Queer Visibility in One Day at A Time


By: Diego Reza

One Day at a Time was a popular sitcom in the mid-70s about an Indianapolis family held together by a divorced mom and her two kids going through life, as the title implies, one day at a time. In the 2017 Netflix remake, the show centers around a Cuban family, with the same concept of a single divorced mom raising two kids, however, now with issues that are more relatable to the current political and social climate. The show has been able to successfully tackle difficult topics, for example, the de-stigmatization of mental health, immigration, cultural identity, sobriety, and many more important topics. A huge topic that show covers is addressing LGBTQIA+ issues such as coming out, confronting internalized homophobia, and accepting LGBTQIA+ people.

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The single mother’s daughter, Elena Alvarez, is the most feminist and liberal character of the show. In the first episode of the first season, she protests against having her Quinceañera, the celebration when a young Latina turns fifteen, since it represents traditional femininity. However, as the episodes progress, we see that another reason why Elena doesn’t want her “quinces” is because she is gay and does not feel comfortable waltzing with a boy in a romantic way, which is required for her Quinceañera.

In Season 1, Episode 10, the single mother, Penelope Alvarez, finds porn on her son’s computer. After having the awkward sex talk with her teenage son, Alex, Penelope discovers that it was Elena who was watching porn. Penelope confronts Elena and informs her about the false illusions that can be created through porn and also affirms that Elena will find the right guy one day that will make it all worthwhile. At this moment, Elena chooses to finally come out to her mother. Penelope admits that she was not exactly expecting this but she also doesn’t say anything negative. Instead of bombarding Elena with questions, Penelope lets her talk. Elena asks Penelope if she is okay with her being gay and Penelope tells her that she loves her and wants her to be who she is.

The show does a great job of dealing with Elena’s coming out because, in that moment, Elena feels like she is able to tell her mother the truth with full vulnerability, to which Penelope responds with love. This is super important to show in mainstream media because many viewers might be dealing with the exact same situation. Older Latinx people might not know how to respond to someone coming out, which is completely normal, however, this show serves as a guide to remind these older Latinx people that it is best to respond with love, not anger or shame. Even if the older generation may not feel completely okay with this “new found” queerness, One Day at a Time shows how to navigate those feelings.

In Episode 11, Penelope tries to work through her internalized homophobia, as she realizes that she is not fully okay with Elena’s queer identity. After getting advice from her queer friends and landlord, Schneider, she learns that if she is having a hard time dealing with this change, she has to hide it until she can fully accept Elena for who she is in order to prevent Elena from feeling alienated or unloved. Overall, The show reminds viewers to work through their internal ignorance in order to keep these valuable relationships.

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As the show centers around a Cuban-American family, it is key to understand that homophobia in not exactly foreign to the Latinx community. One Day at a Time reflects real situations where many Latinx people can carry a lot of internalized homophobia. While the show reflects reality, it also affirms that it is time to change and move towards acceptance. While Penelope is not exactly on board at first glance with Elena’ queerness, it is important to show how she is willing to learn and continue loving her daughter for who she is.

One Day at a Time shows viewers the reality for many members of the LGBT+ community. The show conveys how to navigate the feelings and dialogue when someone comes out and how to accept them. This show not only presents the coming out of a queer young girl but from the perspective of a woman of color within the Latinx community. Queer visibility in a show about a Cuban family is important as it highlights the different identities within the larger Latinx community, and it reminds Latinx viewers to create more room for acceptance. While the representation of one LGBTQIA+ character in media may not change the entire world’s view on the LGTBQIA+ community, it is a key place to start.


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