Wednesday, February 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'Party of Five' - Lucia Feels the Urgency to Share Her Story as She Expands Her Activism in 'Speak for Yourself'

Freeform's Party of Five - Episode 1.07 "Speak for Yourself"

Lucia decides to host a fundraiser at the restaurant and finds her voice along the way. Emilio faces an identity crisis. Beto goes behind Ella's back. Val struggles to maintain her false identity but is outed to a member of the family.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Freeform's Party of Five.

"Speak for Yourself" was written by Mike Skerrett and directed by Michael Medico

It has been fascinating to see this show balance the demands of a typical family drama with the cultural specificity of the Acosta family. It brings a fresh perspective to a genre that has been very successful over the years. It allows the premise to expand beyond what the original series offered to the viewer. It allows the storytelling to do things in a different way that makes it worthy of exploring this setup anew. It's something that each sibling is dealing with as well. They have to balance their cultural identity and how others perceive them with the dreams they wish to embrace in the world. Emilio yearns to be a musician. He stepped up to be the guardian of his siblings. He has taken that role very seriously. He has essentially given up everything that once fueled his identity. But now, he wants that excitement in his life once more. He wants to be fulfilled in a way that isn't him just stepping into the shoes his parents wore in America. He wants his own life. He sees an opportunity now that his band is back in town. He is dismissive of the new lead vocalist who has replaced him. And yet, it's also clear that these friendships are defined by young adult angst and nothing actually real. Emilio sees these guys as his best friends. They have been through so much together. However, they don't understand the cultural complexity of his life now that his parents have been deported. He couldn't leave the country because of his DACA status. They didn't want to accommodate his needs in that regard either. Emilio instinctively understands that the songs they write together aren't appropriate for the event that Lucia has thrown together. And yet, that is this band's identity. It is what is currently driving their success. As such, it's a divide that may never be fixed in this friendship. Emilio seemingly pushes his friends away because they have no basic understanding of what it means to be a person of color in the world. That is significant. Lucia is finding her voice. She is speaking out and growing in her activism. That is important to her. She has potential mentors who offer her different ideas of how to contribute to the collective benefit. She throws this fundraiser together knowing that it is the best way to raise funds necessary to finance a court case. That is her goal. She accomplishes that by the end of the evening. But it's also about her feeling confident with her own story. She fears that she isn't courageous because she hasn't suffered to the same extent of the other tragic stories she has heard. And yet, it is just as devastating to hear her talk about never seeing her father with stubble until he was in the detention center. At that point, he felt like a stranger to her. A man who was unrecognizable by his own family. That's the cruelty of this place and the decisions being made by the government to remove the humanity from these people. This community understands that can never be lost. It has to be fought for no matter what. And yes, there are strong allies in that fight. Emilio's bandmates just see this as a gig that allows them to enjoy what they once had together. Meanwhile, Ella sees it as an excuse to get drunk at the family restaurant. Ella and Beto's story is the most generic storyline currently happening. Parts of it are absolutely fueled by Ella's father believing Beto isn't good for his daughter because of his race. However, it's much more meaningful and devastating as Lucia and Emilio strive for individuality and courage. They have friends willing to shoulder the burden with them. But everyone is just doing the best to project a sense of stability when in actuality they are struggling just to get by. Natalia thinks Val has chosen a new name in order to avoid the discrimination of being Latina. She wants to fit in with her peers. That isn't it. It's just a convenient answer given to ease the concern of this ongoing story. People can put up these barriers hoping to avoid dealing with the true feelings. But that can be isolating as well. That's exactly when this family needs to rely on each other. They can help enrich each other's lives because they come from the same cultural perspective of what has been normalized and what is still infuriating to witness.