Living in an residence with three roommates, I not often do something in full solitude. As every of us wanders by our eight-room maze, any snacks turn out to be communal; any meltdowns turn out to be topic to a collective pool of recommendation; and something that’s streamed on the TV turns into a spectacle for everybody.
Last December, as our solely queer family of 20-somethings was determining find out how to wrap presents, purchase our first Christmas tree and make coquito, that spectacle was “Veneno,” streaming on HBO Max.
The present — a Spanish sequence primarily based on the lifetime of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, a transgender intercourse employee, singer and tv persona who started her rise to nationwide fame in 1996 — first caught my consideration as I used to be making dinner, chopping greens and watching out of the nook of my eye whereas two of my roommates wailed on the TV. After listening to half an episode, I used to be hooked.
Rodríguez, who was higher generally known as La Veneno (the Poison) was thrust into the highlight by a TV journalist who interviewed her at a park in Madrid, the place she labored as a prostitute. Once the footage of Rodríguez appeared on the late-night present “Esta Noche Cruzamos El Mississippi,” she turned an everyday on Spanish tv, the place she constructed her legacy as probably the most distinguished transgender particular person within the nation.
In 2016, La Veneno’s story was documented by Valeria Vegas, a transgender journalist who wrote “¡Digo! Ni Puta Ni Santa: Las Memorias de La Veneno” (“Listen! Not a Whore, Not a Saint: The Memories of La Veneno”). Vegas, who’s performed in “Veneno” by Lola Rodríguez, additionally consulted on sequence, which was created by Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo.
Jumping primarily between the 1960s (when Rodríguez was rising up), the 1990s (when she started working on the Madrid park) and 2006 (when she met Vegas), the present is cautious to honor each info and fantasies. In the present, La Veneno’s reminiscence is flamboyant and fallible, however there’s nonetheless an honesty to this type of storytelling, which permits lived experiences to hold the identical weight as goal truths.
And even in case you aren’t quarantined with a rowdy bunch of queer and transgender roommates, “Veneno” can fill a part of that void. Here are three causes to observe.
Complex Transgender Characters
“Veneno,” before everything, fulfills a fundamental requirement: The creators solid transgender actresses to play transgender girls. As the narrative jumps by its totally different time frames, La Veneno is performed by three actresses: Jedet Sanchéz as a youthful, transitioning Cristina; Daniela Santiago because the breathtakingly scorching La Veneno in her prime; and Isabel Torres because the middle-aged celeb she turned earlier than her dying in 2016 at age 52.
As the timeline shifts, La Veneno’s youth, fame and later years are woven into an evocative portrait of her life and her group. Within that, characters embody their very own arcs; Valeria — the journalist who befriended La Veneno in 2006 — strikes by her personal transition with the assistance of quite a few transgender girls together with Paca La Piraña, La Veneno’s real-life greatest buddy who stars within the present as herself.
Though some tales should be lower a bit quick for the sake of time (the season is simply eight episodes), the breadth of every character goes additional than in lots of homosexual narratives — even celebrated ones like “Moonlight” and “Call Me By Your Name” — which are inclined to focus largely on unhappy, lonely folks, with out queer help techniques, who’re grappling with their repressed gayness.
There are, in fact, heartbreaking moments within the sequence, however they don’t overshadow its abundance of comedy, intimacy and pleasure. The characters in “Veneno” aren’t outlined by trauma; they’re humorous, considerate and deliciously unapologetic.
Dynamics and classes round self-exploration are particularly evident, and putting, as the ladies sit in Paca’s lounge, swapping tales between generations.
“Until I found myself, I tried everything, Valeria,” the older La Veneno says to her within the third episode. “You should do the exact same. If you want sex, have it — with whomever and however you want.”
And that all of them do. Without devastating losses lurking round each single nook, “Veneno” is a refreshing watch, the place these girls get to have easy, lovely, awkward and harmless moments collectively as they develop.
Sex-Positivity (at Every Age)
As every episode jumps between timelines, the tales breeze by totally different characters’ transitions. The arc of La Veneno’s life, particularly, unfolds all through your complete season, and we watch her evolve from a boisterous little one with an abusive mom right into a nationwide transgender icon and, ultimately, a middle-aged lady who’s grappling with the lack of fame and a focus.
Throughout, the present unabashedly captures the joy of lust and sexuality at all ages.
“I was horny as hell,” La Veneno recollects within the fourth episode as a montage exhibits each her and Valeria kissing folks in membership bogs through the years. “I’d have a go at everything!”
Especially as the ladies congregate to gossip in Paca’s lounge, they by no means draw back from sharing soiled particulars. Whether it’s the innocence of a teen crush; the nervousness of somebody’s first sexual encounter; or the raunchy pleasure of watching the middle-aged La Veneno lip-sync “Acaríciame” right into a dildo, there’s no scarcity of hedonism driving the plot ahead.
Community and Chosen Family
“I would give anything to be at a gay club right now,” one in all my roommates mentioned longingly as we watched a youthful Cristina drink, dance and kiss strangers at discos whereas “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” blares within the background. The remainder of us sighed in settlement.
In some ways, the magic of “Veneno” is straightforward: It’s an opportunity to recollect what it felt prefer to be held by our communities. As a younger Cristina muses within the fourth episode, “No matter how lost you feel, life sends you a reminder of who you are.”
After practically a yr of quarantine and isolation, it’s blissful to observe these girls twirl throughout neon-lit dance flooring, gossip in desolate parking heaps and prepare dinner one another pans of wealthy paella. These scenes are ample and easy, bringing us again to the straightforward joys that stem from queer events, love, friendship and intimacy in its infinite types.
Even upon rewatching the present, each episode looks like a promise; an assurance that at some point, we’ll get to swap tales, drinks, recommendation and hugs with the individuals who make us really feel seen as we’re.