Queer Review: One Day At A Time

**This post (and all Queer Review posts) will definitely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!**

 

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Netflix show One Day At A Time. If you haven’t, you’re either not on Tumblr or don’t have enough free time to binge watch shows on Netflix. If that is the case, we are very sorry.

One Day At A Time is a Netflix reboot/ reimagining of a mid-70’s to mid-80’s TV sitcom of the same name, that lasted nine seasons.

Like the original series, ODAAT tells the story of a single mom raising her two children, while balancing work and her personal life, with the help of her elderly mother and their oddly charming apartment superintendent, Schneider. Other than a handful of similar plot points (and the incredibly talented Mackenzie Phillips), the Netflix ODAAT differs from it’s predecessor completely.

The most obvious difference is found in the diversity of it’s characters. The Netflix reboot follows the lives of a Cuban-American family, the Alvarez’s, as they navigate through life dealing with issues such as PTSD, substance abuse, mental health difficulties, immigration trouble and racial insensitivity. All of these are important topics that are touched on with extreme care and thought by both the writers and actors portraying these characters. It is worth noting that storylines such as these were not often found on television in the time of the original series and seeing topics such as these on any show today, shows an improvement in our understanding of these issues in our culture.

ODAAT goes even further than this though. One character in particular, Elena Alvarez (played by Isabella Gomez), peaked our interest here at Queer Quality.

In the first season, Elena’s character slowly begins to understand and accept her own sexuality. As many queer identifying people will admit, the first time you say out loud to yourself that you might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or however you may identify, is both terrifying and liberating. Elena does so in a conversation with herself, only for her confession to be overheard by her younger brother, Alex. Accepting something new and different about yourself can be difficult and needing to defend that can be scary. Thankfully for Elena, Alex accepted her still secret sexuality, and went on his merry way as a pre-teen.

Throughout the remainder of the first season, Elena comes out to the rest of her family, all of whom have different reactions. Penelope, Elena’s mother, wants to accept her queer identity but struggles with it, until ultimately realizing there is no real difference in Elena.

Lydia, Elena’s grandmother, has a 30 second internal rebound about her granddaughter’s sexuality. By far one of the funniest moments ever to be found in a coming out story, Lydia’s dialogue about how her religion preaches to love everyone and questioning “who am I to go against the Pope?” makes us wish all religiously intolerant people would watch this show.

After gaining the acceptance of her mother, brother, and grandmother, Elena’s self esteem and confidence in who she is soars. It is not until her father, Victor, comes home from Afghanistan, that Elena comes face to face with homophobia for the first time. Thinking that her father would react similarly as the rest of her family did, she proudly admits that she is gay without much hesitation. Unfortunately, Victor’s reaction is one too often found, both in real life and in coming out stories in TV shows and movies; he tells her she’s confused, that this is just a phase and is quick to blame his soon to be ex-wife for the “problem” that their daughter has. Victor wants her “confusion” to be kept a secret from the rest of his family that has come into town for Elena’s Quinces (her 15th birthday party). After Lydia alters Elena’s traditional Quinceañera dress to a tailored pantsuit, Victor disappears before the Father-Daughter Dance, ultimately leaving the rest of the family (and Schneider) to step in and save the day.

The coming out storyline of Elena Alvarez is incredibly important for young queer identifying people to see. It offers a glance at many reactions by important people in a young LGBTQ+ persons life. Too often we only see the story arcs of a teenage gay kid being kicked out of the house or being bullied at school, or the opposite, where the queer kid is the most popular in school and their coming out is either not a shock or completely accepted by everyone, because everyone they love is inclusive. Though both of these scenarios do exist, it leaves out so many other possibilities.

Some, like Elena’s younger brother, won’t necessarily care because they realize that a person’s sexuality doesn’t change who they are as a person. They might even be a little curious as to what it all means and have questions. (Please, PLEASE, do not Google “lesbians.” Definitely NSFW). Others, no matter how much they love and accept you, may struggle with your sexuality. Not because they think it’s wrong or against their religious beliefs, but simply because they never expected it and don’t know how to navigate uncharted territory. They will learn and you can help them. And we all want a family member like Lydia.

Still, it is important to acknowledge that even your closest loved ones may turn their backs on you once you find the courage to be outwardly proud of who you are. It is important that when that happens you stick with those people who say “they got you.” They are out there. Lean on them.

By season two, Elena is out, proud and loud about her sexuality, so much so that every family member makes a point of mentioning how loud she is about it at some point (all in love, of course). And though we didn’t expect season two, to be anymore progressive than the first, once again the writers knocked our expectations out of the park, by adding a non-binary character, Syd, played by Sheridan Pierce. Syd and Elena ultimately end up dating, in the cutest relationship ever might we add. The show pokes fun at the confusion Cis-people have at non-binary pronouns in a way that makes us laugh, without being insulting. We get it, it can be tough. Once again, the Alvarez family comes through, fully accepting, if not a little confused.

And though we all held our breath at the end of season two, we cannot wait to see what is in store for Elena, Syd, and the whole Alvarez familia (Schneider included, of course).

ODAAT offers a unique experience for the friends and family members of queer youth, that other shows have not yet fully been able to develop. Characters that THEY identify with. So often when an LGBTQ+ character is introduced into a show or movie and their coming out becomes a story arc, the focus remains on creating a queer character that real life queer identifying people can relate to. ODAAT does this. However, this show goes one step further by offering different reactions from every character that Elena comes out to. It leaves open the possibility for conversations between Elena and each character about her sexuality and the exploration of what that means to have a gay child, sibling, friend, or granddaughter. Because of this, it is our opinion that ODAAT is #QueerQuality entertainment, for both LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones.

For those struggling to come to terms with how to come out, this would be a great show to watch with loved ones to gauge their reaction to Elena’s own admittance of her sexuality. Of course we want to emphasize that a person should only ever come out when they want to, to whom they wish, and only if they feel safe enough to do so. We are simply suggesting ODAAT as a possible talking point when and if you feel you need one, to help in your own coming out. And not that this should need to be said, but never out another individual.

Overall, our #QueerQuality expectations were blown away by how inclusive and diverse One Day At A Time really is. Far beyond that of the queer story of Elena Alvarez, this show offers a unique telling of an ethnically diverse, culturally rich family, struggling with real life problems just like everyone else. Anyone and everyone can enjoy this show and that is what makes it great. It has a little bit of something for everyone!

Seasons one and two are available on Netflix now. Season three will premiere sometime in 2019.

Follow the show on Twitter @OneDayAtATime.

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