La televisión Española
Television, as a medium of communication, is one of the most consumed of all the mediums, and one of in which the majority of the content is modified to suit the nationalised audience. As a student, my consumption of the media lies between print and the Internet, however I have been developing an appetite for TV in recent times. Living in Spain, television offers a door to an aspect of lived culture in this country. My household is currently too crisis stricken to pay for Internet, let alone to divide the bill for cable television, and so I become deprived of the wealth of its variety of english content. No Internet and the result is that along with my flatmates, I’ve been finding myself in front of the silver screen a lot more these days. This has been a blessing rather than a curse, as it has matured my comprehension of Spanish as well as allowed me to delve into the structures and themes prevalent in local media. Although many may criticise, I do not want to justify my actions to no one else but myself. After all, those precious hours of my life spent in front of the TV have brought out my inner-detective of social culture(s) present in the media, of which reflects a variety of national interests, concerns and attitudes.
Of particular interest are the locally produced shows for the local audience. After watching several of them, national issues transfer into the many genres and formats of the shows on the screens. I’ve only chosen three shows, but there is a plethora of potential writing that could be done for the many other shows currently being broadcasted. I’m now a low level tele-consumer, I keep it lite for purely sociological, linguistic and anthropological reasons. Fortunately for myself, there are essays, readings and exam revision to keep me busy. Here are some of my opinions on some of the shows I’ve been following lately.
Españoles en el Mundo RTVE Martes 21:15-22:30
Españoles en el Mundo, or ‘The Spanish in the world’ takes the format of a travel show that uses Spanish expatriates as the local narrators, acting as chief opinion on a specific destination in the world. Above all, most of the destinations featured are European, and featuring more often destinations in Eastern Europe. This is possibly due to their cheaper cost coupled with the diminishing sizes of disposable incomes in Spain. All the expatriates are aesthetically good looking, their lives in these foreign countries appear to be easy. Their task as foreign integrators and all its demands such a learning the local language, making friends with locals, the acquisition of local knowledge and know-how frame all the candidates to be successful integrators. The show is quite popular in Spain, many attribute their knowledge on a certain country after viewing the representations presented in the show.
The show is also a selling tool for travel abroad, showing the beauty and diversity of the particular place-destination and the facility of the local Spanish person to follow in their fellow citizens footsteps. This is aimed, no doubt at targeting the fact that the Spanish are some of Europe’s least travelled citizens. The show aims to address that, as well as provide a little insight into life abroad. As the rate of unemployment grows and job positions become even more scarce, it is becoming more of a reality that to pursue a career means that one needs to emigrate out of Spain. Throughout the show, it presents travel as easy and integration as a pleasant and enjoyable discovery, the practical issues of travel including diseases, visas and the political situation are mostly omitted, with local culture, food and customs the focal point. As a publicly funded show on the Spain’s national TV network, the show attracts audiences of two million on a weekly basis.
Callejeros TV 4 Viernes 0:00-2:00 (redifusión)
The format of this show is clearly a sign of the times in a decadent Spain, falling further into economic decline. Callejeros or roughly ‘Street wanderers’ is the name of the freelance journalists, seen running around Spain with hand held video cameras, seeking to bring to light the realities of the fight and struggle of many individuals and social movements mobilised by the scarcity of work, the injustices of pay cuts and freezes of pay-checks taking place. The appeal is to the emotional and the family domain, documenting the before and after effects of the crisis on the participants lives, the very ordinary people now finding themselves living on the economic edge. The tears, the shouting, the arguments, the outrageous, the show does an exquisite job of packing in all the drama and making sure its credibility lies intact. This new edge reclaims the far-from-reality style shows that have until now, distorted and plagued the genre of reality TV. From the old hairy naked male protesters holding placards demanding their salaries to the emotional grandmothers confiding their sobbing bankrupt adult children. Callejeros is riveting television.
The narratives of all the characters is a starkly similar one. Payments not being made to them for months, local and provincial governments with their budgets frozen denying the citizenry basic services and the closing of businesses. It’s a well documented story that is told in all parts of the country. In the last episode, a group of indignant protesters, many in late adulthood, occupied the local government council office, in order to broker a deal on frozen wages and back pay they were owed. The emotional cases of the protesters are legitimised it seems by the three euros that they have in their wallets, the repetitive claim that they need the money to ‘feed the kids’, a thoroughly overused excuse throughout the show. The show targets those with a basic education, mainly single females with children, and overall those areas in which the poverty rate was already high prior to the unfolding of the crisis. These include Jerez and Cadiz in Andalucia, already with little industry, solely reliant on seasonal agriculture and tourism to the outskirts of suburban Madrid, with its large population of unskilled immigrants depicted to all be up to no good. Interestingly, not a single story came out of Galicia or Basque country, or many other small autonomous communities. My sympathy lessened when the participants totalled their bills on flashy iPhones, which I feel detracted from the credibility of their case. Even so it’s hard not to empathise with the victims of what is characterised as a cruel unfair system, laying the callous actions of government and their constituents as the prime instigators of so much personal economic misery.
Vuelveme Loca TV5 Sabados 16:00 – 17:30
When it comes to gossip-entertainment chat shows, the Spanish haven’t got it down to an art, they’ve made it into a science. These lengthy chat shows leave no stone unturned in the tribulations of Spain’s celebrity society, and they hunt down anyone with a slight connection to any celeb worthy of analysis. In ‘Vuelveme loca’, or lit. ‘make me go crazy’, a panel of beautifully dressed blonde women go through the highlights of the week in entertainment, sifting through its various celebrities, starting with the controversial Royals down to the flings of corrupt Politicians. Snapperazzi pics are analysed in great depth, with a team of social psychologists talking through the facial expressions of those in the photos, even applying zoom in techniques to reveal the cigarette brand that the particular celebrity is smoking. Then from here, the show goes into a critical talk-show mode, breaking down and fleshing out the ‘deeper’ issues behind the evidence. The analysis of what the cigarette may mean in terms of a particular celebrity usually has to do with investigating their recent past, done thematically by the panel. From here conclusions are drawn out, Depression? Anxiety? The analysis of the images is pretty thorough and scrupulously draws in on the finest of details. The Prince of late has been the subject of such rigorous investigation. His life in the US documented, his international movements tracked. These so called ‘professional come academic’ psychologists opinions are presented as scientific fact, the application of cursory lines placed around the parts of a specific muted video file or a quick snap add to construct this scientific stylised factuality. This material comes to be repeated over and over again to make sure their desperate baseless claims are framed to appear as consolidated evidence.
The show also reveals all the raunchy gossip, such as who’s been sleeping with who, the latest naughty pictures of celebrities leaked to the press, the new beau of the 85 year old Duchess of Spain and the apparently complicated and stressful lives of the Kings adult children, presented to appear as perpetually in turmoil. Then there are the comical segments instigated by the shows own cast, just in order to balance the seriousness of bulk of other segments. ‘Vuelveme Loca’ transforms and reinvigorates the fading gossip genre into something investigative and demonstrates the high stakes involved in making non-fiction from fiction, from constructing and producing speculation and transforming it into the factual.