I couldn’t help myself after watching Bing’s latest commercial. It’s a play on telenovelas.
Or is it? in terms of audience appeal, I’ve spent the last three years looking at the appeal of Latinos(as) as a demographic. This argument is one of the cornerstones of my dissertation. However, Ugly Betty is now off the air, and it is a loss in terms of representations of Latinos(as). The one leading character we had is now gone (and I don’t count Sofia Vergara’s character in Modern Family because she’s part of an ensemble show). But I digress. This is more about Bing.
According to Sharon Chan, of the Seattle Sun Times, telenovela spoofs are not new. Ugly Betty, and 30 Rock have done it before. In Ugly Betty, though, the spoofs were always depicted to the public as part of the Latino(a) appeal of the show. The logic for it was that Latinos(as) watch telenovelas, they love them, and they’ll relate to them. Since Ugly Betty was based on a telenovela, the mini-episodes merely accentuated the marketing of the show.
As for 30 Rock, there was no overarching strategy that required the spoof. At least, not in the same way as Ugly Betty. However, 30 Rock is a show within a show, a commentary on the television industry that often uses its NBC-Universal, its parent company, for plot points. NBC-U is also the parent company of Telemundo. The Generalissimo explicitly refers to Telemundo in the episode, and there’s a glimpse of the Telemundo logo at the beginning of the scene. However, Generalissimo also talks about what appeals to Latino(a) women. He is sure that he can “become everything that every Hispanic woman desires.” Apparently it’s an over-the-top guy in a fake military uniform.
Bing has crafted its new advertising campaign out of spoofing popular culture. It has already done the Shining, and now we move on to Latino(a) culture. It’s a funny parody, I’ll admit, but not very original, and not just because two other shows did it. Telenovelas, along with tacos, have become shorthand in attempts to reach out to Latinos(as). Here’s something that Voto Latino did to get the Latino(a) vote out:
So, now we have a Latino non-profit, two television shows, and a major corporation using the same themes? Don’t tell me this isn’t about the Latino(a) audience, at least up to a certain extent. Besides, spoofing telenovelas is fairly safe. Even Latinos(as) do it, so we’re not exactly talking Frito Bandito here.
Or are we? Bing’s parody brings forth three common stereotypes about Latinos(as). The Bandit is this really violent guy, that will erupt without provocation. Alongside this stereotype, theres the Latin Lover, and the Dark Lady, both of which speak to the hypersexuality of Latino(a) culture (Berg, 2002). These images are recurrent, and have become so familiar as to go unnoticed. Should we expect a fall-out?
Honestly, I don’t think so. The focus of the commercial works in two levels. The first is the obvious references to the telenovela, which, as I said before, even Latinos(as) have mocked. The second is the stereotypes, and I think that will go under the radar, especially in the current climate. Subtly disguised under the telenovela, it can go unnoticed. We’re not talking South Park and Prophet Mohammed here, folks.
As for me… I’m not upset. I may point out the things I noticed in the commercial, but I still got a good laugh out of it. I think this new campaign is working a lot better for me than the “information overload” theme of last year. What I’m really interested in seeing, though, is whether or not they’ll do a part two of this telenovela. If they do so, then I think we would have a better argument for Bing targeting Latinos(as). Plus, since the spot is in Spanish with subtitles, you can use it over at Univision and Telemundo.
How very cost effective indeed. (Microsoft… you sneaky bastard!)