A new Netflix reality series following the lavish lives of nine wealthy, light-skinned socialites in Mexico City has provoked a backlash from critics who say it’s tone-deaf in a country where most have darker skin and about half the population lives in poverty.
Get our news delivered to your inbox every morning. Click here to signup
“Trash,” ″filth,” ″pathetic,” ″classist,” were some of the more polite adjectives Twitter users employed to describe their reaction to the show, “Made in Mexico.”
Critics are also questioning the timing of the streaming service’s first Mexican reality show, announced a little over a month after the country overwhelmingly elected as president the leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who rails against what he calls an entrenched and corrupt elite and promises to make the poor his top priority.
“In the last elections we showed that we live in a democratic country. Nonetheless, we still suffer terrible atavisms related to classism and, what’s worse, racism,” said Guadalupe Loaeza, who has written several books about the Mexican elite. “More than money, the color of one’s skin is definitive … for whether one is accepted or not among the ‘rich boys and girls.’”
“Made in Mexico” producers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
But Hanna Jaff, a 30-year-old, San Diego-born Mexican philanthropist, speaker and human rights activist, told The Associated Press that she and the other cast members are representative of Mexico as family people with different backgrounds and professions and “our own problems within our circumstances.”
She said the show will offer a positive, intellectual, entrepreneurial vision of the country, in contrast to what’s often seen in media such as Netflix, which hosts a number of violent narco-dramas such as “El Chapo,” about notorious Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera.
“I wanted the world to see a different Mexico, from a different point of view,” Jaff said. “I think there will always be negative and positive people, no? … And in truth, the program is not a stereotype.”
At least in early advertising, however, Netflix has been touting it somewhat differently: “Get to know the opulent lifestyles and infamous dynasties of Mexico City’s socialites and the expats vying for a spot in their exclusive social order,” reads the teaser for the show in the app.
Some have also objected to its English-language title, an affectation common in magazines and advertising aimed at well-to-do Mexicans. Besides Jaff, at least two other cast members are reportedly American.
The white and the wealthy have long dominated Mexican media, from telenovelas to newscasts to high-society supplements of national newspapers that chronicle fancy weddings, galas and mansions, with hardly a dark-skinned face to be found.
Loaeza referenced what are known in the country as “mirreyes” — a motherly expression meaning roughly “my little kings” — the flashy young scions of wealth and privilege known for sharing photos of luxurious cars, clothes, vacations and bling on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The phenomenon has taken off in recent years, amplified by the explosion of social media and accompanied by a number of corruption scandals during the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto.
“These ‘new rich’ are totally aspirational, even though they are criticized,” Loaeza said. “Many people aspire to dress like them, to spend holidays in Acapulco and drive a BMW.”
So despite the criticism in a country of stark social and economic contrasts — where telecoms magnate Carlos Slim is one of the richest people in the world, while millions in places like Chiapas and Oaxaca live in ramshackle homes — “Made in Mexico” could well become a hit when it is released Sept. 28.
“I think that precisely because most of the population is so far from that, it makes people really curious about what it feels like to be in that person’s place,” said Jorge Romero, a 25-year-old Netflix user.
Christopher Alcantara, a 32-year-old business administrator, said he’s curious to see “Made in Mexico” and added that such shows are entertaining and introduce new slang and fashion trends.
“Morbidity sells, and without a doubt it would be very interesting to watch a pilot episode,” Alcantara said.