The abuela saying, “food is love.” Flat-billed Dodgers hats. Girls named Nayeli and Yessika. These are the details Netflix’s Gentefied uses to tell its story of a family and a community trying to achieve their dreams. Set in Boyle Heights and centered on the Morales cousins and their Pop, the show is very Chicano in the best possible ways.
The creators, the casts, the writers are all part of our community and they made me feel seen time and again. There are very few Latinx people on screen (we’re talking 4.5% of speaking roles when we’re 19% of the population), let alone ones that speak intelligently to our actual experiences. Enter Gentefied to help right this wrong.
Here are 20 times Gentefied affirmed, celebrated, and clowned on what it means to be someone like me — a real-life Latina. Spoilers ahead.
The Mexican Test
— Gentefied (@gentefied) February 25, 2020
Who hasn’t wondered if they are [insert POC identity here] enough? I certainly have. But the question is a trap, presuming some sort of racial or ethnic essence that’s really just a stereotype in disguise. That’s why watching Chris take and fail the “Mexican test” was so affirming. He did way better than I would ever, but it’s never enough!
Hot Cheetos w/Chopsticks
Gentefied is here to remind everyone that you should be eating your Cheetos with chopsticks pic.twitter.com/GdvAPBGKu5
— Netflix (@netflix) February 25, 2020
You know you love some Hot Cheetos (personally, I prefer Takis but I digress). The only problem is the serious mess they make. Luckily, Ana eats them like we all should (Latinx superstar Oscar Isaac does this too btw) and that’s with chopsticks! Never has snack time felt so relevant.
Food is Love
In a flashback, we see the now deceased Morales matriarch explain that food is how the Morales’s show they love each other. The same is true in my family but I’ve never seen the idea used as a formative moment on a television show. And the idea is present throughout Gentefied whether it’s Ana showing up with a heart-shaped-box of tacos or Casimiro growing herbs in his garden. It made me want to cry and cook up a big family meal.
The Sensitive Cholos
The cholo scares white people. He’s the brown menace and many a racist thinks all Mexicans (really all Latinx) are gang members. But if you actually know people who dress in that style, you know that many of them are big softies. Gentefied is filled with jokes subverting the expectations around what it means to be a “cholo.” As one says after seeing a group of white people — “I didn’t feel safe!”
That Instagram Life
Early on, Ana uses Instagram Live to line up painting gigs, bartering her way to replacing her art supplies. Later, Erik makes a viral video to subvert the protests outside the restaurant, pretending they’re just part of a faux-authentic Boyle Heights experience. Both times it works. What can I say? My people know how to gram!
We Need Unions
Ana’s mom Beatriz is a garment worker and conditions are bad — exploitative/illegal bad. There’s a union working to change that but Beatriz needs convincing that the risk is worth it. From Dolores Huerta to my family’s own story, unions have been a powerful force in the Latinx community, helping us get the plata and dignity we deserve. I’m so glad Gentefied includes this aspect of our struggle. After all, it’s not just gentrification that threatens our communities.
Clowning on Bakersfield
My grandparents lived in Bakersfield and even as a kid I knew it wasn’t what you’d call a destination. For Angelinos, it’s a punchline, a place where dreams go to die. And it’s that in Gentefied but it’s also something else. Young Nayeli tries to run away there to meet up with her would-be boyfriend Danny. She’s so innocent she doesn’t know what a dive Bakersfield is!
Cousins Hook You UP
Sometimes it seems like half the point of having a big family is the variety of potential discounts/freebies available through their work. Erik uses Chris’s job at a fancy restaurant to treat Lidia to a nice date. The only problem is that he lies about it (don’t we all?) and gets caught. There but for the grace of God…
The Generational Divides
Sometimes you just can’t get along with your moms. Or you’re barely speaking to your dad. In those moments, it pays to have a strong relationship with the abuelos so you can still get some of that intergenerational wisdom, not to mention home-cooked meals. As Pops, Joaquín Cosío is the grandfather we’ve all needed and it was great seeing him deliver in every single episode of Gentefied.
My daughter’s name is Nayeli, my cousin’s name is Brian. You see, us Latinx aren’t all Maria’s and Jose’s. We’ve long had a mix of Anglo and traditional names. Yet, it’s SO rare to see this reality on TV. From Chris to Casimiro, Gentefied has us all.
The Introductions at the Art Gallery
Token. You’re the affirmative action hire. We all know the sting of these words but seeing Ana experience it first hand at her big art show gallery was crushing, particularly because now-ex-girlfriend Yessika called it. Thankfully, Ana responds how we all wish we could by making a scene and demanding respect.
There’s a stereotype that black and brown communities are less accepting of LGBTQ people. Remember when the Buttiegeg campaign tried to pretend that he wasn’t getting POC support because of anti-gay sentiment in our community? The thing is, none of that is true. Yes, we Mexicans are more likely to be Catholic but we’re not more likely to be bigoted. Gentefied demonstrates this beautifully when set-upon liquor store owner Ofelia defends Ana and her work even if it is bad for business.
We all know an Erik. He reps the local sports team. Wears flat-brimmed hats and chains. His T-shirts fall straight off his shoulders and his “shorts” go past his knees. Maybe his socks are pulled up. Erik’s clothes are spot on and I love how he dresses like so many round-the-way boys we know while being completely his own person.
Lidia’s Past and Present at Stanford
Lidia’s is Erik’s baby mama and plans on raising this child with our without him. But don’t be fooled — she’s no cliche. She’s a Stanford-educated academic who’s considering returning to her famed alma mater as a dean. As the daughter of Ph.D. Chicano prof, I can’t tell you how rare it is to see our community’s academic prowess portrayed on screen. Thanks, Gentefied, for giving me this!
Burritos make Great Gifts
When the Morales go see America Ferrera as their local legal aid attorney, they bring carnitas by way of payment. Chris is embarrassed but as Erik tells him, “it’s cultural” akin to bringing a bottle of wine to your hipster friend’s party. All I can say is that I need more carnitas in my life and I already eat a lot of carnitas!
Family Comes With
Early on, Yessika says she knows she has to love Ana’s family to love Ana. They’re a packaged deal and while this turns out to be an ominous sign (Yessika and Ana break up over Ana’s family’s decisions), it rings so true. Ours is a collective culture, where we value our families needs over our personal ones. Sometimes it hurts but mostly it’s beautiful.
The Hipster Jokes
Hipsters are the looming threat in Gentefied with their tastes and disposable income changing the neighborhood. So what can we do but make fun of them? Gentefied skips the old jokes about skinny jeans and gets straight to the economic nature of it: how they’ll pay extra if it’s labeled “artisanal” or presented in a minimalist aesthetic. Perhaps they’re neophytes, but I too was more interested in the mariachi version of “I Swear” than “De Colores.”
The Emotional Mexican Grandpa
When I was pregnant with my first, my dad’s colleagues threw him a baby shower. He once thought a server was congratulating him on my pregnancy. So yeah, Chicano dads can find a way to make that grandbaby about them… just like Lidia’s dad manages to do both before and during the birth.
Fair is Relative
Pops charges Erik rent but not Chris. And Chris has literally thousands in the bank and only himself to take care of while Erik is broke and has a family on the way. But the choice makes sense when you consider that Pop is encouraging Chris to save for chef school and Erik to become more responsible. It’s the unfair, fair family logic we all know.
Chris Getting Blacklisted
Chris’s boss at the restaurant is a grade-A asshole. So when Chris punches him in the face, everyone cheers (even other chefs in the industry). Unfortunately, Chris’s act of violence also gets him blacklisted in a way that you know a white guy never would be. As they say, we have to be twice as good to get half as far.