Justicia and Cultura

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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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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4 Latinas on the DNC

4 Latinas on the DNC

by Nicola Schulze

Eva Longoria hosted the first night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, which kept some political rally standards and borrowed from a grab bag of other TV formats. Credit Democratic National Convention, via Associated Press and New York Times

For the last four days, the Democratic National Convention has dominated our national consciousness. In the midst of a pandemic and a national reckoning on the systemic racism that continues to pervade our society, thousands tuned in hoping to be inspired and galvanized by the Democrats’ vision for this country. A new survey, which comes on the heels of the convention, also shows that two-thirds of Latinx people say they haven’t seen any outreach from political campaigns or groups for the 2020 election.

So we wanted to check in and see what four of our favorite Latinx activists, organizers, and journalists thought about the DNC this year.

“Julián Castro, the only Latino to run for president in 2020 and who delivered a keynote speech at the 2012 convention, wasn’t given any speaking time. And don’t tell me that giving Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising superstar and arguably the most effective political communicator, about 90 seconds of airtime was enough. She had less time to speak than a former Republican governor who got nearly 4 minutes. The two other Latino politicians who had major speaking slots — Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada — were moderates with lower profiles.

Rather than growing the electorate, which is how Democrats will win in November and beyond, it seems as though they are reaching out to Republican voters. This sends a terrible message to the Latino voters they need to win in November.”

Cristina Jiménez Moreta, Co-founder of United We Dream

“You know it’s like Latin@s are everywhere and we are essential and you love/hate us but what is ever present in this country is our total INVISIBILITY. And when we say this, show it to everyone, we are told to calm down and that is not so bad. It’s exhausting but I will not stop.”

— Maria Hinojosa, Journalist

“Eva Longoria, who has been both an incredible actress, and also an incredible activist for Texas. She has had Texas in her mind and in her heart in politics for many years now… Getting to see her host, or yesterday, getting to see Kerry Washington — not just being in front of the entire country, not just having the opportunity to introduce Kamala Harris or Barack Obama — but doing so with her natural curly hair was absolutely magical for me.”

Candace Valenzuela, US House candidate, TX-24

Some disappointment to be honest about not seeing more Latinos or Latinas in primetime at the convention… You’ve got to really make sure that representation is not just seen, but is felt. And for us, we need to be seeing that representation.”

Janet Murguia, President of UnidosUS
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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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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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AOC Speech Reminds Us Fathers Built a Sexist World, Mothers Have Been Dismantling

After Rep. Ted Yoho’s terrible “apology” (if you can even call it that) for calling her a “fucking bitch,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the House floor and demanded decency, not just for herself but for women everywhere, specifically as a daughter.

“Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too.

My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this house towards me on television, and I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

As many focus on the roles of fathers in combatting sexism, they’re missing one important part of the equation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t just mention her father, she mentioned her mother too, bringing in the most influential figures left out of conversations on sexism. Whether your relationship with your mother is absent, painful, or wonderful, mothers are often their daughters’ first instructors when it comes to facing the world as a woman. It is often our mothers that both reinforce and break these roles for us as daughters. How many of us have heard the saying “Y qué va a decir la gente” specifically when we’ve challenged the ideas of what it means to be a respectable Latina? Whether it’s the culture of judging women who either present as too feminine or not feminine enough, speaking your mind or staying quiet, the choice to pursue a career or to stay at home, mothers are often the gatekeepers to the futures of their daughters. 

It’s easy to see why femininity is so protected when the most celebrated Latinas in our culture earn their praise through the way they embrace traditional female values, like beauty. Our mothers had few if any representations of Latinas in medicine, in politics, science, or in technology. When they saw themselves celebrated, it was usually in very traditional female roles in television, movies, and even in books. Only in 2009, did we get the first Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, appointed to serve on the Supreme Court Sonia and only in 2017 did we have the first Latina, Catherine Marie Cortez Masto, elected into the United States Senate. 

My own mother was one of four Latinas out of a hundred students in her dental class at UCSF. In high school, a teacher told her she wasn’t smart enough to be in an advanced biology class. When my grandmother, who never had the privilege of finishing middle school, heard what had happened, she confronted that teacher demanding that my mother be put into the class with the predominantly white students.  

Yet, when my mom expressed an interest in becoming a dentist, my grandmother wasn’t as encouraging. She suggested nursing as an alternative, believing it was a more realistic option for a woman, especially Latina interested in medicine. In college, my mother was also told by a professor that she would never be a dentist but that she would make a great secretary. My grandmother believed strongly her daughter was entitled to an education but because of the sexist racist world she was raising my mother in, she wanted my mother to be realistic. This is how our mothers navigate the world for us, recognizing the limitations and fighting anyway. For generations of mothers, our ancestors have pushed us forward so we could dream, what our mothers couldn’t even imagine.  

While fathers are essential in combating a sexist American culture, our mothers teach us what sexism is and give us the tools to dismantle it. It’s through our mothers not our fathers, that we inherit both the rules and limitations of sexism. The keys to breaking the cycle and pushing us forward lies in the matriarchal line. Rep. Yoho really could not have less to do with it. 

Because of her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, can be seen and celebrated for her intellect and ability to lead. In every way, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the culmination of generations of Latinx mothers who fought back against the misogynistic culture. She is educated, determined, and creating a space for all the Latinx girls who were ever told they were too “much.” 

“I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse, and worse, to see that. To see that excuse, and see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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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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It’s Time to Cancel the Cop Show

Black Lives Matter. At latinamedia.co, we know the media is part of the problem, perpetuating false myths about police, BIPOC communities, and violence. We took a moment to focus on uplifting Black voices and now our co-founders are back, talking about Hollywood’s dangerous obsession with the cop-as-hero narrative and what we’d like to see instead.

CRISTINA: The myths of America are breaking. Those of us in communities of color have known of these fractures for a long time. After all, who’s uninsured? Who was left out of the boom economy? Who do cops kill without fear of facing consequences? So while we’ve known, that doesn’t mean the myth of America as a world power, a place of opportunity, a land of laws hasn’t remained strong. We’ve seen it everywhere and when that narrative is in the water, it can feel like you’re the crazy one for thinking otherwise. The “mainstream” (aka white) culture has been gaslighting us.

NICOLA: The media’s shock and disbelief about this moment is the wrong tone. State violence has been happening in the “USA” since 1776 – this country was founded and built by colonizers and slaveowners. It shouldn’t surprise anyone. We haven’t reckoned with our racist foundation in a meaningful way. America has been using bandaids, when we need surgery. We need big structural changes in our schools, where we work, and in the media we consume.    

America has been using bandaids, when we need surgery.

CRISTINA: You know, we started latinamedia.co to push back on the ways Hollywood undermines POC perspectives and lift up the rich, alternative discourse of Brown and Black artists. It seems like we need that work desperately now and I hope one genre we can forever change is the cop show. There are so many of them! And with a few notable exceptions, the general narrative is cop-as-hero and that’s just not what cops actually do.

Think about SVU. I’d love to live in an alternate universe where cops care about sexual assault, don’t perpetuate it themselves, and a fierce, survivor, policewoman is answering the call to justice. That’s just not reality. Reality is the rape kit backlog. Cops sexually harassing civilians with impunity. Survivors not reporting because they have no reason to believe the system will help them, #MeToo or not. SVU is a fun fantasy but perhaps it’s a dangerous one. Does watching it keep us complacent? Do we layer its narrative over reality and figure someone like Olivia Benson is handling the problem of sexual violence (actress Marisha Hargitay is working to end the rape-kit backlog)? These broken systems are all of our problems and as Roxane Gay has been saying, we have to save ourselves.

NICOLA: Police forces were never built to protect BIPOC communities. So even shows that are self-aware, hilarious, and prioritize representation like Brooklyn 99 have a major blindspot. We can no longer laugh at Jake Peralta, without seeing the harm that police have done to communities and continue to do. And as much as I love seeing fierce Latinx leads like Rosa and Amy, they’re representation on TV is not worth perpetuating the harmful narrative that NYC cops are not just funny donut eating caricatures. 

Police have been basically ordered to protect property and white lives above anything else and there is no fun loving “good” police utopia that can change that.   

SVU is a fun fantasy but perhaps it’s a dangerous one. Does watching it keep us complacent?

CRISTINA: The representation thing is the cop shows’ best quality – in many ways, they’ve been important avenues for BIPOC representation. We’re talking ensemble shows with diverse casts. Of course, usually, the lead character is a white guy, but not always! JLo herself had a cop show. Remember Denzel Washington in Training Day? That’s an interesting one because it finally shows a cop as a villain, but, of course, he’s black, corrupting the young, idealistic white guy. Yikes! And that’s the role Denzel gets the Oscar for. We’re talking all sorts of problematic

This year’s Hightown featured a gay Latina in Monica Raymond’s Jackie Quiñones, but the show 1. keeps reminding us that she’s not a “real” cop (she works in Marine fishing) and 2. Undermines her by contrasting her with a “real,” white cop who we’re supposed to sympathize with but who sucks (he sleeps with ALL his CIs but is nice to their kids, so I guess we’re supposed to root for him?!?! Umm no. That “grey” line is called sexual assault).

NICOLA: Color of Change released a detailed study “Normalizing Injustice: The Dangerous Misrepresentations That Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre,” earlier this year. They really spell out the problem with these shows that even though inclusive are deeply problematic. 

“Despite the fact that widespread racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system are well-documented and well recognized, scripted television series focused on crime—some of the most popular and influential shows on TV today—do not depict the reality, causes or consequences of these disparities accurately. If that is true, then these series, and perhaps the genre as a whole, may be a driver of pervasive misperceptions and attitudes about safety, crime, punishment, race and gender among the tens of millions of people potentially influenced by sustained exposure to these series.”

This study was released in January this year, before the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade by police. We know the power of narratives, especially those that have been told on television. According to Variety, last year more crime shows were among  the top 100 most watched than any other genre. Cops and crime are America’s favorite. 

Cops and crime are America’s favorite.

CRISTINA: Yes, we watch a lot of these shows and  we’re used to seeing cops in a particular way, of watching narratives that show them upholding our society. That’s why it’s so hard to imagine what defunding the police even looks like. We have almost no examples. There’s not exactly a lot of social-worker shows out there. The only thing that comes close is Parks and Rec and I mean sit with that for a moment. Imagine Leslie Knope solving society’s problems rather than Lennie Briscoe. Doesn’t that sound like a better world?

NICOLA: I mean yes! There are so many workplaces that have never gotten their time on screen and are equally exciting/ridiculous. As someone, who’s worked at several nonprofits, let me offer them up as an ideal place for the half-hour comedy. I would love to see Brooklyn 99 magically transform into NYC ‘slatest 501c3 as they battle to see who can be the wokest non-profit in Brooklyn. Or depict fundraiser kerfuffles where the highest donor is accidentally fed a gluten meal. Or a team meeting where they suddenly realize their latest campaign has an inappropriate acronym. 

CRISTINA: Yes! Imagine if instead of SVU, we had a domestic violence/sexual assault advocate show. You could still have the crime-of-the-week structure and the office-politics drama. But instead of cops, the heroes would be caseworkers, counselors, and forensic nurses. Grey’s Anatomy did an episode like that, envisioning another narrative and support system around assault. Imagine if that was on every week!

NICOLA: I can’t wait to see how TV rises to the challenge and what emerges after they cancel their crime centric seasons. Do we get a drama about teens working shitty retail jobs? A show about battling boba shops? A reality TV show about celebrity dog walkers? Police shows are just simply unnecessary, kind of like cops themselves.

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How Will the Rona Infect TV?

With everything going on, it can seem pretty silly to care about TV. But here I am, daydreaming about my shows. Like the rest of the nation, Hollywood is shut down for the foreseeable future — meaning if an episode wasn’t already shot, who knows when it’ll happen. But it’s not just a question of when, it’s also a question of how. What will the effect of the Rona be on TV? Will shows incorporate it into their plotlines? Do we want them to? We at latinamedia.co aren’t sure but we’ll be exploring what to watch during and after this crisis.

Certainly, medical shows a la Grey’s Anatomy will have to do a Coronavirus arc. How could a hospital drama possibly resist? And for Grey’s, they can’t let dramatic medical news go to waste. I can only imagine how hard it is to come up with new theatrics for our favorite surgical department after sixteen seasons and here’s an unprecedented health tragedy falling in their laps. My only question is if it’ll be one episode or one season. Really, Meredith, Bailey, and the team could do so much.

Outside of hospital shows, family sitcoms are well situated to write about this time. One Day At A TimeBlack-ish, and The Simpsons, shows that already take place in the living room know how to squeeze drama out of the domestic. Watching our favorite TV families exploring what it’s like to be stuck at home for who knows how long could be therapeutic. At least, I’d expect some good laughs as Lydia runs out of makeup or Bo teaches everyone how to wash their hands (again). There’s joy as well as fear for those of us privileged enough to self-isolate and I’d like to watch my favorite TV families laugh and love and cry through it.

And of course, there’s the political show. Since Trump took office, many shows have failed to match the absurdity of reality, their out-of-this-world plots suddenly seeming tame in comparison to the actual headlines. The exception is The Good Fight — they’ve satirized and weaponized the Trump Administration’s failure to great effect, finding ridiculousness and humor throughout. Imagine Riddick Boseman suing the federal government for more ventilators. Defending the mostly brown and black people who will fall victim to the disease. Continuing to lampoon the failures of the White House, just now with a Coronavirus spin.

As great as that would be, the genre I think that’ll give us the most insight into our current predicament is science fiction. Hear me out. Remember when Battlestar Galactica did a whole season on the occupation in Iraq? It had more to say than most ripped-from-the-headlines plots because it was able to take on the whole story, unencumbered by the details. Instead, it focused on the human costs and the emotional reactions. And it totally worked.

So who will be able to comment meaningfully on this moment? My hopes are with dark and nuanced shows. Maybe the fourth season of Westworld could do it. It could be a computer virus or a biological one (or one the jumps from humans to robots). It could unite the two groups and divide them, creating new castes of those with the disease and those without. It could ask what is the moral way to respond and how much should we sacrifice for the herd (the eternal question around Maeve and her daughter). It could ask what we are willing to change and who we are willing to collaborate with. And it could continue to expose who is valued and who is treated as expendable — the show’s true forte.

There’s something about the fictional future that seems best able to handle our unprecedented present. Let’s just hope we get there.

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