Sort-of-review: Súbete A Mi Moto, a series based on the history of phenomenal Puerto Rican boy group, Menudo
True confession: watching this new drama series based on the history of Menudo was not on my agenda even if I was, and still is, a die hard Menudo fan. It’s only for this reason: I don’t have an Amazon Prime Video subscription. I mean, I have the app pre-installed on my Smart TV, but you need a subscription to watch the shows in its entirety. And then I accidentally discovered that my Globe Postpaid plan comes with a free 6-month Amazon Prime subscription. I figured, I won’t take six months to binge watch fifteen 40+-minute episodes because, hello! Korean drama veteran! So I availed of the promo and spent two full days returning back to my childhood.
I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who lived in the 80’s would, at least, has heard of Menudo. As in the boyband, not the Mexican stew nor the ubiquitous Filipino fiesta dish. It’s a phenomenon that many people have said to be comparable to The Beatles, and I believe is yet to be duplicated by any of today’s popular acts. Just do a quick YouTube search of their old videos to see how crazy it was during their prime. Being hugely successful as they were, Menudo was not immune to issues and scandals. Over the course of two decades, several members either were released earlier than the mandatory 16-year old age of ‘graduation’, or voluntarily left the group due to various reasons. Two active members were caught in possession of illegal substances at an airport in Miami, which led to their expulsion from the group. Accusations abound regarding abuses within the organization, most notably of the sexual nature between the underaged members and the group’s mentor/founder/manager/producer, Señor Edgardo Diaz. To be perfectly honest, when news that a series depicting the history of Menudo through the eyes of its founder came out, I looked forward to watching it because I want to see whether they will include the scandals and how will these be presented. Exactly how factual will Súbete A Mi Moto be?
Right off the bat, the show issues a disclaimer. It’s actually shown at the beginning of each episode, just in case the viewer is missing the point. Which, based on the numerous comments I gathered, still did not work as a lot of avid Menudo fans – and even some former members – got upset at how the story was presented. The disclaimer clearly and repeatedly said that:
1. Súbete A Mi Moto is “inspired by true events and references events and figures from that era”;
2. It is a work of fiction;
3. It is based on interviews with Menudo’s creator, Edgardo Diaz.
Therefore, we shouldn’t expect a completely factual and accurate depiction of the “history of Menudo” because, in the first place, it’s a work of fiction that is only “inspired by true events”. It is not, by any means, a documentary where information should be balanced and presented objectively. Also, as it is based on Señor Diaz’s version of the story, we should expect that the show will present his side, and not anyone else’s. Am I right?
Personally, I was not able to relate to the first few episodes because I did not become a Menudo fan until 1985, when the group first became known in the Philippines with the song If You’re Not Here (By My Side). In fact, we Pinoys got majorly confused because when news first came out that Menudo is coming to the Philippines, the publicity photos showed the group with Ricky Melendez (he was still in the group when they recorded Reaching Out, the album that contains If You’re Not Here and Like A Cannonball). And then, instead of Mr. Melendez, they arrived with this tiny, extremely cute boy whose name is also Ricky but with a different surname and we’re like… who is this guy??? That’s when Pinoy fans got a major crash course on the concept of Menudo: members get replaced when they turn 16 or their voice and/or appearance change into something more adult-like. It didn’t matter, though, because Ricky Martin was such a welcome addition to the group that he became one of the most popular Menudo members in our country. It also began my ‘love affair’, so to speak, with the little boy named Ricky Martin that began when I was 11 and extends up to this very day when he’s all grown up and…
But I digress, and getting ahead of myself. Back to Súbete A Mi Moto.
I am very familiar with the group’s member history up until around 1989 when Ricky Martin finally retired from the group and got replaced by Rawy Torres. But that’s just about the extent of my knowledge about the pre-Robby Rosa era Menudo. The drama kinda messed up the order of member arrivals and departures (a recurring theme throughout the series), and there are times when I had to Google for the circumstances of each member’s departure to check its accuracy. The initial episodes did not elicit much reaction from me due to its unfamiliarity. It’s nice to ‘discover’ and appreciate the first gen Menudo songs, though. I didn’t realize until now how good those songs were as I didn’t really care about them before. I especially like Fuego and Claridad.
I was a lot more reactive when the Robby Rosa era of the story came. This was the period when I was fully involved as a Menudo fan. I know the order of member arrivals and departures by heart. I’m very well-versed with the songs, the concerts, the achievements, and even their physical appearances. It was during these episodes when my chat window with my longtime friend and fellow Menudo fan Mavic became “noisy”. We couldn’t stop complaining and nitpicking everything. I mean, we know very, very, VERY well that Ricky Martin did not have a growth spurt while Robby was in the group. He has always been the smallest one prior to that. Even Raymond Acevedo, who came after Ricky, was taller than him. Meanwhile, the actor playing Raymond was tiny and never grew up in the series. He was even smaller than both Sergio Blass and Ruben Gomez. In actuality, Raymond was the tallest among the three. Also, in the series, they made Ricky Martin the tallest member in 1985, even before they first came to Manila. That is so NOT correct.
It was also very noticeable that they made it appear that Ricky Martin was the lead member in the group even during Robby and Charlie Masso’s time. Which is, again, not correct. I do think that they gave him much exposure and importance in the story because, as we all know, Ricky Martin is the most successful Menudo alumnus. Also, he never had a bad relationship with Edgardo. That we know of, anyway. And he has the best relationship with Joselo Vega, who is still with him until now.
Meanwhile, the most popular member in that era – Robby Rosa – became second fiddle and it was even made to appear that he left Menudo because he wanted more money and it was not given to him. When the other, more known version of the story, is that he left because he offered to write songs for the group but management just laughed it off. (Seriously, Edgardo. How hard did you bang your head against the wall when Robi aka. Draco Rosa eventually dished out worldwide hits like Maria, The Cup of Life and Livin’ La Vida Loca? Again, I digress.)
But if we view it on the overall, Súbete A Mi Moto showed that Menudo is really just about business. It’s all about the money for Edgardo Diaz. It’s all business from beginning to end. That’s all there is to it.
About the scandals. It’s still commendable that they showed both the glory days of the group and its eventual downfall. They showed that, Menudo may be this super-popular group that’s admired all over the world, but they’re still boys. They’re still children that need care and proper parental guidance. Sure, Joselo is there, but he’s just one person taking care of five adolescent boys at a time. I can understand why some ex-members took offense at the way they were depicted. Rene Farrait was shown as the rebellious one who’s the biggest flirt. I actually said, “no wonder he did not last long” when they made it appear that he was this member with raging hormones who got caught making out with hotel staff. And then it turned out, he wasn’t kicked out and was even given a solo contract after his Menudo stint. Oops. Mr. Farrait publicly declared that the drama was inaccurate, though, so I don’t know. I’m taking everything with a grain of salt because, again, read the disclaimers.
In all of these scandals and accusations – the drug incident with Sergio and Ruben, the pedophilia accusations from Ralphy and his dad, etc – Edgardo Diaz only has one answer: he was not aware that it was happening because he was too busy taking care of a thousand other things for Menudo. Very convenient excuse, and for all we know, he’s telling the truth. I kinda get what he’s saying, for reasons I can’t really say. And since this drama series is based on his side of the truth, I’ll just take it as it is. I’ll just do what any mature, responsible fan should do and that is, DO YOUR RESEARCH. From credible sources, of course. Still, we are not the ones to judge especially when our sources are just this show – which, again, read the disclaimers – and the various media reports which are even, at times, conflicting. We are not Edgardo Diaz, we are not Joselo, we are not any of the ex-Menudo members, heck we’re not even part of their working staff. We’re just chismosang kapitbahays. Bawal ang judgmental.
Just watch Súbete A Mi Moto for the nostalgia. To once again experience the beauty and innocence of being a fan in the 1980s, when everything was so raw and organic because internet and social media didn’t exist yet at the time. At first, I was actually turned off by the inclusion of the side story of the present-day blogger interviewing Edgardo and her mom who’s a former Menudo fan. It looked like an irrelevant filler that just disturbs the momentum of the story. Eventually, I realized that it was actually brilliant on their part to include the fans in the narrative. The reason being, THE FANS ARE THE OTHER HALF OF THE STORY. Menudo – or any famous artist, for that matter – will not achieve success without the fans. Not everyone understands the life of a fan. Why are we so crazy over these people who don’t even know that we exist? Why are we dedicating all our time, effort and money for them? At what extent are we willing to give for our idols? They showed it here. And this is the part where the viewers, the Menudo fans in particular, will fully relate. Regardless of whether you did something as insane as what the fans here did, you will just find yourself saying, “yup, that’s me.”
The final scene in Súbete A Mi Moto wrapped everything up so nicely. The conversation between Edgardo Diaz, founder, manager and producer of Menudo aka. The Corporation, and Renata, the fan aka. The Consumer. The discussion between business and passion. When Renata took out her memorabilia box, handed it over to Edgardo and said, “Here is the money my parents gave me, my first salary… everything. I never had the guts to throw it away”, I burst into tears.
Renata is me. I do have that box, which contained my parents’ money, my savings, my first salary, my life. I became a fan of many different artists over the years and I still have that box, one containing my fond memories of each and everyone of them.
In the end, both Corporation and Consumer just agreed that one cannot exist without the other. As they should be.
As is customary in this blog, here is the bulleted list of Random Things I
Nitpicked Noted From Watching Súbete A Mi Moto:
1. A show about the history of Menudo will never be complete without mentioning my beloved country, The Philippines. Of course. We were their biggest market in Asia alongside Japan. One of their biggest markets anywhere, actually. They even included a scene with “Lea Salonga”, although in reality, Lea Salonga never sang I’m Going Back To The Philippines with Menudo. Well, at least, they know which country Lea belongs to.
2. It may be off-putting, especially for the #PinoyPride!!! netizens, that the phrase, “where is the Philippines?” was mentioned by a Menudo member at least twice in the series. But before anyone complains, it’s actually a fact even until now that a lot of people in the West are not aware of the country named Philippines and where exactly it is. Given that the one saying it is a boy barely out of puberty (and it was in the 80s when there was no internet yet), you should cut them some slack.
3. I find it amusing that the shiny tight pants was an issue against Menudo before it became their trademark. At the same time, it hit me that, when we were ogling them in those tight, tight pants, we were ogling at literal minors, some of them children. Yikes. If this happened in the present day, you bet the wokes on the internet will never let them get away with it.
4. Best performance for me: the actor who played Robby Rosa. He accurately got all of Robby’s nuances, and I commend him for not copying Robby’s high pitched speaking voice. It’s ok that it’s not 100% accurate, otherwise, it will appear caricature-ish. I guess the actor knows it, that’s why he opted to use his actual speaking voice. Aside from the nuances, his acting has depth. He was able to show that Robby is essentially not problematic, he’s just this artiste who wants his talents to be heard, seen and appreciated.
Second placer for me is the actor who played Rene Farrait, because he’s got swag. I’m not sure how accurate his portrayal is since I was not a fan when Rene was in the group. But if their intention is to show that Rene was a rebel and a sex symbol when he was with the group, the actor certainly was able to act that one out convincingly.
In third place: the kid who played Ricky Martin, the tiny version. Ricky was suuuuuper adorable as a kid and the actor playing that version of him was exactly that. He got all of Ricky’s nuances as a child, too.
Side note: I need confirmation from my Ricky Martin friends, but I think the casting for Nereida Morales (Ricky’s mom) was physically accurate.
Special mention: the cutest one for me was the actor who played Charlie Masso.
5. There were subtle references to the brotherly relationship between Robby and Ricky Martin. (I should always be specific as to which Ricky I’m referring to. I mean, there were three Rickys in Menudo, you know.) In majority of their scenes, Robby was always shown as giving a protective gesture towards Ricky. I think it’s a shoutout to their eventual working relationship that continued post-Menudo. These two are the group’s most successful alumni, after all.
6. Question to anyone who was a fan of Menudo way back in the 80s: At the time, did you have any inkling whatsoever that Ricky Martin will be the one to have the most successful showbiz career, post-Menudo? I was – am – a very solid and loyal Ricky Martin fan, but that thought never occurred to me at the time. Some fan I am, huh.
7. The actor who played Joselo Vega is sooo dreamy. However, I’m not sure if we should invoke the, “it’s a work of fiction inspired by true events” on the fact that all and I mean ALL of the dance routines in this show did not give justice to the actual choreography that Joselo created for Menudo. I mean, the real-life Menudo were not fairly-good-to-borderline-bad dancers at all, and their routines were not limited to the iwagwag mo dance step that they constantly showed here. See: old footage of Hold Me and Jumpin’ Over for reference. Heck, let’s watch the original Súbete A Mi Moto routine for maximum accuracy.
8. As I have previously mentioned, me and my friend Mavic nitpicked a lot during the Robby/Ricky/Charlie-era episodes. (Side note: yes, the ‘Mavic’ credited on the Hold Me and Jumpin’ Over clips is the same Mavic whom I saw and nitpicked Súbete A Mi Moto with.) For one thing, they messed up the order of Menudo songs released during that era. Example: In the drama, Gafas Oscuras was performed by this line-up: Ricky Martin (who was lead vocals), Robby Rosa, Charlie Masso, Roy Rossello and Raymond Acevedo. In reality, Gafas Oscuras was released during Ricky’s final years with Menudo, when he was the oldest in the group.
I observed that all of the songs where Ricky Martin was lead vocals were featured prominently in the series. Most notably, the National Anthem of Ricky Martin fans in the mid-80s: Oh My Love. Con Un Beso Y Una Flor/I Can’t Spend Another Day (Without You), Dame Mas/Gimme More and the aforementioned Gafas Oscuras were also given specific segments in the course of the series. Ricky Martin didn’t have that many songs where he was lead vocals in Menudo so it’s easy to spot them. I guess they did this, again, as a tribute to Ricky being the biggest star that the group ever produced.
9. My biggest beef against Súbete A Mi Moto? We never heard a single note from the song Explosion. This, for me, is a huge travesty. Unforgiveable.