MTV’s HAPPYLAND Succeeds Where Everybody Else Falls Flat

…By giving us a genuine, scripted, professional TV show starring Latina actresses and run by Latina writers. In other words, “diversity” is here and it fucking works:

happylandby Ana Defillo

With shows like Sleepy Hollow, How to Get Away With Murder, and Black-ish, we’re finally seeing realistic diversity on our television screens, and MTV’s new scripted dramedy Happyland is a reflection of that, both in front of and behind the scenes. In front of the camera, Happylandboasts two Latina actresses as their leads, Camille Guaty and Bianco Santos. Their characters, Elena and Lucy respectively, are not burdened by the usual hyper-sexualized Latina tropes: Lucy is an ambitious and witty teenager counting the days until college and her mom, Elena, is a hopeless romantic that would rather live in the fantasy world of Happyland than the harsh reality of living paycheck to paycheck.

Behind the scenes, the show has a female show-runner and three Latina writers. “What intrigued me about the show is that our lead, Lucy Velez, is hispanic, and so is her mom… I thought it was really cool and very relatable. I’m half Cuban, as well, so we tried to bring into our episodes some of that authenticity,” says Erica Harrell, staff writer for Happyland.

While MTV’s new teen dramedy has received mixed reviews and modest ratings compared to its predecessors Awkward and Faking It, the show holds its own with an accurate and diverse portrayal of life at a major amusement park. That’s probably why MTV hired Hollywood’s up-and-coming writing duo Desirée Proctor and Harrell, the show’s “park experts,” to give the show its amusement park authenticity.

“When I worked at Disney, the whole social hierarchy really existed, even within the character department, the face characters, the prince, the princesses getting paid more than the fur characters, like the Mickey Mouses, the Ricky Raccoons, and then on top of that the executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars versus the hourlies.”

Read it all