** possible spoilers ahead **
When I saw the previews for this show, I was excited beyond compare because this series promised to be a great study of Mexican-American family life in the 21st century. I was thrilled to be able to finally claim a series as my own, with people who looked like me and families that acted the way that my own family acts. When I saw the very first episode, I was giddy that I was seeing many of the same familial bonds and issues that greet my own family, and I looked forward to viewing many more episodes.
Then, the second episode came. The novelty of viewing this Mexican-American family on regular television quickly wore off, and when my blinders were taken off I was aghast to find myself hating this program. I didn't mind many of the actors -- in fact, Sonia Braga, Edward James Olmos, and Raquel Welch were still as brilliant as ever. However, when I saw what this truly was, I found myself looking at one-dimensional characters and a liberal bias so obvious it makes even the most liberal of previous Hollywood projects look downright moderate.
My first complaint was with the way the series practically canonizes so-called "pure" Latinos but derides Latinos who wish to assimilate into the American culture. This is evidenced by the way Nina and Vangie are portrayed. Nina is the "can do no wrong" daughter of the Gonzalez family, someone who is described as "wanting to save the world" (in Cisco's words). The way she's portrayed in the show, you could practically see the halo glowing above her head! Then there's Vangie. Vangie is a corporate being, someone who's married to a Caucasian, and who is deeply involved with her career. Perhaps it would be different if the show's narrator was the patriarch, Jess, but with the narrator being Cisco, Vangie is poorly treated as a character and as a being. It's as if being a do-gooder is valued over wanting to live in financial security.
Cisco, I suspect, is the main catalyst behind why this program doesn't work. He is, as I've mentioned before, the narrator of the program and thusly the program is seen through his eyes. He ribs the patriarchal character of Jess for being a Republican so much that it seems that it is a bigger blight than the one of Esteban's ex-girlfriend and the mother of Pablito (the same woman), who is a drug addict. I suspect things would be viewed much differently if Jess or the deceased matriarch Berta (perhaps looking down from her heavenly perch?) were the narrator. All I do know is that, being an independent with conservative leanings, having a significant other who just so happens to be Caucasian, and being a capitalist who doesn't want to be like my parents and have to live paycheck to paycheck, the show insults me and people like me bigtime.
All in all, this show was a huge disappointment for me. East L.A. works much the same way as my parents' West Side neighborhood in San Antonio, except the West Side seems to be poorer, so I was incredibly hopeful that I would find shades of my parents' or my families in the Gonzalez family. However, unless I can find another series with more believable three-dimensional characters with goodness and flaws and no agenda to fulfill, I think I'll stick to the programs I *do* watch, with more dimensions than a flat screen. Hmmm. Wonder if "Friends" needs a Latina friend....