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Jane the Virgin

10 Netflix Shows to Watch for Hispanic Heritage Month

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, the time the federal government has designated to celebrate latinidad. So we’re taking a moment (really September 15-October 15) to shout out our fellow Latinxs for all they do, commemorate the independence days of seven Latin American countries, and watch some Latinx folks on TV.

Yes, you are still about as likely to see an alien on screen as a Latina but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great shows out there featuring “Hispanics.” Just to make it easy, we’ve compiled a list of ten of our favorites from Netflix. After all, one subscription is all should need, right? Enjoy!

Charmed

Brujeria is in our blood, so it makes sense that Latinxs are finally getting our own TV witches. Shows like CW’s Charmed may not get as much attention as our white counterparts but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as good.

The latest Charmed is packed with feminist in-jokes and reminiscent of cult-favorite, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show premiered to controversy when it turned out that despite its Latinx premise, only one of the three sisters identifies as Latina (the other two are black) but don’t let that stop you. There’s plenty to enjoy in the first season now on Netflix before the second season starts October 11.

Grey’s Anatomy: Seasons 2–12

I admit it — I miss Callie Torres. The big-hearted orthopedic surgeon was an inspiration on Grey’s Anatomy, breaking bones and dancing in her underwear in seasons two through twelve. She spoke Spanish, dated (and married!) both genders, and did the most singing on the musical episode.

Actress Sara Ramirez is now doing great work over on Madame Secretaryas the butch Kat Sandoval, yet this Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re finding refuge from Trump’s America in re-visiting Callie Torres.

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin recently wrapped its final season and now all five seasons are available on Netflix. If you haven’t hung out with the Villanueva family yet or you’ve simply missed the latest installment, you’re in for a treat.

The show manages to represent a type of Latinx family we all know (hard-working, women-led, multi-generational) and deal with hot button issues (immigration, Catholicism, sexuality) while never getting preachy or tired. Instead, Jane the Virgin entertains with telenovela plot twists, an epic love triangle, and a hell of a lot of empathy. I miss it already.

On My Block

A Netflix original, On My Block’s second season came out earlier this year and we love how it centers brown and black teens. Whether it’s crushing on your no-blood-relation prima or dealing with the intricacies of gang violence, the show positions our coming-of-age stories as important, funny, and valuable. The young stars run the gamut of skin tones and hair textures and their antics speak to what we all know about the pitfalls of growing up: it’s hard/awkward/ridiculous.

Now, if only Netflix would take note and make more content for and by US-born Latinxs…

One Day At A Time

One Day At A Time made headlines earlier this year when Netflix declined to renew it despite rave reviews (and perhaps strong viewing numbers). Luckily, CBS’ Pop TV has picked up the Justina Machado-helmed comedy and all the past seasons are still available to stream on Netflix.

Featuring a stand-out performance from living legend and original EGOT winner Rita Moreno, One Day At A Timegives the Latinx experience the sitcom treatment, only more brown than you’re used to.

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black may have changed TV as we know it, ushering in the streaming era with a show elevating incarcerated women of color. It certainly catapulted the careers of Latina talent ranging from Jackie Cruz to Laura Gómez from Diane Guerrero to Selenis Leyva from Dascha Polanco to Elizabeth Rodriguez. It’s rare for any show to feature this many women of color, let alone give meaty parts to so many Latinas, and OITNB did it all while appealing to the “mainstream.”

You can binge all seven seasons now and relive the tragedy and beauty of the women of Litchfield.

Pose

Featuring a Latinx cast (MJ Rodriguez as Bianca, Indya Moore as Angel, Angel Bismark Curiel as Papi) and helmed by Latinx creator Steven Canals, Pose is making history in more ways than one. It depicts the New York ballroom scene of the early ’90s showing a community plagued by the AIDS epidemic and continuously under threat by discrimination.

Yet, Pose finds a lot of hope and beauty in its cast, helmed by the fearless do-gooder Bianca who exemplifies how a community can step up for each other. The LGBTQ drama raked in the Emmys and hopefully is just getting started.

Riverdale

The fourth season of Riverdale is set to premiere October 9 (in time for #HispanicHeritageMonth!) and in the meantime, you can catch up on the last three seasons on Netflix. The show explores the darker side of the Archie comics universe with plotlines around murder, drugs, and slut-shaming.

With Camila Mendes as Veronica, Riverdale gives us a Latina character we are not used to seeing — the richest girl in town. So friendly reminder, there’s not one Latinx experience! And the CW’s Latina characters — whether it’s Riverdale’s Veronica, Jane the Virgin’s Villanuevas, or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Valencia — are here to remind you.

The West Wing: the Final Two Seasons

Remember when Jimmy Smits played Obama before Obama played Obama? No? Just me? Well, the year was 2005 and The West Wing needed an inspirational candidate to succeed President Bartlet. They chose Smits as Congressman Matt Santos, a principled, tall man of color with a relatively short resume.

Watching The West Wing (and Santos’ campaign) was always like going to an alternate universe where the people in power belonged there both because of their excellence and because they had the best interest of the country at heart. Today it feels even further from reality but it’s still nice to visit a universe where someone who looks like Julian Castro becomes President.

When They See Us

In 1989, the Central Park Jogger case captivated the nation and sent five wrongfully accused black and brown boys to prison. The narrative around the case — teenage boys of color roaming wild and attacking innocent/white folks — captured racists’ imaginations including one named Donald Trump who took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, arguing the boys should be put to death.

Ava Duvernay’s “When They See Us,” a Netflix miniseries depicting the events, sets the record straight, even getting prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer to finally face consequences for her role in the injustice (no word on the repercussions for Donald Trump). The four-part series is devastating and compelling, earning half of the four Emmy nominations afforded to Latinos this year.

Bonus: This Episode of Queer Eye

Sometimes you just want to relax and see a hard-working, activist Chicana get a great makeover. Enter the season finale of Queer Eye with protagonist Deanna Munoz. She’s the founder of the Latino Arts Festival in Kansas City and watching her journey gives us all the feels. Happy #HispanicHeritageMonth!

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Why I’ll Miss “Jane the Virgin:”  Empathy, Representation, Sex, and More

It’s officially over: the last episode of Jane the Virgin airs tonight. The show wrapped up a lot up in the final 19 episodes (spoilers ahead!): Jane got a huge book deal ($500,000!), Elisa (finally) came through for her family, arch-villain Rose/Sin Rostro (definitively) died, Alba and Jorge found happiness together, Xo beat cancer, and Jane, of course, picked Rafael once and for all (although I imagine the Michael v. Rafael debate will continue indefinitely).

As a longtime fan of the show, I will miss the Villanuevas’ bench, Rogelio’s antics, and even Petra’s formal shorts. All that aside, what I hope the show is remembered for is treating each and every one of its characters with empathy. It turns out that the world is quite different when you apply the same level of compassion to everyone.

It’s easy, human even, to judge people who are different than you, ascribing negative motives and then writing them off. At its worst, this tendency combines with structural inequality (like how entertainment is overwhelmingly white and male), creating devasting problems like hate crimes, the mass incarceration of people of color, giant pay disparities, etc. Jane the Virgin defies this pattern, both in how its made and in what it portrays — a world filled with the problems we know but where race, gender, and class do not determine one’s value.

It’s worth remembering that Jane is lead by a white woman, Jennie Snyder Urman. Despite her lack of first-hand experience, she has managed to create one of the most meaningful portrayals of latinidad on television. She’s hired Latinx writers and centered a vision of Latinx identity that resonates with reality: Latinxs are a hardworking, diverse group of people (who are no more likely to commit crimes than the general population). All those shows about drug cartels and gang members are giving audiences the wrong impression.

And it’s not just that the Latinx characters on Jane the Virgin aren’t criminals, they’re diverse in so many ways: in age, in how they view sex, even in their views on religion. Take our three principle women: Alba, Xiomara (Xo), and Jane. They manage to have different worldviews, make different choices, change and grow, and yet remain sympathetic throughout.

Alba starts the series in the stereotypical “good Catholic” abuelita role. A staunch believer in no sex outside of marriage, she teaches her young granddaughter that a woman’s worth is tied to her sexual purity. Alba is sometimes wrong but she is never the villain. And as the show goes on, we learn that everything is not so simple: Alba did indeed have sex before marriage and by the final season, she’s even masturbating to Barack Obama — surely a church no-no!

Xo is, in many ways, the other Latina stereotype: a teenage mom who prefers sexy clothing and whose daughter gets mad at for acting younger than her age. And again, Jane the Virgin, grants her leeway to be. Xo doesn’t link her self-worth to her sexuality but rather sees sex as a fun route to self-expression. The show pushes this message with Xiomara getting an abortion and managing to be as likable as ever.

Likewise, Jane falls somewhere in the middle and that’s okay too. She takes what she likes from both her grandmother and mother’s examples and builds her own identity, whether it’s figuring out her views on sex, religion, parenting, or even how to pursue her dream. With these three, Jane the Virgin constructs a beautiful portrayal of the many ways women and Latinas, in particular, exist. The show doesn’t pretend that these choices are solely individual — Catholicism and social expectations loom large — but the Villanueva women each create their own way of navigating these pressures. Imagine if we all exhibited the same grace as the show creators in respecting the different choices others make.

I mean really imagine it — imagine it in the context of “mommy wars” (and the never-ending debate about what’s best for “the children”). Imagine it in class-based debates (say the disdain the GOP feels compelled to exhibit about House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s previous job as a bartender). It’s hard isn’t, to imagine the world another way? And yet, that’s what Jane the Virgin does week in and week out.

Take the evolution of the Jane-Petra relationship. The show started with them as rivals. Petra was blond, thin, and rich to Jane’s brown, curvy, and working-class. Petra was also the wife of Jane’s love-interest, Rafael. But as the show progresses, these two stop competing and start working together — all the while remaining vastly different and finding themselves in healthy, regular conflict. I still remember the exchange they had while Jane was helping Petra shop for her new babies in season two:

Jane: Raf and I have this glider. We love it because it is so comfortable, especially if you’re gonna be up long nights, feeding the baby.
Petra: I’m not worried about late nights. I have a night nurse…
Jane: Okay, got it…So, pacifiers?
Petra: Oh, yes, definitely pacifiers. Wait, how about those?
Jane: Two for $12? No, that’s ridiculous. Look it, five for ten.
Petra: Yeah, but don’t you think there’s a reason for the price difference?
Jane: Yeah, they’re trying to scam you.
Petra: Or they’re better.
Jane: Maybe.
Petra: Definitely.

This conversation is perfect. Even though at this point, we’re used to sympathizing with Jane, Petra’s point of view is presented as just as valid. Later Petra says Jane “made me feel bad for wanting the best things for our kids” and call her “a martyr — she has to do everything herself.” Meanwhile, Jane has her own version of events with Petra “buying all these overpriced impractical things just because they were more expensive” and “talking about around-the-clock nannies.”

But as the show makes clear by interspersing these two accounts, neither is “right.” These two women, these two mothers are just different! And that’s okay! In fact, it’s more than okay. By the end of the show, Petra and Jane have both become successful mothers and individuals, finding happiness inside their families and outside them. It turns out the road to fulfillment isn’t determined by your feelings towards $6 pacifiers or even night nurses. Instead, it’s about learning to be honest (Petra) and flexible (Jane).

And it’s not just the women who can grow and change. Think about the central male characters — Michael, Rafael, Rogelio, and even Jorge. They all get to be attractive, “real” men while displaying totally different versions of masculinity. Instead of conforming to a masculine type, Jane the Virgin asks its men, just like it asks its women, to be good people: to respect others, to fight fair, to be honest.

It’s rare that a show manages to do so much: to break important barriers in representation in terms of race, gender, sexuality, motherhood, while also, fundamentally, asking all of us to be better people. Even in its darkest darks (and there were some dark times — Jane’s grieving of Michael, his heart-wrenching return), Jane the Virgin was always a light. It never betrayed the fundamental approach of empathy in building its world. And for that, in particular, I will miss it.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 90: The Father Daughter Episode We Needed

This week in Jane the Virgin, we got the Jane-Rogelio-Father-Daughter episode we always wanted, plus Alba finally finds happiness as she and Jorge walk down the aisle. The nostalgia in this episode was almost overwhelming and left at least two people (us) in tears. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss the episode and how hard it is to believe there are only 10 episodes left in the final season.

NICOLA: I think this might be my favorite episode so far this season. It takes Jane the Virgin back to the shows core value of family, a relief after being so deep in the Jason-Michael-Rafael centered storyline. And while romantic love is important, to have the majority of the episode dedicated to Jane and Rogelio’s relationship was joyous. And we got to see Alba get married and find happiness with Jorge, it was hard to hold the tears back.

CRISTINA: Oh, I definitely cried, multiple times. The montage of Jane and Rogelio’s daddy-daughter moments totally got me. But more than that, they had real conflict this episode with Jane finding out that Rogelio secretly underwrote her book, providing an insurance policy for the publisher.

One of the things I love so much about Jane the Virgin is how they treat each character with compassion, showing the different perspectives in every conflict. And they did that here, with Jane feeling like her father’s meddling invalidated her accomplishment of being a published author. Which is totally valid. But meanwhile, on Rogelio’s side, what’s the point of having all those resources if you can’t use them to help the people you love? And is he said, he did it after Michael’s death when Jane really needed a win.

Both sides make sense and seeing these characters deal with the conflict and overcome it (and Rogelio continuing to support Jane’s career, just in better/more appropriate ways) was SO satisfying to watch.

NICOLA: I love Rogelio and I think his relationship with Jane, besides the relationship between the Villanueva women, has been my favorite to watch. Sorry not sorry Rafael/Jason/Michael. And that flashback highlighting moments of Jane and Rogelio’s relationship brought me to tears. Jane the Virgin has always been infused with the outrageousness of telenovelaness and Jane discovering her long lost father is a TV star was straight out of the telenovela playbook.

But over the last five seasons we’ve seen a real relationship grow outside of hilarious slapstick comedy and ridiculousness of Rogelio’s starstruck life. I think it’s beautiful that their relationship is founded on the simple idea that parents will do anything for their children. And that’s what Rogelio’s done for Jane. Sure he’s outrageous, mildly vain, and has a serious relationship with lavender, but mostly he’s there for Jane no matter what. No one love is more outrageous and complex than Latino parents, and it’s been beautiful to see.

CRISTINA: Agreed, seeing him work with Jane on the script brought a new dynamic to their relationship and I loved it. And speaking of changes in relationships, how amazing was it that Jane gives her abuela a framed, crumpled up flower? I loved it! The way the show takes Alba’s sex drive seriously while finding the humor is so good — it’s like the show doesn’t let her age stand in the way of her full humanity. Something we so rarely see on television.

NICOLA: Yes Alba is the best, no question. It’s beautiful to see an older woman living, loving, and growing. So often television and media has decided that women basically stop living after 50. It’s great to see that Alba has been given her own narrative and growth separate from her family. And the fact that her romantic life is full and she’s having sex! I could never have imagined that happening in season one and it was hilarious to see the return of the virgin flower.

CRISTINA: The tables have turned in a really beautiful way. When Xo was getting so frustrated about the right flowers not being delivered to the wedding, I completely understood. But then when she launched into that speech about wanting to take care of her mother for once and never thinking she’d need her mom so much at 46, I mean waterworks, again, all over my face.

NICOLA: That moment between Alba and Xiomara was perfect and I think something many can identify with. Parents never stop caring for their children and while their relationship might change from angsty teens to perhaps when one has their own children, that bond is there. And this is what’s so authentic about Alba and Xiomara’s relationship. They never had the perfect mother-daughter relationship but they never stopped caring about each other. I think especially for Latinos, that love our parents can sometimes be overwhelming, sometimes judgy, and often served with a side of guilt but it is driven by love and the moments between Xo and Alba and Jane and Rogelio perfectly show that.

CRISTINA: Yeah, it was pretty perfect. And thing is, Jane the Virgin really shows the beautiful strength in the extended Latino family. In this episode, it was Jane and Rogelio and Xo and Alba and Jorge, but it was also Rafael and Mateo. Often, it includes Petra and her girls. There’s this extended feeling of community by blood ties but also by love and commitment that powers the show and keeps the group together. It really makes sense that these people stay in each other’s lives and fight and make up and grow. May we all be so lucky.

via GIPHY

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 89: Love is in the Air, Just Not for Jane

This week in Jane the Virgin, Jane’s luck in love seems to have run out while other characters finally get theirs. Chapter 89 brought us more fun times with Rogelio and we finally get some clarity on Alba and Jorge’s “will they or won’t they” relationship. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their highs and lows of the episode and place their bets for how long Rafael can actually stay mad at Jane.

CRISTINA: I thought this episode brought the fun! Yes, things were sad for Jane but everyone else (except Raf and Mateo, still stuck in her love triangle) had a pretty interesting week. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite Rogelio. Poor guy — after all that drama with River Pheonix, his pilot gets rejected! They want someone younger and something with more edge. So who does he draft? Jane of course.

NICOLA: I love how Jane the Virgin provides such a refuge for actors of all ages. It’s so rare to see a male latino character dealing with getting older in an emotionally open and vulnerable way. And that’s what Rogelio does best. It was good to see Rogelio stick up for himself and let Jane know that she let him down by not finishing the proposal for his show. I love how real their relationship has become.

CRISTINA: Really, everything with Rogelio is the best. And speaking of fan favorites, Petra and JR also met some obstacles in Chapter 89, specifically Petra’s daughters trying to sabotage their relationship because they think JR is a “bad guy,” having seen her shot Milos last season. Turns out there wasn’t a bad man in their room, they planted the email to Milos, and, in this episode, they make Petra think JR’s about to shot.

What I loved about this plotline was seeing Petra the mom coming through. She’s raised two little mini-me’s who are tough and smart and willing to manipulate to get their way. It was great to see them both take after their mother and use their Petra-ness “against” their mom (even if they were just trying to protect her). It spoke volumes that Petra was willing to give up her new romance for the girls and I am here for it.

NICOLA: This show has so many layers and it’s incredible. Instead of just talking about gun violence they’re able to have a comprehensive conversation about trauma, violence, and mother-daughter-dating relationships. First, it’s hard being a single mom, balancing caring for your children and falling in love (arguably for the first time). But add the crazy situations that exist in Jane the Virgin including accidentally-maybe-on-purpose killing your twin sister and it gets significantly more complicated. Petra has grown and we see that in how she deals with JR and her girls. Not only is she willing to sacrifice a new love for her kids, which season one Petra would not have done, but she seeks out therapy for her girls to process the trauma. I have loved watching Petra become this strong, caring, and open woman.

CRISTINA: And I’d argue that Rafael and Jane showed some growth this episode too. Rafael gave her a very firm rejection — no means no Jane — but the two set about figuring how to co-parent as exes. I still think they’ll end up together and everyone saying Rafael is a jerk is refusing to see him as a human being rather than just a love object. I mean, what’s a person supposed to do in his situation? He’s been clear about his boundaries and wants a partner who picks him first — it’s good that he sticks up for himself. Plus, you know if Jane actually needed something (like when Xo was sick), he’d be right there. Rafael may not want to be with Jane romantically right now, but he still loves her for who she is and as the mother of his child.

NICOLA: I agree! Rafael is doing a great job in my opinion, dealing with his feelings in a mature way. When trust is lost it takes time to rebuild no matter how much you might love someone. It’s important to carve some time for yourself and to remember that your happiness does not depend on another person. Rafael is doing the work. He is investing in his relationship with Mateo and in his career goals. Honestly, Jane could take some cues from him.

CRISTINA: Agreed. The best part of the episode was certainly Alba FINALLY getting hers. She’s come a long way from the person who said a woman who has sex before marriage is like a crushed flower — never the same (or beautiful or valuable) again. Now Alba’s found a healthy relationship with sexand love within her Catholicism and that includes more acceptance of herself and Xo. It was so great to see her and Jorge acting like the couple they are and him finally admitting his love for her. They deserve all the happiness.

NICOLA: Yes, the world of Jane the Virgin is deliberately inclusive. Each character has had the opportunity to experience love, loss, joy, anger, and moments of change no matter their race, age, class, or sexual orientation. And that’s the representation we so desperately need.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 88: A Miami Girl in Montana

Jane the Virgin went on a field trip to Montana this week so our heroine could focus (and resolve!) her love triangle issues. With bedazzled cowboy boots, flannels, and hats, Chapter 88 brought the fun while also revealing just how different Michael’s become through his years on the ranch. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their highs and lows of the episode and finally pick sides between #TeamMichael and #TeamRafael.

CRISTINA: This week’s episode took place almost entirely in Montana and the city-girl-goes-country dynamic was pretty great. Yes, there were the costumes (those shoes! those hats!) but there was also the lack of technology giving Jane trouble. She couldn’t text Xo! How would her and Michael do long distance without FaceTime? So many problems being off the grid!

But the best part was seeing Jane get down and dirty. She shoveled shit, fixed a fence, and was generally the hard-working ranch hand we KNOW Latinas can be. I mean, we are the original rancheras.

NICOLA: Agreed — I definitely liked this episode. It’s one of the few episodes where we get to see Jane out of her comfort zone, and the first out of Miami. She’s away from her family, her busy schedule as a working mom, and sadly from Rafael who’s still grieving their relationship. It was fun to see. Honestly, it’s clear Jane needed this time and so did we as the audience. This whole season has mostly been us waiting to see who Jane picks and it finally came to an end. I for one was ready, regardless of who she picked.

CRISTINA: I am grateful Jane was able to sort out the love triangle — it’s been weeks of this mess! But I got a little bored without Alma, Petra, and Rogelio. Jane certainly needed the time and space to decide but I’ve got to say Michael v. Rafael is my least favorite part of the show. And a whole episode just on that — too much for me!

Of course, judging from the reactions on Twitter, I’m the only one who feels that way. Everyone was so upset — #TeamMichael because it’s time to say goodbye (again — I get it, it’s rough to have him right there and still not get that happy ending) and #TeamRafael because of all that time Jane spent “exploring it” (not to mention he’s not ready to let her back in).

NICOLA: Yeah I have to say I am also kind of annoyed and agree with you. The love triangle with Jane, Michael, and Rafael has never been my favorite storyline. I’ve always been #TeamJane and my favorite episodes are when Jane’s storyline isn’t completely driven by romance. I also think by making Michael slightly different from the goofy-loveable-crazy-about-Jane detective we loved was, forgive the pun, a total cop out. It’s clear that Jane could never have chosen between the two if Michael hadn’t changed a little.

CRISTINA: The more this season progresses (and the more reactions I read from Michael stans), the more #TeamRafael I get. He’s been such a supportive friend to Jane through everything — her marriage to Michael, her grief after he died, her ambitions to become (and grow) as a writer. I just really appreciate him. And I don’t think him having boundaries or advocating for himself is a bad thing! He’s a (fictional) person too and letting Jane walk all over him would end up being bad for both of them in the long run.

NICOLA: I agree — Rafael’s feelings are totally justified. Hey if I had just been dumped by my significant other while they try to figure out if there’s still a spark with a previously dead ex, I would also be upset and generally untrusting. I just hope once Jane wins Rafael back soon, which I’m confident will happen. Then, we can focus more time on Jane becoming the world-renowned writer we know she can be. And obviously more Rogelio. I request this every episode but it doesn’t make it any less true.

CRISTINA: You know my love for Rogelio is unending. I cannot get enough of him. Also, more swing scenes, please. The Alba-Xo-Jane matriarchial line is what Jane the Virgin should be all about. And I have no doubts Jane will win Rafael back. Gina Rodriguez is just SO hard not to love. She’s got that kind of charm that’s irresistible and if I have trouble resisting it, there’s no way Rafael will be able to. He’s just got to put up a good fight to keep the plot moving through the next few episodes!

NICOLA: Yes, we’ll see how long Rafael can resist what I’m sure will be Jane’s multi-tiered extensive, organized, and emotional strategy to win him back. And let’s face it, there’s nothing I love more than a determined confident Jane. Now that she’s made her decision, I don’t think there’s anything that can stop her from getting her telenovela-esc dream life. Or is there…(drama).

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 87: Bringing Back the Joy


Jane the Virgin’s Chapter Eighty-Seven aired this week, giving fans a much-needed break from all the heartache. Mujeres Problemáticas co-founders Cristina Escobar and Nicola Schulze discuss.

CRISTINA: Well we’re six episodes into season five of Jane the Virgin and we finally have an episode that doesn’t feel like getting stabbed in the heart! Hooray! And Chapter Eighty-Seven was so funny. I mean Alba sharing masturbation advice – amazing! And who hasn’t at least considered Barack Obama as their fantasy man of choice (just me?)? Whatever. It was delightful.

NICOLA: Yes, it’s very refreshing to be reminded that surprise! women don’t stop having or thinking about sex at age thirty-five like most television shows would like you to believe. And watching Rogelio and Xiomara figure out their sexual chemistry after chemo felt authentic and hilarious at the same time. Rogelio’s fantasy was particularly funny as it took jabs at the inner thoughts of hetero men.  


CRISTINA: Yes! There was a lot of sex for a show with the word “virgin” in the title. Petra’s awkwardness in front of JR’s friends was great but of course, the best scene was Jane trying to teach her to loosen up on the dance floor. The sexual tension, the silliness, these two great, different women’s bond. It’s why I’m such a fan of the show

NICOLA: Let’s face it the last couple episodes have been kind of a bummer but Jane and Petra’s relationship continues to be a ray of sunshine in an otherwise emotional roller coaster of a show. Each of them is learning how to build more than just a cordial relationship with each other but an honest true friendship and it’s fun to watch.

CRISTINA: And this episode also brought back the Sin Rostro plotline. I knew she didn’t give the real reason she killed/gave Michael amnesia! But there are still so many unanswered questions. What’s the deal with her black web thingy? Who’s our nefarious hacking, pie-bringing friends? How’s all this going to relate to our central conflict: the love triangle?

NICOLA: Ugh the love triangle. To be honest I’m still mad at the Jane the Virgin writers for doing this to us. I mean there is no way everyone (anyone?) can make it out without severe emotional scarring whether it’s Rafael and his depression, Jane and her relationship with Mateo, or Michael’s confusion around his own identity.

CRISTINA: I don’t care whose team you’re on, you’ve got to feel for Rafael! Jane is putting him through hell (I mean she’s in an impossible situation too, but still) and all of his attempts at drawing healthy boundaries get thwarted. Give this man all the anti-depression pills. He’s just trying to take care of himself and no one will let him.

NICOLA: Agreed. I’m just tired and I’m ready for this to be over. Although I am excited for Jane and Michael’s trip to Montana. Hopefully, this time together will end with either a sense of closure or a new beginning for both characters so we can all move on. Also, I’m hoping that we get to celebrate Xiomara being cancer free soon because I don’t think my heart could take any more bad news.

CRISTINA: Xo better be ok! This show has served off enough heart break already! I can’t even think about the possibility of her not making it. As much as we’re both #TeamJane, I do wish she’d hurry up and pick. Because the thing is, the show isn’t really about the love triangle between Michael, Rafael, and Jane. It’s really about the one between Jane, Xo, and Alba. That scene on the bench where they all started crying and then cracked themselves up – it was perfect. Can we have more of that, please?

NICOLA: Yes, more simultaneous crying sessions please. At the heart of Jane the Virgin has always been the Villanueva women and it’s comforting to see that no matter what happens they’ll always have each other.

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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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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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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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Jane, Eve, Issa

Some 75% percent of our media comes from the white, male perspective and it all feels the same to me: tired. Men have been speaking for so long, it’s like they’ve run out of things to say (not that the prospect of repeating themselves is getting them to shut up).

Luckily, there’s a lot of amazing, women-centered media out there from comedies to thrillers to prestige dramas. To help you avoid the same old, I’ve pulled together the ten shows I’m most looking forward to in 2019 — that all just happen to center women (last year’ spoilers ahead):

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

The award-winning first season of Big Little Lies featured Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as mothers in the elite community of Monterrey, CA, subverting the superficial suburban mom trope and portraying domestic violence in a more thoughtful way than I’ve seen before.

The second season, set to premiere in 2019, is a bit of coup — partly because the first season wasn’t supposed to be a “season” at all but rather a self-contained mini-series and partly because it was based on a book with no sequel. But the market talks and season two is bringing in none other than Meryl Streep, promising more of Zoë Kravitz’s character Bonnie Carlson, and (finally) featuring a woman director. Count me in.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

Taking place in 1960’s London, each episode (for seven seasons and counting) of Call the Midwife features at least one birth, depicted with unusual candor, sympathy, and heroism. The show has not been great on race (the first two plots with Black characters featured interracial babies born of affairs between Black men and white women) but Call the Midwife added a Black nurse in season seven and has since been clearly trying to address its wrongs.

Centered on women and our bodies — both the act of giving birth and the physical nature of nursing — Call the Midwife dramatizes aspects of the human experience we rarely see. With season eight coming in 2019, tune into this show for beautiful costumes, a warm vision of humanity, and women as nurses, nuns, and mothers.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Round Up

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

This musical comedy exploring mental health issues and the false romance narratives that bombard women, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend manages to leave you humming and thinking. This year will complete its final and forth season and lots of questions remain: what does a happy ending look like when it comes to mental health? Will Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca end up with one of her past flames? Or would she be better off alone?

As I’ve written before, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a feminist project, featuring a diverse cast and re-writing the rules of who can be loved. It’s also one of the least watched shows on television so it’s good to support and show content makers that audiences will tune into quality, feminist content. Plus, there’s lots of salty pretzels.

The Crown

The Crown

Netflix’s budget-busting juggernaut, The Crown, is back for a third season with a new cast as the Queen and her royal family age. I’ll miss Claire Foy’s ability to be emote without emoting, simultaneously expressing power and insecurity. That said, I trust the show creators to cast well again and this time hopefully without a gender pay-gap from the beginning.

I’ve learned a lot of history from this show as the Queen engages in nearly seven decades of world events. And while the colonial perspective can be rough (who cares how the monarch feels when its millions of brown people risking their lives for their self determination?), the show explores the difference between public and private personas beautifully while offering a unique insight into privileged British life.

Grey’s Anatomy

Set to become the longest running medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy will finish up its 15th season and probably run the first half of its 16th in 2019. Shonda Rhimes is no longer involved in the day-to-day but seasons 1-7 veteran Krista Vernoff is at the helm and bringing the show back to its old stalwarts: love-triangles, extreme medical situations, steamy hospital romances. I love Grey’s and having it made it this far, plan to see it to the end.

Grey’s Anatomy has always featured a diverse and inspiring depiction of leadership, excellence, and sexuality and that hasn’t changed. And as the titular Dr. Grey has gone from starry-eyed intern to widowed, award-winning physician, these fifteen years have allowed us the rare treat of watching a complicated woman’s evolution and continued adventures, sexual and otherwise, into middle age.

Insecure

Insecure

I’m excited for the fourth season of Issa Rae’s Insecure, coming out in 2019. Following a group of “basic,” 30-something Black women in LA, Insecure deserves all the awards for its hilarious exploration of identity, romance, and what it means to be a striving Black woman. It’s fixed everything you hated in Girls and Sex in the City, somehow making you nostalgic for your old, shitty apartments and ringing humor out of racial injustices large and small.

Season four promises to be just as good with the group’s lives only getting messier as Issa and her best friend Yvonne Orji’s Molly Carter date roommates and Issa seemingly going into business with her ex’s current partner. Bonus points of you watch live with Black Twitter.

Jane the Virgin

It’s Jane the Virgin’s final season and I’ll miss the Villanuevas. This Americanized telenovela started with an accidental, artificial insemination and has built upon this fantastical premise to explore motherhood, class, racial identity, Catholicism, and immigration to name just a few. The original love triangle seems to be back with Brett Dier of Michael Cordero fame returning in the season four finale to mess up the expected proposal between Justin Baldoni’s Rafael and Gina Rodriguez’s Jane.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more thoughtful, fun, and heartwarming portrayal of Latina identidad on television. In fact, the show’s secret weapon seems to be its compassion for all its characters — mothers of all stripes and types, people rich and working class, women with hugely different attitudes toward sex — allowing the viewers to sympathize with each end of spectrums we normally find so polarizing. Also Jamie Camil is an international treasure.

Killing Eve

Killing Eve has everything spy aficionados could want: globe trotting, international intrigue, double crosses, and murder. Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri, the bored M16 operative, became the first Asian women nominated for a lead actress Emmy and is set to host the Golden Globes. Her talent is met by Jodie Comer’s diabolical assassin, Villanelle. The binge-able BBC hit is now on Hulu and season two is slated for release in 2019.

With all the trappings of a traditional thriller, the woman-ness of Killing Eve is unmistakable. Both the killer and detective are women and that opens up new avenues of psychological intrigue like when Villanelle, obsessed with Eve, fills her suitcase with beautiful, perfectly fitting clothes and sends it to her house, managing to fulfill a female fantasy and threaten her love object at the same time. The sexual tension between Eve and Villanelle further heightens the drama (particularly in contrast to Eve’s relatable but boring relationship with her husband) as does the female-gaze of the camera work. With Oh and Comer signed up for the second season, 2019 is sure to bring more of the steamy, pulse-racing fun.

Shrill

Based on the book by the same name by Lindy West, Shrill is set to premiere in 2019 starring and co-written by Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant and produced by Elizabeth Banks. Those names are enough to get me excited — especially because I love Lindy West. She came up as a journalist under Dan Savage, helped pioneer Jezebel, and has since graduated to a feminist New York Times column and writing best-selling books.

Shrill is West’s memoir, telling the story of a fat young woman who’s striving to improve her life and career but not her body. All of which makes it the perfect vehicle for Bryant and I can’t wait to catch it on Hulu.

Vida

Vida

Latinas are the least represented demographic in media so a show that’s Mexican, queer, and ambitious has me tuning in. Starz’ Vida follows two Latinx sisters returning to Boyle Heights to take over the family business after their mother’s death. There, they confront gentrification, their mother’s lesbianism, and aspects of their own identity.

Picked up for a second season in 2019, Vida is clear in its intention to expand the portrayal of Latina and Latinx experience on TV. Latinx show creator Tanya Saracho has spoken out about how she uses her success to lift up la raza and the show even has a Latina behind the camera in Carmen Cabana — this despite the notoriety of cinematography for how few women fill its ranks even in the sexist entertainment industry.

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