Netflix’s Gentefied is one of those rare TV shows that has it all—Afro-Latinx/Latinx representation, commentary on racism, colorism, xenophobia, family, and rejection of machismo. With an undocumented immigrant character as the patriarch who isn’t made a martyr or a victim, the familiar working-class family dynamic is reminiscent of classic Latinx sitcoms like George Lopez. There’s also a brown lesbian character whose biggest problem isn’t coming out or seeking acceptance but how to balance her romance relationships with family life and trying to move up in her career while staying true to her roots. From the beginning, this show about the American Dream and gentrification centering a Boyle Heights family, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, has been a refreshing and much-needed intersectional take on the Mexican-American experience, and Season 2 just takes everything to the next level.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
I love how they explored this antiquated myth of the “good immigrant.” As the family patriarch Casimiro “Pop” Morales (Joaquín Cosío) petitions for a green card to stay in the U.S. and does a few TV interviews to support his cause. He centers his image around this very idea, even agreeing to heart-wrenching facial expressions and phrases that don’t feel natural or authentic to him. But in one of the last episodes, he finally admits that he deserves to stay not because he is “good” or works hard, but because he is a human being (the episode is aptly called “No Human Being is Illegal.”). In every immigration case, that should be worth more than labor, wealth, and good deeds.
Pop certainly takes center stage for the majority of the season but the show also makes sure to dedicate at least one episode to every major character. We see Erik (J.J. Soria) struggle to adjust to a life hundreds of miles away from Boyle Heights and with a newborn, all while carrying the trauma of an absent father and a sense of worthlessness. His girlfriend Lidia (Annie Gonzalez) comes head to head with the reality of working at Stanford, a PWI (predominantly white institute), as someone who went to a liberal arts college for undergrad, felt unnervingly familiar to me.
Chris (Carlos Santos) finds new love in fellow chef Saraí (Ivana Rojas), only to realize that their relationship isn’t as picture perfect as it seems. Ana (Karrie Martin Lachney), probably my favorite of the bunch, tries to reconcile her creative partnership with a major brand and her anti-capitalist beliefs, and approach a somewhat normal relationship with her ex-girlfriend Yessika (Julissa Calderon).
For me, Gentefied is one of those series that is easy to love because it feels so familiar and real, a testament to writers/creators Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez. I binged this second season within a few hours, I realized that the common thread uniting all these different storylines is the constant push and pull between love for family and love for self. How do we care for our loved ones without sacrificing ourselves? How do we stop that generational cycle of carried trauma? How can we be selfish in spite of others’ expectations and do it without guilt? Each character’s answer isn’t easy to reach but believe me, it’s worth it to find it alongside them through each episode, and on the way, maybe find it for ourselves, too.
Gentefied is now available to stream on Netflix.