Latinx depictions in the American mainstream are limited to victims and/or villains. With few exceptions, like 2006’s Ugly Betty or One Day at a Time, Latinx narratives remain woefully sidelined. (Though of course there are exceptions.) And to be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a Latina, my identity is not dependent on who Hollywood deems worthy of showing up on the screen. Yet the reality is that as time passes, American’s population includes bigger and bigger Latinx communities. We’re here. We exist. And our existence can’t be erased, nor can it be used as political and social caché for whatever representation we do get.
Which is what makes Los Espookys Season 2 such a delightful outlier in the sea of mediocre depictions of Latinx experience. “Los Espookys” English translation is “The Spooky Ones.” But the literal translation is insufficient because the show defies genre and identity – in the most positive sense, “The Spooky Ones” doesn’t even begin to convey just how strange this gem of a series is. Created by Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen, Los Espookys follows a group of misfits who defy the standards of both Latin culture and American sensibilities. They turn their love of horror films and genre into a successful business that would be unprofitable anywhere else in touch with reality. The resulting show is as peculiar as its lead characters and as colorfully contradictory as the myriad of customs those characters use as part of their “spooky” acts.
Following a creatively successful first season, the Los Espookys gang – Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), Tati (Ana Fabrega), Andrés (Julio Torres) and Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) – comes back to color the screen with even more abnormal haunts. Each character is more eccentric than the last and uses humor to break Latinx conventions even a Latinx audience can’t begin to parse. In the Los Espookys Season 2 premiere, the Espookys are determined to be even more abnormal than ever before. This is not meant to be derogatory – it’s a celebration of everything that makes human beings odd and especially of those who don’t fit the parameters of societal complacency. That is how rad this show is.
Los Espookys Season 2 plants its roots deep into its own mythology. There’s no rhyme or reason to its nature; it relishes in confusion, in its own odd beats and patterns. Renaldo is haunted by the spirit of the late Karina Salgado, a former beauty queen. After her divorce, Tati now ventures into writing – specifically, she’s re-writing literary classics into more condensed (and highly erroneous) versions that she then sells to schools. Andrés still searches for a sugar daddy that will sweep him off his feet and economic ruin. And Úrsula, the unwilling voice of reason around whom everyone else orbits, is back making dents in her morally corrupt world.
By leaning heavily on its specific brand of dark humor, Los Espookys sheds light on a facet of Latinx culture unexplored on American screens: what big assholes Latinx people can be. Not in malice; in jest half the time. It’s in our nature. I appreciate Los Espookys Season 2’s willingness to delve deep into the snarky nature of Latinx humor. Everything and everyone is fair game. Our on-screen identification has too often been moralized through the lens of American sensibility. It’s different when writers get to draw from their lived experiences as Latinx people. Los Espookys taps into Latinx humor by enveloping the cultural mix of those who immigrated to the United States but still grew up with Latinx identifiers.
Between English and Spanish, Los Espookys finds equilibrium. It modernizes the Latin experience in a way that stays true to its culture but plays into the complex nature of Millennials – by which I mean not just Millennials in general, or the Americanized version as we’ve come to understand them, but that of Latinx millennials who’ve also lost hope in the future. While the group of “los espookys” is created as a joke, it also speaks to a generation of hustlers. Since regular jobs aren’t sustainable, Latin millennials do anything and everything to make a living. Using humor to turn a profit speaks more about our societal deficit than any ridiculous stunt los espookys pull on behalf of the people meant to secure their futures.
While tapping into this very specific vein of humor is risky – especially with the series airing on HBO Max – Los Espookys is just too cool for that. It’s cool to be spooky. It’s cool to be a spooky. And it’s even cooler to join a group of misfits whose sole job is creating the most absurd, scariest scenarios. This is something that transcends language.