The revival of the 1975 series One Day At A Time is a Netflix Original that revolves around a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles. Norman Lear, the creator of the original series wanted to remake his show with a Hispanic family. Many of the episodes focus on a variety of topics such as mental illness, homophobia, sexism, and discrimination that Latinx face in the United States.

When I started watching the series, there was something about the plot that struck my attention that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was only a few episodes in that it struck me: the show was quickly opening my mind to many real issues. It also provided representation and therefore awareness, and that makes me feel like I could relate to the characters. 

Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) is a nurse who served in Afghanistan and is raising two children on her own, with the help of her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno). She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, and the show has brilliantly dedicated a few episodes to her mental health.

For example, in an important episode called “Anxiety”, Penelope learns how to cope with panic attacks. Later, when her 17-year-old daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) experiences severe anxiety, Penelope confesses that she goes through the same thing. Tapping on her own experience, she teaches her and her son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) what to do in case of an anxiety attack. 

Elena, who is a self-proclaimed feminist and wants to be a journalist, comes out as a lesbian in the first season. She then develops a relationship with Syd (Sheridan Pierce), who identifies as non-binary. I admire Elena a lot for her development throughout the show. We also have some things in common, as we’re both from minority groups, aspiring journalists, and quirky in some way or another. I think the show does a great job capturing the growth of a teenage female going into adulthood, from questioning her sexuality to mending her relationship with her father.

Though this show has episodes based on issues that are relevant to our contemporary society, there is also some history behind it. Penelope’s mother Lydia immigrated to the United States from Cuba when Castro took over the country. She talks about her struggles of settling in another country and becoming a citizen. When I think of her journey, I think about many immigrants, including my mother, who left their country to pursue better opportunities in a new place that they’re not familiar with. This relates to many people in the U.S. who are first generation Americans and know the sacrifices their parent(s) had to make to provide a better future for their family. And because of that, Lydia is another character I also love (she does also have a spunky personality).

Lastly, I would like how the female characters tackle sexism in the second episode of the series, Bobos and Mamitas.  Penelope is upset when she finds out she is paid less than a male coworker at her job. Elena advises her that this isn’t right and that she should call out her coworker. “[Sexism] might not seem like a big deal, but it chips away at you,” Elena explains to her mother, in an interesting parent-child role reversal. Penelope learns from her own daughter that she should fight for her own rights. 

There were many things that I not only learned from this show but could relate to as well. One Day At A Time has touched the hearts of so many viewers, including myself. Even though the show was canceled by Netflix, I believe that it really should continue, because we need more shows of different backgrounds to tell these kinds of stories. One Day At A Time does a great time doing so.
Aisha Sowe

By Aisha Sowe