Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jerry Springer- Style Programs Invade Mexico

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jerry Springer- Style Programs Invade Mexico

Article excerpt

In Mexico, the global king of soap-opera production, there's nothing unusual about a television drama featuring a tryst between a young domestic servant and the wealthy man - perhaps a politician or an industrial magnate - she works for.

In a Latin America where the rich-poor income gap is the widest in the world and where domestic help is common, such dreamy story lines are popular fare.

But when one of Mexico's new afternoon talk shows glared into homes around the country with the theme, "My husband got our servant pregnant," it was a sign of something very different for Mexican television. No longer a kind of time out from daily life to indulge in sentimental dreaming, the new shows (complete with slaps and hair- pulling that would make Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones proud) are a crude spectacle based on some too-real families' true-life dramas.

The programs are particularly raising eyebrows - and ire - because Mexico has special media laws to safeguard family values.

Touting daily themes like "Man by day, woman by night," and "My children only care about their inheritance," the talk shows are attracting large afternoon and evening audiences. Having burst onto the national scene in May through Mexico's two major networks, the programs now occupy more than 40 hours a week of programming.

Meanwhile, sociologists are debating what the arrival of such shocking and often vulgar programming on national television means, even as members of Congress, health officials, religious leaders, and human rights officials are calling for the shows to be moved out of family viewing time slots. Some simply want them cancelled.

"These shows are part of a transition we are living in Mexico, especially in the electronic media, to a wider freedom of expression,"says Rafael Resendiz, a communication specialist at Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM). "But the talk shows are an abuse of that new freedom, an exaggeration that has to be corrected."

That "correction" is probably coming. Last week, representatives of Mexico's two major networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, met with government officials and tentatively agreed to move the shows to adult-viewing hours, though no date for the change was specified.

But despite the government protest, the shows continue to air - a testament to Mexico's expanding freedom of expression.

It hasn't always been this free. Just three years ago, when the two networks debuted no-holds-barred real-life crime shows, President Ernesto Zedillo's dissatisfaction was enough to have them cancelled.

The talk shows also demonstrate how Mexican society, often characterized as conservative and closed around the family, has evolved - some would say degenerated - in recent years. Seven years ago, when veteran Miami-based talk-show host Cristina Saralegui came to Mexico, an uproar among religious leaders and family organizations prevented a planned taping of the Cristina Show in Mexico. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.