Greatest TV Characters - Lydia from One Day At A Time
For Intentional Women's Day 2021. we revisit some of our Greatest TV Characters features, looking at TV's best female characters. Jess Thomas looks at Lydia Riera from One Day At A Time...
Please note, this article was originally written in 2018
Lydia, played by award winning actress Rita Moreno of West side story and The King And I, is the grandmother and some time matriarch of the central family in Netflix's reboot of the sitcom One Day At A Time. Know for her dramatic flare, dedication to her Cuban roots and her love for her family, Lydia is an amazing example of a well developed female character who is in her later years. Over the two seasons of the show that has been released, Lydia has consistently adapted the the diverse new world around her as well as been a rock for her family in times of need.
Lydia is a Cuban immigrant who moved to the USA in the 1960s. By the time she is shown to us on screen it is 2017 and she has one adult daughter and two teenage grandchildren, whose apartment she lives in. With One Day At A Time being a sitcom there isn't as much of an overarching character story as you might get in a drama or sci fi series, but Lydia does show signs of change. One major progression for her is the friendship she enters into with her daughter's boss Dr. Berkowitz. As the series goes on they work out how their relationship is going to work as Lydia feels she must remain faithful to her late husband Berto. Overall, Lydia's story gives a touching and hilarious look at the life of an ageing family woman.
Why she is such a great character
Though a staunch Catholic and somewhat stuck in her ways, Lydia never fails to accommodate and support her family when it really counts. Be it her daughter's mental health problems, her granddaughter's coming out or her landlord's drug addiction, she is a light in the life of all the other characters in the show.
And, on top of all of this, she knows how amazing she is. Now, when characters are aware of how great they are it can often get more than a little grating, but with Lydia it is delightful. Even in her seventies she knows her worth and is in charge of her life and her sexuality, which is rare for female characters in general let alone for female characters above the age of fifty.
"I am a religious woman... And I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but I have a problem with Elena being gay. It goes against God! Although, God did make us in his image, and God doesn't make mistakes... And when it comes to the gays, the pope did say "Who am I to judge?" And the pope represents God. So what, am I going to go against the pope and God? Who the hell do I think I am? Okay. Okay, I'm good."