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Series / Menudo: Forever Young

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Menudo: Forever Young is a four-part TV Documentary about Menudo available through HBO Max. In English and Spanish (with English subtitles), it consists primarily of interviews from former members, journalists, and others involved.

The documentary details the Puerto Rican Boy Band's development and legacy (breaking through foreign markets, increasing the visibility of the Puerto Rican community in the US, breaking stereotypes), as well as the harsh working conditions the boys were put through (long hours, having to perform while seriously ill, disruption to their education, being exposed to drugs) and allegations of abuse.

Tropes seen

  • Action Figure Justification: Former member Johnny Lozada pulls out the two dolls issued in his likeness. He does not agree with the copy in the box calling them "dolls":
    "No son dolls, son action figures!"
  • Adults Are Useless: The boys' manager required their parents to sign away parental rights, effectively putting themselves on this position so that they could not act in the boys' best interests.
  • Bilingual Bonus: While the series is in English, many of the interviews are in Spanish. Some of the nuances and humor are lost in the subtitles.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: The Talking Heads interviewees speak in English or subtitled Spanish. One of the former members switches back and forth within the same interview.
  • Blaming the Victim: Former member Ralphy Rodriguez, who went public in the 90s with his experiences of being abused, was accused of being an ingrate, trying to seek financial gain. Footage of his appearance on the Cristina Saralegui talk show had the host hinting that his allegations were about money.
  • Corruption of a Minor: According to the members, Diaz was constantly talking about anal sex and penises around them. Remember they were 12-16. He also allowed for an environment where they were constantly surrounded by adult males. Other members spoke of having easy access to drugs, leading to two of them getting caught with drugs.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The original lineup of Menudo consisted of two brothers from one family and three from another. Their wardrobe was Borsalino polo shirts and jeans instead of the more garish custom-made Lycra pieces that came in later.
  • Genre Shift: Around 1987, Menudo started changing their direction toward rock.
  • Gratuitous English: Sometimes used for emphasis by Spanish-speaking interviewees. Justified given the influence of English in the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico.
  • He Knows Too Much: Bolivar Arellano, a photojournalist who worked around the group saw many things that he found disturbing. Just when he was going to appear in the popular "Carmen Jovet Controversial" talk show, several attorneys showed up with an injunction to prevent him from making his allegations public. He later faced a lawsuit for defamation and was found guilty.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Shortly after the accusations came out and four members quit, Edgardo Diaz recruited four new members, three based out of Miami and one from Texas. Eventually, Menudo became MDO.
  • Mean Boss: How Edgardo Diaz comes across from the former members' interviews, making them work long hours and subjecting them to verbal abuse.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Edgardo Diaz had previously been involved with a wildly popular singing group from Spain, La Pandilla. But as the preteens grew older, their voices and faces changed and the group dissolved. To avoid that happening with Menudo, Diaz decided that each member would be replaced as they hit 15 or went through a voice change. This would allow Menudo to last forever.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Edgardo Diaz denied the allegations of abuse, claiming that the members could not be mistreated, raped, beaten, etc. since they were singing, smiling, dancing, the next day.
  • Older Than They Look: Robby Rosa joined the band just in time to enter the English-speaking US market being really close to the age limit. While he was introduced to the public as being 13, he was really 15, near the age limit.
  • Playing Sick: Subverted. One member, Angelo, was accused of this when he complained of stomach pains before a concert. While performing, he ran backstage and threw up blood and later needed an appendectomy.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: The group performed in El Salvador while the country was in the middle of a civil war. Yet with everything going on, a ceasefire was invoked so that Menudo could perform.
  • Self-Deprecation: Each member played a role: Ricky Melendez was the funny one, René Farrait the long-haired heartthrob, and Johnny Lozada was the one with the puppy-dog eyes. But how does he describe his function?:
    Johnny: I was the one who carried the suitcases (laughing).
  • Stage Mom: One father traveled with the group and would interfere with filming and rehearsals, clashing with Edgardo Diaz. Subverted in that he was acting as protector and caregiver, making sure they ate and took breaks.
  • Stock Footage: There is plenty of footage of Menudo's early beginnings playing local festivals, screaming girls running on an airport tarmac to greet the group, crowds lining up for autograph... you name it.
  • The Svengali: Edgardo Diaz, the band founder and manager, controlled everything from their image to their music, forced them to perform while ill.
  • Talking Heads: Aside the former members of Menudo, the document features experts in political science and sociology to explain the cultural and economic situation of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community in the US, as well as the winner of the Chica Joven de Menudo pageant.
  • Target Audience: As Johnny Lozada states, at the time (mid to late 70s) Spanish-language music was aimed at young kids or at adults (Fania All-Stars, balladeers like Roberto Carlos and Camilo Sesto). There was no music geared for preteens and teens. That was the audience Menudo sought.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: By the late 1980s, there was very little supervision over the group members. Some were using drugs and having lots of sex. As in, security had to escort one girl out with another one waiting in the wings.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: All the former Menudo members who appeared In the docuseries are featured in the epilogue. Just to mention a few: Ricky went into corporate law, and like Johnny (a regular in Univision's Despierta America), participated in the reunion; Ray became a filmmaker; Sergio got certified as a marine captain; Rawy is a senior pastor of an online church, and Cesar is a choreographer and dancer for the Metropolitan opera.