There’s Really No Fooling in Why “This Fool” Matters to Mexican American Film History

In the weeks before its release, trailers of Hulu’s “This Fool” gave glimpses of something special. After its release, the show has proved to be a critical addition to the greater lineup of Mexican American movies and TV shows.

Mexican American TV Comedies, Drama Movies, and then, “This Fool”

The comedy show “George Lopez,” starring George Lopez, premiered over 20 years ago, on March 27, 2002. The show aired on ABC. If you’re from Southern California, you know that means it aired on channel seven.

Curiously, “This Fool,” although airing on Hulu, is produced by ABC Signature. The show premiered over the summer, on Aug. 12. The main character’s name is even Julio Lopez, played by comedian Chris Estrada, one of the show’s creators. His character works at a nonprofit, Hugs Not Thugs, a gang rehabilitation center.

The two TV shows are two decades apart, and the main characters share the last name, tambien. And if you’re familiar with “George Lopez,” you’ll find that these are two distinct shows. 

Likewise, in contrast to 1990s drama movies like “American Me” and “My Family” which portrayed Mexican American cholo culture, or gang culture, from a far more serious perspective, “This Fool” is a comedy, accompanied by a hilarious cast, writing, and complementary cinematography. 

The show manages to find a middle ground between a classic comedy and drama while exploring cholo culture and rehabilitation and a different part of Los Angeles culture from the eyes of mostly Mexican Americans. 

Traditionally, East Los Angeles has been the backdrop for Latinx and Mexican American movies and TV shows based in Los Angeles, from “Born in East LA” to “Gentefied.” The exception is “George Lopez,” the series is based somewhere in the San Fernando Valley.

But instead of picking either of those prominent locations, that are so common in Mexican American film and TV, “This Fool” takes us to South Central Los Angeles.

So, What’s up With “This Fool”

In the show, Julio’s cousin, Luis, is played by Frankie Quinones. He is known for his online personality, Creeper, but you might also come across Quinones as Emo Primo on YouTube.

As you watch the show, some familiar stars appear, like Laura Patalano, who plays Esperanza. She was previously on “Gentefied.” In “This Fool,” she took on another role as the matriarch of her family.

In the first episode, a framed former President Ronald Reagan picture appears in the living room. Other family pictures surround the image. The explanation for the photo, and more, comes later in the season. 

It primarily has to do with Reagan’s amnesty plan from the 1980s. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act helped immigrants, including many Latinx families across the US, become citizens.

In a similar way, in the first episode, the owner of Hugs Not Thugs, Minister Payne (Michael Imperioli), appears, and it’s hard not to see him as a white savior almost immediately. Especially when he is surrounded by most Latinx people, albeit Los Angeles County is Latinx/Hispanic dominant today.

Nonetheless, Payne runs the rehabilitation center. But as the season progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that he isn’t a white savior. 

In retrospect, his character appears more as a satirical take on the white savior because when the season is over, he fails. He doesn’t save them, and it’s, in part, because of capitalism and high-living costs in Los Angeles County.

“This Fool” is a Hilarious Addition to Mexican American Film History

The show has characters with ego, a close family and a family feud, Spanish and Spanglish, some familiar slang, complicated personal relationships, and then, a face in a birthday cake. Although, most people won’t put their own face in their birthday cake. 

“This Fool” also has other familiar concepts that many might at least know about, like your family going to the dentist in Tijuana.

A lot of what the show is has to do with the main character Julio, who is annoyingly comedic throughout the show. But, of course, it’s both Julio and Luis who are the soul of the series.

Generally, the coming-of-age theme is applied to movies about kids and teens. However, the first season of “This Fool,” at heart, is a coming-of-age story, even if it is about 30-something-year-old Mexican American millennials who are still figuring things out. 

That’s something we’ve briefly seen in films like the 1980s “La Bamba” and 1990s “Mi Vida Loca.” However, “This Fool” takes a different approach that’s more playful, ironic, and satirical. In short, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

On Hulu, the show’s description tells us it’s an “irreverent, cinematic half-hour comedy,” which is exactly what it is. “This Fool” dares you to not take it seriously. But, at the same time, it’s a glimpse into a different Mexican American experience in Greater Los Angeles that we haven’t seen, until now.