Picture of "Party of Five" family on video chat with parents

‘Party of Five’ Is Bringing Attention to Important Modern-Day Problems

In an era with an escalating number of deportations and family separation at the border, this series resonates.
February 13, 2020
6 mins read

Freeform is no stranger to bringing attention to modern-day issues in their shows, and their newest show, “Party of Five” (a remake of the ’90s show of the same name), is no different. I didn’t know what to expect when I first saw the trailer; however, when I watched the first episode, I started to feel both emotions of sadness and anger.

“Party of Five” follows the Acostas, a family with a pretty normal life. The parents, Javier and Gloria Acosta, own a successful restaurant; the oldest child, Emilio, is a carefree musician who doesn’t seem to take up many responsibilities; the oldest sister, Lucia, is a straight-A student; her twin brother, Beto, doesn’t have the best grades but still does okay in school; the youngest sister, Valentina, is very smart and resourceful for someone as young as she is. And the adorable Rafael is the youngest in the family at less than 1 year old.

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The Acosta family’s life is turned upside down when ICE deports Javier and Gloria because they didn’t have proper documentation — note in the first episode that the workers in the restaurant are trained to know what to do in case of an ICE visit, showing that it is not the first time this has happened. The look on Valentina’s face says it all.

After admitting that they can’t be without their parents, Emilio initially tries to hire a lawyer so that they can stay in the U.S. Brandon Larracuente gives a powerful performance as Emilio begging a top immigration lawyer to take their case: He talks about how Lucia is angry at the world, Beto is failing out of school, Valentina is going to need her first bra soon and how Rafael has thrush. He doesn’t know how to address those things and that’s why he needs his mom and dad — all of them do. After the trial doesn’t go well, Emilio later gives up his carefree life and steps up to become the guardian of his younger siblings to prevent their separation.

In the second episode, “Margin of Error,” the Acostas struggle to adjust to a new normal; their parents are gone, and it is unknown if they are ever coming back to America. When Beto starts struggling with his classes because of this, his sister Lucia offers to help him out, agreeing to meet up to give him the answers. When Lucia is held up, however, he ends up failing the test. To make up for her mistake, Lucia goes to Beto’s teacher to ask for mercy. In response, his teacher talks about how his parents should have come to this country “the right way” instead of sneaking in.

Yes, there are no free passes when it comes to tests, but to say that, especially to a teenager, is uncalled for. Was a law broken? Yes. Should there have been an easier path to citizenship for the parents? Yes. Should the teacher be taking it out on the children? No.

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I do not condone law breaking of any kind, but imagine the situation that their parents must have been in to make them leave Mexico; imagine anyone in that situation, people who just want to create a better life for their families.

One standout character is Valentina, who seems to be the most affected by the recent events. She finds herself missing her parents, calling them a couple of times a day, and when she finds money in the drawer in Rafael’s room, she considers using it to visit her parents in Mexico. She’s not even 13 years old, but she is already dealing with things that no kid should ever have to go through.

“Party of Five” also brings attention to the struggles of LGBTQ+ undocumented immigrants. A recurring character, Matthew, is an undocumented transgender man. He is in danger of being deported because he doesn’t have the proper papers; at the same time, he doesn’t want to apply for DACA as it would require his birth certificate with his dead name. Matthew has to choose between getting deported and remaining true to himself.

Matthew is played by the actor known as Garcia, and he gives an amazing performance, especially in the scene between him and Lucia in the episode “Patch Job.” Matthew opens up to Lucia, and she says, “I see you,” some of the most important words when a person is vulnerable about something important in their life. That says, “You are valid,” “Your feelings are valid.” Here is Garcia’s full interview on Matthew.

While “Party of Five” is on a channel aimed at teenagers and young adults, there are many mature themes in the episodes: racism, separation from family, sex, homelessness, bullying, and politics are even thrown into the mix as well — while they do not directly talk about President Trump, they do mention similar things that have happened in real life to undocumented immigrants under the current administration.

“Party of Five” may be fictional when it comes to the characters on the show, but it shows a real problem that is still going on today. Families are being torn apart by the government, and everyone sees the news where there are kids in cages, some of them even dying. However, what we don’t see is what happens to the kids that are left to fend for themselves at home — the anxiety, the sadness, the anger and the stress that is put on those kids, some of them at a very young age. These are things that no child should ever have to worry about. They are forced to grow up fast in order to survive in this harsh world.

Here are resources for anyone who might be facing a similar situation:

Community Resources


Advocates of Human Rights

Lisa Lilianstrom, Northern Illinois University

Writer Profile

Lisa Lilianstrom

Northern Illinois University
Journalism, minor in Communications

Everyone deserves to have their stories heard. Writer, student, artist — plans to one day travel the world with the love of my life.

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