Thursday, February 9, 2012

Los Plateados

(This post is part of a series on the 14 Top TV Dramas You’ve Never Seen)

We continue our countdown of The Top TV Dramas You've Never Seen with Number 11,  Los Plateados. Admittedly, one wouldn’t expect to find a telenovella in a top drama list. Novellas are Spanish soap operas, but unlike American soaps, they are structured like novels, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The typical novella is poorly written, sometimes written days or weeks before episodes are broadcast, leading to hackneyed dialogue, plot holes, and clichéd endings. But on rare occasions, a novella will rise above its genre. Such is the case of Los Plateados.

Los Plateados is Spanish for “the silver-plated ones”. This historical fiction drama takes place against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution. Robin Hood style bandits would steal silver shipments, robbing the rich to give to the poor, giving rise to the appellation “the silver-plated ones”. This particular group of sibling bandits fought for honor and justice, and to avenge their father’s death. The eldest brother, Gabriel Campuzano (played by Latin star Mauricio Islas) leads them on an attack against their enemy Emilio Gallardo (played to perfection by Humberto Zurita) only to fall in love with Gallardo’s fiancé. It is a pleasure to watch Zurita’s nuanced performance, as he turns what might otherwise have been a two-dimensional villain into the most compelling character in the show.

There are too many fascinating subplots to describe, but I’ll mention one minor yet memorable one, which you can watch climax in the YouTube clip below. Gallardo had an affair with a servant and she became pregnant. He agreed to house her and the child and support them, because she had borne him his only son (male heirs being a big deal in that culture), so Gallardo acknowledged the bastard, who is now a teenager. The servant forced her child to live a lie, for Toñito was born a girl and she has dressed her and raised her as a boy, fearing they would be kicked out on the streets if Gallardo learned she had borne him a daughter and not a cherished son.

Toñito has a crush on the nephew of a couple that work for Gallardo and he becomes attracted to her, yet confused since he thinks Toñito is a boy. Once Toñito reveals her secret to him, they become secret lovers. One day, his uncle catches them kissing, and thinking his nephew is kissing another boy, he beats him mercilessly. The boy refuses to explain, protecting Toñito’s secret. His aunt begs the uncle to stop beating him. A crowd forms, and Gallardo comes out to see what is going on. The uncle explains he caught his nephew kissing Gallard’s son, and Gallardo is as enraged as the uncle. (Obviously a homophobic culture and period).

Toñito appears with a pistol and dares to aim it at her father, warning him not to harm the boy she loves. She loves her father but he has always found his “son” to be unmanly (no surprise there). While she’s torn by having to threaten his life, Gallardo is proud Toñito is finally acting like a man, but he tells her to put down the gun. She breaks down, releasing a lifetime of repressed frustration, anxiety, and rage. “Isn’t this what you want? I’m macho now. I’m your son now.” Then she rips off her shirts, revealing her bandaged breasts, and shouts to everyone’s surprise, “I’m not your son! I’m your daughter!”

In one short, dramatic clip, we have a microcosm of the culture and the societal norms of the era – machoism, misogyny, homophobia, violence, the subjugated role of women, the expectations placed on men (especially first born males in a primogeniture-based society). We see love, romance, self sacrifice, deceit, conflict, and an incredible range of emotions and motivations. And each subplot contained the same intensity.

I know I said I wouldn’t include any westerns on this list, but I think Los Plateados qualifies more as historical fiction than as a typical western. It also has a great theme song. You can hear and watch the opening theme (“Por Amor a la Verdad”).

 Below, you'll find links to the show's listing at the Internet Movie Database and the clip described above, hosted on YouTube. 

Amazon page: None, but you can watch the entire series on YouTube. Also, check your TV listings; Telemundo may rerun it.

Update: I just discovered Los Plateados episodes available on this site (via YouTube) with the option for English subtitles (although the translation is a bit flawed).

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