Intruders A trashy daytime talk show in Argentina does the unthinkable. It becomes a forum for feminism. How this happened and what it changed.
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Intruders

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Intruders

Intruders

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GREGORY WARNER, HOST:

Hey. I'm Gregory Warner. You're listening to ROUGH TRANSLATION, the show about how the conversations we're having here in the United States might be playing out in some other corner of the world. Today we are going to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's where our reporter Jasmine Garsd comes from. And if you're listening with small kids, there are some instances of offensive language, maybe some taboo topics. This story is a collaboration with This American Life, and a version will appear there this weekend. OK, here's Jasmine.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: I watched a lot of television when I was a kid. My grandmother, Iaia, would pick me up at school and bring me back to her place. Her apartment was dark and humid. It smelled like French bread and the exhaust from the buses on the avenue down below. My grandfather was never around. Iaia would make tea, and then we would go to her bedroom and turn the TV on. And suddenly, color, sound and sex would pour into the world. It was the early afternoon. It was time for the talk shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Argentine talk shows are extreme even for Latin American television. The women are pumped up with silicone and Botox and sometimes show up wearing almost nothing. The conversation is not just double entendres but straight-up entendres, full-on vulgar language. When I was growing up, it was a parade of pasties, stilettos, feather boas.

One of the most popular shows back then was hosted by a guy named Jorge Rial. He's still on TV. He's kind of the Argentine everyman - charming and a little bit of a hustler. These days, his TV show is called in "Intrusos" or "Intruders." It takes place on a set that is just seizure-inducing - neon colors, walls lined with giant video screens. Jorge Rial likes to stir up fights among his voluptuous guests. Every time something shocking is said, ominous music rolls out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Once in a while, a woman is so sexy that Jorge Rial bites his lower lip and mugs for the camera. This has been Rial's style for years. Back in the day, Iaia would bring the tea and cookies and lie down next to me in her patent leather platform shoes which she never took off, not even in bed. My grandmother was the target audience for Rial's show, what's commonly known as a dona rosa, a housewife. She loved to hate the show, to look disapprovingly at the women and comment how much surgery she's had, una prostituta - a prostitute - una loca. And they give her expensive gifts, cars, vacations. And I'd look around me at my grandmother's lonely apartment and think to myself, wow, that sounds pretty amazing. I knew I didn't want to be a dona rosa when I grew up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: When I was a teenager, I moved to the U.S. and eventually became a journalist. I've lived here for 15 years. Sometimes when I get homesick, I stream "Intrusos" on YouTube. I leave it on when I cook and clean. When I watch it, I'm not 5,000 miles away. Iaia is alive. Nothing has changed much. Nothing ever changes on Argentine daytime TV until suddenly a few months ago, it did.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: One night in February, I was at home in New York cleaning my kitchen. "Intrusos" was on in the background, and I heard this woman with a raspy Lauren Bacall voice. I turned around, soapy sponge in hand, and squinted at the screen - a tattooed, heavyset woman wearing sneakers. I recognized this woman - a comedian named Senorita Bimbo. The stage name Bimbo is ironic. She's anything but. In fact, the very next thing she did was look directly into the camera and offer a statistic about illegal abortion.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

SENORITA BIMBO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "Five hundred thousand women in Argentina have illegal abortions every year," she said. She was wearing a bright green handkerchief around her neck, a provocative symbol everyone in Argentina knows, a symbol of the fight to legalize abortion. For years, activists have been pushing to get Congress to vote on it. When I was growing up, abortion was something you just didn't talk about in Argentina, a Catholic country. It's still not something that comes up on daytime TV. Reproductive rights - that's just not "Intrusos" material. Though here was Jorge Rial, the host, looking intently at Senorita Bimbo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: A few hours later, one of my best friends texted me. Did you watch "Intrusos" today? I sat down at my laptop and started scrolling through the descriptions of the last few episodes. The guests were names I knew - academics, writers, comedians. What they had in common was they were all feminists, people who have been on the fringes for years criticizing sexism in Argentina and demanding women's rights. I started binge-watching. In each episode, there was a nuanced conversation about feminism. Rial looked kind of meek but not in his usual I've been overpowered by sexy ladies way. He kept delivering these really impassioned monologues, saying, I don't want to be a misogynist, a machista. I'm a recovering machista.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

JORGE RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: The Argentine everyman now appeared to be an earnest feminist. This was not the Rial I grew up with. This was not the TV I grew up with. What happened? Could this possibly be sincere? I flew to Argentina to find out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: When ROUGH TRANSLATION returns - Argentina.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We're back with ROUGH TRANSLATION and our story from Jasmine Garsd, who returned to Argentina for the first time in seven years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: We're going to take a really long walk to my aunt's house. Wait; my aunt just sent a message.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She's joking about, like, do you even remember where I live?

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: It's summer in New York, winter in Buenos Aires. After years of living with snow, I don't feel cold, but I bundle up like everyone else, walk through the city, arms crossed, smelling barbecue and tobacco through my thick wool scarf.

That bus stop right there - that's the one I used to take. I would just wait for the 42, yeah.

I ring my aunt's doorbell.

I've dreamt this (laughter).

Aunt Silvia opens the door...

SILVIA: Hola.

GARSD: ...Hugs me and starts sobbing.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: We go up to her cozy apartment. It's filled with plants and books, the Koran, the biography of Sigmund Freud, a history of great Latin American women. Almost as soon as I walk in, she pops in a new Pavarotti CD for me to listen to.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: (Speaking Spanish).

And then I ruin the mood, telling her I've come to interview Jorge Rial, the host of "Intrusos."

(Speaking Spanish).

She looks perplexed but humors me.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She says, like, he has a good attitude. He's simpatico. (Speaking Spanish).

And then she adds...

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: ...I'd sleep with him. She mocks me for blushing. She's 79 years old.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: And then she goes on to mock me for doing a story about Jorge Rial.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She says it's such a secondary topic because people are dying of hunger. Like, I don't know why you picked him. He's an idiot.

SILVIA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: But she says maybe in the U.S., this is important to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SILVIA: (Singing in Spanish).

GARSD: I heard this from a lot of my friends. Why was I coming all the way from the U.S. to do a story about this daytime TV host? And it's not because they don't watch the show - the opposite. "Intrusos" is a show that people watch without telling. You just don't cop to it. And it's embarrassing to my aunt, to me even that this is now the side of Argentina I'm showing you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: The next day, I went to the studios where "Intrusos" is taped. I met Ana Laura Guevara, one of the show's executive producers.

ANA LAURA GUEVARA: (Through interpreter) Being live involves a lot of adrenaline. I really, really love the adrenaline there.

GARSD: To be honest, I wasn't expecting an "Intrusos" executive producer to be a woman, especially not one like Ana Laura, a self-proclaimed feminist. I had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that for 18 years, she had been behind this totally trashy and objectifying show. Ana Laura told me it's just a job, one she's good at. It's intensely competitive.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Cuatro, tres, dos, uno, musica.

GARSD: In the control room, her face shines from the light of the monitor she's hunched over like in a casino, a monitor that minute by minute tracks the ratings for "Intrusos" and every other show that's on the air at the same time. I had no idea this was possible. Right now on "Intrusos," there's a fight between a former cabaret dancer and a potential candidate for president.

This, like, skyrocketed. The ratings are going up with this segment. It's, like, 4 points. It went from 4.0 to 4.6. This is doing better than the news.

Next segment, a fashion model from the '80s says she has her suspicions about a designer's recent death.

It dipped to 3.4.

The ratings plummet. Nobody cares. Ana Laura orders them to end the segment early. Interest lags for an instant, and "Intrusos" moves on.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: The story of how the feminists intruded into "Intrusos" is its own soap opera. There are a gazillion gossip shows in Argentina. It's like this whole universe. Back in January, one of the shows interviewed this famous singer, a leathery guy in a tropical shirt. In the middle of the interview, the singer casually repeats this awful saying I used to hear as a kid - if someone wants to rape you, relax and enjoy it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: The first time I heard that was when I was 9 years old. I was in the locker room, and a girl blurted it out. I thought it was advice. A lot of my friends did too. So the singer says this offensive thing. A few days later, on another talk show, a soap opera star blows up about it. Her name is Araceli Gonzalez. When I was a kid, her soap opera was huge. She played a mute. A hunk with feathered hair would talk at her while she listened tearfully. But now she wasn't mute. She said the singer's remark made her sick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARACELI GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: It was kind of beautiful, seeing her get angry after so many years of playing a character literally defined by silence. Ana Laura from "Intrusos" saw the fight happening on TV, and she wanted to get a piece of it. She booked Araceli to come on the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

UNIDENTIFIED HOST: (Speaking Spanish).

(APPLAUSE)

GARSD: It was a typical day on "Intrusos." Jorge Rial talked about how much granny panties used to turn him on as a kid. Two former showgirls argued. And then it was Araceli's turn. And just because Araceli had gotten mad about the rape comment, one of the panelists introduces her as a feminist. As soon as Araceli got a chance, she corrected him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She says, "I heard you refer to me as a feminist just now. And I am not a feminist." She's vehemently wagging her finger as she says this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "I have a wonderful husband and a lovely son, whom I love very much. And I respect men." This set off another firestorm. Here's Ana Laura.

GUEVARA: (Through interpreter) So people started tweeting about it. And we saw that feminists started to respond. So everything exploded.

GARSD: There were the kinds of tweets you would expect, like, quote, "what the [EXPLETIVE] does loving your husband and son have to do with being a feminist, you moron?" And here it was - feminists versus the soap opera star, a fight made for daytime television. And Ana Laura knew it. And she also knew Jorge Rial, the host of the show, something had been changing with him lately. Like, he'd been saying to anyone who would listen...

GUEVARA: (Through interpreter) I am a machista in recovery. I'm trying to find myself.

GARSD: So she approached him in the dressing room. And they started talking. Maybe we should have a feminist on the show to explain what feminism is.

GUEVARA: (Through interpreter) We hadn't discussed that beforehand. But this day on the dressing room, I think that he was really into it

GARSD: They decided on a well-known feminist academic, Flor Freijo. And even she'll tell you she's a safe bet for a show like "Intrusos." She's thin and blonde. So Flor gets invited to "Intrusos."

FLOR FREIJO: (Through interpreter) And you're behind the scenes where the cameras are. And the host starts saying, and now, Florencia Freijo is coming to talk about feminism. And I was thinking, like, this guy is introducing me as if I were a celebrity. And people are thinking probably, who in the world is (laughter) Florencia Freijo?

And they were showing me. They had taken my pictures from a social media without asking for permission. And all of a sudden, I saw this huge picture - puckering my lips, touching my hair, those things that we do, you know, in the selfie culture. But you're not expecting them to be shown on TV on prime time. And maybe somebody thought, OK, maybe it's a previous lover of Araceli's husband. And just a regular woman came, all covered up, and talked about feminism (laughter).

GARSD: And the very first question Jorge Rial asks her is, what is feminism?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Speaking Spanish).

FREIJO: (Through interpreter) I didn't prepare anything. I didn't prepare a speech. I didn't have time. So I went open to listen to the questions and explain things just as I do to my students in a class.

GARSD: Of all the strange things I've seen on Argentine TV, this might be one of the oddest. Against a neon fizz background, Flor Freijo does a Feminism 101. At the bottom of the screen, a banner in bold letters reads, feminism - it's a movement for women's rights. Flor starts explaining. Feminism is a movement for women's rights. It started in the 19th century. It has to do with the division of labor, child-rearing. Jorge Rial is listening, completely mesmerized, his little eyebrows furrowed, scratching his beard. And while all this is happening, Ana Laura is sitting in the control room upstairs, watching everything, of course, and also keeping her eye on the ratings monitor. The control room is usually a chaotic mess of yelling. But now, with Flor speaking...

GUEVARA: And when we were watching her talking - Flor - the control room went quiet. We were all paying attention to what she was saying. But we were all quiet, and we were really, like, silently watching and learning from her.

GARSD: And then the spell is broken because the phone rings in the control room. It's Araceli, the soap opera star who's the whole reason Flor's here. She wants to talk to Flor live right now. Everyone in the control room is geared up for a good old-fashioned "Intrusos" spat.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Flor was kind of shocked.

FREIJO: (Through interpreter) I didn't know that Araceli was going to call. I had no idea of what was going to happen.

GARSD: But it wasn't an ambush. Araceli wasn't calling to fight. Instead, she told Flor, I've been listening really well to what you're saying. And she wanted the audience to know that she didn't know what feminism was until just now, when she was watching TV and saw Flor explain it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She starts telling the story of her life through various generations of women - her own single mother and herself. She talks about how she'd been sexually abused as a child and emotionally abused as an adult. And Araceli told Flor, "I know what you're talking about. And I agree with you. If this means being a feminist, then I'm a feminist."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Flor nods and gives a thumbs-up. By the way, this is never how "Intrusos" finishes. People don't just listen to each other and change their minds. And the ratings - Ana Laura says the ratings were great, strong enough that she decided, let's do this again tomorrow. And so it began.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: Over the next few days, some of the most famous feminists in Argentina came on to "Intrusos" - comedians, authors, professors. Audiences were stunned. Someone tweeted, my ideology is starting to converge with Jorge Rial's, and that terrifies me. It was pretty strange for everyone. This very misogynistic show had suddenly become, like, the public town hall on feminism in Argentina. And the ratings were not just good - Ana Laura says they were higher than normal. She was delighted that she could keep this going.

GUEVARA: (Through interpreter) There's a journalist called Luciana Peker. She's also very important in feminism. And she's an old friend from college, and she came to our show. And when we met backstage, we were like, not even in our wildest dreams we could have dreamed about this, you being here in this type of show.

GARSD: Midway through all of this is when I tuned in, when I started streaming in New York. The show was, like, going through hundreds of years of feminism in a couple of days. They passed through topics like LGBT rights, workplace harassment, income inequality, and then, the most taboo thing of all, abortion.

Jorge Rial tied the green handkerchief around his wrist, the one activists who want to legalize abortion wear. And then he invited the large woman with the gravelly voice who I saw at home in New York City, Senorita Bimbo. Right off the bat, she said, "the fact that there's a fat girl on Argentine TV is already a victory."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

BIMBO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: She told me she was actually pretty nervous.

BIMBO: (Through interpreter) The first thing I thought was what they're all going to say is, like, what is this fat girl doing here, this fat girl feminazi?

GARSD: But she powered through. She had a mission.

BIMBO: (Through interpreter) I knew I wanted to talk about abortion. My plan was to at least mention it. And I just sat down and started talking. I felt like I was going to a battle where I had to use words as arrows because abortion is something that you don't say, is something that you talk about in hushed tones if you had one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: On "Intrusos," Senorita Bimbo talked about how abortion is so taboo you don't even talk about it in fiction. In Argentine TV and film, unwanted pregnancy is solved by a villain pushing you down the stairs and causing you to miscarry.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

BIMBO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: And then, about 30 seconds before they cut to commercial and moved to the next guest, Senorita Bimbo said something about abortion that surprised even her.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INTRUSOS EN EL ESPECTACULO")

BIMBO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Misoprostol - she says, "I want girls to know about Misoprostol." This is a really big deal. Officially, Misoprostol is a drug used to treat stomach ulcers. But it can also be used to induce labor. So in a continent where abortion is mostly banned, women take it if they want to miscarry. People call it the DIY abortion.

She's talking about doing something illegal on Argentina's most popular daytime show, watched by housewives. That same day, Misoprostol was one of the most Googled words in the country. I think you're underestimating your audience, Senorita Bimbo said on the show. Dona Rosa is dead - Dona Rosa, that stereotypical Argentine housewife.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: (Through interpreter) So the woman that is in front of the TV and who needs her world to be explained to her through daytime TV - she just doesn't exist anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: Of course, none of this would have happened on "Intrusos" if the ratings had been bad. And the ratings were great for reasons that Jorge Rial and Ana Laura can claim no credit for at all. Feminism has been gaining critical mass in Argentina for the last couple of years. The movement was triggered by these brutal murders of young women, often by boyfriends, husbands and fathers. Women started protesting. A whole crusade was born. It was called Ni Una Menos - not one less woman. And since 2015, this has grown to the point where it's impossible to ignore and has expanded to abortion rights, street harassment and equal pay. It's young people on social media, comedians on YouTube, pop stars on Instagram, gigantic demonstrations. It just wasn't a topic for daytime talk shows until Jorge, Ana Laura, and "Intrusos."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: During that week on "Intrusos," there was this explosion of tweets from young girls perplexed but ecstatic to see feminism on daytime TV. This one girl, Anita Ocampo, tweeted, I showed my dad the "Intrusos" episode with Senorita Bimbo. I dropped by her house, and she told me these feminists were explaining to Jorge Rial all the things she tried to explain but couldn't get her parents to understand. So one night, she approached her dad.

ANITA OCAMPO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: And she told him, if you watch this episode of "Intrusos" on YouTube with me, I'll massage your feet. She ended up getting the whole family to watch. She showed them Senorita Bimbo. She pointed to Jorge Rial wearing the same green handkerchief she wears and said, look, it's just like mine.

OCAMPO: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: It opened up a conversation which he says they've been having ever since. Anita's mom says she saw Jorge Rial talk about how he's a recovering chauvinist. And she says so is she.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "I'm at, like, 70 percent feminism," she says. "I still have 30 percent left to go."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: During my week in Argentina, I kept trying to talk to Jorge Rial, and he kept blowing me off. Had he really converted to feminism? Everyone I asked rolled their eyes and pointed to the last few decades of his career. They pointed to his recent vicious, public fight with one of his daughters. They pointed to how late he is to the whole feminism thing. He's a Johnny-come-lately. He's only doing this because it'll make him more popular. After days of giving me the runaround, he told me to just send my questions. And finally, on my very last night in Argentina, my phone lit up. It was voice memos from Jorge Rial.

WARNER: We'll be back with more ROUGH TRANSLATION right after this break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We're back with ROUGH TRANSLATION in our collaboration episode with This American Life. Here are those voicemails from the man himself.

RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: "What happened to me?" Rial says. "What made me bring all these feminists onto "Intrusos"?

RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: He talks about his 18-year-old daughter, Rocio, and how she's a feminist. "We have these very interesting talks over dinner," he says. "And she started opening this world up to me. I am 56 years old. I was raised in a completely sexist culture. I didn't get it. That's why I say I'm a recovering chauvinist thanks to my daughter. My daughter made me change."

Jorge Rial knows that I think "Intrusos" is stupid. He knows most people do. That's the show's superpower.

RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: Frivolo. "We're frivolous. We're a show about showbiz. No one suspected that this is where feminism could win. We eluded the firewalls that kept feminism off of TV. There was this wall. You couldn't talk about these things on TV. And suddenly, it happened on "Intrusos." But to be honest," he said, "it's all because of feminists. They knew any place is good if you have a strong message."

RIAL: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: After the week of feminism, "Intrusos" was left with a split personality. These days, it's a mix of fighting starlets and women's rights activists. Jorge Rial's social media is a mix of World Cup woes, celebrity gossip and then these really earnest feminist tweets, like this one a few weeks ago. They came to make things better for the coming generations, for our daughters and their daughters and also for men. The men who come after us must be better than us. We did everything wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: The day after he tweeted that, on June 14, Argentina's lower house of Congress approved a bill to legalize abortion. After an all-night debate, it barely passed by only four votes. And it yet has to pass the upper house. Still, outside Congress, thousands of women and activists who'd gathered to wait for the results celebrated wildly.

(CHEERING)

GARSD: Every time I spoke to those women about what role television like "Intrusos" played in all this, they got uncomfortable. On my last day in Argentina, I grabbed a coffee with an old friend from high school, Jordana Timmerman. She recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about the push to legalize abortion in Argentina. We talked about the role pop culture played in that.

JORDANA TIMMERMAN: You need to have people like Rial or pop culture, Dona Rosa understanding that this is a necessary right because if not, it's not going to happen.

GARSD: In other words, the message needs to go into homes in the most remote locations of the country. And TV is one of the only ways to do that. Jordana was saying "Intrusos" helped. But when I ask her about whether we should thank Jorge Rial, she just laughs.

TIMMERMAN: (Laughter) Not going on record for that. Are you crazy? I have a name (ph).

GARSD: I know what she means. After so many years of awful television and this guy's shenanigans, I just don't want to tip my hat to him. And maybe that's part of his penance. He did something good, and no one will ever thank him for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARSD: There is one last thing I want to tell you about. One of the highlights of my week in Argentina was getting to actually stand on the set of "Intrusos," where they tape the show.

(Whispering) Oh, my God.

I was embarrassingly thrilled.

(Whispering) Everyone in the backstage is dressed like normal people, and it's dark. And onstage, it's super colorful. Everyone's wearing, like, extremely tall, shiny stilettos and, like, blown-out hair. Even the guy's hair is blown out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRIVE BY")

PATRICK MONAHAN: (Singing) On the other side of a street I knew...

GARSD: On walks this stunning woman in lace-up, turquoise, thigh-high boots. The giant TV screens on the wall show huge pictures of her.

It's just her making duck lips with sunglasses - her in a completely transparent dress. Sorry. They're going really fast. Her in a bikini, in a fur coat. Her making out with a giant, inflatable swan.

She's here to promote her children's album. But the panelists start prodding her about her recent, very public fight with her sister.

(Whispering) She wasn't invited to the wedding. I think her sister hit her.

The prodding works. She covers her face and starts sobbing silently. Behind me, someone snickers, I think I see a little pussycat. That's slang for prostitute. I look at her crying. I stop listening to what she's saying. I think a bunch of really mean things about her - things I'm ashamed to repeat. I surprise myself. That's the stuff I heard growing up from my grandma and so many others. And just like that, Dona Rosa is in my head. I didn't even know she lived there.

They're all gathering around her and being like, don't cry. Your boots are beautiful.

When I was little, I wanted to be that woman in the turquoise boots - glamorous, towering, dolled-up, fabulous. I wanted to wear thigh-highs and the glitter, to live in that world of color, sound and sex. But instead, I learned to mock her. You can change a TV show. You can sometimes change a law. But the hardest thing to change is that voice inside yourself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: Today's show was a collaboration with This American Life. The piece was produced by Nadia Reiman and Marianne McCune, edited by Susan Burton, with Robyn Semien and Ira Glass. Help from Zoe Chace and Dana Chivvis. Thanks also to fixer Paz Saravia (ph) and interpreters Laura Rochman (ph), Barbara Boddie (ph) and Naomi Daremblum. Joanna Broder (ph) helped out. And thanks to Malena Pichot, Gabrielle Ortiz (ph), Marcela Tauro and Diana Drake (ph) for helping us understand this story. ROUGH TRANSLATION is produced by Jess Jiang. Our editor is Marianne McCune. The ROUGH TRANSLATION advisory team is Mathilde Piard, Neal Carruth and Anya Grundmann. We'd love to hear from you. Tell us your travel story. We're at roughtranslation@npr.org or on Twitter at @Roughly. I'm Gregory Warner. We're back next week with more ROUGH TRANSLATION.

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