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Commentary: How About A Latino Fear Factor?

By Al Carlos Hernandez
La Prensa San Diego

SAN DIEGO — 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 ran for one hundred episodes a few years back. It has recently been revised with the same host and extreme fighter, buffed comic and freshly tattooded, Joe Rogan.

The program is designed to get people to confront their biggest fears while outwitting (although it’s easy to outwit a half-wit) other opponents in the hopes of winning fifty large. The last person standing bags the bread. 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 a Chicano Studies minor in college or my job as Program Director in Spanish radio.

People appear on the show for various reasons: fame, fortune and/or to prove something to themselves. The series works because many viewers want to see people get scared and humiliate themselves for fifteen minutes of recognition and, hopefully, money. This is the same reason why mean-spirited, self-congratulatory, loud mouths run for public office.

I have the hubris, not necessarily the ability, to say I would try most of these 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 place today is by having a one in five shot at fifty 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.’ It would be shot in the barrio and called ‘Sin Factura’ or‘Without Facts.’

The grand prize would still be fifty thousand dollars. The ’fear’ part would be that they would receive checks on the 15th and 30th of every month, and once in a while a caseworker has to come by to make sure they 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-Goldstein, Scott Tostada-Washington, or Reginald DeBurro-Kalib.

Basic stunts would include walking through a Sureno neighborhood at night wearing red pajamas or walking through a Norte neighborhood wearing blue ones. Eating things like cold canned menudo and mystery meat nachos from Chinese taco trucks. Doing a Spanish TV commercial in a clown suit while sober. Occuping an OG and former Marine’s front lawn . . . I could go on.

More sophisticated stunts would include repossessing a relative’s mini-van, serving a summons to an ex-lover, appearing as a presenter on the Imagen awards, or actually receiving an Imagen award.

The overall objective of Sin Factura – the TV pilot, not the standard spousal response – would be for the last contestant standing to confront their barrio fears and be happy in the knowledge that they won more money than they will ever earn in a year with a liberal arts degree.

The thing that makes the existing ‘Fear Factor’ relatively easy is that 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 ten 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, it’s easy to toss your cookies off stage and come back the next day a few pounds lighter with a fist full of Altoids and you still have a chance to go for the gusto. On TV, it’s not how you feel, its how you look.

With Sin Factura…

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