"Selena: The Series" finds the right balance in telling the family's story and their rise to fame
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
The moment I began watching "Selena: The Series" on Netflix I got chills. The show begins with Selena, played by Christian Serratos, greeting the crowd in one of her emblematic outfits as she begins singing "Como La Flor."
This scene alone left me excited about what was to come on the show. But as episode 1 continued, it was not what I was exactly hoping for. The show began very cheesy and it felt like some sort of sitcom. I couldn't help but wonder why we were not getting much from Selena, but mainly from her parents. Despite these initial thoughts, I kept watching because it is rare to see a show about the Latinx community on Netflix with an all-Latinx cast.
As Selena grows up and her career slowly begins to take off, it was not until the end of Episode 3 when my mindset of the show began to change. More specifically it was the scene where a young girl goes up to Selena's sister, Suzette (Noemí Gonzalez) at the end of their concert and tells her she wants to be a drummer when she grows up. This was probably a tiny part in the career story of Selena y Los Dinos, but it showed one of the main themes of the show which was to highlight the Quintanillas as a whole and their personal stories — not just Selena's. It also showed how the show would begin to show us smaller details of their success story that we may not have known about.
The small details of the show were the key to keeping me informed and entertained, but also curious in wanting to know more about the band's journey and struggles. Scenes such as when Abraham Quintanilla (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) and young AB dumpster dive for peach cans to make lights for one of their first performances as well as when the family discusses their immigration story show how the anecdotes, conversations, and relationships between the characters were the main focus of the show. Instead of learning more about their lives in the spotlight, the show displays a great balance of their rise to fame in their daily lives on the road and at home. We see Selena the singer, but we also see her as a young Latina who has a crush on a guy at school and is learning Spanish by watching telenovelas.
The origin stories of iconic songs like "Baila Esta Cumbia," "La Carcacha," and "Como La Flor," showed us how these songs and their lyrics and beat came to be. Who would have known that AB Quintanilla (Gabriel Chavarria) would get beats from songs as he played with his firstborn's toy piano? Or who would have thought that "La Carcacha" stemmed from a conversation between the band where they argued whether a guy with a nice car would be luckier in attracting pretty girls rather than a guy with an old, rusty car also known as a 'carcacha.'
These details may have been told multiple times throughout interviews and videos, but I feel they are what drives the show and offer a fresh and unique perspective of the Selena story that we know of and saw in the 1997 movie.
The focus on details continues in all aspects of the show and they provide a lens to who the Quintanillas and Selena y Los Dinos were. We see Selena as an upbeat, energetic young girl who is not only exploring her talent and identity as a Mexican American but also as someone who constantly changes her hair and appearance. For her, the band's appearance onstage mattered just as much as the songs they were singing.
We see Suzette as Selena's caring best friend who begins finding her potential and voice within the band. AB is shown as the mastermind and producer behind the songs while trying to balance being supportive for his wife and kids. Abraham is the leader of the band in all aspects especially when it comes to business and sometimes he is too strict with his rules and views, but the success of the band is always his priority.
Part 1 of "Selena: The Series" is about a Mexican American family who learns to embrace the struggles and successes in front and behind the cameras. It is not just a story about Selena or about their life on the road. It is a story about family, values, relationships, and embracing one's passions and identities.