Here’s Why Netflix’s ‘Mr. Iglesias’ Is So Important For Students Of Color Right Now
Throughout the history of American film and television, there have been some great teachers that have inspired audiences. We can think, of course, of Sidney Poitier in “To Sir, With Love,” which broke down racial stereotypes in U.S. popular culture, or of Robin Williams and his carpe diem philosophy in “Dead Poet’s Society.” “Dangerous Minds”showcased the many talents of Michele Pfeiffer as an inspiring teacher dealing with a tough neighborhood. And, of course, our own Edward James Olmos in “Stand and Deliver.” All those roles are pretty intense, and students are often portrayed as troubled minds who need rescuing.
That is why Netflix’s new show, “Mr. Iglesias,” is a fresh and welcome variation on the “inspiring teacher” Hollywood trope. It follows the life in a Long Beach school where students of all ethnicities learn from Gabriel Iglesias, an amazing maestro that dances salsa and is an endless source of wittiness. In fact, the real Iglesias attended this very school, Woodrow Wilson High School. The show has gotten positive reviews. Dan Fienberg from The Hollywood Reportersays: “Would I like for Mr. Iglesias to be funnier? Or, at times, especially funny at all? Yes. But I’m a sucker for ‘well-meaning,’ especially when it’s warm and inclusive.” Merrill Barr at Forbeshighlights that much of the show rests on the broad shoulders of the lead character: “Perhaps it is just due to the animated nature of its lead to sell what would otherwise be a rather bland sitcom, but Mr. Iglesias works. It’s funny. Hacky at times, but funny nonetheless.” But judge by yourself: we promise some hard LOLing!
It serves us some harsh historical truths right from the beginning.
As we said, the show follows the adventures of Gabriel Iglesias, a history teacher who struggles to serve some truths to his students in the United States educational system. The show is funny as hell thanks to the incandescent personality of its lead actor, comedian Gabriel Iglesias (how meta!), but that doesn’t preclude it from being fiercely political. In the first episode, suggestively titled “Some Children Left Behind”, the show delves into what the struggles of the educational system mean for the lives of students and teachers.
He teaches History by keeping his students engaged with pop culture references.
Seriously, we all would love to have a teacher like Mr. Iglesias. He is not only a source of smart interpretations of racial and class relationships in the United States but also una fuente of wisdom when it comes to cool pop culture references. Seriously, if all maestros were like him, maybe we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in right now as a country and as humankind.
And being a Latino teacher in the age of Trump… of course, he went there right away!
OMG, Mr. Iglesias found a way to basically use a picture of POTUS as a piñata, make fun of his hairdo and bring up his Cheeto complexion, all in a few seconds of comedic bliss. When politics are turbulent and violent towards minorities, comedy is one of the best weapons to fight back and have una carcajada en el intento.
The show was created by Kevin Hench.
He is an experienced writer and producer, and his credits include the super funny comedy “Last Man Standing,” and the Latino-themed legal drama “Cristela.” No wonder him and Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias found some common ground to create the comedic masterpiece that is “Mr. Iglesias,” which like all good satire uses current events to uncover deeper truths.
The show looks at the endemic inequalities in the educational system.
Let’s face it: many Brown and Black kids have systematic obstacles from the get-go. Many of them work from an early age and have to basically deal with the very adult juggling act of home/school/job. This is addressed in the show, with the top student, Marisol (who quotes Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, BTW!), being on the verge of being expelled because of poor attendance when she is helping out in her family business. This is a very familiar situation for thousands of first and second generation students.
There is a white teacher, Mrs. Abigail Spencer, who is just oh so naive!
The show doesn’t demonize white characters, it just paints them as… well, sort of naive and protected by bubble wrap. Mr. Iglesias tells her: “Abby, you are white, you can do anything”. She is a funny woman from North Dakota who just needs to get in touch with reality a bit more. Well, there is also a preeeety borderline racist football coach who says “your people” constantly. Of course, es un gringazo.
The show is binge material and is getting some committed fans.
The show has some amazing rhythm. Even though the scripts follow a schematic three-act structure and it has some risas grabadas that are frankly very annoying, “Mr. Iglesias”is totally binge-worthy. The episodes run just under 30 minutes and are fast-paced and full of adorable moments. We don’t blame this Instagram user for bringing the whole show in a night…. we wonder they had cara de zombie the next day, eh?
It is hard to predict whether there will be a second season, but we think there will!
Netflix does not usually release viewership numbers, so the second season is not a done deal. We can predict, however, that this show has some legs, and Netflix would take a lot of heat if they cancel yet another Latino-themed show after the criticism they faced when canceling “One Day at a Time.” With the Latino market in the United States and overseas being a clear player in budgeting and projects, we can predict that “Mr. Iglesias”is here to stay.
Netflix is pretty committed to Gabriel Iglesias, a top Latino talent.
Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias has a highly popular stand-up comedy act in “One Show Fits All,” where he talks about the many tribulations of being a person of color in this day and age, as well as some funny Mexican traditions and body positivity. He is not fat, he says, he is simply fluffy.
Here is what you need to know about Gabriel Iglesias.
He was born Gabriel Jesus Iglesias, in San Diego, so he is a true son of Mexican-American culture. He and his five siblings were raised by a single mom. He spent his childhoods in struggling Californian communities such as Compton, Baldwin Park and lastly Long Beach, where “Mr. Iglesias”is set. His comedic influences are diverse: Paul Rodriguez, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, and the disgraced Bill Cosby.
Recognize his voice from “Padre de familia”, that awesome “Family Guy” special?
In 2007, Gabriel Iglesias voiced an entire Mexican family in the hilarious sixth season episode of Family Guy, simply titled “Padre de familia”. And if you are a fan of kitschy films, he also plays a super funny character in the male stripper saga Magic Mike (we just can’t get over how he moves sus lonjas doing a Carmen Miranda impression).