4 July 2003 | rrincon10
Shamelessly exploitative teen series
For the last few years, producer Pedro Damian has gone out of his way to promote himself as an individual who is interested in addressing teen issues in his telenovelas. His "Mi Pequena Traviesa," "Preciosa," "Amor Gitano" and "Primer Amor...Mil Por Hora" were all teen oriented sagas. Like his previous productions, Damian's "Clase 406" is supposedly a drama that deals with many of the matters that concern most Mexican teenagers. Unfortunately, like his previous "Primer Amor...," "Clase 406" turns out to be little more than a teen oriented drama that is shamelessly exploitative.
Since it is geared toward teens, you get plenty of shots of mini skirted, scantily clad girls. On this matter alone, the drama is hardly reflective of Mexican teenagers. Except for the attractively plump Carla Cossio, all the teenage female leads are pale-white, anorexia-fin girls. This is not to say that there aren't any lean women in Mexico, but in a country where 95% of the people have some Indian blood in them and where many women have the tendency to be chunky, Damian's teenage nymphs do not represent what the average Mexican teenage girl looks like.
Like "Primer Amor...," this series also tackles serious issues in a rather shameless manner. You get your doses of teenage pregnancies, spousal abuse, teenage prostitution rings, drug indulgence, and rapes. The rape and pregnancy of Gaby (Sherlyn, whose appearance in this series has made her the object of lust on many Mexican message boards) is grossly unrealistic. Gaby gives birth to the daughter of the gym teacher who raped her, yet the audience is not treated to any of the more grueling aspects of unwed teenage motherhood. Despite her mishap, Gaby continues to sing in a high school group, fall in love, and do all the little things that the average high school girl does. Being a teenage mother does not mean that your life is over, but the drama's failure to depict such events in a more appropriate manner only serve to weaken the perspective of the series.
One of the biggest problems of the series is the miscast of Iran Castillo as the antagonist Magdalena. Like Hirosue Ryoko in Japan, Iran Castillo came to prominence playing "good girl/girl's best friend" roles in "Agujetas de Color de Rosa" and "Preciosa." Her ability to play against this typecast was apparent in what is still one of her best performances, the Gothic outsider Ana in Emilio Larrosa's "Sonadoras." In many ways, Magdalena is an extension of Ana, and although Castillo does her best to play the "bad girl" role she has been given, her delivery comes off as being clumsy. Magdalena, as imagined by the writers, is supposed to be a street tough girl whose violence-plagued home life turned her into the nasty student who enjoys giving head butts to her chosen human targets. Unfotunately, Castillo fails to exhibit the toughness that is required for this role. She does her best, but in the end she is unable to convince us that she is this crass, crude antagonist. Her departure from the series after the initial six months is accompanied by the arrival of Anahi as the new villain. While Castillo's Magdalena could be sympathetic at times, Anahi is a total, conniving b***h who falsely accuses a teacher of attempted rape after he rejects her advances.
Sadly, the lack of any strong villains is among the shortcomings of "Clase 406." Fabian Robles as a sleazy pimp and Yessica Salazar as the ex-wife from hell are given a few good moments, but the overall quality of villains in this story is bad.
Among the redeeming factors of this series is the performance of Jorge Alberto Poza as the math teacher Francisco. One of the most underrated actors in Mexico, Poza delivers a fine performance as the teacher who simply wants to make a difference. While the role is somewhat cliched, Poza manages to turn it into something fresh and distinct. Undoubtedly, Poza is among the better actors to appear in recent years; in many ways, he is a more capable actor than the extremely overrated Gael Garcia Bernal. Eventually, like Castillo, Poza also departs after the first six months of "Clase 406." He is replaced by Cuban actor Francisco Gattorno, who gives life to Santiago, the teacher with the dark past. Gattorno isn't so much miscast as he is misplaced in this series. Known for playing leading man roles opposite the likes of Angelica Rivera and Daniela Castro, Gattorno comes off as being awkward and lost in this setting. Again, he does his best to pull off the role, but the overall nature of the role and the circumstances prevent him from succeeding.
As of this date, "Clase 406" has lasted exactly one year. Whether it is near its end is unknown, but at this point in the saga, it is all too apparent that "Clase 406" should have gone on vacation a long time ago.