Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glee in Cuba

Camilo García, who works in the Sexual Diversity arm of the Cuban National Sexual Education Center (CENESEX), took to his blog yesterday to share his surprise that a state-sponsored Cuban television channel was showing weekly episodes from the first season of the U.S. television hit "Glee".  A translated edited version of García's post follows ("'Glee', a lesson in respect towards human diversity", Feb. 9, 2011).
Once again Cuban television surprises us with the broadcast of a series from the United States in which the respect towards diversity, including sexual diversity, is treated openly and through clear messages. We had already noted the airing of "Six Feet Under" a few months ago, but this time the TV series "El Coro" ("Glee") comes to us on a privileged day and time, in which everyone can see it: Saturdays at 5:45pm, on Cubavision...

...what draws our attention is how the series treats the case of Kurt, an extremely effeminate gay, who showcases the most divine of extravagant fashions and even reaches the tone of a soprano when singing.  With his 'bothersome' look (to those who are the most homophobic), he proudly confronts his way of being, and challenges the world with his amply demonstrated talents and virtues, even in the harsh game of football. His father, an apparently dumb mechanic, gives us a masterclass in sensitivity and humanity in defending his son against any discriminatory attempts based on his physical appearance, his mannerisms or his sexual orientation.

For all these lessons that reach the viewer in a fresh and entertaining way and which do so much good when exposed to society, let "Glee" be welcome on the Cuban screens.  Although it's a shame that it has to be a foreign series - and from the United States to top it all off - that brings clear and powerful messages in regards to diversity.  How much longer do we have to wait for these type of messages, but "made in Cuba?"
Cuban television has tackled LGBT issues in the past beginning with a government sponsored series in June of 2006 called "La Cara Oculta de la Luna" ("The Dark Side of the Moon").  The series was produced with the backing of the CENESEX and had an educational HIV prevention angle but a storyline involving the relationship of a gay man with another married bisexual man caught the country's imagination and led to as frank a depiction of man to man love as had been presented on Cuban television up until that time.

CENESEX, under the leadership of its director, Mariela Castro Espín, has also organized an annual cultural celebration in May in observance of the "International Day Against Homophobia" which has brought actors, directors, artists and performers to celebrate LGBT culture.

Last year, in its 3rd year, the event drew some international attention for showcasing Gus Van Sandt's "Milk" and Castro Espín's open invite to American actor Sean Penn to attend the film's showing.  Sean Penn said he was otherwise occupied at the time but promised to show up at a later date.

Castro Espín also happens to be the daughter of Raúl Castro, the current Cuban president.

NOTE: Most of Latin America catch subtitled episodes of "Glee" a few weeks after they air on U.S. television on multi-national cable networks that license the rights to rebroadcast the show outside the country.  A few unlucky viewers catch dubbed versions of "Glee" (instead of the subtitled versions).

I'm not sure if the version being aired in Cuba is a subtitled version or a dubbed version. The clip above is from Mexico's Azteca TV network.


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