Emma Shealy ’22 reviews Netflix’s “One Day at a Time”

Episode 3, Season 2,”To Zir, With Love”

From wandering listlessly through the streets (alone) listening to YouTuber podcasts, to working on a puzzle made up of screenshots from Friends, to watching countless hours of TikTok compilations and resisting the urge to download the app itself, I’ve found a few ways to occupy my time during social isolation. I’ve also watched a season and a half of the show “One Day at a Time.” I’d seen the show mentioned on the gay side of Tumblr (or all of Tumblr), and and the Netflix algorithm decided that someone who binge watches “Jane the Virgin,” “The Office,” “Orange Is the New Black” (not really after Season 3), and any true crime documentary avaliable would be interested in a reboot of a 70s sitcom. And Netflix was right. 

“One Day at a Time” follows the life of the Alverez family, made up of first, second, and third generation Cuban Americans navigating modern day America. Fans of “Jane the Virgin” (watch it if you haven’t and tell me if you’re Team Michael or Team Rafael) will find the familiar faces of Justina Machado (Darci Factor in “Jane the Virgin”) and Rita Moreno (Rogelio’s mother in “Jane the Virgin”) playing Penelope and Lydia, the mother and grandmother of the family and two of the main characters in “One Day at a Time.” The show is probably most well known for the character of Elena (Isabella Gomez) who comes out as gay towards the end of the first season. 

By the second season, Elena starts to date Syd (Sheridan Pierce) a non-binary character that uses they/them pronouns. It is unclear whether or not Syd is played by a trans/gender variant actor, but Syd the character is introduced to the audience in a relatively revolutionary way. 

In the episode “To Zir, With Love” Elena brings home several queer friends including two trans kids, one of whom is Syd. Each person introduces themselves to Lydia and Penelope and the rest of the family with their name and pronouns, with one person even using neopronouns. What is remarkable about this particular moment is that trans identities/pronouns are explained to the older generations quickly and not dwelt on for very long. Trans characters slide easily into the storyline, and they are treated just like any other character. But the show’s comfortability with trans identities is just one example of how “One Day at a Time” tackles polarizing issues in an understanding way that leads to empathy and compassion rather than resentment.

So during this time when you have nothing to do but avoid your family and procrastinate doing your homework, give “One Day at a Time” a try. Each episode leaves you with a happy ending and the desire to press “Next Episode.” Live vicariously through Elena as she comes out to her mom (spoiler alert: it goes pretty well). Remember what life used to be like when people could go outside. And above all, find something to smile about.

Emma Shealy ’22 is a gender and sexualities studies and English double major from Columbia, SC and can be reached for comment at emshealy@davidson.edu