Release Date: October 11, 2013
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 Los High.”
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 Angeles.
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 telenovela devices.
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 change.
The grant-funding NGO Population Media Center works worldwide to promote the use of entertainment-education to encourage positive changes in behavior.