Diversity is supposed to be in fashion in Hollywood.
There always seems to be a new headline about their latest “diversity and inclusion” program. Then there are the white people claiming not to have gotten hired because a “diverse” candidate took their spot.
The D-word is everywhere, and it’s supposed to include Latinx people.
Only the numbers haven’t actually shifted much, and the reason appears simple: Hollywood’s commitment to diversity is more about looking good than actually doing good.
The latest casualty of this words-only approach is Gordita Chronicles, which HBO recently canceled after one stellar season. The official reason is that HBO is stopping “live-action kids and family programming,” which the show technically fell under.
I call bullshit. They obviously could have made an exception, moved the show to another vertical, found a way to keep it going.
But they didn’t want to. And if they don’t want to for the near-perfect Gordita Chronicles, it’s unclear what Latinx property is going to get the investment it or any show needs to succeed.
Gordita Chronicles was critically acclaimed and beloved in my household and many others, which makes sense. It’s a legitimately funny, good-for-the-whole-family, but still-with-teeth show. Created by Claudia Forestieri and inspired by her experiences growing up, the show is also not the typical thing you see on screen. Our protagonist, Cucu Castelli (Olivia Goncalves), is Black, Latina, fat, female, and absolutely charming.
Does Hollywood just not know what to do with stories like these?
Because other than those demographic groundings, the show seems like entertainment industry catnip. It takes place in the bright and cheerful ’80s, following a middle-class Dominican family, the Castellis, as they migrate to a bright and cheerful Miami. The costume department clearly had fun outfitting the cast, and there is a lot of joy in seeing side ponies next to neon prints with nary a computer or cellphone in sight.
And the setting just complements the show’s humor as Gordita Chronicles gently pokes at U.S. culture. As immigrants, the Castellis come to U.S. norms as outsiders, questioning what native-born folks may take for granted. There’s the Halloween episode where the idea of carving a gourd for fun strikes them as ridiculous.
Or the DMV episode where both mom Adela (Diana-Maria Riva) and dad Victor (Juan Javier Cardenas) go to get driver’s licenses. Victor plays up a measured, gentlemanly character, performing as an overly cautious and courteous driver—he stops mid-test to help an elderly white woman across the street. He’s like Chappelle’s caricature of the white nerd. On the other hand, Adela drives like a true Dominicana, the fastest and most aggressive person out there. You can guess who gets the driver’s license and who doesn’t.
The thing is, clearly Gordita Chronicles is a show by and for Latinx people, but there’s so much that’s universal to it. Cucu’s growing-up story and her insistence on loving herself even when others do not, the fish-out-of-water aspect to Victor’s attempt to navigate his work environment, the sticker shock of life in the U.S.—it’s all stuff anyone can relate to, if they let themselves.
Latinx creatives shouldn’t have to beg for their stories to be seen as universal. And Forestieri is organizing a campaign, #gorditaneedsanewcasa, for her show to be picked up by another network. You know, like One Day at a Time had to do after Netflix canned it. Or Brooklyn 99—which famously had TWO Latinas in its ensemble.
But here we are. Hollywood continues to use words and press releases to hide what their actions show so clearly—they do not value Latinx consumers, storytellers, or truths. And until we build our own pathways to success at scale, we’re going to be stuck at their mercy.
A writer and activist, Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade