By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Likable female star stands out in stereotype-heavy sitcom.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show's focus shifts from bucking stereotypes to reinforcing them. On one hand, Cristela tries hard to work her way out of the kind of Mexican-American working-class life the rest of her family leads; on the other, most of the show's laughs come at the expense of her race and her gender, and others target a dim blonde and a Jewish supporting character. Body image is a recurring theme, striking a positive chord thanks to Cristela's self-assuredness but a less positive one due to her more status-driven sister.
Positive Role Models
Cristela is self-motivated, industrious, and determined, all qualities that distinguish her from the crowd. She never judges herself by other people's standards, including the more traditional ones of her family, but she's devoted to her loved ones. For their part, her mother and sister just want the best for her, and gradually they come around to validating her dreams. Felix and Cristela are contentious with each other, but that's for laughs.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple shares some wink-wink moments that hint at bedroom encounters to come, and they're very affectionate, often kissing and hugging around the house. Some jokes target general lifestyle choices such as premarital sex and pregnancy out of wedlock. Persistent one-sided flirting targeted at Cristela is used comedically.
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Occasional use of "hell" and "sucked."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults often drink beer or wine at home.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cristela is a comedy series that relies heavily on racial and gender stereotypes to generate laughs. The jabs aren't mean-spirited, but they do call attention to how easily prejudgments are made based on a person's appearance. Cristela's efforts to achieve the American dream while staying somewhat true to her Mexican-American roots raises interesting talking points for teens and parents. Content-wise, the show is fairly tame with only mild inferences of sexuality and some physical affection such as kissing between spouses. Expect to hear some marginal language ("hell" and "sucked" are as strong as it gets) and a lot of banter between Cristela and her long-suffering brother-in-law, with whom she lives. But there also are some positive threads about family ties and a likable central figure in Cristela, who is determined to work hard to bring her dreams to fruition.
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What's the Story?
CRISTELA is a sitcom that centers on 20-something Cristela (Cristela Alonzo), a sixth-year law student with big dreams and a never-say-die attitude. Despite numerous setbacks that threatened to put her off course from her career plans, Cristela is determined that this time, law school will stick, and landing a dream internship for Trent Culpepper (Sam McMurray) gets her one step closer to her goal. Of course, none of that makes any sense to her traditional Mexican-American family, with whom she lives. Her immigrant mother, Natalia (Terri Hoyos), just wants Cristela to find a nice guy and settle down like her older sister, Daniela (Maria Canals-Barrera). As for Daniela's husband, Felix (Carlos Ponce), he'd just like to have his house to himself rather than putting up with all of his in-laws.
Is It Any Good?
With a script based loosely on her own life, comedian Alonzo shines in this otherwise tepid sitcom. She's thoroughly enjoyable to watch and skilled at acerbic wit that generates most of the show's laughs. The fact that her character is brimming with self-confidence is another real treat that goes hand-in-hand with the show's efforts to portray a self-reliant female of color who's working for the American dream. The fact that this often puts her at ideological odds with her family touches on cultural and generational divides to which some viewers may relate.
The downside is that for a show promoting a character who's challenging stereotypes, it sure pokes a lot of fun at ingrained racial labels. Cristela's boss is particularly politically incorrect, but since she can dish it right back, it becomes a non-issue. Although this is fine by comedy's standards, it might not be a quality all viewers appreciate. If you do watch with your teens, it gives you a great reason to talk about issues of prejudice and respect.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the show's use of stereotypes for comedy. Are the racial quips appropriate for the show's intended audience? Would comments like these fly in real-world workplaces? Is it ever OK to poke fun at issues such as race and gender?
Does this series cast family life in a positive or a negative light? Teens: Do you feel a generational divide between you and your parents? How do your respective ages make you look at issues differently? What shared values supersede your differences?
A recurring theme in this show posits that hard work and determination are the keys to success. Do you think this is true in America today? Are opportunities here truly equal across the board, or do other factors play a role? Teens: What are your dreams?
- Premiere date: October 10, 2014
- Cast: Cristela Alonzo, Maria Canals-Barrera, Terri Hoyos
- Network: ABC
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: October 14, 2022
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