One Day At A Time Got Its Coming-Out Narrative Right In More Ways Than One

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
One Day at a Time is back on Netflix. The reboot has deviated from the '70s original in a couple of obvious ways. For one, the new Netflix version features a Latino cast (Cuban-American Penelope Alvarez is a single mom of two with a live-in mother of her own). But equally important is one of the central story lines, which focuses on the sexual orientation of Penelope’s daughter, Elena. In the first season, the feminist teenager comes out to her family. Throughout the ensuing episodes, her family struggles with the news in complicated, but meaningful ways.

Coming out is and should be focused primarily on the person who has to do it. But LGBTQ people are still part of families whom they love and care about. So it’s certainly worthwhile that One Day at a Time put effort into dissecting how Elena’s parents respond to the news that she’s gay. Vulture provided some great commentary on why this coming-out narrative is better than many others on TV, which focus on either extreme homophobia or unflinching acceptance as standard parental responses. One Day at a Time has managed to not only find a healthy and realistic middle ground, but does the narrative justice by sticking with it and weaving it into the entire season.

Paying attention to these nuances is even more critical in the Alvarez family. Members of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected by issues of discrimination when it comes to housing, employment, and access to health care. These challenges are compounded for young people who identify as LGBTQ and for people of color who also fall under that umbrella. So in Elena’s family, responding to her sexual identity has much higher stakes. All of these layers receive the attention they deserve in the show. And they're lessons that everyone would do well to take in.
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