Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Constance Marie - No Pushover on Switched at Birth, ABC Family’s New Hit Series

ABC Family’s Switched at Birth caught my attention since the series debuted on June 6th on the network’s 9 p.m. slot. I’ll admit I only tuned in because Constance Marie is cast in one of the lead roles, and I’m a huge CM fan.

Switched’ became ABC Family’s number one series debut of all time in total viewers (3.3 million), women 18-34 (754,000), adults 49 (1.7 million) and women 18-49 (1.3 million). 
Constance Marie, Katie Leclerc, Vanessa Marano, Lea Thompson,
D.W. Moffett, Lucas Grabeel
Switched at Birth’s story centers on two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally swapped and are being raised in polar opposite family circumstances. Of course, one family is rich and the other is not. Switched at Birth explores deep issues of nature versus nurture.

It is a smart show and I’ve chosen to forgive the typical Hollywood stereotypes although it is hard at times to dodge the racial clumsiness. Various embedded and reinforced racial clichés unfold, i.e., the poor family who lives in a gang-infested barrio/ghetto is, of course, Latino…because all Latinos only live in ghettos…and all single-Latino mothers are recovering alcoholics. I decided to focus on the unique story line and the fact that the show creators got one thing right: casting Constance Marie, an actress who gives all her roles a classy conscience.
Katie Leclerc & Constance Marie

As Regina Vasquez, CM portrays a talented artist and mother of Daphne (Katie Leclerc) who is hearing impaired. Regina is no pushover and defends her position as a low-income, hard-working single mother who has done an excellent job raising her daughter. Daphne, a light skinned Irish-looking strawberry blond, is a well adjusted, considerate, and excellent student who is proud to be Puerto Rican.

Regina does not let the other parents, who are raising her biological daughter Bay (Vanessa Marano), intimidate her with their wealth and social position.  
Katie Leclerc & Vanessa Marano

The parents, John and Kathryn Kennish (Lea Thompson and D.W. Moffett) have provided their beautiful dark-haired, ethnic looking daughter, Bay, and their strawberry blond son Toby (Lucas Grabeel) a comfortable life due to John’s former sports career and successful chain of car washes. Bay has lived in the lap of luxury her entire life, yet there is something missing. She has a rebellious streak, is a talented artist, and when she’s upset, she recharges by sneaking off into the night to secretly paint/stencil graffiti art on walls and fences. Yes, another stereotype because she’s biologically a Latina so of course she would have an innate desire to paint walls! Ugh! OK, no more objections. Back to her art: an image of a little girl in pink and black, like an angel. There’s a story of a lonely girl in there. It will be interesting to see how this metaphor unfolds.

Kudos to Lizzy Weiss (Blue Crush) for creating a show that introduces the integration of the deaf community to a hearing family. The Kennish’s will have to expand their understanding of deafness if they are to connect and bond with the daughter that was lost to them for so many years. Not easy for a family who has enjoyed life’s pleasures without giving much thought to the rest who are not normal like them.

The series debut also featured Ruth Livier as a concerned hospital professional who informs the families of the switched baby girls’ mix up.  Ivonne Coll, an actor who brings great integrity to her roles, also shines as Regina’s mother. For those who may not know, Ivonne is a former Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Universe contestant. The Vasquez’ family consists of three strong women and we hope the show’s creators will befittingly cast more Latinos.

Emmett Bledsoe, Daphne’s best friend and protector is played Sean Berdy, a young and winsome deaf actor. He is a thespian with Marlee Matlin acting chops, who is so comfortable with himself that he inspires you to want to learn sign language just to hang with him. What a cutie.  Then there’s Ty (Blair Redford), a friend from Daphne’s barrio. I gather he’s supposed to be Latino, not sure, but he has strong Native American features and is a total hunk.  No doubt he’ll be hugely popular as Bay’s future love interest.

I hope Lizzy Weiss uses her hit show to introduce more exceptional Latino talent and leverage the interest of her culturally diverse, mainstream audience. For sure the families have miles to go before there is acceptance and understanding with each other’s circumstances and traditions. This means that Ruth Livier’s character should visit more often.  As for Ivonne Coll, there is great potential to explore her relationship with daughter Regina.  

Moms... daughters trying to
understand their differences
Switched at Birth delivers a highly plausible and socially challenging storyline with emotional intelligence and courageous steps into uncharted waters.

Switched at Birth, Mondays, 9:00-10:00 p.m. on ABC Family.

Latinowood: Elia Esparza
Edited by Casandra Moreno Lombera
Latinowood/Switched at Birth ©  2011

1 comment:

  1. Just started to watch it today and watched 4 episodes in a row. I loved the show but yes there are some stereotyping going on in that show and not vaguely at all :)