Aug 5, 2011

"I love Lucy": breaking Language & Cultural Barriers


One of the things from I love Lucy that stand out for me, is the fact they included speaking another language, español in this case, as a recurrent situation. The fact that Ricky Ricardo is Cuban means that there's a cultural barrier between him and Lucy. But I like the way they approached to these barriers throughout the series: it was a problem for both of them, not just for one of them; it meant that Lucy wasn't able to speak a second language and that she didn't know much about her husband's country, and it meant that Ricky had to struggle to improve his English.

Many hilarious scenes were born from this subject. Remember when Lucy recreates "Cuba" for Ricky to feel at home? It's obvious that she mixed a lot of the general ideas about what Latin America is: ponchos, donkeys, Brazilian songs, lots of kids...


This is a common problem in a lot of American movies: the portray of different cultures is based on prejudice, stereotype and lack of research. Why I don't mind this in the case of I love Lucy? Because the screenwriters decided to make it evident by exaggerating the elements and turning it into something positive by showing that Lucy is making an effort to help her foreign husband.

Another of my favorite scenes is when Lucy meets her mother-in-law and then when she tries to explain her what they're having for supper. Here, both women are in the same situation, trying to help each other, because both have a lack of knowledge:



Another recurrent situation is Lucy making fun of Ricky's accent and difficulty to express correctly what he's trying to say (from 00.00 to 01.26):


But at the same time, there are many times where Lucy simply cannot follow her husband or his friends and she's equally lost and depends only on him to understand what the heck is going on:


In one episode they discuss their language problem. Lucy says she wants her child to speak perfect English; Ricky says his English is good, so Lucy tests him. Even when things start bad for poor Ricky, in the end, there's no winning figure: English's rules are weird sometimes.


In another episode, the Ricardos visit Cuba and the roles are reversed. Lucy meets her husband's family for the first time, but because she doesn't speak Spanish she feels uncomfortable and nervous. Little Ricky, on the other hand, enjoys the advantages of speaking more than a language:


So, at the end of the day what matters the most in this show, are those elements that bring people together, no matter where are they from. Another example of this is when Ricky tells the child The Little Red Riding Hood (La Caperucita Roja) and we all understand what he's saying, even when it's in Spanglish.


There are universal things that go beyond any language/cultural barrier. I love Lucy understands that and work on that with respect and fairness (and a great sense of humour), and I think that's one of  things that made it so successful around the globe.

30 comments:

  1. Great post! I've always adored Ricky's tellling of Little Red Riding Hood. =)

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  2. Wonderful post on an aspect of "I Love Lucy" that sometimes gets "lost in translation".

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  3. I really enjoyed this post, Clara. One of the best things about I Love Lucy is that because so much of the humor was visual, it was able to transcend language barriers and become popular in practically every corner of the world (I'll bet there are African tribesmen laughing themselves silly at "Job Switching").

    And like Desi Arnaz, my favorite Cuban dish is arroz con pollo.

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  4. Great post, Clara! This isn't something I've ever really thought about but you are so right!

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  5. Each time I am having a bad day from work or from life, I always turn to watching Lucille's show and every negativities inside me magically vanish. One of my favorite episodes was when she lit her nose on fire in front of William Holden. And I am glad to find out that it was one of her favorites too. I love Lucy!

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  6. As often as I've watched 'Lucy,' I've never given the cultural differences aspect much thought until now. Lucy and Desi really made that work for them. Great idea for a post.

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  7. This is such a great post, Clara. It also points out something that many Americans don't realise: I Love Lucy was historic as the first multi-ethnic household on television!

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  8. Thanks for the great post! Some of my favorites scenes were when Lucy poked fun at his accent.

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  9. Clara, I've read several of the Blogathon entries, and thus far yours is the most unique. A lot of the reason for the endearing quality of the Ricardo marriage was the language barrier. All of the clips you posted are from some of my favorite episodes. The one with the professor trying to talk Lucy through as he hides in the kitchen is absolutely hilarious. And you described well the difference between Ricky's mother in America and Lucy in Cuba, both experiencing being the stranger on the street. Of course I was young, but I never felt that Ricky was actually being made fun of. I thought he was so handsome with that wonderful accent, and knew that since Lucy loved him, her comments were never meant to hurt or embarrass. Wonderful article, Clara!

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  10. Fascinating post, Clara! My Spanish teacher in high school used clips from I Love Lucy in the classroom, which was such an effective way to showcase the language to us. I remember sitting in the room laughing myself silly with my classmates while watching Ricky tell the story of "Caperucita Roja." Thanks for bringing back fun memories. And thank you for participating in the blogathon! I loved reading your contribution. :)

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  11. Love the post. You came up with quite the angle for Lucy. Thanks for participating in the blogathon!
    -Carrie, True Classics

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  12. I love the Bedtime Stories scene. I still catch me laughing a loud everytime I remember this scene! Desi is adorable in it. I wish I could find someone that speak two language and mispronounce them... It can sound weird, but I really think it's attractive.

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  13. I Love Lucy, realmente adoro el show y a Lucille Ball!!. Es muy inteligente usar el sentido del humor para derribar las barreras linguisticas o de cualquier otra índole.
    ¡ Me ha encantado recordar éstos episodios que tambien se vieron en España una y otra vez !
    El Spanglish ja ja ja..!!

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  14. Thank you! I love that scene too, so funny and natural :) Thanks a million for reading!

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  15. Thank you very much, I'm glad you liked it!

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  16. Thank you Ivan! Thumbs up to arroz con pollo :)

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  17. Thank Audrey, I'm glad you liked my post :)

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  18. Yeah, totally, Lucy can always cheer me up too! Thanks for visiting, Mario!

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  19. Thanks Rich. Yeah, it's awesome to see these international stars speaking my language :) Thanks for visiting!

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  20. Thank YOU, Craig. It was nice to see you here :)

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  21. Oh, Becky! THANK YOU :) I'm glad you enjoyed reading my post and I agree with what you said, I don't feel Ricky was made fun of either. Thanks again!

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  22. Your Spanish teacher was really cool, Brandie! Those must been awesome classes :) Thanks for your nice words!

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  23. Thank you Carrie, for your words and for hosting such an amazing blogathon!

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  24. Yeah, I agree, Desi was really adorable. I speak two languages and mispronounce...both. LOL. Thanks for visiting!

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  25. Sí, la verdad es que es una serie perfecta, de un humor eficaz e incomparable. Gracias por visitarme, Abril!!

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  26. Jacqueline T LynchAugust 12, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    A wonderful post. This was delightful.

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  27. Thank you Jacqueline, I really appreciate it :)

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  28. i read all the post its so informative and interesting........
    order checks
    computer checks

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  29. Most of Ricky's errors are pronunciation errors when experecing strong emtions. It very hard to a speak foriegn langauge when you are angry becuase the come so fast. That's why he often laspes in Spanish when he's uspet.

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