When I found out that HBO Max had canceled Gordita Chronicles just one month after it premiered on the platform, it wasn’t just disappointing—it was familiar. And that was its own kind of terrifying. How have we arrived at this point where the cancellation of successful, well-made Latinx shows has become a common pattern in Hollywood? I thought back to three years ago when Netflix canceled One Day at a Time, kicking off a multi-year-long history of random cancellations and revivals from various networks. Or two years ago when Starz canceled Vida after three seasons without explanation. And the list goes on even further than that: Gentefied (Netflix, again), Love, Victor (Hulu), Diary of a Future President (Disney+), The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia (yup, Netflix again). While it’s true that shows are always getting canceled left and right, often with no reason, it’s hard to believe that any of these decisions are an accident or not targeted toward the Latinx community.
Gordita Chronicles has 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and was beloved by audiences so, despite this pattern, it still poses the big question as to WHY but according to a spokesperson for HBO Max it wasn’t about the show itself.
“Live-action kids and family programming will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future, and as a result, we’ve had to make the very difficult decision to end Gordita Chronicles at HBO Max,” a spokesperson for HBO Max told Variety. “The series earned critical acclaim and a loyal following, and we are proud to have worked with creator Claudia Forestieri and our two powerhouse executive producers, Eva Longoria (who also masterfully directed the pilot) and Zoe Saldaña, to bring Cucu’s journey to the screen. We thank them and the talented cast and crew for creating such a heartfelt, groundbreaking show that connected deeply with a very important demographic.”
Yet how is it that a series like Stranger Things could last long enough to premiere its fourth and fifth seasons, and yet Gordita Chronicles, a groundbreaking show about Dominican immigrants produced by Latina giants Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldaña, is already getting the plug pulled thirty-four days after its first season release?
— Claudia Forestieri (@PlanetClaudia) July 29, 2022
Don’t get me wrong, I love Stranger Things but it’s clear that nearly every streaming service can only pretend to be interested in its Latinx viewership for so long. They give us a taste of representation, wooing us with charming family comedies, relatable protagonists, and much-needed representation. Only to later take it away when the show in question isn’t making money anymore or isn’t an essential part of their multi-year business plan.
While most people could accept HBO Max’s explanation for the Gordita Chronicles cancellation as moving away from “live-action kids and family programming,” I see it as a rather convenient, half-formed excuse. Thanks to social media and casual word-of-mouth, the show, as far as I could see, was an instant hit when it premiered. At least in my circle, all of my Latinx friends and family members were either watching it and loving it, or were planning to, because it’s hard not to love Cucu (Olivia Goncalves) and her loud, proud, and loving Dominican family. It was amazing to see my loved ones interweaving the show’s storyline with their own lives, bringing up stories of their own mothers wildly driving them to school. Or about having to learn English as a second language in the classroom and being made to feel less than for speaking Spanish, just like Cucu. And once I hopped on the bandwagon and started watching the show, I couldn’t help but agree. In the wake of the news, fans quickly started using #savegorditachronicles in an effort to find a new home for the series (reminiscent of the fan furor following ODAAT’s cancellation with #saveodaat).
Gordita Chronicles made me feel seen in ways that only Latinx-led shows can. I may not be Dominican, I may not be an immigrant, but it was an amazing feeling to hear Spanish spoken casually and with love, to have Spanglish be embraced in the home rather than made the butt of a joke. It was empowering to see Cucu, a fat, Black Latina take center stage in her own story. When she called out injustices she saw in the classroom or took leaps to get what she wanted, even if she messed up, I saw pieces of myself in her and aspirations of who I wanted to be. How many other shows can say they have a central protagonist like that?
Not to mention the rest of Cucu’s family: her dad Victor (Juan Javier Cardenas), an endearing man who lacked any of the cultural machismo we’ve come to normalize and who just wanted to make a better life for this family through hard work and honesty; her mom Adela (Diana Maria Riva), who lit up every scene she was in with her charm, humor, and beauty; and even the sometimes-stuck-up Emilia, her sister, (Savannah Nicole Ruiz) was a relatable teenager navigating the lines between child and adult, fitting in and being an outcast.
I ended up learning a lot too about our own community’s real-life history. How Spanish was made illegal to speak in a classroom during the 80s in Miami where the show takes place, how immigrants are targeted in this country in a million different ways through racism and xenophobia. The show addresses these topics and more with such sincerity, respect, and honesty, all while making them approachable topics for kids and balancing it with more lighthearted, comedic moments. It’s quite literally the perfect show and critics agree.
It also helped me to know just how many Latinxs were in front of and behind the camera, from creator Claudia Forestieri to executive producers Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldaña. Even Melissa Fumero, known for her role as Amy, one of two Latina characters on Brooklyn 99 got in on the action and directed the eighth episode of the season. There was nothing but love and Latinas on this project, and it shows in every element of production in ways that are true for very few other shows. It goes to show that no matter how much our community succeeds, the bottom line will always be more important for studios than anything else.
Based on the public’s reaction so far, especially from the Latinx community, I have hope that Gordita Chronicles will be able to find a new home and produce more seasons. But I still worry for the fate of current and future Latinx-led projects to come, how fragile and unstable our representation has become over the years. While it’s definitely improved, it’s undeniable that Latinx representation of any kind—let alone one that paints our community in a positive, loving light—is still few and far between.
Just this week, Warner Bros. announced the new Batgirl film starring Dominican-American actress Leslie Grace in the title role would no longer be released on HBO Max or in theaters and it would instead be “shelved”, according to The New York Post. It apparently didn’t do well with moviegoers in test screenings but still—because of this decision, yet another Latinx talent is stripped of the spotlight.
It’s not clear where we go from here or what’s next for Gordita Chronicles, or any other Latinx-led show, for that matter. But I hope that another streaming service will give Cucu and her family a new home soon, and we’ll be able to see them on our screens once more, the way they deserve.
Season 1 of Gordita Chronicles is available to stream on HBO Max.