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How Tourism Imaginary has been Updated in the New Spanish Sun-and-Beach Comedy: Fin de curso, Atasco en la nacional and Benidorm, mon amour

Salvador Martínez Puche et Antonio Martínez Puche
Traduction de Université Bretagne Occidentale
Cet article est une traduction de :
La actualización del imaginario turístico en la nueva comedia española de sol y playa: Fin de curso, Atasco en la nacional y Benidorm, mon amour [es]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Neuversionen der Fiktion rund um den Tourismus in der neuen spanischen Strand-Sonne-Komödie: Fin de curso, Atasco en la nacional und Benidorm, mon amour. [de]

Résumé

In the late-Francoist period, coastal tourism became an extremely important argument and discourse in film fiction and coincided with what was known as comedia desarrollista. This ‘development-era’ comedic film production was prolific, successful and in line with Spain’s propaganda, political and socioeconomic interests in the 1960s and 1970s. Its narrative and expressive codes can still be found in films that fall into the españolada supra-genre and use some of those clichés—now recycled and updated—in their form and content. An analysis of three feature films, Fin de curso (School’s Out, 2005), Atasco en la nacional (Traffic Jam, 2007)and Benidorm, mon amour (2015), shows how the stereotypical representation of sun-and-beach tourism, rather superfluous in the twenty-first century, has been influenced by deeply rooted imaginaries that previously served to promote the country’s commodified offerings.

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Texte intégral

I. Introduction: tourism clichés, utopias and retrotopias in Spain

1As a rhetoric-based concept etymologically linked to the idea of commonplace, a cliché conjures up the image of a land that is more symbolic than strictly geographic. These clichés acquire emotional and affective values that differ depending on their relationship with the temporal factor: future (utopia) and past (retrotopia). While, according to Tomás Moro, utopia establishes happiness in an imaginary place that is yet to come, retrotopia places the ideal world in a lost or abandoned past that is reluctant to disappear (Bauman, 2017). However, rather than returning to the past ‘as it was’, the nostalgic component is based on the arbitrary, selective and long-cherished memory that depends on the politics of memory emanating, above all, from institutionalised spheres (Carr, 1983). Below we will refer to these two concepts to speak about the paradox between the entrenched utopic view of tourism in the Francoist dictatorship and the continued survival of a retro-topically inspired view of tourism.

2This process also influences tourism activity within the spatial limits of the Spanish coast, transcending the here and now through an experience that continues beyond the tourist destination and the specific holiday moment. As Bauman (2017: 13) says, ‘the world here and now is but one of the un-definable number of possible worlds—past, present and future’. Therefore, the consequences impact on every tourist’s individual consumer experience, first as expectations and then as satisfaction met or unmet. However, the pleasant exceptions enjoyed during a holiday will become more obvious and more missed after returning to our daily routine.

A. Consumable and consumed authenticity

3Collectively, tourism is a strategic, socioeconomic and cultural phenomenon defining a society and its stereotypical representation for promotional and persuasive purposes, which outline an identity using supposedly authentic features. This is undoubtedly how special characteristics can be turned into a draw and an element that stands out or differs from the competition’s. According to MacCannell (2003: 128), authenticity is one of the most attractive aspects of the places we visit and it is highly valued by people seeking the off-the-beaten-track picturesque. However, it is merchandise, marketed and bought as a trivialised, typical and even fake version, stripped of its original essence, that becomes genuine in the end. This is what Eric Cohen calls ‘represented authenticity’ (2005: 17 and ff.), which in the case of Spanish tourism is the commodification of the different Spain promoted towards the end of Franco’s regime. According to Jameson (2000: 67): ‘It is on the basis of […] Identity alone that difference can be productively transformed’.

4Paraphrasing Ortega y Gasset, besides being clichés in the sense of common places of paradise on Earth, the sun and the beach, along with their circumstances, are, in David Harvey’s terminology, ‘spaces of capital’ (in Martín, 2006: 184). In other words, they are aestheticized, idealised and simplified physical places where anything contradicting reality has been removed or corrected to transform the complexity of idiosyncrasy into a souvenir, a sham, which symbolic capitalism exploits through communication channels irrespective of whether they are film or advertising media.

B. Fictions, imaginaries and film genres

  • 1 For other authors, the creation of an image controlled by the most reactionary values of Francoism (...)

5Comedias costumbristas del desarrollismo (Hernández and Pérez in Zunzunegui, 2005b: 142), cine popular nacional (Perucha in Carratalá, 1997: 150) and comedias desarrollistas (Crumbaugh, 2007: 151) appeared during the tourism boom on the Spanish coast. After the terrible autocracy, these films use the comical elements of the sainete and the comedia de costumbres1 to target incipient mass culture and the consumer society with institutional messages emphasising the metamorphosis of the coast, tourist modernisation and the economic development of Spain in the 1960s (Hernández and Revuelta in Zunzunegui, 2005b: 143). They fulfilled the function of creating and disseminating a growing national tourism imaginary inspired by tradition and adapted to modern market laws.

  • 2 This theory sought to understand how democratic states functioned in the decades after World War II

6The dictatorship used tourism as a device—dispositif in the terminology of Foucault’s theory on governmentality (governamentalité)2—to normalise relationships between the interests of the Francoist State and of the capitalism of mass culture. In other words, it brought together diverse symbolic practices and became a focal point for exercising political power innocuously, decentrally, positively and effectively as punitive or restrictive aspects were diluted and individuals’ voluntary acceptance was gained through the fiction of an apparently cheerful openness on the coast (Crumbaugh, 2006: 157).

7By analogy, this is similar to Jeane Kirkpatrick’s concept of ‘authoritarian’ democracies, characterised by citizens’ ‘political apathy’ and ‘passive acquiescence’, which followed ‘totalitarian’ states after they disappeared (Jameson, 2000: 53). ‘Fiction capitalism’, in other words, economic power (Verdú, 2003: 11), currently goes unrecognised in a subtle and clever process of marketing cultural experiences (such as film and tourism) and turning entertainment into a socialisation factor and producer of meaning, thus facilitating the collective interpretation of people as users and customers (Rifkin, 2000: 187 & ff.).

C. Identity, social uses and invented traditions

8Besides its political, economic and cultural dimension, tourism has created new social uses that have rapidly been assimilated and become established. Hobsbawm calls them ‘invented traditions’ and they surface in the films we will refer to below. The leisure activities that the British upper classes pursued along their coasts and spa resorts in the eighteenth century became popular as a result of industrialisation, especially after World War II, leading to mass tourism, also known as Fordist or conventional tourism. Thus, the symbol of prestige of an entire social class, the English gentleman’s grand tour, became a universal experience for tourists (MacCannell, 2003: 8).

9By exploring the perspective of tourism as an invented tradition, we will show that it comprises a set of overtly and tacitly accepted practices (going on a summer holiday) that are symbolic and ritual (packing before leaving) and seek to inculcate some norms of behaviour (sunbathing, enjoying a drink at the beach bar, hooking up with someone, etc.) by repetition (every summer when the holiday starts) and, whenever possible, link to a suitable historic past (socio-cultural traditions, food customs, etc.).

  • 3 Hobsbawm, E. (in Colón, 2005:40).

10The invention of tradition also occurs ‘more frequently when a rapid transformation of society weakens or destroys the social patterns for which “old” traditions had been designed’ (Hobsbawm).3 For example, in just a few years, Benidorm transformed into a spectacular tourism destination, with a skyline that tourists from all over the world briefly inhabit, by burying the traces and customs of the Alicante fishing village it once was under its skyscrapers. The tourist experience is invented and sold, then as now, as a consumer item (MacCannell, 2003: 65) and it is experienced in ‘non-places’, in other words, in spaces that are neither anthropological places nor old places (Augé, 2004: 13–14).

11As mentioned at the beginning, the role of retrotopia finds the anchor it needs in a chosen and artificially yearned for past to understand where we come from and what we are as an antidote to postmodern uncertainties. Because Spain has historically used tourism to ‘implement, strengthen and make a certain concept of national identity economically viable’. This is an extremely interesting and still current case ‘of national self-identification as a destination for another that is always more modern’ (Afinoguénova, 2007: 38).

II. Analysis of reality using three cinematic depictions

12Tourism and its emotional meanings have been represented by specific narrative, expressive and stylistics codes in Spanish cinema. They have activated and conditioned the referential imaginaries underlying our view based on a fiction that blends with reality and a reality that blends with fiction. As Zunzunegui (2005a: 14) points out, ‘films say things and they say them a certain way. A way that reflects the time when it was made and a way that affects us now’. A feature film is, therefore, a textual device and also the formal result of a constructive logic that helps us understand the epistemological effects related to the space–time context: the beach in the mid-twentieth century and now.

13Cinema is capable of (re)creating reality using symbolic and meaningful universes pervaded by signs defined by the same interpretation criteria that usually result in recognition rather than understanding (Augé, 2004: 39). The mass dissemination of 1960s and 1970s films shaped the image of tourism that is now confirmed and consolidated in the twenty-first century in other stories sharing common traits and subsidiary to the previous output.

14In the examples analysed below there is a mirror effect whereby tourism practice is shown and consumed in the cinema and contributes to creating and maintaining imaginaries that conceive reality as defined by Abril (2007: 62): ‘Imaginaries are a vivid repertoire of images shared by a society or social group, the objectification space in the collective imagination. The imaginary includes representations, evidence and implicit normative assumptions forming a way of imagining the world, social relationships, our own group, social identities, purposes and collective aspirations, etc.’

15To varying degrees, the three films studied in this article are rooted in the españolada, understood as the evolutionary (or reactionary) consequence of a long-standing expressive–formal costumbrista and populist tradition that is linked to the same heritage. We are also convinced that these feature films share the industrialised, pointless, mass, insignificant and clichéd nature of the tourism model they describe. That is why they reflect, substantiate and consolidate their structural paradigm. We would even go so far as to say that they form part of it.

16Therefore, the Spanish tourism shown in Fin de curso (Schools’ Out, Miguel Martí, 2005), Atasco en la nacional (Traffic Jam, Josetxo San Mateo, 2007) and Benidorm, mon amour (Santiago Pumarola, 2015) fits in with what we were told before and what we are still being told now.

  • The film directed by Santiago Pumarola is a parody chronologically set in the period it refers to: the last years of Franco’s regime.

  • Josetxo San Mateo’s film focuses on a family’s experience at a mass coastal destination that is the result of the Francoist development policy.

  • And Miguel Martí’s film rejuvenates the clichés of permissive seaside-resort openness and adapts them to the subgenre of generational teen comedy.

A. Benidorm, mon amour (Santiago Pumarola, 2015)

17The main point of the film is to entertain with no real artistic aspirations. It is a deliberate revamp of the (typically Spanish) españolada here turned into the (typically Valencian) valencianada. According to Zunzunegui (2005a: 16–17), Spanish film (or films produced in Spain) has managed to preserve a foundation that has adapted to several forms ‘fertilised by this populist humus’. This supra-genre of popular culture is characterised by its ‘bad quality, extremely low production cost and escapist plots requiring little thought’ (Navarrete, 2005: 23–31). It became especially prolific in the late-Francoist period and during the destape (when sexual censorship was relaxed), coinciding with incipient democracy.

  • 4 As the headline of this FórmulaTV article says in 2012, ‘L’Alqueria Blanca has been on Canal 9 for (...)

18This film is linked to comedia desarrollista, a recurring theme in tourism cinema at that time, in two ways: time and space. Firstly, Benidorm, mon amour is set in the 1960s. Secondly, the action takes place in the tourism capital of the Costa Blanca. However, it is also a presumed narrative prequel and, at the same time, a commercial consequence of the success of L’Alqueria Blanca,4 broadcast by Radio Televisión Valenciana (Channel 9) for ten seasons between 2007 and November 2013, which is when the public channel shut down. The four main characters in the film had already appeared in the series with the same names and played by the same actors, although with significant plot and style differences. However, the indistinct and colloquial use of Spanish and Valencian side by side was kept.

  • 5 Paco López Diago and Santiago Pumarola.

19In the televised fiction, the day-to-day lives of a small inland town in the mid-twentieth century were brought to the screen dramatically with some historical accuracy. Land disputes between the Pedreguer and Falcó families, jealousies, class struggles and a desire for power formed the basis of plots in a rural setting highlighting Valencian identity, language and cultural features over 196 episodes. However, the film verges on absurd comedy with several anachronisms and irreverent scatological excesses, as if the coast could alter or taint one’s mood and was the excuse, or perhaps the cause, to give free rein to the scriptwriters’ wild creativity,5 the characters’ repressed hedonism and bad taste. One of the character’s constipation and flatulence become the leitmotif during the film and lead to a repulsive and explicit diarrhoea at the end of the feature. This is as redundant as it is unnecessary in humour trying not to be uncouth to raise a smile.

20The antagonistic duality between the rustic small-town atmosphere and the modern coast had already appeared in El turismo es un gran invento (Tourism is a Great Invention, Pedro Lazaga, 1967), for example. It is an allegorical tale depicting the dichotomy between two Spains, which are socioeconomic and geographical rather than political and ideological: one is coastal immersed in change, openness and growth as a result of foreign currencies; and the other is rural, traditional, isolated and preserves deep-rooted Spanish values. The less laudable national characteristics also include the picaresque. In the film analysed here, the innocent and gullible slow-wittedness of the main characters makes it easy for them to become victims of a con and a theft committed by two women, unscrupulous Spanish criminals who pretend to be German tourists.

21Benidorm, mon amour begins with the general shot of a ramshackle bus whose red, yellow and blue colours imply, perhaps semiotically, the Valencian Senyera flag. The vehicle drives through an inhospitable agricultural landscape of rice fields to the sound of a rock song in French. Yet again, this is an eloquent, strange and paradoxical contrast that becomes even more eclectic when the sound track includes folk songs played by the bandurria (Spanish mandolin) and sung in Valencian.

22Tonet (Ferrán Gadea) is a fat, short and rather unattractive recruit using his military service leave to go to his village. He gets out of the vehicle wearing his uniform and carrying his kit bag. He is at a crossroads, two kilometres from L’Alqueria Blanca, as the traffic sign says. His three friends, Jaume (Miguel Barberá), Sento (Óscar Pastor) and Tomy (Manuel Maestro) go to pick him up in a Citroën 2CV wearing shorts and short-sleeved patterned shirts. Happily, they tell him: ‘We’re going to Benidorm!’. And in the car, they say: ‘Seven Swedish girls per square metre. Will that be enough for you?’

23The Alicante tourist city is replaced by the coves, beaches and accommodation in Cullera (Valencia) given that it is impossible to show Benidorm as it was in the past. The locations are places that cannot easily be identified. However, the Benidorm imaginary is constantly represented by clichés about fun, sex, drinking alcohol and lack of inhibition. It is not surprising that the film’s official website alludes to The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009) as a reference. Tourism is established as a fun sexual component that turns Spain into a prototypical tourism destination (Gómez Alonso, 2006: 5).

Document 1: The four friends arrive in Benidorm

Document 1: The four friends arrive in Benidorm

24From the beginning, the four male characters make the purpose of their trip clear: ‘unload’ and ‘drench’, especially the recruit. This attitude evidences the old male chauvinistic stereotypes that were commonplace decades ago. The Swedish-girl syndrome is a symbolic projection that turns exoticism into eroticism based on Spanish men’s desire to interact with foreign women, confusing what they actually are with what they would like to be. The ‘Iberian macho’, funny and physically not very attractive, tries to seduce the tourists in a laughable and clumsy manner. For example, when the friends introduce themselves to four French girls at a beach bar, they speak to them in an absurd, ridiculous manner mixed with Valencian. Luckily Brigitte (Nazaret Aracil) speaks Spanish perfectly and can act as an improvised interpreter.

25The tourists—pretty, sophisticated, well-off and liberated women—become a tempting yet sometimes unattainable desire for the ordinary Spaniards. During one scene on the beach, one of the women tries on a bra without covering herself while the men stare at her open-mouthed with perplexed lechery.

Document 2: Lecherous and perplexed stares when a French tourist shows her breasts

Document 2: Lecherous and perplexed stares when a French tourist shows her breasts

26After a lively party including a game of strip poker in Brigitte’s luxurious semi-detached house, complete with a private pool and overlooking the coastline, Françoise (Anïs Duperrein) chooses to sleep with Sento. Once in bed, with her breasts on show, she asks him in French to put on a condom before continuing. He is reluctant, continues to kiss her and refuses saying: ‘it’s better as it’s always been, as nature intended’. In the end, he has to respect the non-negotiable conditions and solves the matter in extremis by putting on protection.

27Tonet, the least attractive of the friends, goes to his hotel room accompanied by Denise (Paula García) to get some batteries so they can continue the party listening to music on the radio. Denise, obviously drunk, cannot stop laughing as he gives her a piggyback ride. At the hotel, despite Tonet’s determined efforts, the tourist flirts with him, but is unwilling to have sex. His friends, however, have all managed to have sexual intercourse.

28In Benidorm, mon amour, Francoist Spain and its patriotism are ridiculed through Inspector Castillo (Diego Braguinsky) and his subordinate Vasco (Andreu Castro), who are investigating a bank robbery. They pursue the four friends throughout the film as they have confused them with the bank robbers. They are the typical comical pair in which Castillo is the archetypical evil-looking fascist policeman and Vasco is a simple, spineless mummy’s boy at his orders. They always speak in Spanish, ‘the language of the empire’, unlike the other characters.

  • 6 Rafael Conde Santiago, nicknamed Titi, was a very popular variety singer in the Valencian Region wh (...)

29Although the dictatorship used tourism to improve how it was viewed internally and externally, the agents are scornful of the symptoms of openness. However, they have no other choice but to reluctantly blend in with the summery surroundings to go unnoticed. ‘I’ve had it with those queers sullying our native land,’ the officer complains referring to young heterosexuals who look after their appearance, listen to rock music and wear modern clothes. At another stage in the film he tells Vasco that he’s ‘had it up to here with this shitty summer’ and orders him to ‘get me another shirt that isn’t bright and colourful and doesn’t have any flowers. I don’t want to look like Titi.’6 To cap it all they have an argument with a couple of civil guard officers precisely because of their inappropriate appearance. As they cannot identify themselves as undercover policemen, they are arrested and taken to the police station. The appearance of the civil guard and of setbacks as a result of possible crimes links this film with the mishaps the Montoro family endure in Atasco en la Nacional.

Document 3: Encounter between the policemen and the civil guards.

Document 3: Encounter between the policemen and the civil guards.

B. Atasco en la Nacional (Josetxo San Mateo, 2007)

  • 7 As Charles Baudelaire said: ‘The Spaniards are very well endowed in this matter [the comic]. They a (...)

30This film modernises and updates esperpento, a genre whose most important current figure is Álex de la Iglesia (Zunzunegui, 2005a: 19). Mass tourism, which means the ‘end of the autonomous bourgeois... individual’ (Jameson, 1991: 55), survives in postmodernity and can turn peaceful days of summer rest into a literal nightmare. This is the narrative—and very Spanish7—recourse that allows us to observe reality from an exaggerated and grotesque perspective, transforming costumbrismo into a critical and nonsensical deformation similar to esperpento. Several decades later we see the less gratifying consequences of the happy 1960s and the success of the policy of economic development. According to Rosanna Mestre, (2013: 145), ‘the Montoros are victims of the more devastating side effects of the Fordist stage of the tourism industry’.

  • 8 There is an explicit dedication to Luis G. Berlanga in the film’s end credits.
  • 9 Content taken from the film’s official website: www.atascoenlanacional.com (consulted on 02/08/2008 (...)

31The film aims to pay homage8 to the caustic black humour of Berlanga’s comedies in the trilogy formed by Escopeta Nacional (The National Shotgun, 1977), Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage, 1981) and Nacional III (National III, 1982), although most authors highlight two other absurd feature films by the director: Plácido and El verdugo (The Executioner). According to the director of Atasco en la Nacional: ‘It’s far more than a film about a summer holiday [in Cullera].It’s the story of the Montoro family, which many families can identify with today...The film is part of our popular cinema with social content, but with a twist to give it the modernness of the Simpson family.’9Intertextuality is one of the inherent features of esperpento, ‘to the extent that... rather than natural realities, it refers to known or possible artistic creations’ (Amado Alonso in Zunzunegui, 2005b: 175).

32Hundreds of thousands of tourists from abroad and Spain (mostly from Madrid) flock to the Valencian coast in summer. Traffic problems and jams during the exodus from the Spanish capital towards the coast are one of the main news items at the start of the holiday season every year. This is the introduction to a film depicting in highly significant scenes how the shared imaginary agrees on the failures of a saturated tourism model that is the opposite of the quality and exclusive tourism the well-off classes enjoy and that the middle and working classes cannot aspire to.

33Soledad (Anabel Alonso) complains about the differences between what is advertised and what is real when they find that their accommodation is seriously deficient and has no sea views: ‘brochure is the technical word for describing crap. Because this isn’t an apartment, it’s crap. They’ve really fucked us over.’

Document 4: An apartment that does not match the brochure’s description.

Document 4: An apartment that does not match the brochure’s description.
  • 10 Cullera was the first Spanish tourist municipality to approve a regulation in August 2007 that proh (...)

34On their first day on the beach, the Montoros have to sit a long way from the shore.10 On the other days, Manuel (Pablo Carbonell) feels obliged by circumstances and his wife (return to matriarchy) to get up early to remove other people’s sunshades, if necessary, and put his in their place. At the beach bar the waiter forces them to leave their table before they’ve finished eating: ‘can’t you see that the four o’clock sitting is waiting their turn?’ he reproaches them. The mother, outraged when she sees the bill, exclaims: ‘two hours waiting to be served this crappy paella and now they’ve ripped us off’.

35The apart-hotel buffet is help yourself. Manuel argues with a senior lady who is touching the pastries before choosing one, which his daughter Estíbaliz records using a video camera. This is a metadiscursive device providing ‘a second point of view on the family holiday’ (Mestre, 2013: 148).

Document 5: Argument at the buffet

Document 5: Argument at the buffet

36Using Ritzer’s terminology (2000: 95), the buffet corresponds to the legacy of a rationalized and disenchanted modernity seeking maximum profitability through bureaucratisation resulting, however, in an unsatisfactory consumer experience. Hyperconsumerism is characterised by ‘calculability’, which involves prioritising quantity over quality. But the film also alludes to another tourism model: high-end in exclusive residential areas with all mod cons, golf courses, etc., which the main characters cannot enjoy, much to their regret. The demiurgical concept of the film’s plot, which capriciously places the characters at the mercy of unfortunate situations the author controls at whim, defines this esperpento style.

37Formal similarities with comedias del desarrollismo (development-era comedies) can be seen in the music and the actors. The soundtrack is a version of the song Vacaciones de verano (Summer Holiday, Fórmula V, 1972), a summer hit performed by the group called La Curva. Anabel Alonso and Pablo Carbonell are also comedians, as were Paco Martínez Soria, Antonio Ozores, Juanjo Menéndez and José Sazatornill, the regular stars of past productions. However, on boys’ nights out, the young central European women are now replaced by drag queens and married homosexual couples. The archaic late-Francoist liberalism has now made way for the most progressive social freedoms. Even immigration and its possible conflicts are glimpsed when Manolo (Carbonell) shouts at a South American receptionist in the heat of the moment: ‘You come here living from hand to mouth. We give you a home, a job and what happens? You think you’re a field marshal as soon as you’re given a uniform.’

38In the 1960s, Spaniards were the ones emigrating to France, Germany and Switzerland; now it is the Ecuadorians, Colombians and Moroccans who come to Spain seeking a better future and many of them work in hotel and catering or other tourist services. Foreigners are no longer perceived socially as something exotic. In general, foreign tourists are seen as a factor of wealth, while immigrants are considered a potential threat (integration problems and a cause of unemployment). Nevertheless, from an optimistic anthropological perspective, tourism is one of the main ways to bridge gaps between cultures and it is a useful tool to share intercultural experiences in a globalised world.

C. Fin de curso (Miguel Martí, 2005)

  • 11 This is how the production company Morena Films defines its new line of productions under the Happy (...)

39This film is similar to costumbrismo sainetesco, but it updates (and denaturalises) it using an eminently generational background, which overlaps with another typically US subgenre: horseplay and school comedies. The end result is a ‘nonsensical teen comedy’11, which somehow revamps (or degenerates) the españolada to fit in with the times of cultural globalisation represented (or caricatured) by stereotypes that appear not to be those of the 1960s and 1970s but might not differ too greatly from them.

  • 12 One example is the passionate, racial couple portrayed by Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz in the fi (...)

40The teenage boys still behave in a lecherous and promiscuous fashion, while the girls are treated as ‘objects’ of sexual desire, thus linking with the deep-rooted underlying male chauvinism seen in Benidorm, mon amour. Decades later, with no censorship or national Catholic codes of behaviour, summer holidays in Spain are still viewed as synonymous with fun associated with the sun, beach, alcohol and sex. This is explicit from the first scene of this feature film, a lesbian fantasy in a whirlpool tub, and also in its promotional poster. In this case, eroticism plays the role of identifying Spain as a fun destination, as mentioned above. But the liberalism Nordic women were supposed to display in their habits is a myth that has now transferred to Spanish men and women.12

  • 13 Description used in the film’s official synopsis.
  • 14 Description used in the film’s official synopsis.

41The plot focuses on the difficulties teenagers studying at the Spanish School in Lisbon have choosing the destination for their end-of-year trip. The clash is between two highly different tourism models: Paris, supported by the swots,13 is the icon of French sobriety and cultural city tourism. Benidorm is the symbol of decontextualization, timelessness and eclecticism that excites the senses. The arguments put forward by the good-time students14 in favour of the town on the Alicante coast are forceful as well as biased and crude: ‘Going somewhere where we can do what the fuck we like, when we fucking like and only if it’s fucking’; ‘it’s so full of clubs and topless chicks you’ll love it’; ‘when you’re 50 you can sign up for an IMSERSO [tourism programme organised by the Spanish state for senior citizens] trip and they’ll show you everything [Paris].Shit, man.Benidorm means having a party with your mates all fucking day, just messing about.’

  • 15 Notice the I love Benidorm logo symbol on the promotional poster.
  • 16 One of the tourists that usually spends her summer holidays in this city is the ineffable and eccen (...)

42Although the representation of the ‘New York’ of the Costa Blanca15 is elusive and allusive, given that the Mediterranean city does not appear visually until the end, throughout the film its presence is suggested or evoked in the lifestyle of the students that prefer16 this coastal destination: they like to have a good time with no limits, provoke others, break the rules and take drugs.

Document 6: Poster advertising the film

Document 6: Poster advertising the film
  • 17 ‘Pensioners choose Benidorm as the destination for their IMSERSO trips’ (La Voz de Galicia 26-09-20 (...)

43The desarrollista background of Benidorm and its non-transferable tourism imaginary are, as we can observe, rejuvenated, even though it is still one of the favourite destinations for the 1960s holiday makers, who, today, as retirees, form part of ‘senior tourism’.17 It is worth remembering the esperpento comedy Justino, un asesino de la tercera edad (Justino, a Senior Citizen Killer, La Cuadrilla, 1994) here, in which an old puntillero (the bull fighter’s assistant who actually kills the bull) kills everyone that dares to stop him spending a few days’ holiday in this tourist city. Tourism, as a means of consuming, adapts its services and products to overcome seasonality and expand the age range of its potential consumers (Ritzer, 2000: 166).

  • 18 This means fascination for the degraded landscape of schlock in the context of a post-industrial co (...)
  • 19 In this fragment the author is describing landismo, which we believe paved the way for this teen co (...)
  • 20 The success of Benidorm as a brand and tourist destination with a sound position in the market did (...)

44The most kitsch18 exaltation of the españolada is obvious in another couple of scenes that resort to ‘jokes for jokes’ sake, destroying any narrative logic, the omnipresence of easy and superficial humour, a plot that almost disappears, chaos in acting that never aspires to even a semblance of uniformity... grotesque exaggeration, bad taste and tacky eroticism’19 (Carratalá, 1997:147). With the aim of raising money for the trip, one student with large genitals performs a striptease in front of his screaming, frenzied admirers to the sound of the disco version of the pasodoble Paquito el chocolatero, a song that is a must at any popular Spanish celebration. These strip shows for tourists and stag and hen parties are a distinctive feature of the entertainment on offer in Benidorm.20 While the end credits are rolling, a man with long sideburns wearing a floral shirt, large sunglasses and a leopard-print thong sings a catchy rumba saying: ‘don’t let the evening end, I’ve come to score’.

Document 7: Kitsch as a specific feature of Benidorm

Document 7: Kitsch as a specific feature of Benidorm

III. Conclusions

  • 21 Even understood, in terms of the postulates of Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, as the inco (...)

45The typically Spanish tourist model that arose in the 1960s is no longer an ideal benchmark of economic progress, of identity and commercial differentiation and international openness for Francoist propaganda purposes. The serious dysfunctions21 it now suffers are evident, as we have seen, in how it has been depicted most recently on film: facilities primarily for sun-and-beach fun with limited options for diversification as well as mass tourism and services that are not up to scratch.

46Consequently, the three films chosen, although shot in the twenty-first century, diachronically show the development stages of a tourism model transitioning from pre-Fordism (Benidorm, mon amour) to post-Fordism (Fin de curso) through Fordism (Atasco en la Nacional). An early, still marginal tourism activity, which nevertheless had some socioeconomic, cultural and urban impact, became a mass industry decades later due to unchecked growth and consumer democratisation and then tried to redefine itself with more specialised products to respond to excessive uniformity (Garay and Cànoves, 2009).

47The residents of the rural area called L’Alquería Blanca spend some days in Benidorm, which is already beginning to stand out as a cosmopolitan coastal destination where you can satisfy your leisure desires whatever they are. The Montoros, a typical working-class family, travel to the coast to try to enjoy their summer holiday, but without any success. And the students from the Spanish School in Lisbon find that the tourist capital of the Costa Blanca is the place where younger people can have fun without restraint. Paradoxically, it is the same spot where IMSERSO pensioners are also regular tourists.

48The depictions and clichés consolidated narratively and aesthetically in the españolada and the comedia desarrollista can still be found in the films analysed in this article. Considered the study corpus, they share the updating of some codes that link with other US film or television products and subgenres. Humour in the last years of Franco’s regime tried to depict costumbrista episodes with an ingenuous, friendly tone, obviously without causing offence, that circumvented the dictatorship’s stringent rules and highlighted the cheerful, radiant side of tourism. However, in current productions, humour relies on vulgar expressions and salacious situations with parodic, possibly critical and, above all, provocative intentions, with beach tourism used as a setting and plot.

49Times have changed and so has the country. The stereotypes of Spanish modernisation, clearly unsuitable for constructing an identity to satisfy the first foreign tourists, have to coexist six decades later with postmodern complexities, a contradictory and dialectic period in which changes are discredited because the same old, or apparently same old, persists. Perhaps that is why we have observed some mimesis between the past (reference and cause) and the present (imitation and effect) in the films analysed in this article. In other words, a reality inspired by the same expressive, imaginary and clichéd features, now updated in other narrative forms that nevertheless share the same origin. This is what Jameson calls pastiche.

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Notes

1 For other authors, the creation of an image controlled by the most reactionary values of Francoism meant that moralizing costumbrismo was no longer costumbrismo in the strict sense of the term (Carratalá, 1997: 147).

2 This theory sought to understand how democratic states functioned in the decades after World War II.

3 Hobsbawm, E. (in Colón, 2005:40).

4 As the headline of this FórmulaTV article says in 2012, ‘L’Alqueria Blanca has been on Canal 9 for five years with an average audience of more than 19%’. See http://bit.ly/2F8ui07.

5 Paco López Diago and Santiago Pumarola.

6 Rafael Conde Santiago, nicknamed Titi, was a very popular variety singer in the Valencian Region who was born in 1938 and died in 2002. In one of his hits, called Libérate, he demands rights for homosexuals.

7 As Charles Baudelaire said: ‘The Spaniards are very well endowed in this matter [the comic]. They are quick to arrive at the cruel stage, and their most grotesque fantasies often contain a dark element.’ Charles Baudelaire, “De l’essence du rire et généralement du comique dans les arts plastiques”, Oeuvres Completes, vol. II París, Colección La Pléiade, Gallimard, 1976, pages. 525–543 (in Zunzunegui, 2005b: 162–163).

8 There is an explicit dedication to Luis G. Berlanga in the film’s end credits.

9 Content taken from the film’s official website: www.atascoenlanacional.com (consulted on 02/08/2008).

10 Cullera was the first Spanish tourist municipality to approve a regulation in August 2007 that prohibited saving a space by placing a sunshade on the beach before eight in the morning.

11 This is how the production company Morena Films defines its new line of productions under the Happy Hour label, which Slam (2003), Gente Pez (2001) and Fin de curso (2005) belong to. [Extra content found on the DVD of the film].

12 One example is the passionate, racial couple portrayed by Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz in the film Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona (2008), who have a fiery and unstable relationship with two US tourists. The New Yorker says that the film has a ‘natural, flowing vitality to it, a sun-drenched splendour that never falters ... You can feel Allen’s excitement in the sensual atmosphere. Spain! A seventy-two-year-old man has warmed his bones.’ (In 20 Minutos, 19/08/08).

13 Description used in the film’s official synopsis.

14 Description used in the film’s official synopsis.

15 Notice the I love Benidorm logo symbol on the promotional poster.

16 One of the tourists that usually spends her summer holidays in this city is the ineffable and eccentric Belén Esteban, who has gone from being the jilted girlfriend of a bullfighter to a very popular and populist media personality.

17 ‘Pensioners choose Benidorm as the destination for their IMSERSO trips’ (La Voz de Galicia 26-09-2005).

18 This means fascination for the degraded landscape of schlock in the context of a post-industrial consumer society (Jameson, 1991: 13).

19 In this fragment the author is describing landismo, which we believe paved the way for this teen comedy in which male chauvinism and nudity are evident.

20 The success of Benidorm as a brand and tourist destination with a sound position in the market did not prevent the start of the Terra Mítico theme park, built to diversify the city’s facilities, running into complications with a declaration of cessation of payments (El Mundo, 20/05/2004).

21 Even understood, in terms of the postulates of Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, as the inconveniences or anomalies that affect the social communication system’s balance and stability. (Mattelart, A. and Mattelart, M., 1997: 31).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Document 1: The four friends arrive in Benidorm
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Titre Document 2: Lecherous and perplexed stares when a French tourist shows her breasts
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 720k
Titre Document 3: Encounter between the policemen and the civil guards.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 396k
Titre Document 4: An apartment that does not match the brochure’s description.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 560k
Titre Document 5: Argument at the buffet
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 632k
Titre Document 6: Poster advertising the film
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Document 7: Kitsch as a specific feature of Benidorm
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/2971/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 631k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Salvador Martínez Puche et Antonio Martínez Puche, « How Tourism Imaginary has been Updated in the New Spanish Sun-and-Beach Comedy: Fin de curso, Atasco en la nacional and Benidorm, mon amour », Via [En ligne], 14 | 2018, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2018, consulté le 14 novembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/2971 ; DOI : 10.4000/viatourism.2971

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Auteurs

Salvador Martínez Puche

Profesor asociado del Departamento de Información y Documentación. Facultad de Comunicación y Documentación. Universidad de Murcia. Campus Universitario de Espinardo. 30100 Murcia. s.martinezpuche@um.es

Antonio Martínez Puche

Profesor titular del Departamento de Geografía Humana. Universidad de Alicante. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Apartado de Correos, 99. 03080 Alicante. antonio.martinez@ua.es

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Traducteur

Université Bretagne Occidentale

http://www.univ-brest.fr/btu

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Via Tourism Review est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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