“Family with Fire”: The Free-Market Telenovela

Camilla chats with her Congressman boyfriend (impactony.com).

Camilla chats with her Congressman boyfriend (impactony.com).

The morning after Election Day is too often painful. The night before, Latino voters were tantalizingly within reach. Yet, in the morning’s light, Republican politicos are heartbroken, having failed to woo that coveted demographic.

Dominican-American Clara Del Villar, herself a conservative, has a better idea: The GOP should engage Hispanics where they already are, namely in the telenovela audience. Toward that end, Del Villar created Familia con Fuego, or Family with Fire, a pro-free-market telenovela, whose first season includes 12-Webisodes. Del Villar recently spoke with Acculturated about the show:

What inspired you to create Familia con Fuego?

My parents came here in 1956, after being harassed by the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. My parents suffered through many challenges, but they always stressed the opportunity of this country. The point is to show all the characters in aspirational roles, embracing the possibility and potential of this country.

How did the show get its name?

Telenovela titles have a dramatic element. Some are absurd, but when you name a telenovela, it has to have some real drama to it.

 Why is the show in English, rather than Spanish?

This is Web-based entertainment information. The average audience for that platform is probably 27 years old and under. If you’re that age and a citizen, 80-90% of Hispanics speak English. More and more, the community would benefit by focusing on integration and assimilation. I also wanted to grab [viewers] in a new way and maybe have some crossover appeal so the general population understands the existing Hispanic community better too.

What attracted you to the telenovela format?

The telenovela permeates the community and is very important media entertainment in Mexico and Caribbean. In the U.S., 80% of Hispanic households – of the 52 million Hispanics, excluding Brazilians – tune in to telenovelas.

What differentiates telenovelas from soap operas?

The telenovela only lasts 12 or 13 months. Audiences can weigh in on what they want the characters to do – whether they want characters to fall in love, live, or die. They feel they’re part of the story, not just a viewer.

Why share free-market messages on a telenovela?

In the spirit of trying to connect with Hispanic culture, it’s a way that people will tune into a story and policy idea. In early 2012, Univision laid out a novela about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would benefit Latino families in particular. The name of it was Asegurate.  In English that translates as “security,” a comforting term. The other meaning is “insurance.” Univision has been doing similar things to promote Democratic candidates for a long time. Familia con Fuego is an attempt to creatively share free-market ideas on the Web.

Immigration reform is a central theme. What does that mean to your viewers?

One of our essential sponsors, the Krieble Foundation, provided funding and support for the immigration topic. I wanted the show to promote immigration as an overall positive. Yes, some people broke the law, but many of them did that to work here. It’s time to have a policy once and for all. It’s the hazy nature of our policy and what will happen that’s leading to more chaos, not less. Also, it’s not in the video, but I’m really disappointed that there’s no real border security. It’s time to work with Mexico and Central America on the free-for-all that’s going on now that’s ultimately a huge tragedy.

Will season two also address immigration?

Next season will tackle different issues. I don’t want the Hispanic community to think that’s the only issue we have to talk about. Promoting economic possibilities and finding why things aren’t moving [in Washington] are what interest me most.

What else should viewers expect next season?

I want much more love interest and drama. Telenovelas always go better when you go over the top. Conservatives are conservatives, and you have to be respectful, but we can utilize love and beautiful bodies in a way that can be constructive, make it work for us, and get attention as well.

Do you see any conflict between entertaining and informing?

I never thought that entertaining people diminishes the seriousness of our policy and political message. It’s time for conservatives and libertarians to have fun and share that enjoyment in new platforms. Let’s use fiction in an entertaining and informative way. [President] Reagan and [William F.] Buckley knew how to tell stories and use humor effectively.

Where can readers watch the show?

On HispanicPost.com. Starting July 14th, episodes will air every Monday at 4pm. They’ll be posted for one week. After that, look for everything on YouTube.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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