'Gang Related': Groundbreaking or Stereotypical?
'Gang Related,' the highly anticipated cop drama featuring a prominent Latino cast, premiered tonight on FOX and has already created controversy. With some celebrating the series for the prominent casting of Latino actors, while others critique it for glorifying Latinos in roles of gangsters and drug dealers, it's sure to continue to make waves in the press. Here are my thoughts on the series premiere.
As a writer who has dedicated herself to creating non-stereotypical Latino stories and characters, I must admit, I've been skeptical about the series. It's follows the story of Ryan Lopez, played by the handsome Ramon Rodriguez, a cop with a secret. An orphan adopted by an infamous East LA Mexican gangster, Julian Acosta (Cliff Curtis), Ryan has spent his life rising the ranks of the LAPD, in an effort to serve as a spy for his gangster godfather in order to protect "la familia."
After Ryan's partner is gunned down by Carlos Acosta (Reynaldo Gallegos), Julian's son, Ryan is tasked with taking down the Godfather by targeting members of the Acosta family, one by one. The series is driven by the moral question: will Ryan stay loyal to the criminal family who raised him, or change his loyalty to his cop family as they fight for "good."
The series contrasts the Godfather's picturesque family life, as his straight banker son Daniel (Jay Hernandez) proposes to his girlfriend Sylvia (also Ryan's ex) at the family asado, with the Godfather's brutal torture of a rival gang member. When Ryan has to arrest Carlos, he also protects his criminal family, concealing Carlos' weapon from the cops, only for Carlos to threaten to reveal Ryan's secret in order to avoid prison.
Ryan's moral dilemma is compelling enough to keep me coming back weekly, and so far, while stereotypical, I'm curious to see how the characters grow and surprise us weekly. Can they break stereotypes and reach a complexity of say, "Breaking Bad"? Or will network TV follow their tested model of serving up stereotypes, weekly for the masses. Is it refreshing to see so many Latinos in lead roles on a network show? Or is it frustrating to see us portraying the same criminal roles, even if this time we're leads not extras?
I'm curioius to hear your thoughts. I'll be tuning in next week to expand mine.