BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentines call popcorn "pochoclo," but you wouldn't know that watching television here, where many shows are made in the U.S. and come dubbed by actors with Mexican or Spanish accents who call it "palomitas."
In a bid to recover part of Argentina's lost cultural heritage, create more jobs and stir up nationalist pride in an election year, President Cristina Fernandez has decreed that certain broadcast TV shows must be dubbed instead into Argentina's lyrical brand of Spanish, though stipulating the language must be "neutral" enough for all Latin Americans to understand.
The move won praise from Argentine film director Carlos Mentasti, whose most recent hit, "A Chinese Tale," beautifully captures a Buenos Aires culture clash. He complains that something important is lost when kids grow up listening to voice-overs that sound nothing like how their families and neighbors talk.
"Impregnated by television and videogames, Argentine kids often use, from a very young age, words that aren't part of our idiosyncrasy," Mentasti said. "That's why supporting everything that's ours when it comes to culture is always positive."
That hasn't stopped the move from being lampooned on social media around Latin America, playing on the stereotype that Argentines consider themselves more European and therefore superior to all their neighbors.
The Argentine way of speaking is highly distinctive, especially when served up in the "porteno" accent that instantly marks people from the nation's capital. Spanish here was heavily influenced by the waves of European immigrants who arrived in South America a century ago, and Argentines still employ grammatical constructions considered a bit archaic in many other Latin American countries.
A page for parodies on Facebook, fed by Twitter with the hashtag (hash)doblajesargentinos, has earned 60,000 likes as people invent new Argentine subtitles for classic movie scenes. For example, while "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca, directly and neutrally translated, might be expressed as "Tocala de nuevo, Sam," someone suggested that Argentine dubbers would employ an off-color chant crowds shout at rock concerts to encourage bands to play an encore.
Much of the slang Argentines speak daily is too raw to be printed in family newspapers, but there have been tamer posts, too, like an Argentine Darth Vader saying "Lucas, soy tu viejo," as in, "Luke, I'm your old man" rather than "Luke, I'm your father."
The measure implements a never-enforced, 25-year-old law requiring that foreign-language shows, movies and commercials that are broadcast on local television must be dubbed by actors who share "the phonetic characteristics" of Argentines.
All such content must be registered with the government, and any station or content provider failing to comply will be fined. The money will go to fund Argentina's filmmaking industry.
The decree is great news for local actors who will get more work dubbing and be able to charge intellectual property rights for movies, Argentine Dubbing School director Dany de Alzaga said. But the July 15 decree, which gives government regulators until Sept. 15 to implement the law, left many questions unanswered and provided for several major exceptions.
It ruled out new voice-overs for imported content that arrives already dubbed in another country's Spanish. It applies only to broadcast television, not cable TV or films shown in movie theaters, and it can only be enforced for content aimed solely at Argentine audiences, exempting shows that are broadcast to many countries. Weeks after the decree, the two government agencies in charge of implementing the law are still waiting for guidance from the presidency on how to go about it.
The law doesn't say who is expected to foot the bill for the new dubbing, and it is also unclear how it will affect subtitles.
A group representing the hearing-impaired is concerned enough to circulate an online petition insisting that dubbing not replace subtitles that make watching television possible for more than a half-million Argentines who have hearing disabilities.
Others say the move has less to do with culture than stoking nationalism ahead of midterm congressional elections on Oct. 27.
But for many Argentines, those criticisms – and the ribbing of their Latin American neighbors – is of secondary concern. They say Argentine culture must come first, and that citizens have a right to listen to programs that sound right to them.
"It's true that Argentines feel quite different. It's also true that this `neutral' or `Latin-American' tone we hear on many programs doesn't represent us," said philosopher and writer Alejandro Rozitchner. "I don't know if this law is good or bad, but it's true that years and years of watching dubbed programming generates feelings of something foreign: We don't speak this way."
Earlier on HuffPost:
"30 Rock's" Liz Lemon (or 'Limona') is getting her <a href="http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00046213.html" target="_hplink">"dream vacation"</a> by picking garbage for her community service during the summer and in the meanwhile learning how to speak some Spanish. Kudos to Tina Fey for learning how to roll her R's: "grrritale a Hector!"
Rachel learned Spanish from her nanny who taught her how to say "Tu madre es loca" ("Your mom is crazy"). And although Rachel sounds very cute in Spanish, she still needs to work a bit on her grammar.
We knew she was good with potions, spells and concoctions but we weren't aware little Hermione also knew how to speak Spanish. Although she's probably better with magic than she is with speaking the language, Emma Watson is still terribly charming in Spanish.
Dakota Fanning tells the host of the ABC show "buenos dias, mucho gusto en conocerla" ("good morning, nice to meet you") with a charming smile proving that she is equally as adorable in English and as she is in Spanish.
"Hijoleee Mano!" Apparently, when Hollywood heartthrob Ben Affleck speaks Spanish he puts on a Mexican accent. In this video Affleck is promoting his movie "The Town" and telling us about his man-crush on John Hamm (or Juan Hamm). Even though rumor has it that he learned it from his ex girflriend Jennifer Lopez, the actor learned Spanish when he lived in Mexico as a kid.
Even though Selena Gomez's father is Mexican and she has a couple of songs in Spanish, the singer is not exactly fluent in the language. Back in 2010 Gomez said she wanted to get Rosetta Stone in order to <a href="http://www.latina.com/entertainment/celebrity/exclusive-selena-gomez-i-really-need-learn-spanish" target="_hplink">really learn Spanish.</a> <a href="http://www.latina.com/entertainment/celebrity/exclusive-selena-gomez-i-really-need-learn-spanish" target="_hplink">Gomez told Latina Magazine, </a>"I practice [Spanish], but I can understand it better than I can speak it."
Basketball player Kobe Bryant speaks fluent Spanish thanks to Don Franciso and "Sabado Gigante." Although he is joking and he actually learned Spanish because he speaks Italian, with that grin on his face we can't help but think that Kobe is a big fan of Don Francisco.
Actress Zoe Saldana, grew up in Queens speaking Spanish and English. Her father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. In the video the actress proves she still speaks perfectly fluent Spanish and has a very serious personality: "I didn't behave like the only girl [in the movie]," said Saldana. "I don't think like a woman. I think more like the guys. I have two sister. We're three girls at home. My mom wanted to have boys. She raised us with that independence and with a neutrality. She didn't raise us thinking 'you're only women' and men are only men. No, she told us 'you are whatever you want'."
Although Eva Longoria didn't learn how to speak Spanish <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2007-06-03-eva-longoria_N.htm" target="_hplink">until later in her life</a>, the "Desperate Housewives" star sounds like a natural. But here's some topics she still stays away from. "I can't argue politics in Spanish," <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2007-06-03-eva-longoria_N.htm" target="_hplink">Longoria told USA Today.</a> "But I get by."
Santana Lopez, portrayed by actress Naya Rivera, is a fiery Glee club member. In this episode Santana looses her temper with Rachel and let's out her frustration in the best way she knows how: with a loud rant in Spanish.