BUFFALO, N.Y. – Armed with a one-year $56,265 grant from
the Population Media Center, Hua (Helen) Wang, PhD, assistant
professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, is about
to dive into Hulu’s popular teen Latino webnovela “East
Wang, her collaborator Arvind Singhal PhD, Samuel Shirley and
Edna Holt Marston Endowed Professor of Communication at the
University of Texas at El Paso, and their team will work with the
show’s Hollywood writers, producers and their NGO partners to
assess the viewers’ narrative experience, the effectiveness
of webnovela and transmedia entertainment formats, dynamics among
the series’ fans on social media and positive changes the
show has provoked in Latino communities all across the country.
In particular, they will evaluate whether the series and its
associated social media are changing knowledge, attitudes and
behaviors about safe sex and teen pregnancy prevention among young
Latinos in the United States.
“East Los High” is an addictive 2013 teen drama
series with an all-Latino cast that reflects, from the American
Latino perspective, the lives, conundrums and scandals of teenagers
growing up in gritty East Los
In addition to the series itself, the show’s website
features a number of entertaining interactive transmedia
extensions, from additional scenes, newspaper articles and vlogs,
to dance tutorials, cooking recipes and discussions of Latino and
local culture in East LA.
The stories have a “real” feel to them – no
stereotypes allowed – and the characters are complex, the
plots intense and contemporary, often steamy and replete with
twists and turns, montages, quick cutaways, pop music and other
The result is a juicy watch. Taken with its Website – and
its feast of self-referential links – one episode could keep
fans occupied for an entire afternoon or 20 – and provoke
identification and debate in its audience.
Wang’s current research focuses on the relationships
between new media, social networks, health/wellness and social
The grant-funding NGO Population Media Center works worldwide to
promote the use of entertainment-education to encourage positive
changes in behavior.