In a banner year for diversity on television, 2014 brought us new fall comedies like Black-ish, Fresh off the Boat, Jane the Virgin, and the first network sitcom created, written, and starring a Latina, Cristela. A few months later, 2015 ushered in the ratings juggernaut Empire and a new season of Orange Is the New Black, proving that in terms of storylines for people of color, television is trouncing the film industry. Despite Cristela‘s poor ratings and subsequent cancellation, Latinos on television continued to kill it this year.
‘Orange is the New Black’
From the bilingual additions to Empire‘s cast, to Gina Rodriguez’s history-changing Golden Globe win, this year’s small screen happenings made us laugh, gasp, scream, clap, and cry. Here are the TV moments of 2015 that had Latino audiences like 👀 😍 😢 😱 👏.
Jane the Virgin
In between the witty quips and sweet interludes of Jane the Virgin‘s “Chapter 10” came one of the most profound moments of the show’s first season. Xo, Jane’s mom, has just been informed that her mother (who is currently in a coma) could be deported upon waking up. The doctor explains, “Your mother is in this country illegally. She doesn’t have insurance and the hospital can’t afford to absorb the cost of her care. When the hurricane lifts, we will have to notify I.C.E. and they will deport her to Venezuela where she can continue to receive care if she needs it.” Xo is obviously distraught and in disbelief. “That can’t be legal!” she proclaims. Then, a call to action for the audience appears on screen. With the simple words #ImmigrationReform, Jane the Virgin put itself front and center in the fight for social change.
Sí se puede score: 👏 👏 👏 👏
Black-ish made a bold move with its second season opener “The Word.” Dre’s very cute son Jack innocently performs his dad’s favorite song at his school’s talent show. The mostly white audience squirms in their chairs as Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” blasts out of the auditorium’s speakers and Jack raps along with the track, including a verse that includes the dreaded n-word. The rest of the episode goes about trying to dissect who exactly is allowed to use the n-word and in what context. Turns out it’s not that black-and-white, especially when it comes to brown-ish Latinos. Standing in front of a whiteboard, Charlie and Curtis break it down for their white co-workers. Is it ok for Mexicans to say the n-word? Definitely not. Dominicans? Sure. They explain, “Puerto Ricans are cool too. Unless you’re a J. Lo Puerto Rican.” They both agree that Rosie Perez-type Boricuas get a pass. “Look, it’s simple,” Curtis says. “Big Pun, Fat Joe, ok. Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, no bueno.” Point taken.
Keeping it real score: 💯💯💯💯
How to Get Away With Murder
In the first 10 episodes of How to Get Away With Murder‘s inaugural season, there are betrayals, shocking plot twists, and gasp-inducing revelations, but little reference to the ethnicity of some of the main players. Some are obvious: Wes and Michaela are black, and so is their cunning and seductive law professor Annalise Keating. Bonnie, Annalise’s blonde-haired assistant, is white, and Asher Millstone, the rich kid, is most certainly white too. (With a name like Asher, no one would assume otherwise). Other characters – specifically Laurel – are harder to figure out. She is most often referred to by her first name only, and Laurel doesn’t really read all that Latina. Her last name (Castillo) gives us a hint, but not until Episode 11, titled “Best Christmas Ever,” do we learn that she’s Mexican-American, and a very rich one at that. During a tense Christmas dinner with her family, she lashes out at her dad for being disinterested in her law school life. The kicker is that she does it in Spanish. She’s Latina, but it’s not a central part of the storyline. Plus, she’s smart, a law student, and even rich. It’s a change of pace from the stereotypes we’ve become accustomed to.
Mexican-American score: 🇺🇸🌵🌵🌵
The Late Late Show with James Corden
Gina Rodriguez stopped by The Late Late Show with James Corden, where she engaged in a friendly sparring session with host Corden that ended (rather quickly) when she accidentally popped him in the face. Looks like Rodriguez’s boxing background (her father is a boxing referee) was just too much for Corden, who let out a little yelp. Gina – looking shocked, concerned, and amused all at the same time – tried to hug him, but then joked, “I’ve ruined James Corden’s career!” Corden then hilariously fake cried and called Gina “mean.” Sure, we felt bad for Corden, but it was a little bit cathartic (ok, a lot) to watch a Latina actress get attention for her physical strength, not her physical assets. –Yara Simon
Fist bump score: 👊 👊
From the very start of the hip-hop novela Empire, Jamal and Michael became our favorite couple on the show. In defiance of his father’s outright homophobia, Jamal introduces his boyfriend to his musically talented and sometimes criminal-minded family. They are adorably in love, but as Jamal’s career starts to take off, Michael begins to feel ignored. In Season One’s “Our Dancing Days,” their relationship hits a breaking point. Michael packs up his belongings, and moves out. Jamal doesn’t understand what went wrong. Michael, visibly heartbroken tells him, “You don’t love me, you love your music.”
Heartbreak score: 💔 💔 💔
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Lin-Manuel Miranda was a guest on The Tonight Show, where he was challenged to a game called “Wheel of Freestyle.” Through a specially made freestyle generator, Miranda was given three random words to rap about. He absolutely killed it with two freestyle raps, and even kept it topical, mentioning the Puerto Rico debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the real deal, and no matter which of his skills are put to the test, he keeps it 💯. –Yara Simon
Mic drop score: 🎤 🎤 🎤 🎤
When Patrick started to become interested in his boss, we instantly became team Richie. He’s ridiculously good-looking, and he serenaded Patrick with a Maná song in bed. Who could ask for anything more? In Season One of HBO’s Looking, Patrick breaks up with Richie leaving him (and us viewers) heartbroken and without much of an explanation. Nothing could prepare us for their heartfelt and tender reunion in Season Two’s “Looking for Truth.” While helping Richie run an errand, he and Patrick have awkward silences, tense moments, and then heart-wrenching truths. They finally talk about what exactly it was that ended their adorkable relationship. In a moment of absolute truth and utter vulnerability, Richie turns towards Patrick and reveals, “I’d be very sad if you weren’t in my life anymore.” Patrick shyly responds, “Me too.” Even though the show was canceled, we have high hopes for the upcoming TV special, where these two might end up together again.
Bursting heart score: 😍 😍 💕 💕
In Netflix’s Daredevil, Claire Temple – a nurse played by Rosario Dawson – quickly showed she wasn’t in need of saving. As a matter of fact, the show’s protagonist, a masked vigilante lawyer known as Daredevil, wouldn’t have gotten very far without her patching him up. She makes her first appearance on the show’s second episode, “Cut Man,” and immediately proves herself an invaluable ally. After a gang abducted a child to use as bait for Daredevil, the superhero captures a gang member and conducts a rooftop interrogation with a masked Claire at his side. Claire realizes Daredevil’s brand of torture isn’t getting the job done, so she steps up. Using her knowledge of anatomy, she shows him precisely where to place his knife to cause the most amount of pain. Just listening to her explanation is uncomfortable for the squeamish (e.g. me), but it’s hard not be on Claire’s side after that. –Yara Simon
Gore score: 🔪🔪🔪
Orange Is the New Black
Orange Is the New Black‘s Latina cast members sometimes get their chance in the limelight, and in Season Three came Flaca’s turn. Besides getting to know the backstory of how she ended up in the Litchfield correctional facility, the feisty chola with a teardrop tattoo revealed her vulnerable side. When Piper suspects Flaca of stealing money from her ridiculous (and ingenious) soiled panty business, she kicks Flaca to the curb, leaving her without a way to earn the cash she desperately needs. In an emotional plea, Flaca tearfully tells Piper that her mother is sick. “She’s got lymphoma, and the co-pays and shit are killing her faster than the cancer. I gotta be able to help her. But instead, I’m stuck in this shithole, barely making enough to pay for Pantene.” Piper still refuses. Flaca insists, “I’m begging and I don’t do that ’cause I got Latin pride and shit. But I’m begging you for this, ’cause it’s real stuff going on.” Who knew you could feel so much sadness over dirty underwear?
Teardrop (tattoo) score: 💧💧
Jane the Virgin
In “Chapter 27” of Jane the Virgin, things get hilarious when Jane’s mom and abuela accidentally get stoned right before an appointment with an immigration lawyer. After much prodding, Abuela finally wants to apply for a green card to remedy her undocumented status. Xo and Abuela share a chocolate bar they see lying on the counter, but they don’t know it has pot in it. Jane sits them down, tries to talk them down from their high, and scolds them, pleading them to act normal. Abuela, who usually only speaks Spanish, can’t stop repeating the word “normal,” and says, “That’s a fun word.” Then, the two stoners collapse into a fit of giggles. Jane ultimately cancels the appointment.
ROFL score: 😂😂😂