Party of 5 Review and Why It's Important to Watch
Party of Five
Party of Five is a Freeform television series about a family of five children struggling to look after each other after their parents have been deported to Mexico as a result of their illegal citizenship status. The series so far has aired three episodes and in those three episodes alone, tears are far from uncommon. This new 2020 series, however, is not a Freeform original. Party of Five originally was a drama series created by Fox which depicted a family of five siblings looking out for one another after the death of their parents. When comparing the two, I have found there to be many differences.
The original Fox series depicted a white American family struggling to keep it together after the death of the parents in a car accident. In the current running Freeform series, the adaptation is much different. The main difference lies in the message of the Freeform series. The current series, even though it is fictional, is far too real. The Freeform series is depicting the real life struggles of families who are being separated based on their different citizenship status, in this case, the parents are the illegal immigrants while the children are protected by the fourteenth amendment.
Make no mistake, the series is completely fictional and does not depict any particular family, but it does reveal the reality of some Hispanic Americans. There are Hispanic American families living in the United States illegally, and some have children who are legal citizens because of their place of birth somewhere within United States borders. One of my close friends, who will remain anonymous due to the circumstances, is living in constant fear of her parents being deported. Both of her parents are living in the United States illegally while she and her brother are natural born citizens. Currently, both her parents are working jobs that pay under the table, meaning they are paid in cash only to avoid being caught by US officials. She and her brother are living with the constant fear that one day ICE will barge into their house and deport their parents back to their country of origin. After speaking with her about the situation, she says that she has lost faith in the current immigration system in place. She explains that the US government makes it really hard for immigrants to settle in the US and only a handful of them properly make it through the process. The unlucky ones are then forced to take matters into their own hands devise plans to enter the US and build a life for themselves and potentially their families.
The show tackles the stigma that all Hispanic immigrants are drug carrying thugs aiming to "corrupt" the American way of life. This ignorant view comes from years of politicians, most of them conservative, using immigration as a platform to gain voters. Some have promised to build walls to prevent immigrants from entering the country, while others have taken drastic legislative measures to send a message that outsiders are not welcome in the United States. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt had passed the Gentlemen's Agreement in 1907, which allowed both the United States and the Empire of Japan to deny any and all Visas to Japanese laborers seeking work in the United States. In 1924, the Immigration Act was passed by President Calvin Coolidge severely limiting the amount of immigrants allowed in the United States based on a national quota system. These legislative actions alone show how unwelcoming the United States has been to immigrants based on their portrayal of them in the media. In Party of Five, the parents are not drug dealers nor are they dangerous criminals. Rather they are respected, tax-paying entrepreneurs who have not gotten in trouble with the police at all and have done an excellent job of teaching their children the value of family and kindness.
Party of Five really pushes the envelope to get everyone to think about how the United States sees immigrants and compare it to who immigrants really are. It also is a subtle reminder to everyone that America was founded on immigrants who came to a new land seeking asylum from political and religious persecution.
Party of Five is centered around five main characters. They are Emilio, Beto, Lucia, Valentina, and Rafa. Emilio is the oldest and is the designated caregiver for his younger siblings as a result of his parents being deported. Beto and Lucia are twins who are both in high school. Lucia is an outstanding student with a perfect academic record while Beto is a student-athlete who is struggling to keep his grades up. Valentina is an academically gifted seventh grade student who is always one with family values. Rafa is an infant who is not old enough to speak yet, but will have to grow up learning he will never be able to have his parents around all the time. This is the cast's surface view, but we'll dive in deeper to understand what they are going through in this crisis and how it has affected each other individually.
Emilio is an aspiring musician who dreams of making it big. He can play guitar and is the lead singer in his band singing at bars and mini theater locations. His dreams, however, were put on hold because of his new found responsibilities to his younger siblings. Being the oldest, Emilio has been appointed by his parents to be the primary caregiver because he is legally an adult and it will prevent the siblings from entering the foster care system. While he does not protest his responsibilities, he does come into conflict with himself. While arguing with his brother Beto, he states plainly that he does not want to be like his parents and he wants to follow his own passions. Eventually, Emilio comes to terms with his new reality and takes ownership of his parents' business and is now focusing on his siblings' well-being, especially the baby Rafa. Emilio's character represents a struggle in itself where young adult Hispanic Americans must rush to mature and take care of themselves because of their parents' deportation. Much like Emilio's conflict, all of these young adults have dreams they want to see realized but are quickly deferred because of their new found reality of being the head of their own household.
Beto and Lucia are both on the opposite ends of being high school students. Lucia is a straight A student who is no stranger to racial prejudice. In the first episode, she is punished by her history teacher after he accuses her of cheating on a test. As a result of this attack, she comments on how the rules are working against her. In translation, she believes that she is being accused of cheating on her test solely because she is a Latina student and reinforced stereotypes claim that Latina students like her cannot possibly do well in school without cheating. Later in the series, Lucia loses all faith in the United States and also in religion because everything has gone wrong in her life. She also beings to act out of her normal character by drinking, getting detention, and staying out late at parties on school nights. At the end of the first episode, she comments on how the sun is always shining and states that it is insulting to her because the sunshine represents a happiness that she is not feeling. Beto, on the other hand, is affected much differently. Beto did not concern himself with his academics much and only focused on his athletic career and preferred to be with his friends than in his classes. After his parents' deportation, Beto begins to justify his failing academic record and excuses himself from school in order to run his parents' business. He also begins to blame Emilio for his failure in school by stating he is more concerned with his own life than with helping out his siblings. Lucia and Beto encompass the two extremes of high school students who have lost their parents to the law. Lucia's character represents a perfect high school student who is constantly betrayed by society and takes out her rage with unhealthy outlets such as drinking. Beto represents a high school student who is constantly trying to make up for his mistakes by trying to take on new responsibilities that replace the old ones.
Valentina is a 12-year-old girl who sees the world as inherently good. However, that all changed when she was the first to witness her parents being arrested by ICE. After testifying in court, she now viewed the world as unforgiving and evil. She states that she cannot live without her parents and she needs them by her side because she cannot navigate womanhood without her mother to guide her through it. In addition, she beings to suffer from a mild form of PTSD. Valentina's character represents what many young Hispanic children are going through. Her PTSD is an accurate depiction of the horrors these children witness. Everyday, Hispanic children are being torn from their parents and being put into the foster care system and have no chance of seeing their real parents ever again. Valentina's character begs the viewers to question whether or not family separation is ethical when it comes to children like her.
While Rafa's character is too young to even speak, he does make an idle stance in the immigration crisis. Rafa was born in the United States and, according to the fourteenth amendment, is a legal American citizen. Because of this, Rafa's parents are questioning whether or not it is right to bring him with them back to Mexico because they do not want to burden their children with raising an infant on their own. However, they ultimately decide it would be best for Rafa to stay in the United States because that is his country of origin. Rafa represents the heartbreaking reality of infants with undocumented parents. Because infants like him are protected under the fourteenth amendment, it encourages ICE officials to put these infants in the foster care system while the parents are being deported back to their country of origin. Because of his age, Rafa will not remember what his parents look like and growing up without them will make them strangers because they are no longer his primary guardian.
All of these characters represent a different way of coping with the family separation crisis currently happening in the United States. As the show illustrates, it affects everyone in different ways and they all have different ways of coping with it.
Connections to Real Life
Party of Five is one of the many shows that hits close to home. As noted previously, the difference between the original Party of Five and the current one is the concept behind it. The Freeform series tackles an issue that is a growing problem in the United States today. The issue is not the issue of immigration itself, but the family separation that is currently being experienced by young Hispanic children.
The characters in the series illustrate what happens when a family is separated due to the current laws in place. All five of the children represent the different affects family separation has on an individual's mental and emotional health. The series really pushes the envelope on making the viewer wonder if family separation is ethical when it comes in the cases of families with children who are too young to be able to navigate life without their parents there to guide them. For example, Valentina is 12-years-old and is about to go through puberty, naturally it falls on her mother to help her understand the changes happening to her body. However, now that her mother has been deported, she must face the challenges of womanhood alone and must now try to figure it out for herself. These challenges of having to manage a household at a young age without your parents is a challenge in itself, but having to grow up rapidly because your parents are no longer there is another challenge that causes conflict with a person within themselves.
Party of Five is a series that deals with the heartbreaking reality of family separation and the effects it has on the children that could be involved.
"The government makes it so hard for someone to move into this country under a legal status. It's like they're playing the lottery, only in this case these people have a better chance of winning the Power Ball than getting approved for a citizen's Visa."
Other Issues Portrayed in Film and a Television Series
Party of Five is not one of a kind. There have been many television shows, movies, and books that have dealt with major societal issues. One of them is a novel turned film, The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas. The Hate U Give was a national phenomenon because it tackled the issue of police brutality, gang violence, and racial profiling all in one sitting. The overall message of the novel and the film was to reiterate the message that unnecessary violence is caused by the hate everyone gives whether it be a gangster, police officer, or a white girl stereotyping a black person solely because of what they look like. Other examples include Milk, about America's first openly gay politician, Fruitvale Station, about a black man who was shot and killed by a police officer and the growing support behind the Black Lives Matter Movement, and When They See Us, about five young African American boys being wrongfully imprisoned for the rape and murder of a white female jogger in Central Park and were released from prison after thirteen years.
Pop culture and mainstream media is currently creating shows and movies that illustrate real life societal issues. The purpose of these is to reveal the growing issues in society and to be able to spread awareness to cause a change in the aspect they are depicting.
Party of Five is on every Wednesday at 9 pm on Freeform and is now available to watch on Hulu.
© 2020 Santiago Salinas