A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Pineapple Diaries: The [present and] future of television

After having been away from computer access for about a week, I finally had a chance to watch La Gringa Loca's Productions mini-web series, The Pineapple Diaries.

I learned about this web series when it's creator, Paloma Valenzuela, wrote a piece for La Galería Magazine about the series and her reasons for embarking in this project. Just from the piece itself, I was sold: "As Latinas, we are so multi-faceted and complicated and we can be all of those things on TV too. I wanted to create a show that was “real” to me. Something that felt like my reality, and that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish in this show."

Before tuning in, my expectations were already incredibly high. I was looking forward to a show that I could somehow relate to, that showed the experience of a Dominicana in the US...and upon viewing it's pilot, I was not disappointed. 

Maité, the lead character, is an intelligent and seemingly hardworking woman in her late-twenties who struggles with many identities: Latina & black, American & Dominican, independent with demanding parents, Bilingual but not really. The first episode shows her struggle on what seems to be a regular day when she has responsibilities with her Spanish-speaking mother while trying to keep up with her friends and simply get to work on time. I can't tell y'all the times when I've experienced something similar, the time pace in the US is different than in DR but Dominican parents just don't get that. And I too have had to call some extended relative (often while on public transportation) to sing Happy Birthday en Español. 

I caught myself criticizing the dialogue as being too eccentric between Maité and her friends, and some encounters also seemed a bit like the creator was trying too hard...and yet once I took a step back I realized that other comedy shows with female leading characters like The Mindy Project and New Girl also rely on this mix of hyperbole and wittiness as a formula for comedy--and the audiences love it! And for this low-budget yet visually colorful show, the formula completely works. A scene closer to the end where Maité's two roommates explain what they have been up to all day is an example of just that, a minor yet very real exaggeration that makes the show's jokes accessible and relatable.

The show is also sensitive to some of the political and identity issues that exist within our society. Valenzuela was right when she mentioned in her article that Latinas are multi-faceted and complicated--pero television shows rarely show that. Why would they? Latinas are marginalized in the US, and often forgotten. On TV they are often portrayed as maids, or oversexualized, and both are often just there for comedic relief. Yet in The Pineapple Diaries, these barriers are broken. For example, on the second episode of the series (Yes! There's already an episode 2!) Maité reminds us that Latinas are at a higher risk of suicide than any other population. Also, shout out to the team for showing some Haiti-DR love on screen. 

Screen grab taken from The Pineapple Diaries

The Pineapple Diaries comes at a time when complex women of color characters are getting notable recognition, from award-winning Gina Rodriguez as the leading character in Jane The Virgin, to Shonda Rhimes' primetime hits. Even outside of television, mini web-series are becoming remarkably successful, and The Pineapple Diaries' pilot isn't too far in terms of production from a show that became a YouTube hit: Issa Rae's Awkward Black Girl. The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl started on YouTube and became viral, it also started off as a low-budget show and the production became better as the show progressed, now its creator is working on a pilot for HBO. As these shows continue to be successful and the public continues demanding more characters of color as well as accurate representation (see #BoycottStonewall), shows like The Pineapple Diaries provide a glimpse of what television would look like if the industry wasn't owned by conglomerates. It is unapologetic in its portrayal and diversity--just like our communities are. I'm excited to keep getting to know Maité and her friends. 

Episodes are available here


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this piece! I was dying to see the final product since I heard about the project through La Galeria!

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