Twenty-five years after her death, Selena Quintanilla-Perez continues to inspire fans through her music and her image. The memory of the late singer-songwriter from Corpus Christi lives on through her recordings and interviews, as well as the many fan-made and professionally made tributes, including the fan-favorite 1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez.
The newest entry into this list, the first part of Selena: The Series, debuted on Netflix earlier this month. (The project is divided into two parts, the first of which includes nine 30-minute episodes that portray the singer’s early life; “Part Two” will be released sometime next year.)
As with any tribute about a popular artist with a fervent fanbase, the criticisms of the series are loud and abundant. The casting of actress Christian Serratos (AMC’s The Walking Dead) as Selena is probably at the top of that list, but so are concerns about wardrobe selections, shooting locations, dialect inaccuracies, and the focus of the action.
Netflix should have expected them, though. The story, life, and legend of Selena are so meaningful to so many people that creating a perfect tribute is simply impossible. To fill the role of Selena is to fill the role of a goddess, of a queen.
If only one or two things are “off” about the primary casting selection, the whole project could lead to the disappointment of her die-hard fanbase. The same was true with Jennifer Lopez, mostly because she is Puerto Rican American and not Mexican American. With Serratos, although she is of Mexican descent, the fans and critics have said that she's too skinny, too light-skinned, and doesn't resemble Selena enough. The countless crazy-looking wigs worn throughout the series have also led to many humorous responses.
The wigs in the new Selena series offended me on a spiritual level....— Kamala’s Bayang (@CoreyPTownsend) December 9, 2020
Another critique the new series has received is that it places more emphasis on her parents and siblings than on Selena herself. I agree with that claim, but I believe it was a necessary creative decision. Remember, “Part One” aims to establish the environment around a young girl who will someday become the powerful and influential woman and artist that we all know and love. “Part Two” will most likely place more of Selena at the forefront.
Also, don’t forget, the creators of Selena: The Series received the Quintanilla family’s blessing for this Netflix project (which is now at the heart of a lawsuit from a producer of the 1997 biopic, making it the second legal battle the Quintanilla family is currently involved in), and her sister, Suzette, was brought on board as an executive producer. Selena's brother, A.B., whose likeness is also prominently included in the series, praised Serratos's portrayal of Selena during an interview with TMZ. “I think that Christian did an outstanding job," he said. "As I watched her, it had me thinking that I was watching my sister.”
Apart from some of the nuanced details that the series may have gotten incorrect, there are plenty of aspects where the series nails it just right. Although Selena was almost ten years older than me, I also grew up in the ’80s and ’90s in a Mexican-American household on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The homes where the Quintanilla family lived were similar to the homes of my family in Houston, Pasadena, Brownsville, and Matamoros, Mexico.
We listened to rancheras, Tejano music, and rock, and attended countless quinceañeras, weddings, and backyard BBQs—always with music setting the mood. We watched Johnny Canales and Don Francisco on TV, and spoke in Spanglish at home and at school, just like Selena. While watching the series, I heard songs that haven't hit my eardrums in almost 20 years, and I was surprised that I still remembered the lyrics. Songs like “Dame Un Beso,” “Costumbres,” “Besitos,” and “Buenos Amigos” made me feel nostalgic that I lived through the Golden Years of Tejano music.
As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to see Selena live in concert several times, and she was absolutely stunning in person. This series rekindled my love for her and her music.
Overall, the series is definitely worth a watch. My advice is to be open-minded about the casting and don't sweat the small inaccuracies. We have the luxury of knowing how this story ends, and although her death will always be a tragedy, this series provides Selena fans a beautiful glimpse into her world as we continue to celebrate her life and legacy.
"Part One" of Selena: The Series is available on Netflix.