If I have one complaint about the critically acclaimed first season of Hulu’s “This Fool,” it’s how masculine it is. Yes, there are a handful of women characters, but we don’t see much of their interiority or get their fully formed individual storylines. They are all constricted to relationship roles — the main character’s mom and his girlfriend. My issue lies in the show’s outlook as well — it’s a decidedly male aesthetic. To be clear, “This Fool” isn’t a misogynistic show by any means, just one focused on a guy and his cousin.
The problem, of course, is that male creators, directors, and actors over-index in movies and TV. They’ve long been able to share their perspectives with the world. This gets even more complicated when you layer in race and ethnicity. Latinas are among the least represented segments of the population when compared to our actual numbers in the US. That’s why it’s so heartening to see more women characters in the second season of “This Fool.”
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The show remains firmly rooted in the main character, Julio, played by series creator Chris Estrada, and his cousin/best friend/foil, Luis (Frankie Quiñones). But this season, they both get new love interests. There’s Yuli Zorrilla’s Teresa, who meets Julio in the bathroom line of a house party. She’s funny, tough, and perceptive. And there’s Ivana Rojas’s Ruby, a grocery-store clerk who’s figured out how to game the system so she can afford to travel the world. She’s charmed by “Officer” Luis (he has a job as a security guard), but not about to put up with any of his nonsense.
So yes, these women exist in the show in relationship to the main male characters, but “This Fool” does not make them objects. While some of the other characters discuss their hotness, the show gives them their own personalities and agency. Teresa refuses to be pulled into Julio’s existential dread, while Ruby demonstrates a street-smartness that Luis can’t even conceive of. Both women are equal to their partners if not even more evolved in understanding who they are and what they want. They’re complicated, whole humans providing a rare depth for Latina girlfriend characters, who too often are shoehorned into the sexy, spicy stereotype.
Season two of “This Fool” also brings back the women we loved from the first season. Julio’s mom, Esperanza, played by the formidable Laura Patalano, gets her own episode, exploring what a hardworking Chicana matriarch does after retirement (hint: work more). It’s a funny, tongue-in-cheek episode that exposes class divides. On a surface read, it may seem like “This Fool” is perpetuating the tired idea that Latinas live to serve, but a more generous and nuanced analysis gives Esperanza agency, allowing her to finally define her labor on her own terms and find joy in a female friendship that she creates and controls. It also allows “This Fool” to pass the Bechdel test, with two named women characters talking about things other than a man.
Julio’s sisters are also back, and single mom Rocio (Anna Lamadrid) gets a mini-arc, reminding us that she exists outside of her relationship with her brother. Michelle Ortiz’s Maggie also returns. This season, she’s more than Julio’s ex (or on-again, off-again high school sweetheart). She, too, gets her own episode, allowing us to see her interiority and discover that her neuroses are just as compelling and messed up as any of the men’s.
This season of “This Fool” really expands its feminine universe. The women are not ornamental or fundamentally different from the male characters. Ruby makes as many d*ck-size jokes as the men. Maggie and Esperanza display the same level of dysfunction as the cast of male ex-felons and those who’ve made careers out of helping them. Teresa cracks wise jokes and throws down in the same manner as the guys, bonding and building a business in the center of the show.
These are women who play seamlessly within the male aesthetic of the show but don’t feel like “others.” They’re not nagging the men to be better or even particularly invested in their growth — with perhaps the exception of Esperanza, and even for her, it’s debatable if she really wants Julio to grow up for him or because she wants her grandbaby to feel like she’s done her job as his mother. Instead, the women want what’s best for themselves — and maybe that includes the likes of Julio and Luis, but maybe it doesn’t.
The women of “This Fool” will be fine either way. And that’s the type of Latina representation we need. With season two of “This Fool,” we get multiple Latinas of different ages, body types, styles, and motivations who aren’t defined by the men around them. And it’s high time we see more of these depictions from our Latino counterparts, from Latinas ourselves, and from the entertainment industry at large.
As studios refuse to pay the artists behind shows like “This Fool” fairly, this type of barrier-breaking representation is in danger. This show got a second season because audiences are hungry for its type of unique voice. Rarely do we see working-class Chicano humor on screen, let alone paired with honest existential dread, as we do with “This Fool.” The second season layers in more nuance by adding more women characters and further building its growing cast’s interiority. It builds on the strong foundation of its first season and gives Latinas, of all stripes, more room to play, make mistakes, and joke.
It’s further proof of where our shows can go when given a chance, and why we so desperately need Latines of all genders to bring the stories of our communities to life. Long live the women of “This Fool.”