Tuesday, September 22, 2015

R&I Report Brainstorm - El Secretario

I want to use this blog post as an opportunity to gather my thoughts for my Representation and Identity Report. Part of my struggle in preparation for this paper comes from my lack of exposure to the telenovelas, meaning I'm not as far into the shows as I would like to be at this point (definitely no one to blame but myself!). I love the flexibility that we are granted in this class because when it was time to choose a telenovela to watch this semester, I was torn between two. Had I not been allowed to follow both, I may have simply chosen "Lo que la vida me róbo" and then not had the opportunity to discuss various topics that I have found very interesting in "El secretario."

The most obvious topic to mention is the gender representation in "El secretario." The title itself refers to a male secretary, which is portrayed as taboo in the telenovela (a reflection of Colombian machista society). At the beginning of the telenovela, after we are introduced to Emilio's current life situation, we also learn that Antonia has made it her mission to hire a male secretary because her boyfriend's brother, Mario Seguro, has a pattern of flirting with and seducing his female secretary and Antonia is sick of dealing with this inappropriate relationship. When Emilio is hired as the secretary, he believes there was a misunderstanding because there is no reason for a man to have a secretary job! He causes a scene, but eventually realizes he is desperate for a job and ends up becoming the first male secretary at the company. We know he is the first because Castillo, the man in charge of paperwork and uniforms at the company, explains that the only uniforms they have are for women. Antonia encourages Castillo to make something work for Emilio, and he cooperates. I appreciate the representation of a male secretary in this show (not only a representation, but the fact that the show is centered around this concept), because it is a more modern idea and shows progress in society.

I think it is interesting how the writers depict the stereotype of the secretary job as being too easy for a man to take on, however when Emilio starts his job, he quickly learns that he is not necessarily over qualified for such a "simple" job. He struggles and 2 of the 3 female secretaries refuse to help him because of how he disrespected their job and their character as working women in society. One of the 3 secretaries, however, has a soft spot for Emilio and tries to help him as best she can without her "friends" hating her.

Something else I would like to discuss is the "machismo" in Colombian and many Latin American cultures. Most often (and rightfully so) when discussing machismo, the focus is on women's inequality and struggle for social change. However, from the perspective of analyzing "El secretario," Emilio is dealing with overcoming stereotypes and fitting in at his workplace. Furthermore, in her article, "Fraught with contradictions: The production, depiction, and consumption of women in a Venezuelan telenovela," Dr. A states, "…there is a significant incidence of male infidelity and a sociocultural legitimization of this behavior," which is also evident in "El secretario," because Félix is cheating on Antonia with her best friend, Paola. As a viewer, my heart goes out to Emilio because he is overcoming battle after battle in the workplace and his personal life, and he is obviously better for Antonia than her cheating boyfriend!

One last thing I should touch on because it has come up a few times thus far in the telenovela is how the show has handled sexuality and portrayed the misconception that Emilio was gay. I think overall nothing too outrageous or offensive was written in the dialogue. When confronted by Antonia with this personal question, however, Emilio did act very defensive and in the most respectful was possible he was angered by the fact that his coworkers would spread that gossip. Personally, I would handle that differently and I wouldn't be as offended if my sexual orientation was mistaken, but for men, especially in a machista society, I think homosexuality is a more uncomfortable topic. Here is a screenshot of how episode 5 ended:

To conclude, I hope to focus on how gender norms and sexual orientation are depicted in "El secretario" in my Representation and Identity report.

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