Years ago a boss prefaced a question about conditions in Cuba with "Not that I'm going to necessarily agree with you, but what do you think of...?" The enormity of that statement did not hit me immediately. I was reminded of that exchange when I stumbled upon an episode of Royal Pains, purportedly set in Cuba. In the storyline, the ailing nabob, medical moochers in tow, reaches out for some experimental treatment at a beautiful clinic on the island, where the equally beautiful Cuban Doctor conveys the altruism of their medical system as opposed to that of the greedy US capitalists.
Then I'm watching the streets of a "Cuban" town with nary a spot of peeling paint, evoking the thought that they must have shot this in the Dominican Republic. Turns out the episode was filmed in Puerto Rico. Cuba should look so good. So what does it matter? It matters. It is only ignorance that makes this storyline possible, one that could conceivably infect 7.2 million viewers or so, leaving them with the perception that Cuba is just another Carribbean resort destination, no different from Aruba, or St Maarten, etc.
It is an ignorance only made possible by an interesting phenomenon, the NHH (Nothing Happened Here) syndrome that infects and informs the entertainment industry's love affair with the dictatorship, despite the testimony of millions to the contrary. They know more than people who have lived there, the family members of those who have fled and those who remain. The result is that the Cuba presented in the episode bears no more resemblance to the real thing than I to Walter Cronkite.
To be fair, there were some off notes. One character is convinced that he is being followed by the secret police for buying black market cigars, an impression heightened by the disappearance of the vendor. Scenes from next week's conclusion show the character being whisked away in a big car. Of course, the term kidnapping is used, leading to all sorts of dismay on my part. We'll see.
As my Dad would say, "Manda madre!"
Update: The conclusion of the two-part episode was much better, incorporating a major storyline about a dissident. Still, the overall impression was way too positive.