Wuthering Heights: The Internet Reacts to MTV’s ‘Washington Heights’
NYC’s Holy Grail: Rooftop access. Screengrab via MTV.
By ALEX ALVAREZ
reality show docu-series (or, as I prefer, “factodramedy”) “Washington Heights” was bound to have a built-in viewership for this week’s debut episode, cursory glances and side-eyes included. And while we wouldn’t characterize the show’s audience as going into its premiere with high expectations (after all, this is the network that brought us this and this), we were able to gauge that some viewers had a very specific bone to pick with the show after its first episode. But that doesn’t mean it was all bad.
Some definitely enjoyed the show and thought it portrayed young people doing something positive with their lives and working towards making their dreams come true. Seriously, folks really appreciated that the cast was shown as being ambitious. Some even wanted to move to Washington Heights and chill on rooftops (a perk not all of us have here in NYC) with real friends.
One recurring issue that keeps popping up is that the first episode struggled to find a balance between avoiding stereotypes and at the same time offering a genuine — not sanitized, not focus group-tested, not watered-down — depiction of what it’s like to be a young Latino in an urban area.
Here are some reviews that stood out (emphasis ours):
It’s hard walking the fine line between authentic representation and stereotype but I wanna see people in Dominican bakeries eating butter rolls and drinking coffee, I wanna see people chilling on stoops on Dyckman, I want to see people buying sheets at El Mundo I want to feel like it’s home. - Logical-Fallacies
I’ve always said that the only way to a Latino hit television show is to feature a racially diverse Latino ensemble. But in the case of Washington Heights, the producers need to amp up the drama and conflict, and satisfy my Latino thirst by adding at least a smidgen of Latin percussion. - Linda Nieves-Powell
It is real but to that side of people. Idk it feels like its those kids that didn’t go to class while I did and stuff. I would have loved if it didn’t start with a fight but okay. At least they show different types of Dominicans because we are not all the same. - Changing-Weird-Hearts
so weird, but now i can vouch for some of the authenticity of this series although i don’t know what will become of it because IT IS mtv after all. - Jiltedhearts
Where’s the real hustle? Where’s the corners? Not one plate of plantains, bachata song, fried chicken spot, or hair salon to be seen… Yes, reality shows are cut and edited - but when you want name a show after the Heights and decide to omit anything cultural - you’ve disappointed the people who have been there before the cameras were rolling. - Jugo de Chinola
Meanwhile, over at the Huffington Post, Julissa Bonfante asks “where’s the Dominicanness?” At Remezcla, Joel Moya is, like, “where are the hookahs?” And, here at ABC/Univision, Monika Fabian writes that, on the show, “a stylized image trumps authenticity.”
And on Twitter, In The Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda offers specific advice:
So, with the awareness that a show like this can and never will be “perfect” in its depiction of young Latinos, because there is no one way to be a young Latino and no single “young Latino experience,” here’s what the internet has shown us so far: The show gets points for showing young Latinos, like, 1) at all and 2) showing them working towards their goals. Extra points, too, for giving viewers new people to have crushes on. That’s always nice.
But it could benefit from offering both Washington Heights residents and outsiders alike a slice of what makes this neighborhood unique, its special challenges and perks, its quirks and landmarks. And the first step to doing this seems to be to, at the very least, follow the same rules that make any party memorable: Get the music and the food right.