and he maintains a fit (some might even say sexy) physique. He’s living up to the expectations of his sex.

But when his wife Robin is put in a coma for weeks, he can’t really keep it together. Turns out, he doesn’t actually know how to care for his kids. How to get them dressed and ready for school. How to feed them more than just PB&Js. He’s the type of father-figure we’ve come to accept, even praise: there, but mostly for the fun stuff. With George skating by on his male privilege, Robin’s been doing the invisible heavy lifting. The fact is that he is the kind of dad nurses smile at in hospital rooms but not the kind who takes care of their kids when no one’s watching.

So Robin’s sister Greece and best-friend Jada step in to help. They make the food, get the kids dressed. George protests, declaring more than once “I’ve been alone with my kids before!” But he always relents, accepting the help. He’s a somewhat hapless male figure and “Bring Me An Avocado” reveals the way his maleness has kept him sheltered and incompetent.

Don’t let her comatose position fool you — “Bring Me An Avocado” is actually Robin’s movie

But the film isn’t really his, even though he’s the central character on the poster and the one with the most screen time. Bring Me An Avocado is actually Robin’s film, despite the fact she spends most of it “sleeping” at the hospital. You see, it’s Robin’s chosen community — her best friend, her sister — who step into taking care of the kids. And it’s Robin’s work that powers their world, the house she decorated, the man she married, the family she had, the friends she surrounded them with.

Not that things go great for Robin. Arguably both Greece and Jada betray her. We don’t learn much about our three principle women, but we do know that Robin is the one who took the most traditional path. She’s the only wife and the only mother out of the three.

Greece is the hippy free spirit who does things like extoll the virtues of vegan food. At one point, George tells her “you can barely take care of yourself,” but nonetheless, there Greece is taking care of him and his kids because, thanks to her female upbringing, she knows how. It’s unclear if Greece wants to sleep with George but she certainly toys with the idea of taking her sister’s place, at one point putting on her dress and a mask Robin wore so she’s indistinguishable from her sister (it freaks George out rather than excites him).

Free spirit Greece wears floral dresses and is unfulfilled — what could be more relatable?

Jada’s betrayal is more clear — she sleeps with George. But before she does so, she’s there disciplining the girls and doing the type of care work that George neglects (everything but playing and giving sage advice). Jada’s the career-oriented one. We never learn what she does but she does wear business casual clothes (we only see Robin in yoga pants and pajamas) and blames “work stuff” for why she’s not available.

So there you have the three paths available to modern women: mother, professional, slacker, and none of them seem particularly fulfilling. Robin does wake up in the final third of the film. She knows her home has been invaded, her place occupied. The books are ordered differently on the shelves (Jada). The fridge full of someone else’s cooking (Greece).

Poignant, tragic, and revealing, Maria Mealla’s 'Bring Me An Avocado' explores what your average good dad will do when his wife ends up in a coma.
It’s a low bar to clear to be a “great dad”

The film ends with Robin insisting on being alone with her “family,” organizing a road trip with George and the girls. Robin’s built this family and she wants it to work, even if it means subsuming other aspects of herself, other things that might make her happy. Meanwhile, Jada and Greece are stuck outside Robin’s home, wondering where they went. They’re no longer replacement moms, just ancillary friends.

It’s a powerful symbol and affirmation of the nuclear family. But I couldn’t help wondering if Robin really got the prize. George is not the great partner he appears to be. Without her community of women, raising those kids is just going to be harder. It’s an impossible position and the type women find themselves in all too often. Robin knows now that she is both replaceable and irreplaceable, arguably the definition of a modern woman. Our existence is defined by compromise while the men in our life just keep going obliviously on.

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What ‘Homeland’ Has to Say About White Womanhood

There’s no missing Carrie Mathison’s whiteness. It’s not just that she’s played by Claire Danes in Showtime’s critically acclaimed and recently concluded Homeland. Or that Carrie’s blond hair and blue eyes so often fill the frame. It’s that the character and show itself play with, question, and subvert notions of white womanhood, putting our ideas about who Carrie should be in conflict with who she actually is again and again.

Let’s start with fragility: white women are to be protected or so stories have told us. We see this everywhere from the damsel-in-distress narrative to America’s rationale for lynching to how white women’s tears function in the office. One could argue, Carrie does need to be protected. Her mental illness, for one, makes her susceptible to all sorts of dangers — she needs medicine, therapy, and care. And there is the aesthetic — this slight blond person, standing next to men in perceived and literal battlefields. Her body is so small and vulnerable in comparison. But Carrie’s not injured when surrounded by GI’s — the show simply uses the contrast in bodies to build suspense, to make you acutely aware of the danger of being a small woman in a sea of masculine vibrato. Yes, when she is taken prisoner by the Russians, Saul literally has to rescue her, using his political clout to arrange for her release. But the truth is it was Carrie who bravely created and executed the plan that got her in that Russian prison. She is a hero, not a victim.

You see, both the character and the show toy with ideas around Carrie’s supposed vulnerability. My favorite example is when Carrie’s computer gets hacked in season seven. She calls in her buddy Max to try to help with the technical side but there’s nothing he can do. So when the hacker makes contact, Carrie begins to trade on her sexuality to bargain for her files. After some sexy video time, she meets him in person and instead of offering him sex, nearly beats him to death, declaring “I’m CIA motherfucker!” It’s both an empowering and troubling moment as Carrie triumphs over her would-be-victimizer but also loses control, unleashing a dangerous, dark side of herself. And it’s captivating precisely because of the assumptions our culture makes about white women and their inherent vulnerability.

Part of white women’s supposed helplessness comes from their role as passive, pure objects onto which white men can write their desires, ambitions, and faults. Think of all the times you’ve watched a male character learn something because of the violence done to a woman in his life. Or the whole and on-going conversation about objectification. Generally, men get to be agents and women objects. Now as a white woman, Carrie has more access to agency than her BIPOC sisters. She exists on screen for one, rather than being largely ignored or erased.

But even for a white woman, Carrie stands out as does Homeland. Instead of female bodies serving as sacrificial lambs, the men around Carrie die so she can learn. First Brody, then Quinn, then Max — Homeland is a veritable parade of dead men and poor sexual decision making. And while these deaths build Carrie’s character, the central loss and tragedy in her journey is the drone strike she authorized, killing hundreds of innocent, brown children. It’s that action that got her sent home from the field and mixed up with Brody to begin with, it’s that headline we see in one of her final scenes at her home with Yevgeny. And while the show’s terrorism-as-a-Muslim-plot beginning was rightfully decried, the show makes efforts in the later seasons to define the problems with America more broadly and get away from an us-vs-them mentality. In this redefinition, Carrie gets to be more than the relationships she has with the men around her, more than a white woman holding back what the colonist sees as a sea of brown bodies.

She even gets to be more than a mother, the third tenet of white womanhood. White women are the June Cleavers, the virtuous women in aprons and pearls, the ones who effortlessly nurture and who’s families come first. Now by these (and really all) standards, Carrie fails as a mother. She does not make Frannie her top priority — she doesn’t even manage to keep her safe, the bare minimum of parenthood. In fact, she does such a poor job protecting Frannie that her daughter has multiple encounters with SWAT teams before reaching middle school! It’s bad and part of Carrie’s astounding ability to make the worst possible decisions, picking options a normal person wouldn’t even consider (leaving your child alone with PTSD-rattled veteran, taking her to stay with someone you suspect of double-crossing you).

But Carrie gets away with it. Yes, she battles both the state and her sister for custody of Frannie, eventually giving up and recognizing the girl is better off without her. Normally, this sort of ending would serve as a cautionary tale — don’t dream too big or you’ll lose what matters most — but Frannie isn’t what matters most to Carrie, she’s not even the most important relationship in Carrie’s life. And Homeland lets that truth be, acknowledging the sadness around Carrie’s failed attempt at motherhood without letting it fully define her. Take that final scene where Saul is opening the book Carrie sent, her memoir. It may be dedicated to Frannie but it’s Carrie’s communication with Saul the show focuses on. It’s his forgiveness she’s trying to earn. Homeland defies norms around white womanhood by making Carrie a hero and a bad mother, a woman not defined by her child.

In the end, it is not her daughter, not the deaths, the acts of violence, or even her relationships that define Carrie — it’s her decision making. As Saul says, close to the end, “Everything she does, everything is because she never loses sight of what’s important and honestly, she’s the only person I ever known I can say that of.” It’s high praise even when it means that Carrie will betray Saul, her closest friend, to complete their mission of stopping a war between the US and Pakistan. And it both fits in line with the image of the patriotic, duty-bound white woman and rewrites it, showing just how toxic unwavering fidelity can be.

That’s the thing about the cult of white womanhood — it’s inherently flawed. It grants power even as it restricts. It proposes a norm that we all know to be false but still fall prey to at times. It’s destructive and creative, changing and static. It’s a worthy subject of art and the anchor that grounded Homeland for eight seasons, giving it its grit, surprise, and greater meaning.

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Straddling Two Worlds in “The Baker and the Beauty”

There’s a lot of talk in The Baker and the Beauty about the “two worlds” our protagonist Daniel Garcia must manage. There’s his Latinx “world” in Little Havana. In it, he’s the oldest son of the humble Garcia family, living above the bakery he’ll one day inherit. The other “world” belongs to celebrity Noa Hamilton and her entourage. That one’s flush with funds, paparazzi, and skinny white folks. As the first season draws to a close, the two worlds seem set on a collision course with Daniel having to choose where he belongs.

Certainly, the difference between a collective and individualistic orientation is in full effect on the show and it’s one of the biggest divides we Latinxs must bridge. Before 2017’s Coco, I’d never watched anything where the value we place on family was seen as a positive. It had always been something to overcome, a needy, demanding family holding the ambitious individual back. Luckily, Latinx representation has come a long way and now we see much more nuanced portrayals of what it means to be in one of our tight-knit families.

On The Baker and the Beauty, that means we see the Garcias fight with and for each other every episode. Middle brother Mateo has to give up his recording session to work in the bakery but his dad eventually builds him a DIY studio when he realizes how serious Mateo is about music. Youngest sibling Natalie comes out as gay and even though her mother has a hard time accepting it, she never stops protecting her daughter. Father Rafael has always dreamed of owning his own cafe and his wife Mari pushes to do it even when he doubts himself. They’re a unit, for better or worse, but mostly for better.

In contrast, Noa is largely alone. We meet her mother and father but they’re not daily presences in her life and both cause her pain. Her real kin is her entourage with manager Lewis serving in the father-figure role. But Lewis is so high strung that, even with his cancer diagnosis, he remains the least sympathetic character on the show. Certainly, people you pay don’t and can’t provide the type of love the Garcias give each other. As Noa’s boyfriend, Daniel has to figure out how to balance his family obligations and keep up with Noa’s me-centered, white life, facing such tough questions as: should he drop his work at the bakery to go with Noa to Morroco?

And, perhaps more importantly, does he shift his ambitions from running the family business to becoming a food personality? In a recent episode, his dad Rafael lambasted that idea, calling Mateo’s years-long commitment to music “a dream” while labeling Daniel’s recent foray into food content “a fantasy.” It stung because of the truth behind it. Daniel’s ambition isn’t just new, it was Noa’s idea, an attempt to bring him closer to her world. It fits her ideal of success — fame, fortune, and status. But what happened to Daniel’s previous definition of “success” — being a meaningful part of his family, both its business and its relationships? And while Rafael is meaningfully pushing against Daniel’s shifting priorities, he is perhaps putting too much value in hard work. Success — whether in music or TV — is as much about your background as it is about talent and dedication.

Luckily, he exists in the world of The Baker and the Beauty, which sees the value in each of us. Noa may be the female romantic lead but the show hasn’t forgotten his ex Vanessa, the Latina real estate agent who proposed to Daniel after four years of dating in the series premiere (he said no). Even though she’s not right for Daniel, Vanessa is beautiful and smart and hardworking. She deserves love and success and the show allows her to have those things without predicating her happiness on Daniel’s or Noa’s. In fact, these two women, the round-the-way girl and the starlet, are equals in character and class even as they represent “two different worlds.”

The thing is, we Latinxs are used to living in “two worlds” (if not more!) as we navigate across our various cultures. As someone wiser than me said, we’re both 100% American and 100% Latinx all the time. Daniel’s case may be extreme but it’s not out of the ordinary and I, for one, am rooting for the “two worlds” talk to end and a more thoughtful exploration of what it means to be bicultural to begin. The Baker and the Beauty is certainly set up to do just that.

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La Casa De Las Flores: Paulina de la Mora

Part of me finds Paulina de la Mora aspirational. Yes, as the eldest daughter in Netflix’s La casa de las flores, she’s part of the Mexican elite, the moneyed class that folks gossip about and track. And yes, her biggest lesson (spoiler!) is to care less about what people think, hardly revolutionary I know. But it’s not really her wealth that I envy — it’s her style. I’m talking about her literal and figurative style. Her wardrobe could be my Pinterest dream board, all wide-leg pants and architectural tops. In my imagination, my hair looks like hers (I do have a similar cut) but mine’s never so artfully styled. And then there’s her ability to communicate so much through those big brown eyes of hers.

Obviously, I have a bit of a crush. But it’s not so much about how she looks, it’s about how she is. Paulina can storm out of a room with a shawl artfully draped in front of her without it falling off. She can call her siblings “dumb and dumber” and have it be somehow endearing. She can say “no hay dinero aqui” in her family’s sprawling mansion in one of the ritziest neighborhoods in DF and somehow make you believe empathize with her for a second.

Paulina’s ability to be so likable while being so absurd is at the center of her charm. We’re talking about a woman whose peculiar manner of speech ignited the #PaulinaDeLaMoraChallenge in which people try to stretch their words a la Pau. While her “¡Que bar-ba-ri-dad” will live in my mind forever, in the later seasons, I’m more struck by how she says “mi Paaaa-pa” and “mi Maaaaa-ma” like they’re her prized, lost teddy bears and not people with their own thoughts and feelings (and relationships outside of the one with their eldest daughter). Her elongated speech shows that she has time to spare and doesn’t mind taking up the space that comes with her stature. I love it, even if I won’t be imitating it any time soon. It’s all part of her obsession with the family legacy, the flower shop and the cabaret, the de la Mora reputation and the relationships that come with it.

Who’s obsessed with this family?

It’s not an obsession that serves her well. She’s so fixated on keeping up appearances that she can’t see the truth about younger brother Julian’s love Diego. No, he didn’t steal the family fortune. Yes, her mother took it to escape her familial obligations. And while that mistake lands her in jail for a time (how she manages to make her prison uniform look chic, I’ll never understand), it’s not her biggest misstep, not even close.

Pau’s real problems are in heading her own, small, nuclear family: raising Bruno and finding her way back to her ex Maria José. We met Paulina as a single mother who loves her son but is struggling in his teenage years to give him the structure he needs. Bruno drinks, leaves for days at a time without telling anyone (a major plot point in the first season), and is so unsure of himself that he later picks up a Spanish accent after a few months in Madrid. After years of doing it on her own, she needs help.

So when legal star, Bruno’s other parent, and Paulina’s ex, Maria José comes back to help Paulina get “mi Paaaa-pa” out of jail, everything starts to change for Pau. We learn that the two broke up because Pau couldn’t accept the fact that the man she thought she’d married was really a woman. But time heals a lot and now Pau can see the error of her ways. She apologies for how she reacted in an emotionally raw scene that made me like her even more: she owns her mistakes with her high pony, pearls, and understated tears no less (not to mention the AMAZING view of Mexico City in the back). And while the two eventually agree that Maria José should take Bruno back with her to Spain, Paulina decides to go with them and rekindle the romance of her youth.

Can you think of a better look to tell you ex you’re sorry about how you handled her transition?

From there the two have ups and downs (particularly around Paulina obsession with her family legacy) but it’s clear that Maria José is the person who knows Pau the best, sees her inside and out, and can best support her (no one else in the show is in her league, hence the dumb and dumber comment). And like all good telenovelas, La casa de las flores ends with a wedding — Paulina and Maria José tying the knot for the second time (Paulina wears an IMPECCABLE suit obviously).

So while she looks perfect in that angelic white, it’s Paulina’s imperfections that make her so compelling. Her disconnection from herself and her needs. And I’d argue that’s really what La casa de las flores is about. From the first episode to the last, one of the driving questions is around Paulina’s paternity — it’s one of the secrets in the suicide note left in the premiere and the final mystery to be resolved. Pau tries on each of her different Dads, fancying herself in their respective images. She emulates Ernesto’s business acumen, is intrigued by Salo’s Judaism, and finally finds peace in getting justice for Pato.

It’s with her flaws and idiosyncrasies that Paulina finally finds her purpose and resolution. She learns to be a true ally to the LGBTQ community, owning her mistakes and loving her new wife. She says goodbye to the old family legacy, not taking over for mother Virginia (by say running the floreria or managing the big house) but rather inventing a new path that sets her and her siblings free. It’s the age-old question in the Latinx culture — how to honor the collective without being stifled by it. Paulina figures it out by maintaining her signature sense of competence, leadership, and mischief. Now that’s’ what I’d call aspirational.

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The Emancipation of ‘Station 19’s’ Andrea Herrera

I’ve been rooting for Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Station 19. It’s not just that I love being in the Grey’s universe, having watched all 16 seasons and counting. Hell, I even went so far as to watch all of Private Practice. It’s also that the fire-fighting drama stars a Latina in Jaina Lee Ortiz as Andrea “Andy” Herrera. In case you didn’t know, Latinas are the least represented on-screen when compared to our population numbers. So when the rare opportunity to see someone who looks like me on TV pops up, I tune in.

And Ortiz is fun to watch. She’s charismatic and strong, the best firefighter in her battalion because of her smarts and experience. But Station 19 doesn’t seem to know what to do with her and the rest of her attractive cast. Yes, they enact Grey’s signature bed-hopping and love triangles but without the chemistry of that show’s couples. There’s the crisis-of-the-week too but somehow the fires on Station 19 aren’t as high stakes or suspenseful as the surgeries on Grey’s, even when the patients cross over.

All of which has solidified Station 19 as relatively mediocre TV, that is until the run-up to the season three finale. The show’s finally let Andy free in all her Latina glory. There have been nods to her culture in the past — my personal favorite was just how long it took for her to move out of her Dad’s house (we Latinos often live with our parents until marriage). But nothing like the concentration we’ve gotten in these last few episodes.

It started with “Something About What Happens When We Talk,” a mental-health themed episode that sees the fantastic Tracie Thoms come in as the station’s trauma counselor (request: can we have her every week?). In this episode, we learn of Andy’s salsa dancing past and watch her declare her love for Captain Robert Sullivan. Seeing her express herself through dance and have it work as a metaphor for these lovers’ passion was really something.

Next up was “No Days Off,” an episode that’d make AOC proud, comparing ICE to Nazis. In it, Andy, Sullivan, and her dad Pruitt debate immigration policy before intervening to help an undocumented worker. Sullivan, who is one of the show’s many Black characters, takes the hardest stand against ICE, letting the Latinx Herreras not be defined by the issue.

And all of this was leading up to Pruitt Herrera’s death, a truly momentous event for Andy. Her dad has been battling terminal cancer all season and when a fire-fighting effort goes awry, sacrifices what time he has left to save his daughter and her fellow fight fighters. In doing so, Pruitt proves himself to be the ultimate man of character, the Latino dad who’ll do anything for his family, biological and chosen.

Since then, we’ve been dealing with his death and Andy’s decision to marry Sullivan quickly and secretly so her dad could walk her down the aisle. By jumping from the care of one man (her dad) to the care of another (Sullivan), Andy’s never really been her own woman. She followed her dad into fire fighting and served under his leadership. She had some dalliances before coupling up with her station chief, but not many (not that her dad didn’t judge her sexual decisions harshly). In this, Andy’s the good Latina daughter, passed neatly from father to husband, sexual adventures brushed aside. The complication is that Andy’s beginning to question her decision and now has no Dad to talk to about it. If Sullivan is the type of guy who announces their relationship to their colleagues without Andy’s permission (as he did in a recent episode of this season) or that listens to Andy’s father about when she’s ready for a promotion rather than to Andy (as TWO men have done in three seasons so far), he may not be the guy for our girl. We don’t want another patriarch, however handsome and good-intentioned, trying to control Andy.

I’m rooting for her to chart her own course. That may be with Sullivan if she gets him to respect her and see her as an equal but more likely it’ll be without him. I’d love to see her, finally, in the leadership position, she’s been after and clearly earned. Mostly, I want to see her chase her own destiny and continue the legacy of Shonda Rhimes heroines like Meredith and Cristina, who didn’t let parents or lovers get in their way. Only then will Station 19 finally start living up to its potential.

This piece has been corrected. A previous version incorrectly identified the penultimate episode.

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