Tuesday, June 16, 2020

REVIEW: 'One Day at a Time' - Penelope Strategizes How to Talk About Politics With Her Extended Family in 'The Politics Episode'

Pop's One Day at a Time - Episode 4.07 "The Politics Episode"

In this animated special, Penelope's conservative family visits. Penelope dreads with the election coming up, they won't be able to avoid fighting over politics, leaving the Alvarezes to strategize how to get through with the family intact.

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 Pop's One Day at a Time.

"The Politics Episode" was written by Gloria Calderón Kellett & Mike Royce and directed by Phill Lewis & M.R. Horhager

It's okay for families to disagree. It's fine for them to argue from time to time. It just has to be grounded in a sense of love and compassion. Their differences should never stand in the way of the love that they have for each other. When Lydia announces that her sister Mirta and her family are staying for the week, Penelope is annoyed and worried because of their political differences. Conservative Cubans are a significant voting block out there. It's important for the show to address that and how they view the world under the current administration. The show has always been insanely political. However, that has come from how the Alvarez family lives in a world where their stability is never certain. The transition from Netflix to Pop has allowed the series to be a bit more topical. The episodes aren't all airing at once. In fact, this episode had to be produced as an animated special because of the entertainment industry shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The creative team knew this was an episode that needed to be made though. The script was written. They didn't know when they would be able to return to production while ensuring the safety of the cast and crew - most notably Rita Moreno and Norman Lear. This creative workaround allows the show to take on a new form while still fundamentally offering the same message of how this family navigates the world. It allows the story to be told in a more fanciful way. Every situation can be dramatized. It's fairly ridiculous. Lydia imagines Gloria Estefan judging a talent competition between her and Mirta. Fist fights break out on several occasions. That highlights the internal emotions that charge politics and discussions about it at the moment. Everyone is so firm and fiery with how they feel. They believe that their views are correct and everyone else is wrong. That is the divisive nature of the world right now. It's so easy to fall prey to the misinformation. People are entitled to feel different ways. But it still needs to be centered around a sense of understanding and compassion. Penelope wants to believe that she can argue with her cousin and convince her that her political beliefs are wrong. That isn't going to happen. It's hard to argue with the facts in the hopes that someone will now realize just how disastrous the last four years have been. Each person has to come to that realization on their way. But it's also important to see how the other side can understand things as well. Penelope and Lydia want to believe that these relatives are nothing but monsters. Alex offers some help with conflict resolution strategies. However, Elena is the one who can boil everything down to how a person feels when it comes to the political mood of their lives. The vitriol that defines so much is actually just a blinding light that prevents people from engaging with one another. Estrellita can absolutely make the argument that she feels protected and safe under the current administration. She wants to ensure that the world doesn't devolve into a system that her family will have to flee from just like the generation before her did in Cuba. She wants a life that highlights the rewards of her hard work and the family she has created. That is how she views the world. Penelope can offer a similar argument that the current president isn't actually keeping anyone safe. He has been failing people who don't look like him since the day he took office. Penelope making that emotional plea is so powerful and vital. Both sides can absolutely make those arguments too. They do so acknowledging the complexity of the issues. So many things define what they make of the world. Not everything is perfect. Penelope and her family are dysfunctional and their aspirations for the politicians they vote for may never fully be achieved. It's just a battle of convictions. One that shouldn't prevent these people from being a family and enjoying the time spent together. It's something they have to think about now. It can't be ignored. They can't act like Schneider's family has for his entire life. They deserve to have these conversations. More importantly, love has to remain at the forefront. It's okay to disagree. It just can't come with the accusations that the other side is heinous. That fear may be present. The urge to fight has to be suppressed. It's difficult. Family is important though. Engaging with them to find that common ground is necessary to sustain healthy relationships. Things may not change. They have to make peace with that. Things may change over time. It may be easy to see the dire state of the world and dread what might happen next. Politics is scary. But it's still something people should engage with because it is never clear when those connections can be made and a more sustainable future can be formed. That is the message this episode promotes while having a lot of fun with the animation as well.