Thanks to the internet and social media, news and information travels faster than ever and people can share their realities and stories like never before. We already witnessed the role social media played in spreading the word about the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and getting people organized and involved.
And now, on the tiny island of Puerto Rico, people are joining cyber-forces to fight a trashy TV program that they feel is detrimental to Puerto Rican society and contributes to the atmosphere of violence and hatred that is plaguing the Isle of Enchantment.
For more than fifteen years, puppeteer Antulio “Kobbo” Santarosa has been behind the character of La Comay (slang for La Comadre/The Godmother), a life-size puppet of a matronly woman who discusses local news in a gossipy way. La Comay criticizes and ridicules everyone from politicians, celebrities, news reporters, and other public figures to everyday citizens who have made the news.
Since 1999, La Comay has been part of the show SuperXclusivo, which is transmitted by WAPA TV and is the highest rated show on Puerto Rican television. Opponents of the show claim the character is homophobic, racist and misogynistic, often attacking women, gays, and Dominicans living on the island. In the past, both the show and the character of La Comay have come under fire for comments made during the live transmission, but nothing really came of it – until now. A recent murder was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Following the gruesome murder of publicist José Enrique Gómez at the beginning of December, La Comay allegedly implied that “he asked for it” after one of the suspects in the murder claimed he was soliciting prostitutes, who then participated in his death. Shortly thereafter, a Facebook group called “Boicot a La Comay” was created by Carlos Rivera, demanding a stop to La Comay’s hateful reign on Puerto Rican television, asking advertisers to withdraw their sponsorships, and requesting that WAPA TV cancel SuperXclusivo.
The group has almost 75,000 followers or “likes” and thanks to their efforts, as of today, approximately 40 companies have withdrawn their ads from the show, including many national brands (see picture). La Comay offered an apology on live TV, but Boicot a La Comay is asking WAPA TV to cancel the show. The station’s president, Joe Ramos, is standing by the show, but has announced it will be pre-recorded from now on, which will give them the opportunity to edit any material that may be deemed highly offensive.
The fact that SuperXclusivo is #1 in ratings puts into question of the type of programming the Puerto Rican public enjoys. The show obviously has a big following as well; supporters quote the First Amendment and say La Comay has the right to freedom of speech. It can be argued that the protesters also have freedom of speech to say the show is junk and, in their opinion, should be cancelled. Plus, the FCC regulates TV content, so is there true freedom of speech to begin with?
It will be interesting to see if the power of this social media movement eventually gets the show cancelled. In the meantime, TV writers and producers in Puerto Rico should accept the challenge of creating programming that will appeal to the public on a more intellectual level.