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The chance it provided to the underutilized and underrepresented Hispanic actors in the media made the television program AKA Pablo of considerable historical and industrial significance. The Norman Lear-produced program, which aired on ABC from March 6 to April 10, 1984, was created at a time when the Hispanic population was quickly growing and had a significant influence on both immigration to the United States and political decisions. This was after they had seen their rights violated, such as when the rights of farmworkers were reversed and bilingual schooling was discontinued, especially following the Republican triumph in 1980. As a result, the Mexican actors and community at large would benefit greatly from the audience and representation provided by this. The show starred Mexican actor Paul Rodriquez as Pablo, a Mexican-American who was living in California with his family as he struggles to break into the stand-up comedy fraternity. In the cast was Pablo’s family members like his father Domingo, his mother Rosa Maria, his sister Sylvia his young nephew Thomas among others all represented by Mexican characters. Pablo uses his family and the Mexican community at large in his jokes against his family’s wish especially the father. The father does not basically like his stereotype approach against the Mexicans and ends up generally not liking the path that Pablo has taken as a career. However, Pablo continues with his approach as he saw it beneficial in winning the Anglo-Saxon audience. With many of the prior shows underrepresenting the Mexicans and using them negatively as either criminals or buffoons and minimally as police AKA Pablo in a positive move vividly chose another path against the norm with its characters as seen above.
AKA Pablo also majorly centered its themes on the Chicano Community. Among the themes which made an integral part of the episodes’ content were struggles of the Mexicans in comedy and acting, pride in being a Mexican, family disputes and conflicts in the Mexican family as well as unity of the Mexican family which were well developed in the show.
The first theme of the struggle of the Mexicans in comedy shown by Pablo’s struggles where he has to use his family to keep his place generally mirrors the struggle of the Mexican community at large in America. The Mexicans had greatly suffered lack of opportunities and say in the American society both politically and economically. Their social status was also undermined. The show also addressed social ills that might be committed by Mexicans. For example, Pablo once joked that Mexicans use a knife as an express card implying they easily assault people using a knife. Also when invited to entertain in a hotel in presence of president Reagan, Pablo dresses in street clothes and carries a prop knife. They are however arrested together with Jose his agent. The Pablo TV show therefore sort not only to mirror the Mexican society in America but also address various issues including crime.
Secondly, the television show addressed pride in being a Mexican. The show incorporates the Mexican culture and showed how Pablo’s family love their culture despite having migrated to America. This can be seen by them still calling him by his Mexican name ‘Pablo’. When Pablo’s nephew Thomas says that he wanted to be Americanized like his uncle, everyone in the family is against him including Pablo himself. He explains to him how much he was proud of his Mexican culture and his family. When Pablo is selected to entertain president Reagan his father asks him to wear a tuxedo, a Mexican attire. The show also brought into limelight other cultures of the Mexican families for example the family prepares for and conducts Pablo’s niece ‘quincenera’, a church ceremony for a girl at turning fifteen. Tables are kept clean by covering them with a cloth on top and incase the table is not big enough, adults will always eat before the children. It is also seen in the show that Mexicans have large families for instance Pablo’s family had 16 members and also in his jokes where he said that Mexicans loved trucks to carry their large families. Pablo’s mother is a clear representation of the soft-spoken, caring Mexican mother who prepares lunch for Pablo before he leaves for work and does not like when children raise their voice to their father.
Also addressed in the show were family conflicts and disputes. From his offset in the comedy show, Pablo is in a conflict with his father who doesn’t support him using his family in jokes. The whole family sees Pablo as not respecting the privacy of his family members when he humorously describes each of them in the Merv Griffith Show. When he is arrested and jailed his father doesn’t want anyone to go and release him. Pablo’s liberal sister is also seen confronting her conservative father leading to conflicts between the two.
However, the family always overcomes all the disputes and is all united at the end of the day. For instance, after Pablo’s jokes on TV he apologizes to them all and on his release, his father joins other family members and Pablo says he loves them all including his father. The whole family is also seen united in the ‘quincenera’ of Pablo’s niece, a church ceremony in celebration of a girl at turning fifteen.
Despite being cancelled after just six episodes with controversies of using ‘Latin Slang’ and offending many members of the Latin and Hispanic community by using poking fun or very exaggerated jokes, AKA Pablo was a show worth more time on the ABC for it had tremendous contribution on both historical and industrial development. The show made a great step forward in the representation of the non-Americans especially the Hispanics and the opportunities they get in the television shows as it pinpointed pride in heritage and culture, family unity and support despite the plights and conflicts.
Acuña, Rudy. “A Brief Guide to Chicano/Mexican American History.” chicanodigital,
https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/a-brief-guide-to-chicano-mexican-american-history. Accessed 17 November 2017.
Edgerton, Gary. The Columbia History of American Television. Columbia University Press, 2009.
Lear, Norman. “AKA Pablo opening credits 80s sitcom” YouTube, uploaded by Gilmore Box, 18 July 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G--m0JFgG0.
Randall, Miller. Ed. The Kaleidoscopic Lens: How Hollywood Views Ethnic Groups. Ed., Ozer, 1980.
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