Over the course of my four month-long study abroad stint in Buenos Aires, I have attempted to immerse myself in the local culture. I have boliche’d and mate’d and medialuna’ed the lights out. However, one vital cultural aspect has eluded me for much of my time here: Argentine slang.
Spanish in Argentina comes with its own slew of unique phrases which are not taught in Spanish class. I’m a pretty crappy language-learner to begin with, and I had all but given up on incorporating more than the obligatory che boludo into my vocabulary. This was until my friends and I attended a real-life previa (Argentine for pregame) with real-life Argentines! One of my friends was chattering away with these porteños, and I was struggling to keep up.
She took a break from being fluent to toss me a pity-filled look and knowingly say, “You should watch Millennials on Netflix. That’s how I learned all the weird slang they [porteños] use.” The next day I fired up my computer, and watched the first episode of Millennials, an Argentine dramedy television series centered around the lives of six young, impossibly beautiful porteños. There were soaring, aerial shots of the city I study in, perfectly sculpted bodies, and a string of never-ending drama. I’m practicing my Spanish, I said. I can stop watching whenever, I said.
Millennials, created by one Martin Kweller, is filmed in Buenos Aires, and premiered last November on Net TV in Argentina. Last March, 24 episodes, each around 35 minutes long, were added to Netflix. I devoured them all over the course of one sleep-deprived week.
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The show’s six leads are all from the province of Buenos Aires. The actors most likely to be familiar to you—and I’m basing this solely off of the millennials’ metric of Instagram followers—are Nicolás Riera and Noelia Marzol. Riera rose to fame thanks to a role on popular show Casi Ángeles, a soap opera set in Buenos Aires. Marzol has appeared on the Argentine reality show Celebrity Splash! which teaches celebrities the art of diving (too much to unpack there) as well as the talk show Infama.
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The premise of Millennials is familiar: a group of young professionals agonize over their careers and the direction of their lives, while simultaneously sleeping with and cheating on each other. The drama becomes more and more ridiculous with each passing episode. It’s Argentine Gossip Girl, except no one is rich.
The bulk of the show takes place at a co-working space in an unspecified neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The characters are entrepreneurs, who are using the space to develop apps and hook up in the sauna that is attached to the building. It’s essentially a telenovela. In the first episode, we are introduced to three couples: Benja and Ariana, Juanma and Flor, and Rodri and Alma. We see all of them in various states of undress. There are a lot of sex scenes, a lot of raised voices, a lot of talk regarding how to make more money.
But that is not to say that the show has no educational value. I learned invaluable amounts of slang! Plata, which is far more fun than dinero, is money; me calenté is you turn me on; and significant others are always referring to each other as mi amor.
But I really fell for the show because of the way it incorporates experiences of everyday life in Buenos Aires. I feel a strange sense of ownership every time the transition shots fly past Av. 9 de Julio or Los Bosques de Palermo. I feel smug whenever I recognize a cultural quirk, especially one that I have experienced myself. I watch television shows that take place in Los Angeles or Rome as an outsider. But when I watch Millennials, I watch it from a halfway outsider-insider point-of-view. The show has been a validation that I do actually live here, and that I actually am a part of this city right now.
In one scene, Juanma shows a prospective co-working client around the office and explains that it is run by an American company. The client responds that Argentina is America, too, to which Juanma laughs and agrees. I felt a flash of recognition at this scene. Ever since I’ve arrived here, I’ve made an effort to kick my verbal habit of referring to myself as “American”—because everyone around me is also American.
Occasionally, characters sneak off to telos, which are sex hotels that are rented by the hour. To the untrained, pre-study abroad eye, it seems to be just a regular hotel. I was thrilled at my recognition—I know what those are! They told us about them at orientation!
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The show also addresses graver issues, such as multiple characters dealing with unplanned pregnancy. This is a common trope in television, but the issue takes on a new significance for a show set in a country where abortion is illegal. The characters are forced to seek out a clandestine abortion, and whisper about obtaining a phone number for a provider of this illegal service. The debate over abortion is something I’ve gotten to see first-hand during my time here, and I connect these scenes with every green pañuelo I’ve seen.
I brought up Millennials at the next previa. The porteños laughed and said they don’t like it—too dramatic. They then provided me with a list of far superior Argentine television shows to watch instead, including but not limited to El Marginal, Los Simuladores, and Historia de un clan. And maybe I’ll get to them eventually, but for now I’m rewatching my favorite Argentine show, even if I’m all alone with this one.
One more thing. My favorite part of consuming any type of media is talking to people about it and reading about it on the Internet. But with Millenials, I find myself coming up short. The newspaper Clarín did publish a review back when the series premiered, declaring in its headline that the show has “more sex than plot.” To which I say— that’s a bad thing? So please, by all means, give the show a try. Shoot me an email and tell me if your heart doesn’t flutter every time a piece of Buenos Aires flashes up on your computer screen, while millennials roll their r’s and their eyes in the background. I’ll be waiting patiently to see if the second season comes along anytime soon.