A short video circulating on social media and news sites in Mexico has shone an unflattering spotlight on the country’s elite youth.
A group of high school seniors from a privileged Catholic school in Mexico City released a slick graduation video that’s come under fire for its portrayal of women and its snooty message, as well as its use of an endangered jaguar cub. Critics say the video treats women as props – and sends the message that this class of so-called Mexican “juniors,” or elite youth, gets to party, play, and go on to inherit positions of power.
In Mexico, as elsewhere, rich kids are assumed to get whatever they want. But it’s a particularly sensitive subject here. Corruption and bad behavior often go unpunished among the powerful, something top of mind for many here after a six-month run of government scandals ranging from apparent kickbacks from big business to nepotism in hiring practices.
And a rising middle class (17 percent of 114 million Mexicans joined the middle class between 2000 and 2010, according to the World Bank) with access to social media and mobile technology feels empowered to call out bad behavior that’s historically slipped below the public radar.
“It [the video] says a lot,” says Vicki Galacia, a preschool teacher walking her dog in a Mexico City park. “No matter what we protest against now, there are more people who think they’re above the law that are” growing up to be our next leaders.
The video is a constant topic in Mexican editorials and on social media.
“What message do they want to send? Basically that they have loads of money. And that they couldn’t care less about what any of us might think of them,” Mexican media critic Susana Moscatel wrote in Milenio Noticias. She says the only good that comes out of videos like these – which she says are a tradition at the school and are typically professionally produced – is that they offer an “unadulterated look at how many of these people see the world.”
In the video, a stream of young woman appear before a panel of bored, dismissive young men who are "casting" for their graduation party. It's pretty PG – no explicit sex or violence – but it stereotypes women as being crazy, ditzy, and subservient.
If this video has any silver lining, it’s that “society is aware and is getting upset at the portrayal of women as objects,” María Lucero Jiménez Guzmán, a political and social science researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México told El Universal, a daily in Mexico City.
In recent years, calling out bad behavior by “Juniors” or “Mirreyes” (a play on “My King,” a pet name used by many upper class parents for their sons) has gone mainstream.
Take the 2013 case of “Lady Profeco.” The daughter of Mexico’s then-attorney-general for consumer protection threw a fit at a hip restaurant when she wasn’t given the table she wanted. The restaurant, Maximo Bistrot – a cozy space where it’s hard to imagine a “bad” table – held its ground; the woman threatened to have her father shut them down. Sure enough, officials showed up almost immediately, prepared to shutter the joint.
But thanks to the documentation and tweets of a number of diners, not only did the restaurant stay open, but the woman’s father was fired and she was named and shamed on social media.
There are many other such stories, including a high-profile drunk driving incident when a politician (who inherited leadership over Mexico’s Green Party from his father) tried to pay his way out of a ticket, according to local media. Mexicans subsequently discovered that he had only been held by police for a few hours, instead of the mandatory 24 hours.
But can we really blame these Mirreyes, asks Salvador Camarena in an opinion for newspaper El Financiero. There are so many examples of poor behavior by Mexico’s elites that go unpunished; these kids grew up understanding one shouldn’t “fight success,” he writes.
Three days after the graduation video’s release, the school put out a statement. “The community of Mexico’s Cumbres Institute apologizes for the content of the video, which has offended and angered many people. This video in no way represents the values and principles of the high school, its students, families, and alums," it read.
The school said it “didn’t know about the video’s content” and is preparing to take action, though didn’t get into specifics.
A campaign on Change.org, signed by more than 15,000 people, is trying to inject a little more global awareness into these kids’ lives: It’s petitioning for 180 hours of required gender studies and human rights courses for the 2015 graduating class at Cumbres.
The video exalts money, praises fame, shows contempt for other social classes and represents women as sexual objects to be bought, writes Jorge Hill in a column for Mexican online news outlet Animal Politico. But what exactly is a course on human rights going to do, he asks.
“Maybe the problem is that this course isn’t taught in all primary schools,” Mr. Hill writes. “I wonder, though, would this short course in primary, secondary, or high school make any difference if, once at home, parents and children laugh together at the content.”