What We’re Watching

“Someone Great” is the Romantic Comedy We Need

When I was pre-teen and teenager, the women dancing in their underwear on screen were white and super thin. Think Cameron Diaz and Kirsten Dunst. They had this carefree cuteness, this unquestionable right to be fearless, sexy, and the center of attention. All of us wanted to be them, as unattainable as that was for the vast majority of us.

Fast forward to 2019 and I’m watching Gina Rodriguez jam out in her choneys on Netflix’s Someone Great. This film is the updated romantic comedy we need, following Jenny, the 29-year-old music critic who’s T-shirt declares she’s “Latina AF.” She’s brown and proud, regularly using Spanish. And she’s just as plucky and beautiful as her white predecessors. The camera spends some quality time on her thighs and I am here for it. She’s talented and driven, landing a new job that will move her to San Francisco from New York and give her a full staff to supervise at the ripe-old-age of 29. She’s not as squeaky clean as her earlier, romantic comedy counterparts (or even Gina Rodriguez’s other alter ego Jane Villanueva), doing a wide variety of drugs on the sidewalk. But she’s still romantic, seeing her love story as star crossed and using her power as a writer to express her feelings poetically in voiceover.

And like all excellent romantic comedies, Someone Great features fabulous outfit after fabulous outfit. Throughout the day we spend with Jenny in New York, people keep remarking on her clothes like she looks ridiculous. But I’m here wondering how I can get her whole dated, grunge, barrio clothes now. And of course, the same goes for her friends, who manage to look stunning in every shot, including the obligatory getting-dressed-to-go-out montage.

In fact, in addition to Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise as the best friends, Someone Great also delivers on the romantic comedy classic of the cameo. There’s Ru Paul as the over-the-top and top-end drug dealer. There’s Rosario Dawson as the boyfriend’s cousin who works at Vogue and manages to both sympathize and condescend to Jenny simultaneously. And as a nod and much-needed update to Sex in the City, Girls, etc., there’s New York itself, another romantic comedy staple, appearing browner but just as glamours as always.

Yes, seeing a brown-skinned, black-haired Latina get the full romantic comedy treatment — dance breaks, wardrobe changes, fantastic female friends — is so satisfying. Much of the tone of Someone Great is not joyful though, it’s sad. The film brilliantly portrays the late-twenties angst of Millenials. It is hard to be at the stage where you’re transitioning from all-night benders to farmers’ markets, from screwing the wrong person to declaring your love, from post-college bacchanal to full-fledged adulthood.

But usually, TV and film only allow male characters the kind of transgressive, lost, and sympathetic coming-to-age stories that Jenny and her friends get. Think of the era of the man-child film, embodied by Knocked Up. That was in 2007. Before even the flashbacks of Jenny and her crew. There were so many of those films. Meanwhile, unmarried women’s existence past 30 was only just getting to be fun and not tragic on screen, thanks to Sex and the City. TV’s made some great strides since then. But it’s taking romantic comedies a long time to catch up or include brown people.

Something Great fulfills and advances the promise of earlier, feminist shows, giving us a new set of women that better reflect what the world and New York actually look like. And Something Great has the courage so many of its predecessors do not — it’s happy ending does not include a relationship. Jenny doesn’t get back together with her boyfriend. No new love interest appears to save her from her broken heart. She doesn’t even have bone it out as DeWanda Wise’s Erin helpfully suggests. No the “Someone Great” of this film is Jenny herself, choosing and finding herself. This is the romantic comedy of my dreams. Enjoy.

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Killing Eve Presents the Terror of Male Entitlement

Everyone has a weakness, even our favorite female assassin. From the moment we met her, Villanelle has been nearly bulletproof. Able to anticipate and manipulate any situation, she’s maintained her confidence and dominance, until this week’s episode. For the first time since Killing Eve began, we see Villanelle like never before — scared and vulnerable.

After stealing a new, more age-appropriate wardrobe from a laundromat, a wounded Villanelle finds herself perusing the aisles of a supermarket contemplating her next move. As she enters the frozen food section, she appears desperate and frustrated until she sees a nondescript man by himself. From the moment she innocently smiles and he hesitantly smiles back, it’s clear he’s her next target. In classic Villanelle fashion, she constructs a story of a damsel in distress, searching for a rescuer, and the man, Julian, quickly comes to her aid offering her a ride and a place to stay.

What happens next is unexpected. A female assassin whose finally met her match in the human embodiment of toxic masculinity and fragility. The moment Villanelle enters his house, she is faced with a frighteningly extensive collection of dolls. And this doll collection perfectly foreshadows Julian’s relationship with women.

Dolls in and of themselves embody the worst (and most petrifying) stereotypes of women. They are meant to be aspirational versions of young girls that you can dress up and manipulate for your own enjoyment. With delicate porcelain faces and tiny adult clothes, dolls are collected with the intent to only be admired. Obviously, if you view real women like this, you have a problem.

With Villanelle, Julian seems to believe he’s found a doll of his own. Although he insists he wants to take care of her, he continuously ignores her. As she begs for ibuprofen, Julian dismisses her, saying she’s being ridiculous and that she merely has a cold, returning only with flu medicine. The more she voices her concerns and needs, the more frustrated and dismissive he gets. Villanelle is not a wallflower, but unfortunately, with Julian she learns her only way to remain safe is to play the harmless, victim female role. He implements a similar system on his mother who lives in the house with dementia, locking them both in their rooms “for their own good.”

What’s truly terrifying about this episode is that instead of a dangerous Russian prison, this episode more accurately reflects the obstacles, both mundane and horrific that many women face everyday.

Meanwhile, Eve has returned to work with some new team members, Jess and Hugo. Hugo is a cocky and entitled-Eton grad who constantly questions Eve and her work — whether it’s helping her with a slideshow or interrupting her mid-sentence. While obviously not the same situation as Villanelle, Eve is experiencing the hurdles that many women face in the workplace from (annoying/patronizing male colleges). In the end, it’s satisfying watching Eve prevail as she correctly identifies that this new victim wasn’t’ killed by Eve but a new female assassin.

Killing Eve continues to use the narrative of a spy thriller to undermine gender stereotypes and expand the genre. This episode is specifically poignant as we see an example of the horrors that many real women fall victim to: men’s need for control and dominance. In the end, Villanelle escapes Julian, making me smile for all womankind as she stabs him. Eve similarly triumphs and as an extra bonus to us lady viewers, we receive a new great skin care routine courtesy of our favorite boss Carolyn Marten. (Google’s pigs’ placenta mask)

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Why the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Finale was So Satisfying

“Romantic love is not an ending.” So says Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch in her mic-drop moment of the final episode of Crazy Ex-GirlfriendNo, she doesn’t literally drop the mic, but she may as well — staring straight into the camera and letting all us viewers know that this lesson is for us.

After four seasons of critiquing the stories we tell about romantic love, the show delivers on its feminist principles, showing how a man will not complete Rebecca no matter how handsome, rich, or well-matched with her. In fact, we spend the opening sequence of the final episode in a Christmas Carol-esque dream sequence in which Rebecca sees her future with each love interest. In them, she gets what she always wanted — becoming a pretty bride, having a happy pregnancy, being the matriarch of a loving family — but in none of them is she truly happy. Greg, Nathaniel, and Josh each fail to complete her.

Because frankly, that’s not how relationships work. No partner will fulfill allyour needs. Yes, they can help you grow and be a source of great satisfaction but they will not fill the holes inside of you. Only you can do that — no matter what romantic comedies tell you. That’s the conclusion Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reach — and I couldn’t agree more.

While in some ways, this ending was predictable (the show has always been clear about its feminist point of view), in other ways it was quite a surprise. After all, much of the final season focused on getting Rebecca and Greg back together. He moves back to West Covina, they get back together, break up, and seem to have the most real relationship. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca goes on a date with each of her three main suitors a la The Bachelor, the idea being that she’ll be able to choose afterward. Josh and Nathaniel pull out all the stops, creating beautiful, romantic moments. Greg originally plans to just hang out for his date but he gets spooked by all the fanfare his rivals dream up. He makes arrangements for a romantic balloon-ride (with Weird Al, no less), but his plans get ruined when his car breaks down. So Rebecca and he end up just hanging out, playing games while they wait for the mechanic. In this decidedly unromantic setting, he tells her “you’re the love of my life” and at that moment, they seem fated to be together. Just like in the actual Bachelor, the sign of real love is not who you can get carried away with but who you can find magic within everyday interactions. Despite being firmly team Nathaniel, after that episode, I figured Rebecca would end up with Greg.

And in most shows, she would have. Trailblazer and general feminist badass Mindy Kaling ended the Mindy Projectby reuniting Mindy Lahiri with her first love — Chris Messina’s Daniel Castellano — a guy who belittled her about her weight, demanded she quit the job she loved (while he worked the same one), and generally gave her hell. And this was a show that started with an explicit critique of romantic comedies and continued in that vein by making Mindy more vapid and problematic as it went on.

Sex and the City famously reunited Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and Chris Noth’s Mr. Big in an ending. He literally goes to save her from an abusive partner! With all those relationships, sexual escapades, and heartbreak, the morale of Sex and the City seemed to be that friendship is as important as romantic love. The foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte is the show’s one constant. Aren’t you more invested in Carrie and Miranda’s relationship than any other on the show? And yet, the ending didn’t back that up. Carrie needs a man for her story to end — whether you count the ill-conceived movies or not.

In most stories, feminist or not, leading ladies end up with their first, often forsaken love — Mr. Big, Daniel Castellano, etc. That’s why I expected Rebecca to pick Greg and the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s creators did everything to lead me in that direction, from bringing him back to leaving Greg to be the last to be turned down. But despite the misdirection and the universe seemingly pulling another way, Rebecca picks herself.

Earlier in the fourth season, she realizes the law doesn’t make her happy, but she hasn’t yet found what will. The pretzel shop is fun but it’s not (spiritually) fulfilling. Instead, she has to find her true calling and who helps her do that? Not Josh, Nathaniel, or Greg. Paula. It’s through talking to her best friend that Rebecca sets out on her real adventure — telling her story through song-writing. In the intervening year, it is Paula, Heather, and Valencia who encourage her, giving her the support she needs to overcome her self doubt. This is a show that values women’s friendships, demonstrating their real value from beginning to end.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend concludes the moment before Rebecca publicly performs for the first time. In true Rebecca-fashion, she has a long wind-up, recounting her journey since moving to West Covina and what’s she learned since turning down each of primary suitors. She says “When I’m telling my own story for the first time in my life, I am truly happy. It’s like I just met myself. Like I just met Rebecca. I came to this town to find love, and I did… And now, for the first time in my life, I can say that maybe I’m finally ready for the other kind of love… But whoever it’s with, it won’t be ‘ending up’ with someone, because romantic love is not an ending, not for me or for anyone else here. It’s just a part of your story, a part of who you are.”

It’s such a satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of romantic love, but it does knock romantic love off its pedestal. Yes, we may talk about that type of love more but it’s not the most important type of love. Committing to a partner is not an “ending” but a stop along the journey. The door is still open for Rebecca to marry and have kids with Nathaniel or Greg (Josh, thankfully, has found his happiness somewhere else) but whether she builds a relationship with one of them, someone else, or no one at all, that choice doesn’t define Rebecca. It doesn’t define any of us. Instead, our stories are really about who we are, what we do, and how we manage to love ourselves.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 84: The Impossible Decision

This week on Jane The Virgin, the Villanueva’s explore the themes of conflict and communication. Whether it’s a dealing with a former nemesis-turned-friend or two great loves, making decisions and dealing with conflict is difficult to say the least. And no TV show know how to deal with these themes better than Jane The Virgin. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their favorite parts of the episode and how to recover from the emotional whiplash of the ending.

NICOLA: Wow! I’m still reeling from that cliffhanger! But before we start delving into the shocker that was the last minute of the episode, let’s talk about the rest of the episode.

I loved this one. It reminded me of the genius that is Jane The Virgin — no show better juggles multiple storylines and yet is able to give each one the detail and space they need. I was so happy this episode gave Rogelio more of a substantive storyline. He deserves it. And what a better way than to talk about one of the most pressing issues of today: pay disparity.

CRISTINA: Yes, any time Rogelio is on screen is time well spent! And he was just perfect in this episode — misbehaving on set, unaware of the pay gap (and then trying to argue that he should get paid more because he’s a man), recognizing River’s genius and still advocating for himself. There really is not a better man on TV. He’s over the top but sympathetic. A Latinx type but not a stereotype. I just cannot get enough of him.

I particularly loved how he pivoted the conversation from gender to race. Watching it, I was like “why didn’t I think of that?” And then how River used it for her own PR gain — priceless! Jane the Virgin is so smart on these social issues, addressing race and gender without being preachy. Did you notice that Jane was reading a headline about Trump’s racist immigration policy in the next shot? It was subtle but meaningful storytelling — one of the many reasons I love this show.

NICOLA: I think partnering Rogelio’s pay battle with the boys and girls fighting was a great parallel. In a world of so much conflict, it’s nice to remember we all used to be children and think about how much we’ve grown (or not). Watching Mateo, Anna, and Elsa show their frustration in specific ways, then seeing how gender plays into it was another great chapter in Jane the Virgin parenting.

CRISTINA: Chapter 84 had SO much good commentary on gender. There was the equal pay plot line, the difference in how boys and girls are allowed to fight, and the upper class version of female-empowerment Petra is teaching her girls. Did you catch that they were reading Lean In before brunch? What are they six? Petra’s raising little CEOs and I love it. Both her and the twins saying “don’t touch my body” was a great parallel too. No shrinking violets in the Solano family!

NICOLA: Jane and Petra have become one of my favorite relationships on television. If this was any other show, they would have trapped in a perpetual catfight. But on Jane the Virgin gender stereotypes are meant to be disrupted. It so important to flip the narrative and break the stereotypes of women fighting over a man, and the way they did that in this episode was even sweeter. Jane clearly thought that Petra was mad/jealous of her and Rafael when really she just needed her friend. It was the best and made my my heart sore.

CRISTINA: I loved how this episode revisited the show’s classic conflicts — Jane vs. Petra, Michael vs. Rafael — but updated them. You could argue that Jane and Petra have really come full circle, but they’ve been frenemies for so long, I’d say this sibling rivalry has been there for a long time.

My favorite way the show updated its long-standing themes was the sexy-times scene between Jane and Rafael. After her being so fraught about her sexuality (thanks Catholicism) for so long, it was great to see her enjoying sex, worry free. Get yours Jane!

NICOLA: Jane The Virgin really knows how to tell a story. Since the beginning, it was always framed as a story about love and that hasn’t changed. What has evolved is the concept of love — it can be romantic love, friend love, or familial love. I think the writers have created the perfect telenovela one that is evolved, complicated, and nuanced.

CRISTINA: That ending though. It had me punching my couch pillows. Jane had just let Michael go — again! How many times is she going to have to say goodbye? Is Jason going to turn into Michael now? Or will he still have Jason’s personality and interests but just with Michael’s memories? I just don’t know how much heartbreak one person (Jane, me, everyone else watching this show) can take!

NICOLA: I will confess I cried when Jason said goodbye to Jane. It felt like the end of a chapter, or a wound that just finished healing, until it WASN’T. Watching the final minute where Jason gets Michael’s memories was a shock — I felt so conflicted. I usually am Team Raf but in that moment, I empathize with Michael. And after some serious processing, I’ve decided I’m purely Team Jane. She has an impossible decision ahead of her and whatever makes her happy, I’m good with. I think no one envies her decision at all. All I have to say is good job Jane The Virgin writers you won.

CRISTINA: You know, I thought I was tired of the Jane-Rafael-Michael love triangle, but it turns out I’m not! The show creators keep finding new and interesting ways to present it and I’ll be tuning in until it’s over (and then rewatching the entire series back-to-back several times, I’m sure). Jane the Virgin is just that good.

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Why I Can’t (And Won’t) Stop Talking about Killing Eve

I admit it: I am a Killing Eve evangelist. I tell anyone who will listen — unsuspecting muni riders, friends, and dogs alike — this is the show we NEED in these times. At this point, getting every person I know to watch is my unsolicited quest. Who doesn’t want to see Sandra Oh (Eve) portray a MI5 spy chasing a female assassin Jodie Comer (Villanelle)? I mean seriously. Who? I’d like to take this time to apologize to the airpod-wearing tech worker who definitely just wanted to peruse their Instagram feed on her commute home — sorry for making you listen to my impassioned monologue on how this BBC show might be the greatest piece of resistance art in the Trumpian era.

Killing Eve is a deliciously violent, modern, and comedic twist on a will-they-won’t-they tale of killer and detective. At its core are two women, a bored MI5 agent, Eve, and a self aware assassin, Villanelle. Their ever-evolving relationship breaks the mold of women-centered drama, managing to exclude the three M’s: marriage, motherhood, and makeovers. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film’s 2018 Boxed in Study “female characters were more likely than male characters to play personal life-oriented roles such as wife and mother” — so definitely not a spy and an assassin.

While Eve is married, her relationship doesn’t drive her and in fact, takes a to her true passion — her job of overcoming Villanelle and the conspiracy she kills for. And while the thought of a female driven spy/assassin show might ring some alarm bells, Killing Eve rejects the traditional roles action films and television have left women. This is not Charlie’s Angels or another Bond film: neither character is defined by their sex appeal and neither of them are the sidekick to a problematic male figure. The only fatal attraction seems to be between the women themselves and their strange infatuation with each other.

In season one, the creators of Killing Eve took their time with each character giving Eve and Villanelle the time to develop complex narratives and motivations while separate from each other. Slowly the show reveals the threads that connect Eve and Villanelle, whether it’s their shared ability to dissociate (comically so) or a sudden exhilaration when they discover they are in the same room. Season one is dominated by Eve’s quest to find Villanelle as she chases her using her latest victims as bread crumbs.

Their obsessions culminates when Eve finally catches Villanelle in her apartment. The two share an electric moment, both overwhelmed by their infatuation with one another. The dialogue could be mistaken for a high school rom com as the two confess their love for one another. Suddenly, right as the audience (and Villanelle) think they are going to kiss, Eve stabs Villanelle. Confused and shocked by what she has just done, Eve first attempts to try to save Villanelle before an equally shocked Villanelle starts trying to shot her and both women escape.

This is where season two picks up (exactly thirty seconds later as the title cards hilariously tell us) as Eve struggles to come to grips what she has just done and what it might mean. Eve narrowly escapes Villanelle’s apartment building, struggling to even recognize her surrounding as she admits to murder in front of a newly engaged couple. Oh is hilariously entertaining as she settles into her new found place as a-maybe murderer. She goes to a candy store, overfilling a bag with a glutinous amount of jelly beans and gumdrops, and quite frankly I’m not surprised. If there is anything we learn as children, it’s that candy always tastes good. Even after an attempted murder. This scene gives us a quick visual cue that Eve might be more similar to Villanelle than she thinks. In the iconic first scene of Killing Eve season one, Villanelle spills ice cream on a young girl. While buying candy, Eve stops a young boy from taking on of her gumdrops. Is it a throwback to childhood pettiness or do they simply both dislike children.This complexity reinforces one of the themes of the show where the lines between purely good or bad are blurred. While Eve heads to the train station, Villanelle stumbles through the city eventually throwing herself in front of a cab to get a ride to the hospital. Forgetting she still has the knife she stabbed Villanelle with in her pocket, Eve quickly exits the security line, deciding to throw away the knife in the most “bloody” ironic place: a sanitary napkin trash can.

Killing Eve is so enthralling and new because it dramatizes traditional women roles, subverting them with darkness and humor. See the scene where Eve is preparing dinner when her husband reveals she forgot to even take the chicken out of the fridge. It’s watching Eve’s older boss Carolyn Martens sitting with a child who hilariously turns out to be a stranger. It’s watching Villanelle escape the hospital in a wheelchair after telling a well-meaning security guard that she’s just been diagnosed with a terrible illness and simply needs some time alone. Watching security guard fall fall into the societal narrative that women are harmless and must be protected, feels like righteous revenge. Women are the drivers of this show and none of them are purely good or bad. Each is meticulously crafted, disrupting the assumptions and stereotypes we’ve been taught. Who knew a spy story would be the perfect vehicle to bend gender stereotypes? But it is.?

This is the brilliance of Killing Eve, the ability to be equally terrifying, hilarious, and poignant at the same time. It’s feels good to have Villanelle and Eve back in our lives for a second season. And if there’s one thing I know, women aren’t predictable and neither is Killing Eve.

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The Good Fight: Delightful, Problematic, Unflinching

The Good Fight is delightful. Taking place in the Chicago law-and-politics universe of The Good Wife, the show focuses on Christine Baranski’s standout character, the fiercely calm Diane Lockhart. The first episode starts with Trump’s inauguration and follows Diane as she loses her life’s savings in a Murdoch-like-scam. Forced out of retirement, she lands on her feet at a traditionally black firm, Reddick, Boseman.

Diane’s new status as an outsider — both within her own firm and as a representative of that firm in the larger legal community — matches Diane’s status in the new world order. The ridiculous of the news, the backsliding on issues Diane cares about, and the general sense of chaos, overwhelm her. She sleeps with a violent extremist, starts microdosing hallucinogens, and keeps a gun at her desk (covered in beautiful, silk scarves, naturally). She’s no longer in charge and doesn’t know how to handle it.

Of course, Diane Lockhart isn’t powerless. She still has that perfectly coiffed hair, a rolodex of high profile clients, and her fine legal mind. And she still has her whiteness — a particularly glaring privilege as the only white partner at a black firm.

Much of the drama on The Good Fight touches on issues of race with a recent episode, “The One With Lucca Becoming a Meme,” focusing entirely on the issue. This is a black and white world where Latinx and Asian people don’t seem to exist (despite Latinos overtaking blacks as Chicago’s largest “minority” group years ago). So we’ve seen racism on the show as police brutalizing black civilians, snide comments said to Cush Jumbo’s black Lucca Quinn as she dates (and has the child of) one of Chicago’s golden white boys, and of course, the need for a black law firm at all.

But this episode was different — this time, we are looking inside Reddick, Boseman and the results are not pretty. Nyambi Nyambi’s Jay DiPersia, the firm’s senior investigator, sends out salary data to the entire firm, revealing that even at Reddick, Boseman, the white people are making more. Managing partner, Delroy Lindo’s Adrian Boseman, explains the disparity in two ways. One: times are changing. With Trump and associates in power, the no-bid system that awards contracts to minority-owned and -led companies may be going away. Hence, the need for all those white faces to begin with. Two: the market. Specifically, the idea that the firm must pay men and white attorneys more because they could leave and find hiring paying jobs elsewhere.

Times may be changing but the marketplace argument sucks in this show and in the real world. It takes no responsibility for fostering (let alone reinforcing) discriminatory pay practises, forever favoring the status quo. It also assumes a zero-sum game where men and white attorneys get paid less rather than women and black people getting paid more. In this argument, diversity doesn’t bring better results (as study after study shows) but rather is just a way to score cheap labor. Yet, Boseman is in charge and so his ideas, along with the implicit bias of the rest of the partners, set the rules. Watching his explanation go unchallenged, I had to wonder if the show’s creators believed it.

You see The Good Fight is rare because ALL the main characters are women or people of color. And due to the fact it is set in a black firm, most of the extras and smaller parts are too. Yet, of the four principles — Diane Lockhart, Lucca Quinn, Rose Leslie’s Maia Rindell, and Sarah Steele’s Marissa Gold — three are white women.

We see life outside Reddick, Boseman but only through Dianne, Marissa, Maia, and Lucca’s eyes — leaving Lucca in the odd position of being the sole representative of what it feels like to experience racism as a woman of color. In this episode, a white woman in the park accuses her of abducting her lighter skinned baby, going so far as to call the police. Lucca, of course, defends herself and the result ends up making her a meme: mothering while black. Yet, at Reddick, Boseman, Lucca is regularly the lightest skinned woman in the room. As such, she’s probably less likely to experience the effects of racism than her darker-skinned peers (although she would not be free of them). I’m not trying to take away from Lucca — she’s an amazing character who manages to be smart, wry, and fatal with the slightest of facial expressions — but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the primary black character is light skinned.

This dynamic of focusing on white women and one, light-skinned black woman in a sea of black talent makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I’m so glad Adrian got those great arcs in season two with his past student accusing him of sexual favoritism and his media-damning turn as a pundit. The episode about Jay’s immigration status was amazing on so many levels — the driving-while-black trope, the atypical face of immigration, the celebration of his artistic talent (in particular when compared to Melania Trump’s). And Liz is FINALLY getting more to do in season three with the heart-wrenching revelations about her father, the changes in her personal life, and her decision to join Diane’s resistance group.

With these subplots, The Good Fight seem to try to right its wrongs. In the episode where Reddick, Bozeman confronts its pay disparities, the white characters do not get off the hook. Maia is straight up fired, which I’m into, since she’s been smashing windows and generally being difficult around the office. In a great scene, Diane, Marissa, Quinn, Adrian, Jay, and a handful of other Reddick, Bozeman attorneys are all sitting at a conference table. As they discuss police brutality, Lucca notices that only the black people know the names of police shootings victims. Diane says she doesn’t think that’s true so Lucca tests her theory. It turns out the white people can’t name Laquan McDonald, but all the black people can. Reverse for Matthew Shepard. Ouch. Diane responds by returning to her desk and trying to memorize the names, Marissa asks Lucca if she thinks she’s racist while Liz and Boseman talk about tribalism.

It’s the type of lesson that could fall flat — yes, racism is complicated — but doesn’t because of The Good Fight’s unflinching gaze. This is a show that is willing to kill its heroes. Black-led doesn’t mean racism-free. Women-centered doesn’t mean kinder or softer. Losing the advantages of privilege is not unjust. Maya and Marissa will be fine. Indeed, where Jay didn’t manage to land another job after temporarily quitting Reddick, Boseman, Maya appears to get another gig right away. She can take her whiteness with her. So even while the show laments her firing, it allows for the possibility that it was the right thing to do — if such a thing exists.

So far, The Good Fight’s third season revolves around the changing nature of the firm’s identity. With the firm’s patriarch not only dead but disgraced, Riddick, Boseman no longer has a guiding light. Are they simply trying to make money? Trying to prove black excellence through economic success? Using their capital to fight for civil rights? They don’t know. And that ambiguity may mirror the show itself with its faults, insights, and humor. It’s a good fight, indeed.

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It’s Time To Stop White-Casting Period Pieces

I’ll never forget when my mom showed me my first period piece. I was 10 years old and the film was The BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries (the best version of the Jane Austen classic, no other arguments will be considered) starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. From the moment my mom popped in the worn VHS tape, I was hooked. But it wasn’t just the romance, it was the characters Austen had created, specifically Elizabeth Bennett. She was smart, witty, loved reading, and the only female character not interested in getting married. As a 10-year-old, I quickly labeled her as my 18th-century heroine of choice. I mean boys? Gross. What were they even good for?

After watching Pride and Prejudice, I quickly moved on to Austen’s other creations in both film and book form. PersuasionEmmaSense and SensibilityNorthanger AbbeyMansfield Park, all were tales of female heroines falling in love, exchanging only the wittiest of remarks in flawless British accents. I held these movies (and mostly the BBC itself) as the gold standard for romance, one that I continued to hold up and revisit time and time again.

But there’s something I haven’t mentioned yet, something I ignored the majority of my life — these women, these strong 18th century ladies are something I will never be. White. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, both Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley all (lovely) white ladies. When I was younger, I accepted this telling myself “oh, of course, they’re all white it’s wealthy 18th-century England, that’s all they have.” Yes, spiritually I had identified with Elizabeth Bennet. But when I closed my eyes, whether I was 10 or 21, the media had taught me to see one thing, a woman I could never be.

Then I saw Mr. Malcolm’s List, a short film directed by Emma Holly Jones for Refinery29’s ShatterboxShatterbox is an anthology of women-directed short films with the goal to get more women behind the camera. This 8-minute film starring Gemma Chan from Crazy Rich Asians and Freida Pintofrom Slumdog Millionaire casts people of color in a traditional period piece a la Jane Austen.

The story surrounds Mr. Malcolm, an elusive bachelor, played by Sope Dirisu. Following him is a long list of desperate debutantes and their matchmaking mothers. What these women don’t know is he has a particular list of qualifications for his future bride. One woman, Julia played by Gemma Chan, is determined to capture his heart but perhaps she needs a little help.

In 8-minutes, Mr. Malcolm’s List proves that traditional, all-white cast is simply weak and lazy. People of color should be cast in these period pieces not only because it’s time we have media that represents everyone, but because people of color existed in the 18th century.

Mr. Malcom’s List allows people of color to see themselves in a genre that we’ve been taught was off limits (unless we were willing to play a sidekick or follow an exploitative storyline). To see Gemma Chan and Freida Pinto here is not just groundbreaking it’s necessary. Luckily several film studios agreed: according to Deadline, Mr. Malcolm’s List is going to be made into a feature-length film and I can’t wait. It’s essential for the next generation of young women and girls to see themselves reflected in film, regardless of the genre or time period. I hope this is just the beginning. Because personally, I’m waiting for the ultimate remake of Pride and Prejudice starring John Cho and Lupita Nyong’o.

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Guilt, Heartbreak, and Hilarity in Episode 83 of “Jane the Virgin”

After the shock of last week’s premiere, The CW’s Jane the Virgin is out with its second episode. Chapter Eighty-Three centers on the idea of guilt — whether it’s religion or the internal struggle between right and wrong, our favorite characters all seem to be struggling with it. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their thoughts on what to make of this episode of Jane the Virgin.

NICOLA: This episode had me from the start: guilt is definitely written into my family’s genetics. And there is something about guilt and immigrant stories that go so well together, like chile and cheese. My abuelita and my mom both had a story for each situation that would basically guilt me into doing what they wanted. But maybe that’s because I grew up religious what about you Cristina?

CRISTINA: Well, as someone who went to CCD, I know plenty about guilt, Catholic or otherwise! And as Jane experienced, sometimes it’s easy to throw your conflicted feelings on the church even when the guilt is really coming from inside you. It’s part of our culture, how we talk to our parents, how we talk to ourselves. But, of course, I loved the jabs at the church like when Rafael said, “I don’t want Mateo thinking he’s going to hell every time he’s done something wrong.” And Jane said, “That’s not what the church teaches… at first.” Dying!

NICOLA: I’m one of the only Latinx people I know who’s family is Protestant. Sorry Catholicism but when we immigrated, we left our religion. I still feel guilt has this unique relationship to religion, even if the majority of my guilt comes from trying to fulfill the expectations and dreams of my immigrant family.

Obviously, I imagine this guilt is NOT the same as you might feel when you find out your previously dead husband has come back to life with amnesia five years later after you already found happiness with another man who happens to be the same man who you had an artificially-inseminated baby with.

CRISTINA: Haha right, Jane’s guilt is a special case. It’s so extreme but that didn’t mean my heart wasn’t breaking all over this episode. That scene where we saw what both her and Rafael wanted to say but didn’t broke me. How many times does that happen in real life? Why are missed connections like that so devastating? And, of course, there was that moment when Jane thought Michael/Jason’s memories were coming back. That feeling of disappointment for something you’re not even sure you want — everyone can relate to it.

NICOLA: Agreed. I think Jane the Virgin’s writers give us an interesting life lesson through Jane. Oftentimes our society depicts decisions as very black and white, that there is a right answer and a wrong answer for everything. The reality is most of the time our decisions and experiences happen in a very gray area. I feel like this is where Jane is right now, she’s dealing with her unresolved feelings for Michael/Jason and her past with him and the current love of her life Rafael. And surprise — there is no right answer!

The person I really feel the most for this episode is Alba. Now that Jorge is able to get his Visa to see his mother, Alba is left to process all the feelings. For a character, that always played by the rulebook, it’s been refreshing to watch her come into herself. I think the Alba we met in season one would never have made a decision to get married in a matter of hours. But this Alba from season 5 feels more fearless and breaks the mold that TV often gives to older women. Older women can make mistakes, fall in love, and yes, also serve as a family’s moral compass. It’s great to see Alba have such a full storyline separate from being a grandmother.

CRISTINA: Agreed. Alba is amazing and her storyline this week was so poignant. Did Jane the Virgin always make us cry this much? Have I forgotten what it’s like to watch this show? So far, this final season has had SO MUCH FEELS. I need to prepare myself better to handle it!

Of course, it wasn’t all tears. There’s always Rogelio for comic relief and the craziness of the plot to keep things moving. In fact, I have a conspiracy theoryfor you. I think Sin Rostro was lying about why she gave Michael amnesia. I mean, she’s not exactly trustworthy, you know? I have no idea what she’s really up to but I think she’s using Jason to drive a wedge between Jane and Rafael. That line-dancing kiss was so awkward! And then he pretended his dog ate the divorce papers after just threatening to leave (not to mention the eyes he makes for Petra)?!?!?! I don’t buy it. Something is up and I don’t trust Jason/new Michael at all.

NICOLA: Me too! Maybe it’s because I’ve been comfortable on Team Rafael for too long but something seems off. I knew it the moment Michael/Jason took her line dancing. Then again, I don’t trust any form of forced dancing activities. The connection between him and Sin Rostro seems too clean cut and I can’t help but believe that a woman with face changing abilities would let Michael/Jason off that quickly.

The only person that centers me on this show is Rogelio and this episode didn’t disappoint. He unapologetically perfectly balances his vain and self-absorbed tendencies with his love and support for his family, creating the perfect character. I think Jaime Camil deserves an Emmy just for his eyebrow acting alone.

CRISTINA: Yes, Rogelio was hilarious. The kayaks, the extended whaaaaat, the part in his hair. He really couldn’t be more himself and I love it. People as fancy as the Atlantic and the New York Times have been writing about his new mode of masculinity and I agree. Sometimes it’s hard to look past how hilarious he is and see that he’s also so culturally significant. Damn, I’m going to miss this show!

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“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” Valencia Is Who Latinas Need to See on TV

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend brought wit, perception, and whimsy to issues as varied as mental health, our culture’s obsession with romance, and, of course, gender norms. I’ll certainly miss it and I won’t be the only one. Of its many achievements, the show’s commitment to portraying the diversity of our communities is one of my favorites. I’ve frequented towns like West Covina and they are indeed comprised of a mix of races, ages, and body types. And in a media landscape where Latinas are the least represented group when compared to our actual numbers, it has been so refreshing to watch the evolution of Gabrielle Ruiz’s Valencia Perez across the show’s four seasons.

Valencia started off like so many Latina caricatures — the sexy other woman. She was the primary rival to Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch. The obstacle that was keeping her from finding happiness with Vincent Rodriguez III’s Josh Chan. And in many ways, Valencia was Rebecca’s opposite. She was the body-focused yoga instructor who placed a premium on looking hot even when that was not the most strategic thing to communicate (like at Thanksgiving with your boyfriend’s extended family). She wasn’t particularly book smart, failing to earn an invite to her prospective mother-in-law’s book club. And she’d lived her whole life West Covina, a hometown girl. In contrast, Rebecca’s a Harvard-educated, East Coast intellectual who has a whole bit about how much she like pretzels.

In most other TV shows, Rebecca and Valencia would be pitted against each other until one of them wins the man once and for all and the other exits the plotline. But in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, they become friends, both women loving and losing Josh and other paramours on their way to self-discovery. They become friends in Season Two’s “Why Is Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Eating Carbs?” which sees the former rivals both at a Burning Man-esque festival, accidentally taking psychedelics, getting overly hot and dirty, and bonding over their mutual disdain for Josh.

From there they become buddies, spying on Josh’s other girlfriends, yes, but also having their own adventures like forming a new girl squad with Vella Lovell’s Heather Davis, doing musical theater together, and even hosting a seance. The seance episode, Season Four’s “I Am Ashamed” was perhaps my favorite Valencia moment. In true bruja form (all of us Latinas are witches — didn’t you know?), Valencia is somewhat of an expert in the occult. That is until some spooky shit actually goes down. Then she’s begging Jesus for forgiveness. It was just so me, you, and every tia we know. Funny but warm. Playing up her Latinidad while staying true to the individual character. The type of thing that winks at the Latina audience while also making us feel seen. I loved it.

You see Valencia is a particular person. She’s not all Latinas. And over the course of the show, she grows. She doesn’t stay the vapid yoga instructor who’s got the man. She becomes a savvy businesswoman, starting her own party-planning firm and eventually moving it to New York. She gets over Josh and finds her next (and probably true) love in a woman, Emma Willmann’s Beth. Along the way, she struggles with her identity, trying to figure out who she is if she isn’t the girl who marries her high school sweetheart. In her last arc, Valencia is up to her old tricks, giving Beth an ultimatum: propose or she won’t return with her to New York. Except, Beth is not so easily manipulated as Josh. Beth rejects Valencia’s gambit, later reminding Valencia that she can propose. In that moment, you see the glee spread across her face: Valencia is in charge of her own destiny and she can get what she wants. You see, Valencia has grown but she’s still a romantic. She aspires to be a bride (even a Pirate bride if that’s her only choice) and sees a ring as a marker of success. However, her version of marriage doesn’t have to be patriarchal or limiting. She can have it all.

And that having it all is what makes Valencia and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so great. The show plays with, exposes, and subverts the stereotypes were used to seeing of race, gender, and how they intersect. It’s a freeing vision of identity that allows us to celebrate and poke fun, be silly and fallible, represent our communities while also maintaining our individuality. I’ve loved hanging out with Valencia and crew and we deserve more characters like her. Networks take note.

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The Emotional, Impossible Season 5 Premiere of “Jane the Virgin”

The CW’s Jane the Virgin is back for its fifth and final season, causing Latinos everywhere to tearfully rejoice that we get more time with the Villanuevas, however limited. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their thoughts on the season premiere and why this show is so great.

CRISTINA: I missed Jane so much! This is one of the rare shows that makes me feel seen and I’ve just been aching for it.

NICOLA: Agreed! This show will always and forever have a special place in my heart. For five seasons, the Villanuevas have been my favorite family on TV. I’m sad to see them go but so excited for this season.

CRISTINA: The premiere didn’t disappoint. It turns out Michael, Jane’s beloved, thought-dead husband is back but with amnesia. It’s classic telenovela and in true Jane the Virgin form, done with such a thoughtful, emotionally honest (and devastating) way. After all, we spent the second half of season three grieving Michael with Jane. So to see him come back just when Jane was getting happy again was rough. Add on to that the fact that he’s not really back. His body is, his smell even, but the man we knew is not.

NICOLA: I know. If I got a nickel every time a character on a telenovela got amnesia, I’d be a rich lady. But somehow one of the most overused tropes in the telenovela complex felt like the perfect choice to set up the season. Devastating for sure but excellent for storytelling. Jane has this history of seeing her life and relationships through romantic-novel rose glasses. So to have Jane, whose based much of her own narrative on finding, loving, losing, loving, then finally losing Michael (Jason) forces her to reflect and makes for very powerful television.

CRISTINA: Yes! And that power/pain was shown perfectly in the seven-page, single shot monologue Gina Rodriguez delivers, walking us through just how impossible her situation is. Is she married? Is she not? Who is this person who call himself Jason and likes dogs instead of cats? Why did this happen? How is she supposed to respond? Why does nothing make her feel better?

Watching it, I welled up several times but was so captivated by the performance it was like my tear ducts forgot how to cry. As her co-star Justin Baldoni said, if Gina doesn’t get all the awards, something is very wrong.

NICOLA: Totally agree, that monologue was not only technically crazy difficult but such a wonderful connection point between the audience and Jane. We’ve been with her for four seasons, watching her fall in and out of love, finding herself as a writer and as a mother, and dealing with unspeakable tragedy. And when we left her last season, it seemed like Jane was in such a good place. So this season, seeing her perform seven-pages of her rapidly asking all the questions we have, at a rate of about five questions per minute, felt like the perfect scene to connect us back to our favorite protagonist.

CRISTINA: Petra also had a fun B-plot this episode, dealing with her ex-husband Milos, getting dumped by Rosario Dawson’s JR, and being checked out by Jason/Michael. I love how they’ve rehabilitated her character, taking her from villain to hero without actually changing the core of who she is. I’m certainly rooting for her (and wishing I could pull off/access her wardrobe).

NICOLA: Petra’s character has always been one of my favorites and truly showcases the talent and intent of the Jane the Virgin writing team. I’m definitely sad to see that her relationship with JR might be over. Clearly, I am not ready to accept that one — we need more Rosario! I am excited to see Milos back and him in the teddy bear was hilarious. I could “bearly” stop laughing.

CRISTINA: Then there’s the matter of poor Rafael. He’s in the toughest spot here. Upon finding out that Michael was alive, he made the deal to bring him back for Jane even if meant sacrificing his relationship with her. It’s another impossible situation and one that Rafael deals with grace and honor, even as it’s clearly tearing him up inside. For me, it showed just how good Rafael is for Jane, even if she’s not always good for him. Nicola — what do you think? Time to join #TeamRafael?

NICOLA: Ugh I’m not sure. I’ve always been torn between the two. Mostly, because I love Jane so much and I’m fairly convinced there is no man good enough for her. That aside, I feel like it’s a incredibly difficult decision, one that the show creators crafted with complete knowledge of how confused and crazed they’d make Jane and us, the audience, feel. I do like the possibility of getting at a greater, more existential, question: can you truly compare two people you’ve loved?

Jane the Virgin has taught us a lot about the different forms that love can take and how love can transform and change people (cough Rafael cough). Jane and Michael had a wonderful relationship but it definitely took them awhile to get there. The same could be said of Jane and Rafael: they went through definite trials and tribulations and the Rafael from season one is definitely not the Rafael from this season. I genuinely feel at this point that you can’t compare the two: one’s from her past and one is in her present.

CRISTINA: I have no idea what Jane’s going to do but I doubt she’ll end up with “Jason,” unless he morphs back into Michael somehow. That said, the central question for me has never been what guy she picks, but rather how she finds happiness. And I loved seeing her process it all through writing. Also, that scene where she pushed her father out of the way so she could use the mirror was priceless. If Jane the Virgin has to end, can’t Rogelio get his own spin off?

NICOLA: I am definitely here for that! I could talk forever about what a gift Rogelio is to television, and how he does not get the credit he deserves. I feel like he definitely has earned a show of his own. Or maybe a crossover episode on the freshly renewed One Day at a Time? Dear TV networks I hope you’re taking notes.

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