I do not speak one word of Spanish. Okay, well, crap. That’s a lie. Truly, I do not speak Spanish. I speak a few words of Spanish. I wanted a punchier first sentence. I usually write fiction. Cut me some slack. Here’s a list of Spanish words I know, off the top of my head:
1. maricon (sp?)
(this is the point in my list where you might be figuring out that I grew up in a neighborhood with a significant Spanish-speaking population) (and also where I might point out that I am fluent in swear words in several languages)
So I think it goes without saying at this point that for me to watch as much Telemundo as I do is curious at best. But I haven’t had cable in years, and the truth is, Telemundo can be a hell of a lot more entertaining than some shows in languages I do speak.
Occasionally I watch the telenovelas. Sometimes I watch the talk shows. On one, there is a very animated middle-aged lady with big curled blonde hair and a push-up bra. Actually, I’m pretty sure that being a guest on this show requires a push-up bra and if you do not come prepared, it’s like going to a fancy restaurant and getting a dinner jacket – they’ll provide one for you. Guests on this show include a lot of musical acts with, in addition to push-up bras, short skirts, and very bad choreography (which may be a function of the fact that the set seems to be the size of my bathroom). Sometimes if there’s some event going on they cut away to stars on red carpet. Not speaking the language, I like to try to figure out if they’re pop stars or soap stars and frankly sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes I also watch the talk shows in the vein of Jerry Springer or Maury Povich where the people have very long titles underneath with only one or two words I can catch, like “papa,” enough to surmise that someone is trying to find out which of two “papas” someone’s baby belongs to.
Plus it’s just fun to say, “Sabado Gigante!”
Mostly, though, I love to watch American movies in Spanish. It works fairly well if it’s an action movie. There’s very little dialogue, none that you couldn’t figure out fairly easily, anyway, and lots of dramatic action and expression. I watched the entirety of Anaconda on Telemundo, a movie I would never have watched in English in spite of the presence of Owen Wilson. (Although he gets eaten by the snake fairly early on. Oh, sorry, did I give too much away? People getting eaten by the anaconda?) And let me say I am no friend to snakes, they skeeve me out, and I certainly don’t like big giant ass ones.
But as films to watch in a language you don’t speak go, this is a perfect example. You have a cast of characters on a rickety boat in a swamp somewhere. Jennifer Lopez is the sexy one, Kahri Wuhrer is the other sexy one who’ll probably get killed, which we know because she used to be on MTV. Ice Cube is the black one, Eric Stolz is the weird one. Some of them don’t get along. Jon Voight seems to be the egotistic leader, which you can tell by the determined look on his face. One is as skeevey as the snake itself. They fight. It’s probably about how to kill the snake, or a money issue. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the skeevey one eventually gets eaten by the snake.
What’s fun about watching movies in Spanish is that it forces you to actually pay attention. I’m inclined to be reading a book while watching TV, which you can’t do if you’re watching in languages you don’t understand. Granted, the very title of Anaconda in and of itself is probably as much attention as need be paid. Big snake, got it. Talky dramas, for obvious reasons, don’t work as well, although it can be interesting to watch a better movie in Spanish, to see if people really are good actors. I saw a bit of that vampire movie where Nicolas Cage eats a cockroach, in Spanish, and, you know, in any language this is not enjoyable, and makes me rethink Nicolas Cage, who I’ve liked in English.
Anyway, just to refer back to the title, imagine all the things I’d watch that I don’t need to watch if we had more channels. We had cable for three weeks when we first got to Austin and it was AWESOME – do you know there’s a whole show about throwing all the junk out of someone’s house? Think about it! There are enough people out there who have a house full of junk to warrant an entire TV show, not just a special two-part episode of Oprah. And who can resist reruns of 90210, or all-day marathons of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency or What Not to Wear, even when I want to yell at Clinton and Stacy not to just leave the tattoey hipster be! On cable I want to watch everything and nothing. The only shows I truly cannot watch are the ones that show surgeries, real or fake, and The Hills. Thoroughly unwatchable. I do not have any idea who’s watching this show. I tried. But the conversation is like, Are you going to the party? I guess. Is Lo going to the party? I don’t know. Okay, well, I guess I’ll go. But what if there’s drama? I don’t know. And then cut to the party and the drama is about as dramatic as the pre-party discussion about the drama. Even writing this is putting me to sleep.