00:00:00
22 Apr
The Alvarez's are strapped in for a serious heart-to-heart
The Alvarez’s are strapped in for a serious heart-to-heart
Image: COURTESY OF Netflix

Netflix’s modern reboot of One Day at a Time is truly crafty. Just when you think you’ve signed up for a lighthearted family sitcom, it hits you with poignant takes on social issues. 

In its third season, which dropped on February 8, series co-developers Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce apply this winning formula to consent, toxic masculinity, sexual harassment, female and queer empowerment through the lenses of generation and gender.

With the rise of #MeToo over the last year, several television shows have chimed in to address these themes in their own way, including Younger, Will & Grace, GLOW, and BoJack Horseman. But ODAAT stands out because it offers a unique point of view, showing how a regular family can and should deal with these issues.

The show is about an immigrant Cuban-American family that includes single mom and war vet Penelope Alvarez (the exemplary Justina Machado), her religious, traditional mother Lydia (the incomparable Rita Moreno), and her progressive teenage kids Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz). They are also close with their landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell), an honorary Alvarez. 

In the new season’s second episode, titled “Outside,” ODAAT involves all the family members in this vital discussion about consent. They dive deep into their individual experiences related to harassment, which culminates into a remarkably honest discussion. Almost the entire episode takes place in the living room of the Alvarez home as each member gets to unpack their viewpoint. 

Elena, who is fiercely feminist and openly queer, reveals a disturbing experience she faced recently while out with her significant other Syd (Sheridan Pierce, playing a groundbreaking non-binary character). Penelope finally tells everyone about the time an army superior tried to hit on her. She had to yell, kick him in the balls, and fight him off. 

Hearing about these incidents is an eye-opener for both Alex and Lydia. The former had posted inappropriate images on his secret Instagram account with captions like “I’ve got hoes in different area codes.” He initially dismissed all this as a joke but after hearing these stories, realizes that his actions can have far-reaching consequences. He doesn’t want to end up like the men who provoked Elena and Syd to “be funny.”

Lydia, who encouraged Alex to continue pursuing his girlfriend Chloe after she rejected him, learns that her old-school notion of “every no is a disguised yes” will not be tolerated anymore. This point is driven home by Elena when she calls her grandmother an unintentional enabler of toxic masculinity.

“Outside” lets the central characters interact in a safe space, giving them the freedom to open up to their loved ones without the usual apprehensions of judgement and doubt. 

The biggest takeaway from the episode is just how big of a teachable moment this is for Alex. ODAAT sends a strong message about educating boys from a very young age about the importance of consent and an enthusiastic yes, which we’ve seen in few other half-hour comedies. There’s also a lesson in there for Lydia, or the older generation, who excuse toxic behavior because that’s how it worked in their time. 

Many families have faced the dilemma of how to confront the subject of #MeToo and harassment, and ODAAT offers an example of how it can be done.

The Alvarez family conversation literally sparked an IRL – well, okay, online – conversation. 

Season 3 didn’t just stop with these topics after its second episode. In the seventh episode, titled “The First Time,” Elena and Syd rent a hotel room in hopes of moving forward from their “making-out stage.” Before getting anywhere, both of them make sure to have each other’s consent. It’s a small but significant example considering they’re still just hormonal teenagers.

With these episodes, ODAAT continues to raise the bar for TV comedies to accurately represent the world and with funny, unproblematic humor and with one hell of a theme song (sung by Gloria Estefan!). How the cast and crew have not won multiple awards yet, I don’t know, but don’t sleep on its brilliance. 

Seasons 1-3 of One Day at a Time are streaming on Netflix. 

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