Latino Fear Factor
Eating cold canned menudo...now that's a challenge!
Al Carlos Hernandez
I am a fan of the NBC TV program 'Fear Factor'. For those of you who don?t know or have a weak stomach, the program is designed to get people to confront their biggest fears outwitting -- although it is easy to outwit a half-wit -- the other opponents in the hopes of winning 50 large. The last person standing bags the moolah.
Published on LatinoLA: May 18, 2002
Contestants typically have to jump out of windows, walk across buildings on tightropes, be dunked under water, ride bulls, be dragged by horses, crash cars, and eat really gross stuff. This is not unlike my college experience as Chicano Studies minor.
People go on the show for various reasons: fame, fortune, to prove something to oneself. The series works because many viewers want to see people get scared and humiliate themselves for fifteen minutes of recognition and money. That is why mean-spirited people encourage local loud mouths to run for public office.
I have the hubris, not necessarily the ability, to say I would try most of the stunts, as long as it does not involve water or eating anything unnatural. Recently, I read the book 'Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal', and the only way I would eat at a fast food hamburger place nowadays is having a one in five shot at 50 grand.
Since there is a call for networks to diversify and NBC is actively courting Latinos, I would like to suggest a Latino version of 'Fear Factor', shot in the barrio called ' ?Y Que? Factura'.
The grand prize would still be 50 thousand dollars, the problem being they will receive checks on the 15th and 30th of every month and once in a while a caseworker has to come by to make sure you aren?t enjoying the money.
The only qualification for all contestants is simple: every applicant must have hyphenated names like Oliva Montezuma Gonzales-Smith, La Blancita de la Flor-Goldstien, Scott Tostada-Washington, or Reginald DeBurro-Kalib.
Basic stunts would include walking through a Sure?o neighborhood at night wearing red pajamas, and or walking through a Norte?o neighborhood wearing blue ones. Eating things like cold canned menudo, mystery meat tacos from Tijuana street vendors. Doing a Spanish radio commercial in a clown suit while sober. Protesting Eddie James Olmos for being an alleged sell-out then asking for an autographed picture.
More sophisticated stunts would include repossessing a relatives mini van, serving a summons to an ex-lover, appearing as a presenter on the ALMA awards, and actually receiving an ALMA award.
The overall objective of '?Y Que? Factura', the TV pilot, not the standard spousal response, would be for the last contestant standing to confront their barrio fears, happy in the knowledge that they won more money than they will ever earn a year with a liberal arts degree.
The thing that makes the existing 'Fear Factor' relatively easy is because everyone knows that there are safety wires, harnesses, rescue divers, and paramedics on hand should something go wrong. If they let you jump out a 10-story window on prime time network TV, you had better believe that the stunt was approved by a herd of corporate lawyers. If you eat something whack, its easy to toss your cookies off stage, and come back the next day a few pounds lighter with a fist full of Altoids, but you still have a chance to go for the gusto. On TV, its not how you feel it?s how you look.
''?Y Que? Factura', on the other hand, the camera would follow the contestants home, and capture the real life humiliation from friends and relatives and also would have the option of flying in loved ones from around the world to insult you in real time in person.
'Fear Factor' gives everyone respect for trying a stunt even, if they fail, although I don?t know how I would cope with not winning a penny after eating an assorted plate of raw squid, cucaracha and/or monkey parts. Who would possibly kiss you after that?
On '?Y Que? Factura', no one would congratulate those who tried and failed. Rather, they would assemble community folks who would bombard you with questions like, ?Who do you think you are trying to get rich and famous?? Or things like, ?Oh you think you are too good now that you were on TV? Ask your new friends if they have a monkey tamale recipe so you can cook it yourself, now that you like it so much, sangron??
Trying to keep your hopes and dreams alive surrounded by cultural and communal doubt is the real challenge in these archaic times.
Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a contributing columnist.