Living in an apartment with three roommates, I rarely do anything alone. As each of us walks through our eight-room maze, all of the snacks become common; any collapse is the subject of a collective pool of advice; and whatever is shown on television becomes a spectacle for everyone.
Last December, as our entirely weird 20-year-old family were looking to wrap gifts, buy our first Christmas tree, and make coquito, that show was “Veneno,” airing on HBO Max.
The show – a Spanish series based on the life of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, a transgender sex worker, singer and TV personality who began her rise to national fame in 1996 – first caught my attention as I was making dinner, cutting vegetables and watching out of the corner of my eye while two of my roommates were crying on the TV. After listening to half an episode, I got hooked.
Rodríguez, better known as La Veneno (the Poison), was put in the spotlight by a TV journalist who interviewed her in a park in Madrid, where she worked as a prostitute. Once the images of Rodríguez appeared on the late night show ‘Esta Noche Cruzamos El Mississippi’, she became a regular on Spanish television, where she built her legacy as the most prominent transgender person. from the country.
In 2016, the story of La Veneno 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 is played in “Veneno” by Lola Rodríguez, also looked on the series, which were created by Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo.
Jumping mainly between the 1960s (when Rodríguez was growing up), the 1990s (when she started working at the Madrid park) and 2006 (when she met Vegas), the series is careful to honor facts and fantasies. In the show, La Veneno’s memory is flamboyant and fallible, but there is always an honesty in this kind of storytelling, which allows lived experiences to carry the same weight as objective truths.
And even if you’re not quarantined with a bunch of queer and transgender roommates, “Veneno” can fill some of that void. Here are three reasons to watch.
Complex transgender characters
“Veneno”, above all, meets a basic requirement: the creators chose transgender actresses to play transgender women. As the story jumps through its different periods, La Veneno is played by three actresses: Jedet Sanchéz in the young Cristina in transition; Daniela Santiago as the breathtaking La Veneno in its prime; and Isabel Torres as the middle-aged celebrity she became before her death in 2016 at age 52.
As the timeline changes, La Veneno’s youth, fame, and later years are woven into an evocative portrait of his life and community. Within this, the characters embody their own arcs; Valeria – the journalist who befriended La Veneno in 2006 – is going through her own transition with the help of many transgender women, including Paca La Piraña, La Veneno’s real best friend who stars on the show like her. -even.
While some stories have to be a bit short for the sake of time (the season is only eight episodes), the breadth of each character goes deeper than in many gay stories – even famous tales like “Moonlight” and ” Call Me By Your Name ”- which tend to focus largely on sad and lonely people without a queer support system who are struggling with their repressed homosexuality.
There are, of course, some heartbreaking moments in the show, but they don’t overshadow its abundance of comedy, intimacy, and glee. The characters in “Veneno” are not defined by trauma; they are funny, caring, and delightfully unapologetic.
The dynamics and lessons around self-exploration are particularly evident and striking, as the women sit in Paca’s living room, exchanging stories between generations.
“Until I found myself, I tried everything, Valeria,” the older La Veneno tells her in the third episode. “You should do the exact same thing. If you want sex, do it – with whoever and how you want.
And that’s what they all do. With no devastating losses lurking around every corner, “Veneno” is a refreshing watch, where these women can experience simple, beautiful, awkward and innocent moments together as they grow older.
Sex-Positivity (at any age)
As each episode jumps from one timeline to the next, the stories scroll through the transitions of different characters. La Veneno’s life arc, in particular, unfolds throughout the season, and we watch her evolve from a boisterous child with an abusive mother to a national transgender icon and, ultimately, an aged woman. way that is struggling with loss of fame. and attention.
Throughout the series, the show shamelessly captures the excitement of lust and sexuality at all ages.
“I was horny as hell,” La Veneno recalls in episode four as a montage shows her and Valeria kissing people in the club’s bathrooms over the years. “I would try anything!”
Especially since the girls get together to chat in Paca’s living room, they never hesitate to share dirty details. Let it be the innocence of a teenage crush; nervousness about someone’s first sexual encounter; or the scorching joy of watching the middle-aged La Veneno lip-sync “Acaríciame” in a dildo, there is no shortage of hedonism to advance the plot.
Community and chosen family
“I would give whatever being in a gay club right now, “said one of my roommates enviously as we watched young Cristina drink, dance and kiss strangers at nightclubs while” Girls Just Want to Have Fun “echoed in the background . The rest of us sighed in agreement.
In many ways, the magic of “Veneno” is simple: it’s a chance to remember what it was like to be owned by our communities. As young Cristina says in Episode 4, “No matter how lost you feel, life reminds you of who you are.”
After nearly a year of quarantine and isolation, he’s happy to see these women spinning around on neon-lit dance floors, chatting in desolate parking lots and cooking pots of rich paella. These scenes are abundant and effortless, bringing us back to the simple joys that come with queer parties, love, friendship, and intimacy in its endless forms.
Even watching the show again, every episode feels like a promise; an assurance that one day we will be able to exchange stories, drinks, tips and hugs with the people who make us feel like we are.