Friday, November 02, 2012
Gay Characters and Storylines in Telenovelas: Still a Long Way to Go
In Clase 406 one of the kids was gay and fell inlove with another boy but I can't remember much of it, just that the other boy was still in the closet. He had a coming out story before, his mother was supportive and his dad wasn't at the begining but understood at the end, he was adopted so then he tried to found his birth mother during the time his dad rejected him and she was an awful woman. His friends supported him and also confronted a guy who had bullied him at school for some time. This was a teen novela though, they can be more open to these storylines.
In Más Sabe el Diablo, the brother of the villain was Christian Acero, played by Ezequiel Montalt. He was a closeted gay man, not at all a stereotypical hairdresser. He was the financial brains of the company of which his evil brother was the head.
I think there was a gay couple in FELS too, but they were such minor characters that I barely remember them. They were supposed to be engaged to Slowfia's two sisters, and they opened a nightclub together. Actually, as FELS characters went, they were maybe slightly 3-D by comparison... but that's not saying much. (Can someone confirm to me that those two guys existed? My memory is not very reliable with respect to FELS.)
The younger was a handsome handyman who fell in love with the older man but ultimately was afraid to live openly as a gay man. He ended up yielding to family and social pressures, marrying a woman he could scarcely bear to touch (although she was crazy about him) and dooming them both a a life of misery. [BTW: The actress who played the bride is now playing Pablo Escobar's wife in the novela of that name.]
I believe the two characters were incorporated into 'Para volver' but I don't know if their sexual orientation was as explicit as it was in the Colombian novela.
Harold, the hairdresser, played by José Luis Paniagua
Alcides, the worker, played by David Galindo
Angela, Alcides's bride, played by Cecilia Navia.
The novela spent a lot of time on this story in the beginning but a lot of the novela wound up on Telemundo's editing room floor. As I recall, there was no real resolution to the story of these two.
In neither version did the macho Reyes brothers look down on this character, which was definitely some progress.
I do remember Willy in Salome; that actor is typecast as this character type. He did have some of that story's most amusing moments, my favorite of which was doing a Phyllis Diller number on the femme fatale villana's hair.
The ending for Roberto in Sortilegio is that when his daughter is born (really his lover's daughter), and his wife turns into a raving drunk, he decides to turn his life around. He divorces Raquel, fights for full custody of the baby, and gets a job. When Raquel eventually hits rock bottom and goes to rehab, they both beg each other for forgiveness. They leave it open ended that once she's clean and sober, they may give their relationship another try-- a real attempt this time, not the farce of the first time.
The characters of Roberto and Ulyses were interesting. Both were very manly men. Both also enjoyed sleeping with women and even loved them. But they were both also content to live off of women, instead of off of their own earnings. Ulyses had the rep of humping anything that moved-- women and men. But Roberto seemed to be pretty exclusive-- his wife and Ulyses only. Plus he had that tender relationship with MJ's little sister, who reminded him of his own deceased little sis, and I think also reminded him of a time he was pure and innocent. He was a complex character to be sure.
I think the only telenovelas (english or spanish) I ever saw which actually had jews were: "General Hospital" - Noah Drake (played by Rick Springfield); "Alborada" -- Sara and her daughter; and "Young and the Restless" -- Brad Carlton (played by Don Diamont).
Kinda sad if you think about it. The world is so diverse in cultures, religions and languages; however, the programs broadcast on television never really show it.
In Amor Bravio (current Uni/Televisa tn), the galan, who is Chilean, converted from Catholicism to Judaism for his first wife and her family who are Chilean Jews. The tn started off with a beautiful Jewish wedding ceremony between the two. It's the first time I think that I've seen a Jewish wedding in any primetime television show (US or LatAm), although I’ve been to plenty in real life.
Another sympathetic portrayal of a gay man was the uncle of Candy in Las Tontas no va al cielo. The novela itself was comic (and often lame!), but he was very certainly the stable figure in the lives of several of the characters. His struggle for acceptance by other family members was nicely portrayed. Manuel Flaco Ibanez played the role well.
US television is the way it is because of economics; it's hard to convince advertisers that one can create interest in this kind of diversity. In a way we're worse off now than in the 70s when we had programs with diverse casts. Now that we have niche networks I think we're experiencing some viewing separatism that didn't happen in our youth.
The one program in English that has to have diversity in its characters and cast is Law & Order SVU because it takes place in New York City. If all its characters were WASP it would not be believable.
Regarding the more progressive shows that are aimed at teens - the thing is, that's been true for decades. The teens who watched those shows as kids are now adults. Seems to me they ought to be able to handle this stuff on the shows for grownups now too.
I was going to mention Sortilegio, if Anon207 & Vivi hadn't gotten into it already. Interesting thing about other's attitudes about Ulises was when Maura & her sister Lissette were discussing him (after his return from Europe) and considering his sexuality. I think Marua said, isn't he bi-(sexual)? and Lissette says, who cares and something about them being better lovers.
Also, on Amor Bravio we just had a conversation between Rafa and Viviana about his brother Aaron not being married or having a novia, living up in a remote area and doing good deeds in a poor community. Vivi asked if he was "gay" and she used the English word--so I guess it's accepted as a Spanish word? Rafa said no, and explained the absence of a love life in his brother, but there was an acceptance of the possibility with no judgment.
I think Mexican and Latin American telenovelas are much more conservative and behind the times than their movies. Not too long ago I watched Jorge Salinas and Luis Roberto Guzman in La Otra Familia, a Mexican movie. It features the two of them as a married gay couple and they have a lesbian couple as friends. Although it is not defined as a gay film, it treats the subject sensitively and gay life as being normal while not yet completely acceptable in mainstream society, especially where a child is involved. Excellent film, by the way.
I haven't yet seen La Otra Familia and as much as I love Jorge Salinas, I might have a problem seeing him play gay beyond the handful of tame episodes of LFMB where he was Sergio Mayer's SO.
One heinous stereotype I haven’t seen in a while is the transvestite serial killer, which appears in quite a few novelas. (One more positive transvestite was on Telemundo’s production of DONA BARBARA, I can’t recall all the details, but the gay man was in some ways the moral center of the crazy world, and he would dress up as an alter ego to write harlequin romance novels that wound up inspiring the spinster aunt played by Katie Barberi into exploring a romance with the younger man who loved her, a really offbeat, but wonderful little story line in the early months of that show.)
Some of the characters Catherine Siachoque has portrayed in her career have aspects of ambiguous sexual identity or dangerous sexuality or outright lesbianism and there’s the implication that this sexual “perversion” is another aspect of her overall corrupt, immoral murderous soul.
Telemundo has had gay and lesbian characters on most of their novelas this year. As to be expected from this network, it has been kind of a mixed bag. On the bad side, there’s the perpetuation of the sexually threatening lesbian. The often vile CORAZÓN VALIENTE had a female police detective in her first ridiculous scene, giving the wolf eyes at the villainess played by Aylin Mujica and eventually blackmail her for sex. And of course, Mujica’s character is shown to be so immoral sexually, she basks in these lesbian encounters, rather than have the show portray it as the rape it is.
The other place where you’ll almost always see the sexually threatening lesbian is in prison scenes, and as Telemundo has sent each of their heroines to prison this year, we’ve seen it a lot. Right now on ROSA DIAMANTE, we see a hulking “ugly” prisoner hired by the villainess to kill Rosa (Carla Hernandez), but always full of sexually charged leers and casually tossing off terms of endearment and flirtation when addressing the pretty heroine.
ROSA DIAMANTE also had a stereotypical gay character, the fashion designer at the lingerie company Rosa runs. He was one of the “good guys,” but was obviously a secondary character with no life outside the central plotlines at the company and was also obviously expendable as he was pretty quickly murdered.
On the more positive side, there was the teen gay story line on RELACIONES PELIGROSAS, which I thought did a decent job exploring some aspects like coming out, teen bullying, and the father, who was a doctor, attempting to “fix” his gay son and the psychological and emotional torture that entailed. Unfortunately, what the show chickened out from exploring was the actual gay relationship, with kisses implied rather and shown, the most they would allow was some chaste hand holding. (I think the show was going to go further, but it got really bad ratings the first two months, so Telemundo in their infinite wisdom decided to pull back from the more controversial aspects of the young people’s stories – a shame, the ratings didn’t rise at all and they gutted what was most interesting about the show. The show was already getting poor ratings, that should have been a license to push US telenovela boundaries even further, to really break new ground, do a few memorable “firsts,” what they wound up with was a mediocre, forgettable botch.)
OJO POR OJO, a very peculiar Telemundo Colombian production from a few years ago which is airing on Mun2 about two clans of brothers in a deadly war with each other, has a couple gay characters, one on each side of the conflict. Francisco Bolivar, a very thin, boyish actor who was Dudi in FLOR SALVAJE and played Pablo Escobar’s younger brother briefly on ESCOBAR, plays one of Miguel Varoni’s sons on the show and is a very effeminate gay stereotype, but he is also one of the only decent, moral human beings on this show populated with murderers and, though I haven’t been watching it closely enough, I believe Varoni character’s eventual acceptance of his gay son as part of his family is one of the aspects of Varoni’s slight redemption. The other gay character is played by Oscar Borda, a broadly built actor who was Tato on EL CAPO.
One other related aspect of this subject is the way audiences who feel underrepresented on TV will grasp onto aspects in characterization, intentional or not, that are perhaps suggestive of hidden sexuality and/or relationships, this grasping onto subtext within a show that then spurs on the imagination of the audience, often resulting in discussion boards and, most interestingly, fan fiction. Probably the most prominent example on a US show is the female detective played by Mariska Hargitay on LAW & ORDER: SVU, who has inspired hoards of lesbian based fan fiction, usually pairing her with one of the female DAs on the show. Another obvious fan favorite for these subtext seekers is the TNT cop show RIZZOLI & ISLES and the close best friend relationship between the heroines, the police detective played by Angie Harmon and the medical examiner played by Sasha Alexander. I don’t know if this type of subtext search and fan fiction inspiration arises much from telenovelas, but I was struck by the friendship on AMOR BRAVIO between Camila (Silvia Navarro) and Viviana (Fernanda Castillo) and thought, the subtext is there for audiences who want it. Camila and Viviana fit quite comfortably into the sort of archetypical fantasy roles evinced by characters like Rizzoli & Isles: Rizzoli/Camila is the strong, independent, pants wearing, working in a traditionally male dominated field while Isles/Viviana is the more overtly “feminine” partner, longer tresses and dresses. Both shows feature close confessional conversations between the heroines, late nights on sofas drinking wine, and, at least until the romance between Camila and Daniel/Andres began to blossom, an absence of males, actually outright dangerous and loathsome previous male partners. One sort of “signal” that subtext lovers would have grasped onto was the fact that both Camila and Viviana, in separate scenes, expressed an apology through the gift of flowers.
I can see how the close friendship between Camila and Viviana in Amor Bravio, two independent women, could be interpreted in that way as well. Very interesting.
If we are talking about other networks besides televisa in Mexico, Cadena 3 has the best record with Gay storylines. Each and every one of their novelas has had at least a gay couple.
Las Aparicio was the story of a family of three sisters and their mother, the youngest one discovered she was bisexual and fell inlove with her best friend. They got married at the end. The novela had no problem having them kissing and having sex and their sex scenes were as strong and sexy as the ones from heterosexual couples.
El Sexo Débil was a story about a family that had three grown up sons and one was gay and had a boyfriend. The father learning to accept that relationship was one of the most important parts of his story.
Infames had two regular gay characters in the closet and one recurring as well (and they never got out of it since they were politicians). The main characters in the show were our good heroine, Lola, who tried to advenge her fiance's death and our bad girl, Ana, who was a puppeteer in the game of politics (though she had not been involved in the death of the fiance). The bad one was bisexual and she had the hots for the good one, who used her sexuality to get close to her.
The funny thing here was that the actresses had SO MUCH chemistry that everybody wanted them to get together at some point. One of my housemates and very good friend of mine went up to Ximena Herrera (who played Lola, the heroine) during a signing event at a mall and told her her character NEEDED to end up with Ana's, or he'd DIE! LOL!
The characters eventually slept together in a threeway with some old skeevy guy involved in politics. It was a big deal because Lola had to save her neck pretending to be on the side of the baddies and sell herself but Ana being there was, oddly enough, her one comfort.
Jarocha, was the decision to stop producing teen and kid novelas based on budget? Also, has another network decided to do this to fill the gap?
Urban, my friend is gay so he wasn't interested in the characters getting together just because they were two women. He genuinely "shipped" them, as did most of the viewers. I liked them together too, their chemistry was fantastic but the show would have had to change their personalities for them to fit as a couple as much as they did as coworkers and partners.
About the teen and kids novelas, the ratings for the last few of those had been abysmal and it seemed that kids weren't interested in telenovelas anymore so Televisa decided to nix them. Instead, now we have a full bar of telenovelas for young and older adults. I don't know if this is a good idea, the kids and teen telenovelas made the younger population familiar with the format.
They have a secret affair and Flacos wife finds out and helps this bad guy who then captures them on tape.Flaco wants to protect Lalo and so he comes out.Lalo gets beaten up pretty bad and he cant play football anymore so he leaves town.In the end Flaco goes to see him and asks Lalo to marry him.
I really like their relationship because theyre really masculine and manly men,footballers and theyre gay.The show doesnt stereotype them or make them any less significant because of that.The team mates support them as well.