Culture

These Filmmakers Are Fed Up With How TV Kills Off Queer Characters

“If you’re a queer woman, chances are you underwent a great loss this year,” filmmaker Cole Santiago tells us, observing at the tombstone of the [*SPOILER ALERT even though I’m pretty sure we all binge-watched OITNB already*] late, great Poussey Washington. She adds that, in 2016 alone, 18 female queer characters have been killed off on television.

Indeed, the “Bury Your Gays” trope has been a particular topic of conversation this year, following not only the aforementioned death of Poussey, but also the controversial death of The 100‘s Lexa. Fans’ disappointment and frustration over the character’s death even prompted the series showrunner and executive producer, Jason Rothenberg, to publish an open letter, assuring viewers that “burying, baiting or hurting anyone was never our intention. It’s not who I am.”

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Credit: CW

This ongoing theme of unhappy endings (and, you know, death) for queer characters also prompted Autostraddle to release a comprehensive set of infographics detailing queer representation in media, with a focus on lesbian and bisexual television characters. Take a look; it’s worth your time.

And while there have been queer female characters on television (Remezcla has a pretty thorough list), there are few series ABOUT these characters. They rarely get the A story, and even more rarely “get the girl” at the end.

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Credit: ABC

And, thus, Vida.

Vida‘s team is unique in media–a female cast and crew, most of whom are Latinx–and the story they have to tell is an innately personal one. “Growing up as a closeted teenager,” Santiago explains on the project’s Seed & Spark page, “too scared to reach out, the only safe route to better understand my feelings came in the form of film and television.” The project, conceived as a short film and potential pilot, follows Vida, a quiet 17-year-old girl dealing with a roommate who wants to become Instagram famous. Vida’s life is uprooted by “a Courtney Love-obsessed lesbian vampire” and… I mean, that’s all I need to know to want to tune in.

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Credit: WB

Vida‘s fundraising page keeps things nicely on-theme, with fundraising goals named after popular queer (or queered, in some cases) characters. For example, if you pitch in 50 bucks, you reach Drusilla level, and a member of the crew will be slimed with a bucket of blood in your honor, with video proof. Mwahaha!

Take a look at Vida‘s teaser video, below, and help #ressurectourgays:

Actors Of ‘On My Block’ Discuss How They Authentically Tackle Serious Issues Facing Our Community

Entertainment

Actors Of ‘On My Block’ Discuss How They Authentically Tackle Serious Issues Facing Our Community

Courtesy of Netflix

Audiences recently took to the comments of Netflix’s Latinx-focused Instagram account @ConTodoNetflix to choose which name blending they preferred for characters Monse Finnie and Cesar Diaz, two of the main love interests on Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ comedy-drama series.

BTW, if you were curious to see which won out between MONSAR and CEONSÉ, CEONSÉ seemed to be the fan-favorite, with actress Sierra Capri, who plays Monse on the series, writing, “I’m down for either but it’s something about that Ceonse 🌹🔥.” 

Before season 3 premiered last month, mitú sat down with Capri and her on-screen love interest Diego Tinoco in between takes on the OMB set to discuss how this on-screen couple is able to portray that something when the camera is rolling, how the show is creating a learning experience for young audiences—whether it’s discussing gun violence or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, and their friendships with the cast IRL.

Actors Sierra Capri and Diego Tinoco are proud of the representation they are offering to their fans.

The on-again, off-again relationship between headstrong and intelligent tomboy Monse Finnie and sensitive Cesar Diaz, who is trying to escape his family’s circle of gang violence, maybe dramatized for ‘On My Block,’ but the two actors say fans have related to their characters’ tough upbringings and in some cases, viewers have been able to leave precarious family situations thanks to the show. 

During shooting one day, Capri was stopped by a police officer who knew the story of her character.

“She [the police officer] stopped me a couple of days ago when we were filming a scene outside a convenience store and she’s a cop now, and she was like, ‘I was Monse growing up,’” Capri recalled.

“I’ve had a lot of girls come up to me and they say, ‘I’m experiencing it now. I’m a tomboy, I come from a single-parent household and I don’t really know where I fit in, so I feel like I can relate to Monse as far as just trying to find out where I fit in.’ Because Monse, she’s not a normal girl. She’s def unique, so I appreciate when girls come up to me and they’re like, ‘You made me feel like I wasn’t alone in certain situations,’” she said about her fans’ relation to her character.

Fans are invested in the Cesar/Monse joint storyline.

Tinoco also had fans reach out to him, with one, in particular, telling him how his character inspired them to break away from the grip of gang violence in their family.

“I had a kid come up to me at the orthodontist saying that he watched season 1 of the show, and that he was in very similar circumstances as Cesar, and you know involved in some gang stuff and he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t know how to tell his brothers all that stuff that he wanted to get out of the gang, and that after watching season 1 he was really inspired and didn’t want any part of it. He said he’s going to college. We still DM each other. He’s a sweet kid,” Tinoco said. 

Set in the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood of Freeridge, Monse and Cesar learn to navigate ordinary teen situations with their squad of friends while dealing with the uncertainty of gang violence in an area ruled by two rival gangs—the Santos and the Prophets. 

Without diving too much into politics, ‘On My Block’ is still able to tackle heavy subjects.

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hi, i'm cesar 😏

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The show touches on subjects such as PTSD, gun violence, and ICE raids in its scripts, essentially providing a lesson for its audiences without shoving a particular agenda in viewers’ faces.

“I think because gun violence is also in relation to police brutality,  which is at an all-time high right now, especially in the African American community, I think a lot of people watch our show—and I’m not going to say whether or not we touch on that—but I do feel it’s something that they can watch and feel like they can learn from. I feel like we still need to make shows that kids can learn from and as well as be entertained,” Capri said.  

One poignant scene in particular in season 2 was when Cesar, who at the time was homeless, sought refuge at a church where some undocumented immigrants were also staying. Tinoco said he purposely didn’t prepare his scene in order to keep that element of surprise undocumented immigrants face when bombarded by an ICE raid. 

“That’s harsh terms—putting little kids in a cage—that’s not right. So I definitely empathize with that. Going into the scene, I didn’t prepare much on it because my character, it’s supposed to hit him [snapped his finger] by surprise, so I thought only for the circumstances, it would work better if I didn’t know until the priest walked in there. But yeah, me and Eddie [Gonzalez, co-creator and executive producer of OMB] definitely talked about that, ‘Like this is f*cked up what’s going on out there,’” Diego said about shooting the scene. 

The actors see their show speaking to a community of young Latinos in a way they need.

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freshest on the block? ✅

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“Our show speaks directly towards Hispanic, Latinx and YA [young adult] audiences with intent, purpose. And growing up, I certainly know I didn’t have that type of show. I’m Mexican, so I feel like I still don’t have the Mexican leading actor guy that I’m like ‘Oh! I want to be that guy.’ So I’m just really grateful to be on the show, be a part of such a great thing,” he commented.

Netflix executives also took notice of the work the cast was doing on-screen to promote diverse stories in the television industry. After fighting for pay raises, the OMB main cast was able to negotiate a pay raise of $81,250 per episode, according to Business Insider

The bonds the cast made off-screen also carried into their scenes together before filming wrapped up on the show’s current season.

“It’s bittersweet. We’re finishing very strong so we’re happy on that, but it’s always a little sad to leave your friends,” Tinoco said about wrapping up season 3 shooting. 

“It went by so fast. For me it felt like it went by really fast. Which tells me we had a lot of fun filming it. We had a lot of fun episodes,” Capri said. 

Fans who have yet to watch season 3 will be glad to have some light-hearted laughs again. 

“This season definitely taps into the humor from season 1, so that was nice to have back into our lives, but it’s [the season] definitely heartbreaking as well,” Tinoco said. 

READ: Jason Genao Of ‘On My Block’ Talks Growing Up On His Block And His Secret To Making Bomb Empanadas

I Watched ‘Gentefied’ On Netflix And These Are My Brutally Honest Thoughts

Entertainment

I Watched ‘Gentefied’ On Netflix And These Are My Brutally Honest Thoughts

gentefied / Instagram

Guys, this. is. crazy. Two people claim that I look like Carlos Santos from Netflix’s new series “Gentefied.” Que honor! I mean, whatever, it was my wife’s tía who said I look like him and my wife.

Check it out, y’all.

Credit: ofcourseitscarlos / Instagram

I mean, I totally see it and there is no way I can be biased.

Carlos Santos, If you need me to do your stunts or stand in for you when you eat a taco or bite into a torta ahogada, just let me know, homie. I’m ready for Hollywood, cabrón.

Enough about me being famous and extremely handsome. I’m here to let your booty know if it’s worth it to sit through ten episodes of “Gentefied.”

Here’s the premise of the show:

Two feuding cousins struggle to keep their abuelo’s taco restaurant afloat. All the while, the threat of gentrification, and the emergence of young hipster customers force the traditional taco joint to adapt to survive. 

I grew up in Huntington Park, California and this show should be praised for how it handles complicated themes. From gentrification to Chicano identity and the struggles of lower-income families, the show reminds me un chingo of my hood, my childhood, and even my present-day life. “Gentefied” took the stuff I grew up dealing with, and found a way to present it in the context of a comedy series. But, make no mistake, you will cry while watching this show because you will see your own community represented.

Casimiro (A Traditional Compa in Changing Times)

Recognize this dude? Of course! You know he looks like your abuelo. I know he looks a lot like my abuelo. The casting for Casimiro (the abuelo and taco restaurant owner on the show) is perfection. This viejo knows how to make you cry.

For starters, Casimiro is still in love with his deceased wife, Delfina, and you’ll catch him getting sentimental thinking about her every now and then. My heart was not ready for that kind of love and the tragedy of his character is already implied in his name. “Casi”-“miro,” Spanish for “nearly sees,” because this poor character’s conflict throughout the show is his struggle to hang on to his tradition and values while keeping an eye on the ever-changing present and trying to adapt.

Casimiro is surrounded by change. Rent going up. Menus evolving to catch the attention of young customers. Rich developers swooping in on Boyle Heights and buying up property as the city quickly becomes a hot spot. You’ll have to watch the series to see if this sweet old abuelo can keep up with everything happening around him.

Gay Representation & Struggling Artists: HEY, GURL, HEEEY!

The queer topic is still highly taboo in Latino culture. We don’t talk much about it, at least not with older generations of Latinos. Even though LGBTQ+ rights made huge strides leading up to 2016 and shows like “Queer Eye” are beloved in the mainstream, older Latino generations still have reservations and a hard time accepting queer family members.

In the show, Karie Martin, plays Anna Morales, a queer muralist/painter. Morales gets caught between her protesting girlfriend’s war against the gentrifiers and Casimiro and family’s attempts to keep the business alive. Anna is a struggling artist with a heart of gold but her storyline gets deep when she finds herself being commissioned by the very developers who are out to buy up her neighborhood. The drama gets thicc, fam.

The show raises a lot of moral questions about making pure art versus profit, and how artists can sometimes end up putting aside their values because sometimes you gotta pay the bills. Definitely watch how this plays out. You definitely want to keep an eye out on episode 5. It’s a gem and gives a little insight into the queer struggle amongst Latinos.

The “Not Mexican Enough and Not American Enough” Issue

Back Carlos Santos, who plays Chris on “Gentefied.” Chris is the grandson of Casimiro and is trying to get out of the hood so he can become a 5-star Michelin chef. His family refers to him as a “coconut,” which is what you call someone who’s brown on the outside, but gringo af on the inside.

Throughout the show, Chris’s Mexican identity is always put into question. His coworkers literally make him take a “Mexi-test” to see if he passes as a true Mexican. His family cracks jokes about his hipster tastes. Yet, in the face of his Caucasian boss, Chris is basically another brown dude, with a little bit of skill in the kitchen.

I can relate, like so many. I was born here. So, yes, I like Tame Impala. I like sushi. However, arroz y frijoles has my heart and so does Selena. Chris’s character represents an identity many children born to immigrant parents might sympathize with. Our struggle is we never feel like we belong, but we can take comfort in the fact that shows like “Gentefied” are shining a light on this identity. You’re not alone. If you think you need to pick a side and choose which nationality you rep more Latino or American, this show encourages you to be both and celebrate your intersectional identity.

Latina Moms

Look, I don’t want to spoil anything, but when you get to episode eight, “Women’s Work,” you’re going to get a strong urge to knock on your mom’s doors and cry-hug her. Anna’s mom on the show played by Laura Patalano is everyone’s mom. She is a queen and a true icon. She is sarcastic. She is harsh. You end up respecting her or at least sympathizing with her by the end of the series. I could write an entire book on this character.

So, should you watch “Gentified”? Yes.

Not only is the series enjoyable to watch and will keep you carcajeando like your crazy tía when she forgets to take her medicine, but the characters are very well-developed, their story arcs join up beautifully, and you will fight back tears because this show hits home emotionally. As an extra incentive, some of your favorite mitú friends make appearances in the show: shout out to Jenny Lorenzo and Scar. A special shout out to Steph O. who worked behind-the-scenes.

Get binging, cabrones. And let us know what you think.

READ: Julissa Calderon And Annie Gonzalez On How ‘Gentefied’ Is Offering Empowerment And Representation In This New TV Era