a QuirkyRican review: Washington Heights

Si se puede

I watched the MTV reality series “Washington Heights” for the same reason I vote: If one doesn’t participate in a thing then one can’t and shouldn’t critique the thing.

that’s for simple-minded loud mouths and I just ain’t bout that life no more, son.

Also, whenever I hear or read a lot of criticism on an issue or show that flows in the middle of some of my intersectionalities then I gotta know what’s up kinda like when white people get all excited about something (like Zumba and/or Girls). So, I watched Washington Heights last night because I wanted to get in on the kiki and have an informed opinion.

Truth be told I’m sold on the show. I really fucking enjoyed it. Not in the same way that I enjoy terrible things like Glitter and Showgirls; that’s differentWashington Heights found my ethnic Bustelo drinkin’, Bronx livin’ latin@ soul and nestled all up in that bitch.  Also, Frankie’s pretty fine. But seriously , I’ve got my reasons and we’re gonna dive into them, dique.

All in the family

They had me at Ludwin’s grandmother. (If you haven’t watched, Ludwin is one of the main characters. He’s pretty in that goate’ed sensitive elusive dude kinda way.) Ludwin and his abuela sit in their apartment and discuss Ludwin’s path and the path of his brother, Alexis. Just the sight of an actual abuela on MTV was enough to still me. Here we have an elderly woman of Carribean Latin@ decent on a top rated cable network, on MTfuckingV. She hasn’t had any lipo, botox, plastic, fakery hide my age type of cosmetic bullshit. She’s BEAUTIFUL. She looks like my Titi Pera. These are real women that have value, worth and are the core of so many of our existences. Yet, their presences are consistently ignored or relegated to the non-familial role: the maid or nanny of wealthy white folks. Also, also, she’s actually older than 36 and wise. Ludwin’s grandma isn’t some ghetto ass mess trying to start a fight between him and Alexis. No she’s a tender and strong woman trying to understand her grandsons’ varied paths. They speak spanish to each other and it’s a moment I’ve experienced and one I never ever get to view on television. #LudwinsGrandmaWinsLifeDique

And speaking of family…

We can’t be ashamed of struggle. I’ve heard mad people complaining that Washington Heights portrays a limited view of what Latino life is like and that it relies heavily on negative stereotypes. You know, if this show was all gang bang and no heart, I’d be with you. But it’s not that, and like I said, we can’t front on our realities for the sake of representation. Maybe you don’t have any family in jail but I do. When Ludwin and Alexis discuss Alexis heading back to jail for a felony charge that hit me hard. I’ve had conversations like that with family. I have cousins in jail who have cousins in jail who have moms locked up who have dads doing bids. This is a THING. When is it ok to talk about it? We’re so busy trying to convince white people that we’re all honor students that we forget how human this shit is. We forget that so and so isn’t coming home for Christmas cuz they’re up in Riker’s. Washington Heights portrays this emotional push and pull between Ludwin and Alexis in an honest and beautiful way. And it’s not just jail stuff, ya’ll.

Fred, Ludwin and Rico. image courtesy of poptower.com

Brothers, Rico and Fred, get into some real battles. Older brother, Rico, wants to be an actor which means he wants Martin Scorsese to walk down 207th and Broadway and discover him on his way to the botanica. Younger brother Fred calls bullshit and buys Rico acting classes only to throw them in his face when the two of them get into a fight. You still with me? Good, so we’ve two brother’s fighting because they love each other. Jesus, thank you. This is what family does. We overstep our boundaries and then figure it out. For some of us that means stepping away but for Fred and Rico that means talking and shedding some tears on  a park bench. Do you know how powerful it was to see two beautiful Latino men, hermanos, crying over how much they love each other and just want to understand each other? I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that on television. And this is the heart that Washington Heights brings to the table. White television shows should stop and take notes.

One critique

And this is a critique that isn’t new to Washington Heights, btw. The chicks on this show need something other than men and relationships to talk about. The only meaningful conversations were had between the dudes and between Ludwin and his abuela. Frankie, Reyna and Taylor just wagged their tongues about whether or not Frankie should boo up Ludwin. Maybe that’s just what straight girls talk about, kinda like the way the Girls on Lena Dunham’s show mostly just talk about weird sex things, boys, and clothes. But I doubt that, I think that’s more of an idea that the media pushes on us and makes real. Straight women, lesbian women, and all types of women only exist in relationship to someone else. That’s all bullshit and we know it. So why, Frankie, why? Truth be told, I’ve only watched one episode of Washington Heights…so maybe Frankie, Reyna and Taylor have a discussion about indoctrinated anti-feminist sentiments in a post-modern America and I just missed that shit…

Reyna and Frankie. Obvs they’ve just discussed smiling.

But none of them are DOCTORS?!!

One legitimate complaint I’ve heard about the show is its lack of employment diversity. The interests/professions are as follows: Artist, fashion designer, actor, bartender etc etc. Ok, you got me. No one on the Heights wants to be an architect, scientist or a sociology professor. Which just gives our youth even more reason to make YouTube videos of themselves doing a thing and not doing their homework. But when was the last time anyone watched a show about people who want to be regular people? Not even white people shows are about that shit. If there’s a show about doctors, then all of the doctors are having awesome sex in some dimly lit back room, shonda rhimes wrote it and shit is winning emmys. Have you been to Montefiore Hospital lately? Would you fuck any of those people? No. Would you watch a show about them or your cousin who is studying anthropology or your sister who teaches teenagers to make movies if it wasn’t written by Shonda Rhimes? No. That being said, this is a problem with all of television and the pop culture our country sells to the world. It’s not a reason to hate on Washington Heights.

 

It’s your duty to watch and here’s why:

Mi gente, we need to be our own buzz. We need to be the ones who write and watch our own shows. Bet you didn’t know that JP, 25-year old Jonathon Perez, a cast member of Washington Heights is also its creator. By watching Washington Heights during it’s actual airtime, you’re supporting a quality show created by Latinos for Latinos and for all television watching, reality-tv loving people. By not watching and hating, you’re sending a message to big white industry like Viacom that a show with a predominantly Latino cast doesn’t have an audience, that we can’t carry a show and that we have no support from our own people. Yes, I’m using huge generalizations because I feel passionate about this thing, this show, about the Heights and about our power as a community. Supporting Washington Heights on MTV the way people supported the Jersey Shore also proves that the Latino tv-watching demographic doesn’t prefer shows on Telemundo. It proves that we’re savy code-switching motherfuckers that want to see ourselves on television. AND if you still hate the Heights, then supporting this show makes way for more Latinos with all our various voices and experiences to get in the game and showcase all the multi-cultural worlds we inhabit.

Jose Albino from his Huffington Post piece on Washington Heights:

 It does, however, give me great pride to think that a major network has given a group of young people largely from Washington Heights a platform to represent their community, our community… I am proud that, in the seeming shift that MTV is making, youngsters from the Heights were chosen to lead that vision through their eyes and experiences.

Word.

But what I really want to know is, what do you think of Washington Heights the MTV reality series?

8 thoughts on “a QuirkyRican review: Washington Heights

  1. Thanks for linking back to the Rebels piece. And I am glad that because of that cross-link, I got to read your post. You lay out a really good argument for the show, and even though I don’t agree with everything here, your points are convincing. Good post.

  2. This is an great reflection on the show. It is hard to not see Washington Heights as a call to arms for Latino youth. You’re argument earns its poignancy with JP’s personal investment within and outside the show and I can only hope that it rises above the shadows of Jersey Shore. For now, momentum is key –can’t wait till Wednesday!

  3. I love the show. I am not Dominican and I am likely closer in age to the parents of the cast members rather than the cast members themselves. That being said I was hooked on the show from the very first episode! I grew up in the Bronx and Harlem and I can relate to so much of what these beautiful, driven, resourceful and creative young people are feeling and experiencing. I am as hopeful for their success as I was for my own.

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