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'One Day At a Time' Was the Queer Latinx Representation I Needed

One Day at a Time

It felt personal and like its own form of justice.


*This story was originally published with the headline "One Day At a Time Is Gone, But I'll Never Forget How It Made Me Feel" after the show was cancelled by Netflix. It has since been picked up by CBS and will begin airing October 12, 2020.

I've never watched a show that felt so manufactured in a lab to appeal to me than Netflix's One Day at a Time. I'm a queer, Latinx gender nonconforming child of a single, working mother. Like Elena Alvarez (Isabella Gomez), I'm a queer grade grubber who was driven by academic accomplishment. Like Alex Alvarez (Marcel Ruiz), I'm a momma's boy who balanced the pressures of growing up with the pressure of an overbearing mother. And like Penelope Alvarez (the excellent Justina Machado), I live with anxiety and depression and go to therapy to wrestle with them. I don't think I could've cooked up a show I need more.

But today, Netflix announced on Twitter their unfortunate decision to cancel the beloved mutli-camera comedy chronicling the lives of the Alvarez's, a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. The news devastated me, not only because I grieve its loss, but because I grieve the loss of the stories it had left to tell.

In One Day at a Time's world, queerness was never the butt of a joke. Elena was figuring out her sexuality and wanted simply to be loved and understood by her mother, who was similarly on a journey to understand her daughter. That journey, on both sides, was fueled by love. That representation of coming out in a Latinx family -- one which deeply resonated with me -- stands in stark contrast to media stereotypes. Around the time of the Pulse nightclub massacre, the New York Times ran a headline saying that gay and Latinx cultures were "at odds" with each other. That headline sticks with me to this day, not only as a queer Latinx person, but as a reporter who landed in Orlando, Florida, less than 18 hours after the Pulse shooting to find Latinx families rallying alongside their loved ones to mourn those who were lost and comfort those who grieved.

The prevailing media stereotype about Latinx culture was something One Day at a Time bucked just by its existence. Only one character, Elena's father, takes issue with Elena's coming out and is ostracized from his family for it. But, they eventually reunite and he realizes he is wrong. It showed that it didn't take a tragedy for Latinidad and queerness to come together. From Elena's queerness to the gender nonbinary status of Elena's significant other, One Day at a Time depicted a family that was always trying, through love, to grow their hearts and accept each family member for who they were and who they loved.

In one episode in the show's third season, the Alvarez family deals with the complicated family dynamics associated with attending a funeral family. They must remember who isn't speaking with whom based on old family drama. It was the first time I remember Latinx family dynamics being depicted so well on screen, especially since I had attended a family funeral for my family's 94-year-old matriarch only a week prior.

One Day at a Time's existence felt like its own form of justice. I, unlike some people, never minded that it was a multi-cam sitcom with a laugh track. Because that was a whole part of television history that Latinx people were excluded from. This show wrote us into the history of the laugh track sitcom and proved that the goings-on of a Latinx family were worth viewers' time.

And the way that the series took time to explore mental health -- namely, the bouts of anxiety and depression that Penelope felt -- showed me that my own mental health was worth investing in. Watching the show's depiction of anxiety and depression, and how debilitating it can be, gave credence to my own feelings about my mental health and I knew, watching Penelope mire through her own trauma and anxiety, that my own health should be taken seriously. It also depicted the way a child can inherit a parent's anxiety and depression. Intergenerational trauma and a laugh track? The show did it all.

As is par for the course with Netflix, we don't know the data behind its decisions, but the company's tweets announcing the cancellation were evidence of just how beloved the sitcom was in wider culture and, I'm sure, within the company itself. Meanwhile, they just shelled out $100 million to keep Friends, a certain kind of comfort food for a certain kind of viewer, on its platform through next year.

But no data could give me the answer I want to hear, because it's not data I care about. In a world where reboot culture runs rampant, One Day at a Time showed that reboots can be done right, with tons of heart and an eye towards correcting past cultural wrongs. What we got, while it lasted, was heartfelt and moving and made me feel understood in a way that no show has ever done before. Goodbye, One Day at a Time. Familia para siempre.

RELATED | One Day at a Time Canceled by Netflix

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