I write fiction. And fiction is a lie. It can be a plausible lie or not, entertaining or not, that opens debates in society or not. But always a lie. Although a lie that does not intend to deceive, as other types of speeches do, because it warns that it is and defines itself in the fictional contract. Whoever is on the other side accepts or not that contract.
With Marcelo Piñeyro, a film director with a career and prestige that you don’t need to remember in this column, we wrote a series of eight chapters, The kingdom, which can be seen on the Netflix platform in more than 190 countries. Although it was barely two weeks after the premiere, it had a success with viewers that has no antecedents neither in our country, nor in many other places. You hear people talking about The kingdom on the street, in bars, on radio or television programs (entertainment, political or sports). An infinity of notes of all kinds have been dedicated to him in the graphic media, they circulate memes with phrases and characters from the series, cartoons, reels on IG or TikTok. Netflix has just announced a second season and fans of the series invaded the networks asking for details on the release date.
The kingdom opened a debate. Perhaps, that is one of his greatest and unexpected achievements: that based on what this fiction tells, a discussion has been enabled in society that allows us to think aloud about something that was latent, that needed to be discussed outside, among all of us, discussed. I do not know if much more can be asked of a fiction. A writer, like any other artist, exercises his task with freedom. Creative freedom is a right that, happily, today is not only not discussed but, in the face of attacks, our society defends as a value that we are not willing to lose.
However, some ask for more than what is fiction. Or at least to The kingdom. It is asked, almost, that it is not fiction, that whoever created it accept some “indications” of all kinds that seek to put limits on creative freedom. That Pastor Emilio or Pastor Elena are not the ones we invented but others, more adjusted to the shepherds that are described from the social sciences, for example. Or rather, those described by some specialists consulted in the social sciences, each one with their limited field of study to which they defined at the time of doing their own research, and that generally leaves out a province, a particular Church, some religious or business phenomenon that is not interesting for your study. Surely it is good that it be so. I do not know about research in social sciences so I do not think about those works, beyond that they interest me and read them.
In fiction there is no field of study or conclusions resulting from research done with scientific methods. Nor does it have to be, unless whoever conceives it needs them to invent that world they want to shape. Fiction does not propose conclusions that social science researchers can reach but, as I said before, a fictional contract: the viewer, the reader, knows that what is being told is a lie and, faced with the proposal, decides to enter or not to that world that someone opened before him with no other claim than to tell him a story.
I trust that other and that other who is there to decide what she wants to be told and what not. I trust and defend the freedom of creation of whoever wants to tell a story. Narrative writers, screenwriters, playwrights create characters, and those characters, for better and for worse, They are unique, they do not respond to an average, but to a particularity. To account for all the different types of evangelical pastors that exist in Argentina, from the Chaco to Tierra del Fuego, in a single character would be a task that no scriptwriter who wants to do his job well would cross his mind. Not even “showing” here and there, in some scene without dramatic need, that there are an infinity of other types of shepherds different from Emilio Vázquez Pena, so that no one can say that we do not know that, indeed, there are others. Because if we did, that fiction would not work, it would not open debate, it would not allow discussion, it would not allow specialists in the field to give their point of view about the reality they study and which was not discussed in the public debate in the same way. in which one speaks after a phenomenon like this.
In Anna Karenina’s opening, Tolstoy says: “All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family has a special reason for being unhappy.” And, of course, fiction is more interested in families and characters who have conflicts, chiaroscuro, secrets, misfortunes.
I celebrate that The kingdom has opened a debate on certain churches and their relationship to power. Above all, about how some right-wing parties, from the United States to the south of the American continent, have joined agendas with some churches to obtain benefits that have nothing to do with the genuine religious faith of their own faithful, oblivious to this manipulation. Because ultimately that’s what he talks about The kingdom. Power. And hopefully the public discussion extends to other powers that are also discussed in the series. The intelligence services, for example. Or politics and politicians. Or justice. Or who runs the world today. These days wonderful threads appeared from people who know much more than I do about all these topics. One of those that interested me the most speaks of irregularities in the Argentine judicial system when it must investigate cases of abuse, the disappearance of minors, of parents who claim for their sons and daughters at doors that no one opens, or that even close at request. Hopefully our society will also enable that debate, that of the functioning of justice for “small causes”, those that do not occupy the front pages of the newspapers.
In these days I received moving testimonies from people who lived for many years in some churches and who felt identified by what they tell. The kingdom: from having lost their home or a large part of their assets, to having felt abused in different ways. I also received messages from people who, on the contrary, felt protected and helped in evangelical churches where they found what they were looking for. In some messages they tell me that they met pastors equal to those of The kingdom, and in others who met very different shepherds, sometimes better, sometimes even worse. The world that this series tells is limited, the one that was opened to debate is much larger. We can ask debate for more debate, but we cannot ask fiction not to be fiction.