Amazon’s 15-part fiction generates what triggered the Netflix documentary on Parcheesi: What ghoulish questions were behind the business of innocence?
Menudo and Parcheesi were the “rattle” that distracted the audience from something more complex, the innocent face behind a monster: a system of exploitation of children and violated rights. It was denounced by the members of the Spanish group in the Netflix documentary last year. It now shows, with a certain sweetened tone, the Amazon series, Get on my motorcycle.
In Menudo (Puerto Rican group born in 1977, from which figures like Ricky Martin came out) growing up was a sin. Changing the voice decreed a final sentence. If the mustache appeared, the boy not only understood that he was facing the death of childhood: he was expelled from the band. The 15-part series emphasizes this idea. A chronological journey to the phenomenon told from the perspective of Edgardo Díaz (Yamil Ureña), the creator of the group.
If the Luis Miguel series had its Luisito Rey, there is also a villain attempt here, but under a softer and more confusing wrapping. Edgardo puzzles us, generates a great doubt about a being of psychological complexity that we are discovering in layers.
Ehe point of view of who narrates generates the conflict between this fiction and what the real protagonists denounce. For weeks, several ex Menudo have come out to the crossroads with anguish and anger: “It made me want to vomit,” launched René Farrait, one of the members of the original quintet.
“It is a comedy very far from reality. And it is not, precisely, more the good than the bad, “added Farrait before Jonathan Montenegro, who resigned from the group in 1991” due to psychological, verbal and emotional abuse, “threw another verbal explosive: “I understand that there were nine members abused.”
With a good reconstruction of the ’70s and’ 80s (although with annoying wigs imposed on the small actors), the story – titled as the big hit – immerses us in a man obsessed with ruling groups and making them ring on the globe. He tries Aqua Marina, a quartet made up of two women and two men, but right away he puts his compass on an all-male band. In principle he gathers three of his second cousins: Ricky, Carlos and Óscar Meléndez Sauri and adds two boys who come from outside his clan.
That central character dislodges. In the story he tries to save his honor, but he shows us unforgivable questions. We see him go through life with no other motivation than to surround himself with children and replace them when childhood comes to an end. He comes before us and we see, as a beginning manager and as an interviewee of a blogger, reviewing that obsession and answering the most macabre theories. The actors in charge, Yamil Ureña in the young role and Braulio Castillo (now retired).
“Do you know that you are growing?” The manager asks one of the children. “I try to avoid it,” the boy replies, as if asking for forgiveness. Dialogues of this style abound in the intention of underlining that the business fired on the island (“one island could easily identify where it was,” says Edgardo in the present) was based on naivety. Almost 40 members had the group until its second and last stage, 2009.
Within the pop-star construction-Latin American fever combo there is a sub-story, that of a former fan and mother, Renata (Rocío Verdejo), who tries to prevent her daughter from delving into the darkness of that group so that she does not discover that adolescent trauma linked to the band that marked her.
The series becomes intense when the catchy music runs from sight to raise old situations, such as the connection with the drug, a tragic event in a show or the great accusation that was made against the producers of the group: trying to “awaken the sleeping sexuality in the little fans through sensual movements and the use of stretchy pants.”
The vintage aesthetic catches. The other hook is the expectation that is generated by seeing the rise of Ricky Martin – who does not monopolize the series, just bursting in in 1984 – embodied by Ethan Schwartz and Felipe Albors. The figure of José Luis Vega (“Joselo”, choreographer and creative director of the group, later Ricky’s right-hand man) also appears on the scene, in charge of Sian Chiong.
From the ban on the use of orthodontics until Christmas outside the home, we are seeing the modus operandi, the network of the perverse mechanism “necessary” for success. Also attacks against the group and all series of dangers to which a child should not be exposed.
If the Parcheesi documentary pulled a blindfold from the fans (the same protagonists spoke of the little Yolanda “white” of businessmen who wanted to approach her “for other purposes” or of Tino “object of desire of mothers who were insinuated” ) this fiction, somehow, too.
More than a product of narrative depth, the series – with several manual dialogues – becomes a great trigger: How did so many parents confidently deliver their children to a ruthless business? Who controlled the adults? What perverse message had he concealed in the dance of some children accused of “awakening genitality and eroticism?” Why can a game turn into a nightmare?