What We’re Watching

SBTB Key Art

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

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

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

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

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

TV Review: Saved by the Bell Hilariously Returns on Peacock

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

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

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

Saved by the Bell original cast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything We Know About The Queen’s Gambit Season 2

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

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Eater's Guide to the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Presidents Better than Trump

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

House of Cards (2013–2018)

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

Wag the Dog (1997)

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

Veep (2012–2019)

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

Dave (1993)

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

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

Scandal (2012–2018)

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

The Manchurian Candidate (2004 and 1962)

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

Homeland (2011–2020)

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

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Scandal, Killing Eve, and Roswell

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

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

Flowers
No

The Political

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

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

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

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

Jane the Virgin

The Warm and Fuzzy

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

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

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

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

Killing Eve

The Ultimate Distractions

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

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

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

Flowers

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

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Latinxs in Space

Latinxs in Space

by Cristina Escobar

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

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

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

Captain William Adama

Battlestar Galactica: Edward James Olmos as Captain William Adama

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

Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres

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

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

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

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

Zoe Alleyne Washburne

Firefly: Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne

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

Captain Andor

Star Wars: Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Jeron Andor

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

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

Naomi Nagata

The Expanse: Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata

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

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Vampires vs. the Bronx

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

Vampires vs. the Bronx

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

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

Vampires vs. the Bronx

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

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

Vampires vs. the Bronx

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

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

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Five Hopes for the Third Season of “Charmed”

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

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

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

1. Make it About More

Charmed

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

2. Ditch Abby

Abby of Charmed

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

3. Give Harry a Personality

Harry of Charmed

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

4. Keep Ray Around

Ray of Charmed

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

5. Focus on the Sisters

Charmed Sisters Hugging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia

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

. . .

 

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

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

. . .

 

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

. . .

 

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

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

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

. . .

 

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

. . .

 

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

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

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

. . .

 

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

. . .

 

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

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

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

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

. . .

 

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

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

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