Bilingual families have been documented in TV and movies since the 20th century. Whenever this bilingual image is portrayed, it is a romantic view — an endearing scene between a parent and child that strengthens their bond. My first recollection of seeing this on TV was “Wizards of Waverly Place” when Alex’s mother would console her in Spanish. The theme has grown and spread to shows such as “Jane The Virgin” and “Fresh Off The Boat.” This recent rise in bilingual and multilingual families represented on TV has not only a fresh and positive connotation, but also one that is missing a fundamental aspect of these families.
This trend inspires hope because it seems as if more and more immigrant families and culturally diverse ones are being produced and aired. They emphasize the ways in which kids and families in America reconnect to their cultures and families through language and food. This is common in the CW’s “Jane The Virgin” with Jane’s grandma making arepas that remind the whole family of their Venezuelan roots and speaking to Jane in Spanish, which she teaches in turn to her son. This is also shown in a more comedic light in “Fresh Off the Boat” with Chinese traditions on Lunar New Year being displayed on TV.
However, these shows are missing a fundamental aspect: hard-hitting moments that display a lack of this connection. Jane responds to her grandmother in English by choice, not because she doesn’t know how to respond in Spanish. The image of immigrant families coming to America usually celebrates these families being able to connect to their home, but doesn’t explore the repercussions of not being able to. Jessica, the mother in “Fresh Off the Boat,” mentions in several scenes how much she misses her country, but it is never explored on a larger scale. These shows also usually lack a storyline of disconnect between generations extending down to grandchildren that could be exemplified by the bilingual connection or lack thereof. This is the story that many children of immigrants experience today and the one that these shows are missing.