Lamenting One Day at a Time’s cancellation

The Netflix show brought marginalized stories to the mainstream

Screenshot from Netflix

This past week saw 2019’s most devastating TV casualty to date: Netflix’s One Day at a Time. Despite its three seasons receiving critical acclaim and garnering a cult following, Netflix announced on Thursday they wouldn’t be renewing the show for a fourth season due to low viewership.

One Day at a Time, whose stellar cast includes Jane the Virgin’s Justina Machado and EGOT winner Rita Moreno, stands out in its unwillingness to shy away from social issues family sitcoms rarely explore. The show tackles topics like homophobia, mental illness, and challenges facing army veterans. The storylines approach the discussions from a place of kindness, rather than using them as a punchline.

An integral part of One Day at a Time’s plot is providing fair and accurate representations of communities often sidelined by mainstream media.

In its first season, 14-year-old protagonist Elena Alvarez comes out as a lesbian. Elena’s sexuality becomes an important part of her character, but the show avoids stereotypical tropes, such as hiding her sexuality or refusing to label herself. In turn, she’s seen as a regular character rather than a token gay character. Young LGBTQ+ fans of the show are able to see themselves in Elena and find a relatable main character in mainstream media.

In addition to this lesbian representation, Elena begins a relationship Syd, who’s non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. As one of the few non-binary characters in television, Syd gives trans and gender-non-conforming fans representation they rarely get to see.

The show navigates Elena and Syd’s relationship with a deep level of respect, treating it no differently from any heterosexual relationship and focusing on the general experience of first love.

In the show’s most recent season, One Day at a Time used Elena and Syd’s relationship as a platform to discuss sexual harassment. In the season’s second episode, Elena describes her and Syd’s experience being sexually harassed, leading to an honest conversation with her male relatives about consent. The topic is handled with care and understanding—uncommon for typical sitcoms where sexual harassment has historically been used as a source of comedy.

Another important aspect of representation that One Day at a Time focuses on is Latinx representation. The series centers around the Alvarez family, who are proud of their Cuban heritage and avoid falling into stereotypes too often seen about Latinx people. In fact, the show often frankly addresses these stereotypes, like portrayals of Latinos as stoners or illegal immigrants, and acknowledges the damaging effects they can have on marginalized communities.

To talk about the different types of representation One Day at a Time has provided would require an endless dialogue. But it’s clear the show’s cancellation is a huge loss to many who were finally able to see themselves compassionately depicted on television for the first time.

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