Opinion: MTV’s ‘Washington Heights’ Delivers for Uptown

The cast of MTV’s new reality show, “Washington Heights.” (Photo via Manhattan Times)

What does “Washington Heights” mean for Washington Heights? John Paul Infante, a writer and educator from the uptown neighborhood, weighs in on the first episode of the new MTV reality show, which premiered on Wednesday. And he says the reality TV series delivers.

Writer John Paul Infante (Photo via The Manhattan Times).

The cast is made up of a group of charismatic, attractive young Latinos with lofty dreams. There is hip-hop artist JP aka Audubon, who narrates and is the show’s anchor; Frankie, the poet and aspiring English professor; Ludwin, the artistic skateboarder; Reyna, the aspiring singer; Rico, the actor/model; Fred, the clothing designer; Jimmy, the baseball player and his girlfriend, Eliza, the aspiring fashion designer, and Taylor, the only white girl of the group, but fits right in.

Infante says that before the show aired some people in the neighborhood doubted that the residents of Washington Heights would appeal to a national audience, “but on Internet discussion boards, there are young people throughout the country identifying with the primarily Dominican cast.”

Also, he thinks that the show provides “plenty of sexual tension and several love triangles, which will hook viewers early on,” while reminding the audience of some of the harsher realities experienced by cast members.

One of the most memorable moments in the premiere is when Manny takes his girlfriend, Eliza, to meet his father in an upstate prison.

The conversation between a prisoner with scars on his head and a son with tears in his eyes is powerful and reason enough to watch.

Another compelling instance is when Manny tells his grandmother he’s been accepted to a baseball team. Her overwhelming joy is genuine.

At the heart of the show is Apt 78, a popular café and lounge owned by entrepreneur José Morales, “who has sought to create a space for many local artists in which to show, speak and work, as well as for community residents.”

And so what does Washington Heights mean for Washington Heights?

This reality show crystallizes the transitional era Washington Heights has been in for some time, which has been reshaping what the neighborhood means demographically, geographically, and ideally.

In the past, telling someone you were from Washington Heights required you to explain and describe the neighborhood. This reality TV show might mean that Washington Heights residents will no longer have to rush to fill that blank.

Infante thinks that the MTV show adds another voice to the many stories being told about Washington Heights by groups and people, including The Uptown Collective blog, The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, The People’s Theatre Project and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “In the Heights.”

 

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