Queer Latinas Have A Very Relatable Character In ODAAT’s Elena Alvarez
Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” is truly one of the only sitcom comedies so many people have been able to relate to. Based on the CBS sitcom of the same name, Netflix upped its relevance by basing the story around a Cuban-American family. The show features a single mom, who is also a veteran suffering from PTSD; an abuelita Cuban immigrant; her pet grandson who can do no wrong; and Elena Alvarez, a teenage girl coming to terms with her sexuality.
Watching a gay Latina, well-played by straight ally Isabella Gomez, navigate teenagehood in an overprotective Latino home is a world of difference from similar shows targeting white audiences. Often, our experiences don’t come close to the loving response Elena gets, but seeing it come to fruition for a fictional character is everything. Here are some of the times Elena was the queer Latina representation that has been missing for too long.
We said it to our mami’s over and over again and they thought we were wacky feminists.
Well, it was all true. Elena’s mom’s response was like all of ours: “I know, honey, but you’ll find the right boy and then you’ll know.” Nope. There never was a right boy.
We all had one best friend that we called wifey and held hands with.
You didn’t have romantic feelings for them (or maybe you did), but the intimacy you craved most was with girls and your lesbian heart knows no depths of love for your BFF.
IRL, Gomez is besties with her on-screen bestie, played by Ariela Barer.
You were excited about saving the planet as a teenager.
Sure, the activist lesbian is a stereotype, but I haven’t found a fellow queero who wasn’t either vegan, plastic-free, or concerned about world affairs as a teenager. The world needs us.
You were the feminist authority in the house.
Before Elena’s sexuality ever came into question on the show, she was teaching Feminism 101 to all the generations that came before her. Same.
And you were never trying to be ladylike.
The “how are you going to get a husband with Cheetos for fingers?” worked nothing on us. No me importa.
You were a constant disappointment for your lack of enthusiasm for beauty products.
My mom threw away my skater Vans in a public dumpster to force me to buy different shoes or walk home barefoot, HBU?
Your reaction to kissing a boy for the first time was something like this:
I mean, it usually wasn’t, right? 🤞Elena thought that if there was ever a boy that she would like, it would be cutie pie Josh. Raise your hand if you gave yourself this test before just letting yourself be gay? 🙋♀️
Your abuela or tías kept trying to force boys onto you.
Or Elena onto Josh, in this case. Or your cousins kept calling you a snob for not being into the cutest boy on the block. “What, are you too good for him?” Uh, probably, yes.
When Elena justifies her attraction to Josh because he likes “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
These are solid reasons, Elena. Most people don’t have to write a list of nice things about a person to convince them they like them. Take note, baby gays.
“I feel more when I see a photo of Kristen Stewart than I do when I’m kissing him.”
During Elena’s official coming out to her mom, it all clicked for Lupe right here in this moment. For my mom it was, “I had a feeling. You always made a disgusting face when I mentioned cojones.”
It’s like, you’re my mother. Who wouldn’t make a face?
When it’s so complicated figuring out if the girl you like also likes girls (and you)…
Sometimes, you have to revert to cave speak. Let’s be real, coming out at any age is like resetting the clock to a 12-year-old boy. Eyes up, eyes up.
ODAAT devotes so much good screen time to getting Elena’s S.O., Syd’s pronouns right.
They identify as they/them and when Elena’s mom starts calling them girlfriends, these two set everyone straight. They spent half an episode trying to figure out a gender neutral, affectionate term for each other.
And the right amount of awkwardness when Lupe gives Elena the ‘sex talk.’
Lupe goes to her “lesbian Yoda”, played by Judy Reyes, for advice and comes back with this. K…
When Elena’s dramatic abuela tells her how to come out of the closet.
Apparently, flamingo style and with lots of flair. Lydia proves to be a priceless element of what it means to be queer and Latina.
Having to explain to her abuela identifying as gay is important by bringing up her Cubanidad.
How many times have we heard someone’s abuela complain about why the gays have to have their own parade? But, yeah, we’re here to build the floats for all your Cuban parades, too.
When the abuela is in pure denial about the other gays in the family.
“How is that gay?”
Literally, they all went to her wedding but Lydia eventually confesses she thought it was just a “very affectionate BBQ.”
When Elena asked if she could wear Docs with her quince dress. 💀
I’m dead. When her abuela surprised her with a pantsuit instead of a poofy dress on her big day, I was sobbing right along with Elena.
Of course, what’s being a queer Latina without a homophobic dad to throw into the mix.
Luckily, he ends up coming around, but not before bailing on her at her own quince. ODAAT isn’t the fantasy world of what we all wish our childhood could have been. The machismo is real, and it made her dad bounce during the father-daughter dance.
Seeing Elena dance the father-daughter dance with her mami had us all 😭 😭 😭
Above all, this is a show about strong, empowered women, of all sexualities, ages, and interests coming together. There’s a reason why therapists are prescribing this show to their lesbian Latina clients (it me.)
We ultimately get to see Elena become comfortable and confident in her identity.
When she confronts her father again and someone made a hat that said V.A.G. (short for Victor Alvarez Guapísimo), he refused to wear it. This. 😂
And watch her family climb on board…
Granted, Lydia had to become accidentally super duper high to make this realization, but, yes, the opera is gay. ; ) If you are, too, we highly recommend “One Day at a Time,” now streaming all three seasons on Netflix.