P O S T E D B Y A L B E R T
Population Communications International, a New York-based nonprofit organization, has, for the past twenty years, pioneered the use of telenovelas in the fight against poverty, AIDS, and other social ills. The organization has politely rejected every socially conscious script I’ve sent them, including this latest, titled, La Flor Apolonia:
(Apolonia is a beautiful woman with big beauty-parlor hair and long nails. Her dress makes a small “X” across her chest, barely concealing her breasts. Marta, her closest friend, wears a white mini-skirt, a bright blue Spandex top, and long, bangly earrings. She has applied her makeup with unmatched zeal. The two women speak in quick, unaccented Spanish.)
Apolonia: Enrique told me that his parents had disowned him. I pitied him, Marta—you’ve seen those big brown eyes of his! (Apolonia juts out her chin defiantly.) The barbarian repaid my kindness by forcing himself on me. (The orchestra swells, heavy on the strings, as Apolonia clenches her teeth.) Now I’m pregnant with Enrique’s baby and I’m afraid I might have AIDS! (Music sting.)
Marta: You were clearly born to suffer, Apolonia! Listen, I know a woman who works at the local health collective. Just the other day she was telling me how they had convened diverse community stakeholders around issues relating to the sourcing of positive health outcomes for economically-challenged persons of female. Let’s go see her …
What’s the secret of seamlessly integrating the preachy earnestness of poverty-fighting messages, say, into melodramas starring sexy Latinas and hunky vaqueros? Apart from being one of the greatest playwrights of the last century, what made Bertolt Brecht so good at using theatre as a forum for political ideas?