When a country considers a puppet a legitimate source of news and information, you know that there is something questionable and downright baffling going on. Above is the picture of the infamous puppet known as La Comay (puppeteered by actor Kobo Santarrosa), the hostess of the #1 showed aired in WAPA television titled SuperXclusivo, which is seen mostly by Puerto Rican audiences in and out of the island.
I was never a fan of the show. Although on one hand this could be due to how downright creepy the puppet is, it mostly has to do with how judicious, unethical, and biased La Comay’s so-called reporting process is. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with her ridiculous commentary more than I would like to, for the show is a staple within Puerto Rican communities, and many of my family members watch it religiously.
As a news article points out in Latino Rebels, the show “is a bastion of all that is bad about mass entertainment—the yellow journalism, the unethical investigative tactics, the flat-out misreporting, the playing to the lowest common denominator.” I have found myself appalled with some of the discussions that take place in the show. Perhaps the most “memorable” moment I had with La Comay was during late 2010, when Ricky Martin announced that he would ultimately like to get married in Puerto Rico, where gay marriage is currently illegal. Unsurprisingly, La Comay responded to this with contempt and disgust–and she was already in hot water when she called Ricky Martin a pato (the Spanish pejorative equivalent to the English word “fag”) after he publicly came out of the closet. Needless to say, La Comay faced serious backlash from these remarks, to the point that she had to air a public apology for her socially irresponsible use of language.
Recently, there has been a call to boycott SuperXclusivo, which has been fueled immensely by the use of social media and networks (particularly Twitter and Facebook). As of now, the boycott’s official Facebook page has over 73,500 likes, and its official Twitter page has over 4,000 followers. These numbers are slowly but steadily growing.
Although the causes and the implications of the boycott have been discussed extensively by other sources such as the Huffington Post, in a nutshell, it was mostly sparked by the death of publicist José Enrique Gómez Saladín. La Comay implied that José Enrique deserved his fate because he was “looking for it,” and she even went as far as to posit that he was involved in gay prostitution scandals without having concrete evidence on these matters. The boycott has been quite successful, and numerous companies have retracted their sponsorship of the show.
It is interesting that many have posited that this boycott is compromising freedom of speech and of press, and that it is leading to an unprecedented degree of social and cultural censorship. Others that I personally know are simply downright angry at the possibility of their lovely puppet disappearing from the small screen. However, from a humanistic perspective, the boycott is not about censorship or oppression, but rather, it is targeted at eliminating hatred and discrimination from primetime television–and trust me, there is enough hate and violence as is within the island. There is a difference between portraying honest and unbiased news, and fabricating honesty with malicious intent solely for the sake of boosting ratings. La Comay must be commended for knowing that it’s not just what you say, but it is mostly how you say it… but what is the cost of this so-called honesty? Does the news really need to be embellished with lies, deceit, and hatred?
On one hand, delivering “news” in La Comay’s fashion is definitely a way to reach an audience. People do tune in, after all, in order to determine what scandalous or outrageous thing she will say next–living up to her catchphrase ¡Que bochinche! (“What a commotion!”). The show’s immense outreach has also led to an increase in La Comay’s authority. Let’s face it: La Comay has so much power and influence over the Puerto Rican population that even prominent figures such as the island’s governor, Luis Fortuño, are interviewed in the show. Yes, even the most powerful political figure in the island found himself “coerced” to share his perspectives on a scandal in SuperXclusivo, a show devoted to slanderous news and gossip. To demonstrate the ridiculousness of this notion, think of it as the equivalent of Barrack Obama being interviewed by Perez Hilton.
My concern is the following: although La Comay gains authority through her use of questionable pathos, at what point do ethics challenge this authority? It is simply a matter of how things are being said? Even more importantly, when do we stop approaching La Comay’s ideas as entertainment and start approaching them as ideas?
True, we have all the duty to fight censorship. We have freedom of speech and freedom of press, and nobody should suppress one’s desire to express their thoughts and opinions. The “problem” with ideas, however, is that they not only carry ideological weight, but they are also not isolated within a vacuum. Ideas are part of a circuitous network of exchange and deliberation. Ideas always have consequences.
Even more so, although we have the right to say anything that comes to mind, we have to keep in mind that anything that is said or written can have repercussions (both negative and positive). At the end of the day, La Comay has all the right in the world to say what she thinks and feels–as long as she is willing to accept the consequences that come with doing so. In this case, however, it is easy to hind behind the mask of a puppet. At first glance, it can be said that the man underneath the hideous fabric shell believes that anything said under the disguise is said for the sake of entertainment. However, matters become convoluted when realizing that the puppet approaches her work as serious reporting and investigation. The fact that “truth” must be delivered under the guise of a puppet leaves me pondering and questioning the scope and purpose of what is being said.
Ultimately, I am simply amazed with the fact that so many people have become the puppet’s marionettes. Oh, the irony.
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