My world is ruled by my kids. This means that what gets put on the TV must be kid-friendly, and something that my kids want to watch. So my TV show palate is mostly children’s television programming. Who am I kidding, that’s not the only reason why I watch kid shows. I have always loved children’s programming. I think, perhaps in another life, I was meant to be a children’s TV content creator. I mean, I binge-watched Avatar: The Last Airbender in my 20s in college, looooong before I ever imagined even having kids of my own. In high school, I would get ready in the mornings accompanied by my favorite lemur, Zaboo, (Where my Zabomafoo heads at? Zaboomafu = the OG Wild Kratts. If you know, you know.) or Biker Mice From Mars, or some fun show like that. So when a friend mentioned that there was a bilingual show (it’s not, really) that I needed to check out on Netflix, my kids and I quickly added it to our list.
Maya and the Three was created by the same mind who brought us The Book of Life, Jorge R. Gutiérrez. It is the story of Maya, the half-god child, who goes on an epic journey to gather together a team of unlikely bad-ass warriors to destroy the God of War. The gods in the show are based on gods of indigenous Mesoamerican cultures, and the show is set in pre-colonial Mesoamerica-like lands.
But what I want to talk about is this one aspect of the story that caught me off guard. Maya is the daughter of the Teca King, but she doesn’t know that she is also the daughter of Lady Micte, goddess of death, until her fateful birthday. On that day, she learns that she is half-god and that she is the result of her father’s infidelity to the only mother she has known. This is a topic that I have never seen addressed in children’s programming before. And the show doesn’t shy away from it.
Infidelity isn’t the central focus of the overarching plot line, but it is a theme that comes up in several episodes. The series is only 9 episodes long, and each episode has an epic battle of some kind, not leaving enough room to dive deeply into the characters themselves. Still, this theme could have easily been omitted from the plot, but Gutierrez chose to include it.
Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about this aspect of the story. Aside from the comedic scenes made possible by placing Maya’s two mothers and her father face to face, I find it refreshing that Gutierrez chose to incorporate this all too familiar family taboo in the storyline. One of my favorite tíos was a half-sibling to all his brothers and sisters, and he was a beloved member of the family. Everyone knew his circumstance, and yet no one ever spoke about it openly. This is just the way things are in many machista cultures; husbands are assumed to have dalliances. Wives are allowed to show righteous indignation when infidelity is blatantly touted, but generally it is preferable to practice “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
And here in this coming-of-age journey, the topic of infidelity is directly confronted. I wouldn’t say that the show takes a strong stance of judgment against the unfaithful spouse. Yes, King Teca is uncomfortable and embarrassed when his wife meets his lover face-to-face. Yes, Queen Teca accepts Maya as her own and isn’t shown punishing King Teca for his night of passion. But, Maya does struggle with feeling betrayed by her father when she finds out Lady Micte is her biological mother. She struggles to understand her identity as a daughter of two strong mothers. It isn’t a comprehensive exploration into how these breaks in family agreements affect the members of the family, but it is an acknowledgement that this too is a dynamic in some families.
I am grateful that this element was included in the storyline, especially when it could have so easily been written out. And I am hopeful that, like many other non-traditional family dynamics, it will begin to be explored, included, and validated as yet another way that families are formed and experienced.