How Netflix’s One Day at a Time is Paving the Way Towards Better TV

How Netflix’s One Day at a Time is Paving the Way Towards Better TV

Centred around a Cuban-American family, One Day at a Time (a reboot of the 1970-80’s sit-com) follows the lives of single mother Penelope Alvarez, her two children Alex and Elena and their Grandmother Lydia. This witty, woke and heart warming comedy provides absolutely everything, to absolutely everyone, in just 13 (roughly) 30 minute episodes. One Day at a Time is the latest Netflix original to show-up network TV in ALL the right ways.

From the very first episode, it’s evident that the show is going to excel. With a Latinx family at the forefront, One Day at a Time provides much needed representation to the community that’s been lacking it for centuries. What’s even better is that ODAAT successfully avoids conforming to harmful and repetitive stereotypes. Instead, it provides relatable, light-hearted and powerful characters.

Whilst providing this positive representation, One Day at a Time also does well in educating audiences who can’t identify with, or fully understand the character’s hardships and backstories. Especially when it comes to immigration. Immigration is rarely talked about in television, and when it is, it’s usually negative or the punch line to some unnecessary joke. But on multiple occasions, ODAAT fights against this. With everything that’s going on in society and politics, it’s refreshing to see walls get broken down.

TV’s gotten better over the years at putting women in leading and powerful roles, and ODAAT adds to the list with Penelope, Elena and Lydia.

First off, Penelope (Justina Machado) is an ex-veteran dealing with PTSD and an injured shoulder having returned from Afghanistan. She’s a single mother who with the help of her own mother, has brought up two incredibly grounded children. She stands up for what’s right and doesn’t hesitate in putting someone in their place when they’re in the wrong. For example, when she finally speaks up about her painfully misogynistic colleague and quits her job after finding out he’s getting paid more than her. When her boss asks her to come back, it’s on her own terms of higher pay. It’s great to see this issue tackled in television, because it’s constantly getting shut down in reality.

Women experience injustice and ignorance in the workplace every day, and people seem to think that because it’s not happening to them, it’s not happening to anyone. We see the issue occur, we see Penelope fight against it and we see it get resolved. This is what I like to see go down.

We also see a lot of these issues tackled with Schneider (Todd Grinnell), the extended white family member who isn’t always perfect. He bends over backwards for the family and it’s evident how much they all look out for each other. But, there are multiple occasions in the show where he makes an unbeknown to him, ignorant remark. But what I love about ODAAT is how the other characters educate him on his ignorance. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just lived a life of more privilege and isn’t always conscious that what he’s saying is wrong – a trait that most of society today unfortunately carry. Schneider is educated by the Alvarez’s, accepts his errors and apologises for his remarks.

Mental health issues are also tackled well with Penelope. One Day at a Time aren’t afraid of shutting down social stigmas and emphasise the internal struggles that sufferers go through. As she attends a group counselling session for veterans, we see Penelope begin to speak up about what she’s facing and share her story with those around her. We’re introduced to a wide array of females who with even just a few lines of dialogue, connect to the audience. We emphasise with them. We relate to them. They aren’t put in a position that tries to make us look down upon them and they’re perfectly placed in the shows diverse ensemble.

Lydia Alvarez (Rita Moreno) is also another powerhouse. She’s fierce, loving and provides some of the best moments in the show. Although she comes into the odd conflict with her family members when her traditional Cuban values are questioned, she always expands her perspective and puts those she loves first.

 And how can we talk about bad-ass females without mentioning Elena? Elena (Isabella Gomez) is undoubtedly the most vocal, and most woke when it comes to female empowerment. She knows what’s right and she’s not afraid to speak up about it. She not only educates those around her, but she educates the audience on topical issues too.

But, that isn’t the only thing she stands out for. The shows central storyline is focused on Elena’s upcoming quinceañera. As it gets closer, she begins to dig deeper into understanding who she really is. Lydia wants her to find a boy to take, but Elena is unsure about her feelings and whether that’s something she really wants. It takes her a bit of a time, but she eventually realises that she’s gay and comes out to each of her family members.

Elena’s entire coming out arc is both beautifully written and executed. Her coming out scene with Penelope was both raw and realistic and achieved what so many other shows have failed to do. It’s so common to see LGBT characters in TV be the centre of pain and heartbreak, and for their coming out stories to highlight disapproval and rejection, so this was refreshing to see.

With the bury your gays trope being the topic of conversation in TV last year, the call for better representation seems to be getting answered. Whilst other shows like Supergirl are also helping to set a much higher precedent, it’s great to see this continued amongst other platforms and networks. ODAAT have effortlessly displayed how it should be done.

One of the great things that ODAAT also did with Elena’s arc was show us it from the families perceptive. Seeing as the show is based around the strength and love of family, it would have been odd to see anything but that. Although Elena’s father fails to accept who his daughter is, the rest of the family come together for her with nothing but love and acceptance.

I could go on for another 1000 words about the strength of this show, but instead I’ll say one more thing: go watch it. If you’ve already watched it, re-watch it. It’s really that good. One Day at a Time has done in 13 episodes what many shows can’t do in 3 seasons. Nothing is forced and nothing is done for the sake of “feeling obliged to do it”.

It’s the natural, relatable, easy-going piece of television that we need more and more of. Bring on season 2!

The 100 Aftermath: The Importance of Representation in the Media

The 100 Aftermath: The Importance of Representation in the Media

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When just a few weeks ago the US TV show ‘The 100’ killed off one of it’s most popular character’s, Lexa (portrayed by Alycia Debnam-Carey), a social media storm was sparked and an outcry from fans and the LGBT community was ignited, as it marked yet another minority character being killed off, following the same “Bury Your Gays/Lesbian Death Trope” that so many before it have unjustifiably and unnecessarily done.

This trope, for those who may be unaware, has been around for years now and is seen by the fact that gay characters in the media are continuously deprived of happy endings, and in the majority of accounts they often end up dead. In just 4 weeks, 4 lesbian characters have been killed off on TV and the death of Lexa has created what has now turned into a revolution to give LGBT fans the representation and treatment they deserve.

For more information on the trope and to see some examples you can look here.

Fans of the show and members of the community immediately took to social media in the aftermath of Lexa’s death to outsource their devastation and anger over the events of the episode, making continuous worldwide trends of statements such as “LGBT Fans Deserve Better” and “Minorities Are Not Disposable”.

Another worldwide trend that received over 142K tweets was “CW STOP JASON ROTHENBERG” which was aimed at the show’s creator who’s twitter followers have fallen from 121k to 105k over these past few weeks. The death of Lexa has tried to be justified by the network by saying it was all to do with Alycia Debnam-Carey’s schedule conflicts, as she also stars in Fear the Walking Dead, however I think that it’s hard to believe that the only conclusion that could be made over this was that the character had to die.

Take Orange Is The New Black for example: when Laura Prepon, who plays one of the lead character’s (Alex Vause), had schedule conflicts the writers worked around it and came up with a plausible storyline which allowed for her to still be a part of the show when she could and then return for the next season, so why couldn’t The 100 do the same?

The enormity of this campaign is truly incredible and can be seen by the fact that since the airing of the episode in which Lexa was killed, a fundraising page has been set up by fans and members of the community where $60,000 has been raised for the charity ‘The Trevor Project‘, which aims to provide support and suicide prevention services to young people in the LGBT community.

“This is an ongoing campaign that is constantly growing on the back of a shared worldwide sentiment that ‘LGBT fans deserve better.’ Precisely because our battle is just gaining momentum, the goal set is an arbitrary number that will keep being raised as long as people across the world donate in support of ending what has been perpetually unfair treatment of the LGBT community in popular media.”

You can donate to the charity here.

Now we all know that for a show to be successful and known, marketing is hugely important in order to keep fans invested and to bring new viewers in, and the more ratings and attention a show gets ultimately determines whether or not it will be renewed.  It’s clearly evident how powerful the LGBT community is and show runners soon come to realise this on social media, so of course by promoting the LGBT characters and pairings, like The 100 did with the pairing Clexa, you’re going to keep those viewers attached and invested with your show, but queerbaiting and giving the fans hope knowing what the end result is going to be is utterly unfair, yet that’s exactly what was done.

Lexa was a truly incredible character and was outstandingly portrayed by Alycia Debnam-Carey. She was the Commander, a fierce leader who fought her battles and saved her people, who in a world of chaos and war was embarking on a new message for hope and peace. But her death now seems to somehow dimish all this. Why is it that when a strong female LGBT character stands up for themselves or tries to make a change – they’re immediately greeted by death?

Just the other day, the hit show The Walking Dead followed an all too similar path when the lesbian character, Denise, was killed by an arrow through the eye just as she was giving a speech and standing up for herself . But oddly when the straight male character is shot in the eye he miraculously survives. What’s even worse with this death is that in the Walking Dead comics it was actually Abraham who was supposed to face this death, yet his place was traded for Denise. Why? I wish I knew.

Sure, characters in TV do die, and when on shows like The 100 where the main theme is war and survival it’s almost inevitable. But when other characters have survived a spear through the chest and a bullet to the spine, it’s hard to believe that a character should so easily die of a single stray bullet to the stomach. And let’s be honest, it’s ultimately down to the writers and creators.

Characters do not have to die simply for dramatic impact and it’s high time they started to learn this. Understand how much these characters truly mean to the fans, especially to a community where representation is so limited and please come to the realisation that when you all continue to kill off the minority character for “dramatic impact”, it starts to become a lot less dramatic.

And to anyone who may try and argue “but what about all the straight characters that are killed?” are clearly missing the point. According to GLAAD’s “Where We Are In TV” 2015 Report, out of approximately 881 characters on TV, only 4% identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. If this number wasn’t already small enough, 8 of these characters have already been killed off in just the first 3 months of 2016. For those who may be struggling with coming to terms with their sexuality and are simply just looking for somebody they can relate to and model themselves after, it’s so incredibly important to give them positive representation in the media because you can’t even begin to imagine how much it can change their lives.

But this is not just a show. This is not just a character. This is a campaign. This is a cause. This is a message that can’t go unheard. The character’s fights may be over, but this one is just beginning.

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