I Still Prefer Cuban Television

Kabir Vega Castellanos

Photo: cubatv.cu

HAVANA TIMES — A while ago, I watched some television at the home of a friend who has a satellite dish. Though I already had some sense of what American television was like, I was surprised by the dizzying and irrational pace of the programming.

In the middle of a TV series, I was bombarded with three commercials: one announcing a new film that was pure eye-candy, another advertising an appliance which one probably didn’t need as much as they said and a spot for Burger King’s latest hamburger (I believe).

The many images changed so rapidly it was bothersome: there was nothing resembling harmony on the screen.

I recalled what a friend told me about the “stupefying” effects that many television shows have on people. Even those who acknowledge the shows are bad can’t stop watching them.

I’ve always been critical of Cuban television, even of the educational programs we had to watch at school, because everything looked false in them – the houses and classrooms you saw there looked like they were from a different country.

Right now, however, I feel kind of relieved our television doesn’t impose that visual pace on us. I even thought having very few channels, as we do, is a good thing, in the sense that we have less options and aren’t trapped by the television screen as much.

Recently, however, I’ve see a number of local shows that make me think our television is also, slowly being filled up with trash.

A few days ago, I saw part of an episode of a television series (from South Korea, I think), in which the teenage characters looked as though they had been taken right out of a Japanese animation. The premise of the series as such didn’t bother me. What got to me was the acting of the young cast, which stroke clichéd and rather exaggerated poses throughout.

More than theatrical, the whole thing was ridiculous. The story also struck me as the worst kind of soap-opera plot.

I’ve had the fortune of having parents who are very selective about the movies they watch and I am accustomed to seeing good films. Whenever we start to watch one that strikes me as bad, I can’t even sit through ten minutes of it.

My mother tells me that, as a child, she saw Russian, Czech, Hungarian and Italian films that were so good she’s never forgotten them and would give anything to see again.

I’m worried that we’re starting to lose the little we had and that young people in Cuba, who don’t even enjoy the economic and political advantages of the countries these series are made in, look up to such characters as the ones in this “stupefying” South Korean series as role models.

I still prefer Cuban television, though I’m scared to think about what it’s becoming.

5 thoughts on “I Still Prefer Cuban Television

  • Actually yes. Being a ‘gamer’ Is a plus these days. Don’t believe the hype. Cuban children are taught from outdated textbooks and a full third of their day in classroom instruction is spent on political bullsh*t. Who said that the world is American?

  • Yeah, get a job in the real world by playing PlayStation III and watching Japanese cartoons. The Cuban child leaned more and din;t come from a culture of .black folks as maids, butlers, cooks, and buffoons. The world is not American

  • Isn’t this the same kid who quit school because he did not want to cut his hair? Now, his criticism of television is that is it is too ‘active’. My kids play on their PlayStation III using the Picture-in-picture function while watching some Japanese cartoon and download new characters from the program using the interactive feature. That’s active!! Sounds like this kid is behind the times. Good luck when he tries to find a real job in the real world. Oh wait, he’s in Cuba…

  • On the contrary, I just saw Ironman 3 in 4D with my kids. It was a blast!! While I respect your taste for days gone by I prefer to embrace technology and special effects as long as there is an good underlying story. For me most of those old movies used black folks as maids, butlers, cooks, and buffoons. So you see, I don’t wax nostalgic for personal reasons. BTW, the theaters you mentioned in Havana are stuffy, non-air conditioned and dirty. The theater I saw the 4D flick was clean, almost too cold, with comfy leather-like seats that rumbled. I like modern over old and broken.

  • Several years ago there was a song whose title was something like “54 Channels–and nothing to watch!” Now the singer would probably be crooning about “180 Channels–and nothing to watch!” TRASH, TRASH and more TRASH! There are occasional exceptions, however, like the Independent Film Channel, Turner Classic Films, LinkTV, etc., but mostly a wasteland. As soon as my youngest daughter is off to college next year I’d like to cancel the satellite tv service, but after 10-to-12-hour workdays, my wife often likes to veg out watching mindless sit-coms. Fortunately for me, there are many great films available, without commercials, on YouTube and elsewhere, including many classic, and current, I.C.I.A.C. films, like “The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin.” What I really miss, however, is seeing classic films in a theatre. After viewing such films in Boston and New York during the 1960’s and 1970’s, I would adjourn, with friends, to a neighborhod watering hole for a discussion. This was part of the experience, the mistique. Of course in Habana you still have the luxury of seeing good classic–and current–films at the Charlie Chaplan Cinema, and other selected venues throughout the capital (especially during film festivals), but here in the States many such venues, especially in New York and Boston, have closed. In my town–Brattleboro, Vermont–there once was such a venue (The Latchis Theatre), but now it has been reduced to showing mostly Hollywood “product,” instead of films with artistic integrity. Waiting for the many interesting films described in the NEW YORKER’S listings is like “Waiting for Godot.” They never arrive! Do they still have those great films Friday and Saturday nights on Cuban TV? Enjoy them while you can, before the empty, special effect Hollywood spectacles predominate.

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