Fanático – a new limited series made up of five short episodes, cumulatively adding up to a running time of less than a feature film – is described as a drama-comedy. It’s easy to see where the idea that it is a comedy comes from, because it’s based on a goofy trope that has informed everything from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to execrable Netflix franchise The Princess Switch, that of a humble everyman whose coincidental resemblance to a celebrity brings them new power. Here though, the mistaken identity isn’t truly mistaken but more so eroded and conflated with another’s. There is very little that is comedic, rather a bitter indictment of contemporary culture and its inescapable traps.
Quimera (Lorenzo Ferro) is an enormously successful Spanish trap star, playing sold-out shows where he has little to do except mumble over a blaring backing track and continue to make money for the assembled crew of parasitic hangers-on he has acquired through his fame. In the opening episode we see him careening around a dressing room in a haze of drugs and alcohol, his supposed friends trying to push more substances into him to balance out and get him on stage (reminiscent of the Elvis scene in which Tom Hanks’ Colonel Parker is getting the King’s bloated head dunked into ice buckets and screaming at his unethical doctor that “the only thing that matters is that that man gets on that stage tonight”). Quimera does make it out on stage but dies while performing, leaving his young fans confused and somehow angry, sharing rumours that it was an intentional overdose and unsure how to locate this material tragedy in the atmosphere of general nihilistic hedonism they revere.
This is where Lázaro, also played by Ferro, comes in. He bears an uncanny
resemblance to his hero Quimera, and was watching from the audience as he died. Quimera had everything Lázaro did not – renown, secure housing, limitless cash for frivolity, an ability to forget about responsibilities. Lázaro,
on the other hand, delivers groceries and pizzas for a pittance to rich jerks
partying in penthouses, and is unable to keep his fury at the situation to himself, firing off rude comments to customers and his bosses. He has a lot
more going for him than he appreciates, with a beautiful and fun girlfriend, a supportive mother, a roof over his head and his whole future before him. And yet it’s understandable to see his resentful fury about how much of his youth is being spent agonisingly scraping together odd jobs to get by, with no
indication of when this might change.
Of course he idolises Quimera, whose youth appears to be defined by nothing other than itself, whose life is a sort of shrine to the idea of thoughtlessly wasting time in the most reckless ways possible. Plus, Quimera owns a penthouse and expensive clothes.
When Quimera dies, and Lázaro causes some double-takes, he begins to impersonate him fully, changing his appearance and collaborating with his
team to set up new concerts, albums, a whole new empire for the dead boy
and his shadow. Because the world knows the real Quimera is dead, the
enterprise has an enjoyably dark and ambiguous feeling to it. The people
screaming his name know that he is not alive, but the appearance of his revival, the glamour of it, is electrifying enough. The cognitive dissonance of screaming “Quimera lives!” at a person they know is not Quimera just as the real person’s grieving father passes by with a coffin becomes chilling, and a part of the commentary on fame and culture.
More than most depictions of celebrity, the one in Fanático is relentlessly negative, showing not only Quimera but everyone who comes into contact with him as hopelessly tainted by their association, whether it’s his alcoholic friend who depends on him for income or the sanguine middle-aged woman in the boardroom who cares neither for music nor the welfare of the young people she caters to but can identify when a promising payday is on the horizon. Personal relationships flounder – Lázaro’s girlfriend, who had genuinely embodied the spirit of youthful joy and freedom that his revered celebrities only managed to thinly emulate, is left by the wayside when
circumstances seem to dictate he should try to get with Quimera’s ex instead. An uncomfortable scene follows where the ex, scathing of his desperation to gain success at any cost, makes Lázaro perform sexual acts on her in the middle of a party, to the disgust of his actual girlfriend. Celebrity is seen as inherently toxic and destructive, and yet a natural ambition for the aimless
disenfranchised young people to whom it is sold.
Visually, Fanático is dark and moody and mildly claustrophobic, moving quickly from the darkness of a frustrated boy’s teenage bedroom to the
suffocating throb of the nightlife that captivates him. Neither space can resolve the need for dignity and independence that Lázaro has, and while his spiral into this realisation is anything but funny, there is something exhilarating about going with him on his journey to the top, which ends up looking very much like the bottom – full of false beginnings and lonely nights.
Fanático is streaming now on Netflix