More lies about imaginary Mexico

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The more than 53 million people living in poverty in Mexico are being insulted in every episode of the new Netflix reality show Made in Mexico. Nine socialites of Mexico's one per cent are the protagonists of a reality show that can only be described as a mishmash of The Real Housewives and Beverly Hills 90210, catty moments included.

Made in MexicoLuxurious restaurants, glistening high-rises, high fashion and the dreams of some of the richest people in Mexico City pretend to give substance to a show that exposes its own banality when dealing with issues such as parenthood, career changes and relationships. Most importantly, this show, which in theory was created to showcase a version of Mexico far removed from the drug wars, fails in representing the country's mestizo and indigenous population, the other 99 per cent of the population.

Beautiful, thin and trendy Mexicans and expats populate a neocolonial universe in which the indigenous 'noble savages' are employed as in-house servants, nannies or drivers, or used as props during touristy outings to show Aztec cleansing rituals. Important festivities such as el Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, are trivialised, treated almost as high-school Halloween parties. Vital cultural places, such as the Xochimilco Canals and Teotihuacan pyramids, are used as backdrops to impress women.

In 1991 anthropologist Ricardo Bonfil Batalla, in his book Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization, coined the terms real and imaginary Mexico. Made in Mexico is a clear example of imaginary Mexico, the one that whitewashes its identity.

In imaginary Mexico, celebrity wannabes aim to include as many English words as possible in their vernacular. They want to make sure they are perceived as global citizens, clase alta, as far removed from any trace of indigeneity as possible. In the show, deep Mexico is forgotten, silenced, used as a prop to talk about resilience in the aftermath of the 19 September 2017, earthquake, in which over 360 people died.

Deep Mexico is Mexico's mother culture; it is the vanished glory of the Mesoamerican civilisation. It is the blood spilt by the colonisers who now parade on Netflix's show, oblivious to their privilege and the abuse and injustice that feeds it. The show denies Mexico's roots, its precolonial past and deeply unequal present. One in which the white class rules, and in which the colour of skin matters.

It's this troubling unequal present that needs to be represented in the media. Representation matters, and the stories of the mestizo and indegenous population need to be seen, acknowledged and discussed, particularly when the only other representation available is the narco culture. What is the message that Mexico is sending to the world?

 

"A show about the struggling and disappearing middle class or about Mexican migrants in the US or in other countries such as Australia could be far more interesting."

 

For Mexicans living abroad such as myself, these representations are problematic as well — either you are a 'bad hombre' or a crazy rich Mexican. A show about the struggling and disappearing middle class or about Mexican migrants in the US or in other countries such as Australia could be far more interesting, perhaps more endearing than Made in Mexico.

For one it would help put an end to people asking if all Mexicans have ties to the narcos and would help curb everyday racism. Mexicans come in different colours, are not lazy, and place family above anything else. They have survived colonisation, dictatorships, wars and natural disasters. Their resilience is extraordinary and that is what we ought to be seeing on TV, not nine celebrities getting drunk and discussing matters of the heart à la Kardashian.

And although critics have slammed the reality show, its success is undeniable — people love to hate it, critique it on social media and have made it an unlikely cultural phenomenon.

The question is whether its producers, Love Productions USA, the US branch of the production company behind the reality show The Great British Bake Off, have plans to whitewash other postcolonial countries, converting their first inhabitants into ghosts, selling Kardashian-like lifestyles and validating corruption and unearned privilege. Is there room for a Made in Brazil, Made in Colombia or Made in India? The answer, sadly, seems to be yes

 

 

Gabriella MunozGabriella Munoz is a Melbourne-based writer and translator. Her work has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Writers Bloc, The Victorian Writer and Science Illustrated. She is the 2018 Digital Writer in Residence at Writers Victoria.

Topic tags: Gabriella Munoz, Mexico, representation

 

 

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Existing comments

It's easy to disparage reality TV and there is a lot to disparage. We all realise that reality TV is not real - not for the participants and not for the viewers. It's icky on a number of levels and perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the voyeuristic component. The watchers of reality TV in turn react and judge when examining someone else's life. The fact that that life may not reach a high moral standard is almost beyond the point. Using the standard of the number of poor people in a country against the merits of reality TV is valid. Enabling people to live an authentic life takes a lot of investment. And time.
Pam | 16 October 2018


Gabriella, I strongly support your condemnation of this so-called "reality" show. Sadly it reflects the voyeuristic behaviour of viewers who should know a lot better. Unfortunately audience numbers govern the success or failure of such tacky nonsense, which leads me to wonder at the level of intelligence of the population who can actually sit and consume these ridiculous fantasies . On the other hand as a visitor to Asia over recent decades, I have watched as Aussies have supplanted the ugly American Image in many of these countries. Sadly serious minded visitors, NOT tourists, such as myself and my family, get painted with the same brush. Not nice at all! I assume the same problem occurs in Mexico.
Gavin O'Brien | 16 October 2018


I’ve watched the first two episodes and I agree with you. It does not represent the reality of most of the mexican population. However, I think that the series is true reflection of the upper class. They live in their own reality and do not really care about the others. The more english vocabulary you add to your statements the more cool you are... Also demonstrates the fact that “malinchismo” is still present nowadays. All advertisement in Mexico use white people. Hardly you will see an ad with a mestizo or indigenous person. Sadly, this series is sending a wrong message to the world by only showing one side of the cube. It would have been more interesting if they tell stories of people of different social economic classes.
Cynthia | 18 October 2018


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