Home TV ‘Selena: The Series’ Review – Struggles to Find a Voice

‘Selena: The Series’ Review – Struggles to Find a Voice

by A. Felicia Wade
Christian Serratos as Selena Quintanilla in Selena: The Series coming to Netflix.

‘Como La Flor’, ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’, ‘Dreaming of You’ may be the first songs that come to mind when thinking of the late singer Selena. Or maybe the 1997 movie starring Jennifer Lopez? Avid Netflix bingers will now be introduced to Selena for the first time in Selena: The Series. Though the show does the Latinx community justice by featuring an all Latin cast and production crew, as it should, the final product still has a long way to go before hitting the high notes.

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez is known as the Queen of Tejano music. The singer is forever immortalized today through various t-shirt lines to an entire MAC Cosmetics collection. She’s practically a staple for many Latinx households and her fan base is still as grand as ever. Selena: The Series goes beyond the now iconic film, chronicling her life from birth until she was fatally shot at the tender age of 23 in 1995.

Selena: The Series highlights the Quintanillas as a Mexican American family trying to chase the American Dream, a classic gradual rags to riches story. At the head of the family, the stern Abraham Quintanilla Jr. (Ricardo Chavira) leads his children on the road to stardom. He makes all the decisions and steers the entire show in a fatherly direction. Then there’s Selena’s siblings: A.B. (Gabriel Chavarria) who is incredibly pressured to write hit songs and her sister Suzette (Noemi Gonzalez) trying to find her way in the band. Seidy Lopez plays her supportive mother, acting as the backbone of the family who mostly stays in the background. There is a lot of unexplored complexities when it comes to the families’ cultural identity. This show could and should have been an opportunity to tackle the struggle of being Mexican American in Texas during that era, instead its noticeably glossed over.

Additionally, there is a slew of background characters introduced as important parts of Selena’s journey, and yet are barely touched upon and serve more as props. There is a shift mid-season when new guitarist and Selena’s love interest Chris Perez (Jesse Posey) is introduced. Their first interaction shows him stopping by her house and *cue* ‘Dreaming of You’ plays in the background. The moment is straight out of a telenovela and nothing like the rest of the series tonally. The entire season (9 episodes) runs more like an ensemble piece shifting the focus away from the late star. In Netflix’s grand scheme, this run merely serves as part one of Selena’s story and promptly ends before the ‘Amor Prohibido’ era (the latter half of her booming career). Something to note, the ground that is left to cover in season 2 is roughly only a handful of years before her tragic passing, and viewers barely get to know who Selena truly is here.

Christian Serratos as Selena waving at a crowd of emotional fans as seen in 'Selena: The Series' on Netflix.
Christian Serratos in ‘Selena: The Series’ courtesy of Netflix

Christian Serratos has the tough role of playing teen and adult Selena. From the promotional photos and trailers, fans were already criticizing her for not looking enough like the famed star. However, this season mainly tackles Selena’s early years in the 1980s when she was roughly 15. Serratos excellently captures Selena’s youthful spirit and subtle Texan accent. Though, her performances tend to fall short when she lip syncs. It’s hard to believe that a powerful voice comes from Serratos. The story of Selena’s life is a familiar one, making it difficult not to draw comparisons with the movie. With that considering, it begs the question of was another iteration of Selena’s story really necessary? Not much of Selena’s inner musings are shown, instead the focus is on the Quintanilla family. One cannot feel slightly disappointed with the misleading show title. It would have been more interesting to see Selena’s motivations and struggle with a life on the road. Hopefully, the second part of the series will involve more of Selena coming into her own.

The production company behind the show, Campanario Entertainment, and creator Moisés Zamora mark a huge step forward for future Latinx Entertainment. It’s heartening to see a full Latinx cast lead this series on Netflix. Latinx Representation in Hollywood is still pretty sparse, so all eyes are on this show to do well. A sign that Hollywood needs to offer more opportunities to Latinx creatives. Maybe part of the reason why Selena was chosen again to be regurgitated was because of her household name. At least people know her, so it’s not a huge financial risk making another project about her. Unfortunately, the show seems tone deaf on the matter of what the Latinx community wants to see. The writing does, however, shine within the familial moments, but overall it lacks some development. It’s not perfect, but there is something for everyone. Fans of Selena will enjoy visiting her early years, from the fun 1980s costumes to the Tejano music. New audiences will be entertained by the young girl from Corpus Christi who rose to fame with her family. Selena: The Series has trouble finding its voice, but it’s sure to captivate viewers on star power alone.

★★★☆☆

Selena: The Series debuts on Netflix December 4!

Follow writer A. Felicia Wade on Twitter: @becomingfelicia

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