As 2020’s Pride month draws to an end, the recently announced Latinx TV List comes with some very good news for those of us craving broader and more diverse LGBTQ representation on the small screen.
The Black List, which last year unveiled the very first Latinx List focused on feature films, teamed up this year with the Latin Tracking Board, NALIP, Remezcla and The Untitled Latinx Project to highlight ten unproduced pilots. To be considered writers needed to be Latinos residing currently in the U.S. and scripts needed to have one Latinx character in a prominent, lead role. At this year’s NALIP Media Summit, NALIP executive director Ben Lopez joined Franklin Leonard and Kate Hagen of The Black List alongside Gloria Calderón Kellett (One Day at a Time) and Tanya Saracho (Vida) of the Untitled Latinx Project to reveal the ten scripts chosen.
Among those selected projects are three that — like Calderón Kellet and Saracho’s own shows — put the queer Latinx experience front and center: Macho Libre, Papi and Inside Cunt. All three hope to break preconceptions about the community, putting forward characters and situations that defy tired old stereotypes all the while advancing wholly entertaining and oddly touching narratives.
Unsurprisingly, all three writers looked within for inspiration. Marcelina Chavira (Macho Libre) recalls basing the story of an eleven year old boy who, after losing his fathers and has to move in with his super macho retired luchador grandfather, on her own family.
“I wrote this for my father and my older brother,” she told Remezcla ahead of the List’s announcement. “We haven’t been on the best of terms recently for a lot of different reasons, some of which are a direct result of a very rigid definition of masculinity. The concept of toxic masculinity is so ingrained in Latinx culture that we’ve coined a single word for it: Machismo. ‘El Machismo Mata’ is common phrase used all over Central and South America to protest violence against women, children, and LGBTQ+. We need to normalize queer Latinx people, and the easiest and fastest way to do that is to put them and their stories on TV and in movies.”
She hopes Macho Libre “will help people understand that there are so many different ways to be ‘a man.’ If we, as a culture, can broaden our definition of what it means to be a man, we can liberate ourselves from machismo.” Therein the show’s title.
Equally tackling on issues of masculinity is Dominic Colón‘s Papi. The inspiration for Papi came, Colón told Remezcla, from a hookup on a dating app. “He was 22 and he told me that he was a single father of a 7 year old daughter. I was so fascinated by his story and I realized that narrative isn’t one that often gets told, especially that of a father who is sexually fluid. I knew that I had to tell this story, so I asked his permission, and he said: ‘Do ya thing.’”
For Colón, the importance of putting such stories forward is the need to diversify a community that has found in shows like Pose and Vida new narratives to put forth. “The queer Latinx community is not a monolithic group,” he adds. “Our stories are so different and they are all beautiful! My experience as a gay Puerto Rican dude from the Bronx couldn’t be more different than the lives of the characters on Vida, but I could relate to them because it was great storytelling. As queer Latinx creators, it’s our job to keep telling great stories, because we don’t just want a seat at the table, we want the whole damn table!”
“Vida was a show that shattered these assumptions of what a Latinx show ‘ought to be’ and kicked the door open for what a show that happens to star Latinx characters can be,” adds Inside Cunt‘s writer Anna Salinas. The concept of her show, which focuses on a depressed young woman whose vagina suddenly starts emitting Russian spy signals, is her attempt at further pushing what a Latinx show can be.
“It’s important not only to center queer Latinx stories,” Salinas adds, “but also for these stories to come from queer Latinx writers. I’m tired of watching straight people write LGBTQ characters, and watching non-Latinx white people write Latinx characters. Authenticity matters, just as specificity does.”
The inclusion of these three scripts in the inaugural Latinx TV List is an encouraging step forward. As Salinas notes, “One Day at Time (and for that matter, Cristela) proved that Latinx shows can be funny and popular and so essentially human, without falling on tired tropes. But there’s still work to be done. I want Inside Cunt to be the show that proves to Hollywood that Latinx stories can be weird and darkly funny and high concept… and still, not about cartels.”