Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More than entertainment

I have always loved watching drama on television, so when I saw my first telenovela in high school I was instantly hooked. When I was taking Spanish in high school, we would watch portions of the telenovela Destinos practically every day in class. Destinos is a telenovela that was specifically created with the intention of teaching Spanish to beginners. Raquel Rodriguez was a Spanish speaking lawyer from California who was hired by a dying man’s family to track down his first wife who had been presumed dead after the Spanish Civil War. Raquel travelled to multiple different Spanish speaking countries while also teaching our class basic Spanish. Needless to say, it grabbed all of our attention and made learning the Spanish language fun. One of the things that I think makes telenovelas so cool is that they are not only super dramatic, but they are also great tools to help learn the Spanish language. If my high school Spanish class had not watched Destinos then I would not have cared enough to learn as much of the Spanish language as I did. This is one of the main reasons that I'm excited about watching the telenovela that I chose, La Patrona. While I am obviously looking forward to the drama, I am also looking forward to having another tool to help me in my Spanish class this semester.

Cant Stay Away

Like most people of this generation, I have mastered the art of "binge watching." I thought I had finally controlled this addiction after years of trying to control this habit, but I was very wrong. After being introduced to the world wide phenomenon, the telenovela, my addiction quickly returned. How am I supposed to stop watching after only one episode when every single show ends with a dramatic cliffhanger leaving me wanting more?! I thought I had watched dramatic TV series in the past, but nothing compares to the action packed 45 minutes of the telenovela. Not only are they dramatic, but there are so many different varieties, so there is a telenovela catered to everybody's specific tastes. Personally, I am a huge soccer fan, so of course I picked a telenovela that involved a lot of futbol, "Avenida Brasil." I was hooked after only watching the trailer as one of the first scene opens with the view of a beautiful stadium. The trailers for telenovelas, specifically this one, are also very different than commercials for normal TV series. They explain the basic plot of the series and provide just enough drama to reel you in, leaving you wondering at the end of the clip. I know this is exactly how i felt after watching the trailer for "Avenida Brasil." I haven't even begun the show, but I already know that once I start, I wont be bale to stop. That is the pure power of the telenovela.

Extremely Spicy Plotlines: Telenovelas

     After looking up a few of the telenovelas mentioned in class today I decided on watching "Duas Caras". As we talked about in class, telenovelas have very intricate story lines with many characters and copious amounts of cliffhangers, and "Duas Caras" seems like it will live up to those expectations. I plan to start watching it over the weekend, but I did read the beginning of a summary of the show and oh man does it look like something that will get me hooked. From what I gathered the series takes a reversal on the Cinderella archetype where it is a young, naive girl who falls for a poor boy, but that is where things take a 180-degree turn.
    The poor boy is actually a con-man who divorces his new wife for her riches, moves away, and changes his name. Maria, the protagonist, then begins to track down her ex "Double Jeopardy" style, and that is as far as I read since I did not want to spoil the obvious chaos that ensues for the remainder of the show. This telenovela interests me because the stereotypical protagonist is usually a naive girl who slowly becomes less and less so as she adapts to her new surroundings, but here her naivety is broken early on in the series when she is orphaned and later betrayed by her husband which causes her to mature more quickly than usual. I believe that the author of this show also wants to showcase the male superiority stereotype and introduce to the audience a female character who beats the stereotype and not only exacts her revenge but ends up in a better place than she was before. Of course I have yet to actually start watching the series and these are just assumptions, but I do look forward to watching and learning the truth for myself.

Analysis of Hugo Benavides's Latin American Telenovelas: The Political Power of Melodramatic Resignification - Taking a Deeper Look Into Telenovela Monopolies

The first reading for this course was Hugo Benavides's section on Latin American Telenovelas: The Political Power of Melodramatic Resignification. The work dealt with how telenovelas became popular in various countries including the United States through aspects such as globalization and how telenovelas can connect to a viewer. A quote from the work that heavily interested me was, "It is this powerful process of cultural commodification and reconfiguration that has made even the original national groups lose their economic monopoly on telenovela production". Before attending the course, I had assumed that many countries in South America and Latin America had produced telenovelas. Instead, I learned that countries such as Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela had large monopolies which weakened with competitors from Brazil, Peru, Colombia, etc. That was a very eye-opening concept of which I committed further research in the topic of telenovela monopolies and how it has affected monopolies and it's loosening due to globalization.

One of the countries that has a very strong hold on telenovela production is Mexico which has had recent political troubles in the past 10 years over its media structure. Mexican media is mainly dominated by the oligopoly Televisa which is the largest multimedia company in the Spanish speaking world. Televisa is known for producing recent telenovelas such as A que no me dejas and La vecina which are broadcasted worldwide through networks in the U.S. such as Univsion (Which Televisa owns a 5% stake in) or Telemundo along with various other channels across the world. Televisa does have a competitor in Mexico for telenovela production known as TV Azteca which has made some progress in chipping away at the monopoly of Televisa in the country but is still overshadowed by the strength of Televisa. However, the 2012 Mexican Presidential election has led to calls by protesters to break up the oligopoly of Televisa in Mexico. Televisa was heavily accused of supporting candidate Enrique Nieto throughout the election in many ways including to not show the first national debate between candidates in order to preserve Nieto's lead. If Televisa's control over the media in Mexico can be decreased, it will also lead to many other countries to have a chance at better distributing their own telenovelas without the monopolistic power of Televisa around the world.

An aspect that has greatly loosened the monopolistic control of telenovela production by certain countries is the rise of globalization. Globalization can encompass many aspects but a simplistic definition is the process of integrating communications, economics, and cultures around the world. Telenovelas has played a major role in globalization by spreading around the world in various continents which has led viewers to experience a new type of genre never seen before along with many of its cultural aspects depending on the country of origin. This has allowed countries such as Peru and Colombia to spread its telenovelas while weakening the strongholds of countries such as Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela as described by Benavides. One of the machinery or tools of globalization that has allowed for the growth of telenovelas in many nations is the internet which in turn allowed viewers instant access to vast amounts of telenovela programs of his or her liking on websites such as YouTube and Netflix. This further weakens the telenovela monopoly by allowing viewers to choose any type of telenovela without being forced to watched telenovelas from certain countries on televisions. Overall, globalization has been a major force in weakening the monopolistic forces of telenovela production although Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina still are major leaders.


1. Benevides Reading

Plot Development

Novelas have always been present in my life. Since I was a young child, I could remember my mom, my aunts, and my grandma discussing the latest episodes or the stories of a novela. Since we all lived in the same apartment, it was something that I would hear almost every day. I never thought anything of it. I figured novelas were mostly for women since the only people that I knew who watched them were women. Around ten years later, I remember my dad asking my mom about some novela because he was not caught up with it. I still refused to believe that they were something that anyone could enjoy; I just figured that my dad was watching them to connect more with my mom. However, my cousin, who is as close as a brother to me, also mentioned watching novelas every night with his mom. That is when I realized that anyone could enjoy this genre of television.
Honestly, I still did not watch any novelas, mostly because I did not watch much television during this time. However, seeing the previews got me very eager to start watching them. There are scenes that were very intense, scenes that were comical, and scenes that were relaxing to watch. What I really am interested in is the plot development in novelas. I do not understand how they can keep someone watching for over one hundred episodes, especially when the the major characters are introduced in the first episode and they seem to fall in love immediately. Watching a clip from Michaela today in class made me question that.
I am excited to start watching La Reina del Sur to find answers to my questions and to get involved in the story. Maybe I could also see where Kate del Castillo started interacting with famous drug lords.

A Part of Life

It's interesting to me that telenovelas can become such a huge part of a person's life, watching the same telenovelas for years and years, sitting down at the same time everyday to watch their favorite show. Audiences become connected to the characters in ways unlike any other genre of entertainment, and it's impressive that it can affect people in such a way.

It also amazes me that telenovelas can be successful after so many years of repeating the same stories. It would seem to me that people would lose interest in a telenovela if they knew what was going to come, but the intense drama and the audience's connection to the characters give them a reason to continue watching for so many years, enough to be a part of life for many people. 

The immense variety in telenovelas allows for everyone to have their favorite show, anywhere from romance to action, such as Pablo Escobar: El Patron Del Mal, the telenovela that I am beginning to watch. I'm interested to compare it to the show Narcos that is on Netflix, to see the differences between a telenovela and a regular TV show on the same topic, specifically the differences in budget, production quality, and amount of different actors throughout the story. 

Telenovelas: A Platform for Social Reform

Telenovelas are popular because they are really more than melodramas. While the plot may be twisted and convoluted, the writers often address much more important problems. They present political and social issues in an extremely entertaining and theatrical way. The complexity of the storylines mixed with everyday issues makes telenovelas the most addicting shows on TV. Similarly, the Turkish telenovela Fatmagulu Sucu Ne addresses social issues in an extremely captivating way. Unlike other telenovelas, Fatmagul moves at an exceptionally slow pace and does not end in a cliffhanger. While this show is not the stereotypical telenovela, it is still both addicting and powerful. It addresses the issues of rape and victim shaming while having a complex Romeo and Juliet love story.
In the first episode a beautiful young woman named Fatmagul is gang raped by three men. She is subsequently shamed and ostracized by everyone she knows. Her “loving” fiancĂ©, Mustafa, leaves her and burns down their future home. Then she is forced to tell the police she lied about the rape and is pressured to marry one of her rapists.

From the first episodes, the writers obviously want to draw attention to the Middle Eastern culture’s reaction to rape. After Fatmagul was assaulted, she is treated as if she were to blame. No one seems to care about catching the culprits or getting justice for her. While Fatmagul is wrongly scrutinized and shamed for being raped, her ex-fiancĂ© Mustafa, receives nothing but comfort and support. From this, the writers are hinting that Middle Eastern women are often treated unfairly in this situation. While western women usually receive support after an assault, Middle Eastern women may not have the same comforts. This show suggests that sexually assaulted women are treated like outcasts and their lives and reputations will never be the same. The extreme drama and blatant cruelty in Fatmagul Sucu Ne demonstrates the severity of this issue and the need for social reform.

The Hook

The popularity of the telenovela is undeniable. Starting from its origins in the cigar factories of cuba, telenovelas have always been able to grasp the attention of any audience. As a first time telenovela watcher I was skeptical to say the least. The idea that a very melodramatic show in another language would be able to grab my attention seemed unlikely. However, the design of the telenovela grabs its audience's attention from the opening scenes and does not disappoint to continue to captivate viewers. In the first five minutes of my first telenovela La Reina del Sur, I was hooked. Before every commercial break and at the end of every episode, the telenovela uses a cliffhanger to insure it does not loose the attention of its audience and keep them coming back for more. Other factors also server to make the telenovela one of the most watched television genres in the world. The variation of plots and twists make every telenovela unique, even when using recycled story lines. The characters also serve to keep audiences enthralled. The connection created between the audience and the characters is so strong that they can't help but tune in for the next episode. Good or bad, the characters are intriguing to the viewers and keep them coming back to find out what happens to them. The telenovela's popularity definitely stems from its ability to hook the audience and keep them coming back for more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A telenovela, a story that portrays love, passion, hatred, lust, and even revenge. Telenovelas take you on a roller coaster of emotions that you cannot get off of. Once you find a telenovela that sparks your interest you get drawn in and makes watching the melodramatic show a daily routine. In high school my assignment for honors spanish IIII was to write a short report on an episode of a telenovela of my choice. After writing that report I felt the urge to find out what happened next. It is that curiosity that keeps people watching a telenovela. They have a series of plot twists and cliff hangers you that make you keep wanting more.
La Patrona, a telenovela centered around Gabriela who was framed for a crime she did not commit, is the telenovela that I have become consumed in. After only watching a couple episodes, I do not have much to say except I know that it will be hard to stray away from watching it. I look forward to watching more episode because each episode leaves you wanting more.

Pushing Passion- India Persaud

People are passionate beings that feel real pain and definite struggles. We connect to each other through our stories which can be told and depicted in a plethora of ways. Telenovelas are a means of storytelling, and even though many see them as over-the-top, it is the connection that these shows instantly establish that allows for such a successful industry. I am intrigued by telenovela writers' style and spice that allow for such a magnetic attraction to their stories. Indeed, cliffhangers have us on the edge of our seats after each episode, but it is the longing to know if true love persists or if justice really does win that keeps viewers snagged. The audience grows to love their favorite characters as they would their own close friends. They weep and rejoice with the falls and victories of each beloved character, and this provides a direct relational tie. I wish to be in television production one day, and I take a lot out of telenovela techniques. The directors and writers of telenovelas have mastered the art of storytelling, and I would say no talent is sought after more. People spend a lifetime trying to sell their stories to society in hopes of encountering fame and fortune, but the producers of successful telenovelas are winning the game. They capture hearts, and that impressive feat sets them up for triumph. Telenovelas are a product of media and culture, so I find it amazing that one can learn so much from a society from their TV shows! This cultural element of telenovelas is the most beautiful factor to me because anyone can connect cross-culturally with these shows. In class, I have glimpsed a piece of the depths that Telenovelas hold. From political statements to societal criticism, these shows reveal their complexity with each episode. I am analyzing the telenovela Avenida Brasil, and though the plot revolves around love and revenge (as many of these shows do), I can already see the criticism of Brazil's issue with slums and poverty through the treatment of the children in the episodes that take place in the junk yard. Currently, I am eager to learn more about telenovela culture in class lectures, and to also seek more analysis on Avenida Brasil. The more I do this, the more I can see of a society's culture and their unique way of life.

The Power of the Telenovela

I registered for this class because I was curious as to why telenovelas have taken over and are still dominating the television industry; however, it did not take me very long to figure out the answer. As I began watching La Reina del Sur, it was easy for me to recognize the key elements that pull the audience into the telenovela in just the first episode. This telenovela’s pilot episode has it all—the drama, the action, the romance and the despecho, the passion, and even action related to drugs and crime! They’re captivating and exciting, and they keep you on the very edge of your seat within the first 10 minutes. They give the audience a taste of over exaggerated drama to keep them interested and invested in the plots and intertwining relationships. Telenovelas have the ability to take you out of your reality and into the thrilling storylines. Even though La Reina del Sur has all of those essential parts that can be found in most every telenovela, I can tell that this one does not fit the traditional rosa mold: Teresa is a newly widowed woman who has to learn how to live through the consequences of her late husband, a Mexican drug trafficker.

La Reina del Sur also reflects the corruption in Mexico as drug trade remains a major informal component of the Mexican economy. According to The Los Angeles Times, the struggle between Mexican drug cartels and the government has only escalated, and the Mexican Drug War is responsible for thousands of lives. Minutes into La Reina del Sur, the severity of this crime is demonstrated, and the people closest to Teresa are murdered. Although I do not know how the telenovela will continue to develop, I predict that there will be action from the drug trade and a mix of the traditional love stories in the episodes. More importantly, I believe that this telenovela will center itself on Teresa finding her strengths, gaining power, and working her way up in the drug trafficking industry.

Initially, I had doubts about telenovelas. I believed the misconceptions about how all of the telenovelas were cheesy and ridiculous love stories in which a humble, poor woman falls in love with a wealthy, handsome man. I am delightfully surprised that not all telenovelas are the same and that there really is a type of telenovela for everyone.

Why so Popular?

Girl meets boy.  Girl is poor, doesn't have much money, or friends, or anything for that matter.  However, she is kind and intelligent.  Boy is rich, popular, with a bright future ahead of him, but he's not the brightest crayon in the box.  When girl meets boy, they fall in love, almost immediately, but there's some sort of opposition to their relationship.  At the end of the day, they live happily ever after with not a care in the world.  Most people know this as the Cinderella story, and of course, there are many variations to this story, but it is the premise to many stories, television shows, and movies all over the world.  It is especially prevalent in telenovelas, yet these stories seem to be more popular in telenovelas than in movies, which are considerably shorter.  Both mediums seem to add lots of drama and a strong plot, yet telenovelas are popular with all types of people.  According to many, telenovelas are 'family programs', they are made for watching with loved ones, whereas today many movies are made with a particular demographic in mind.  For example, the recent Disney version of Cinderella, which was released last year, was clearly made for girls at least 13 years of age and younger.  Telenovelas bring the family together; they create an opportunity for the family to bond and have common ground to discuss.  Not only can they bond, they can do so regularly, as telenovelas come on everyday.  With movies, there can be common ground to discuss, but seldom, as many movies today are not made with the sense of bringing family together.  That's ultimately why telenovelas are so popular and will remain popular: they bring people together.  Old and young are able to have something in common and bond with each other over telenovelas.  They are made with everyone in mind, not a sole demographic.  So when Juan finally marries Maria in a large romantic ceremony, it's not just tween girls that are watching, it's their moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and even their grandparents.  The entire family has an opportunity to come together and bond over such an event.

So many episodes...

I open a book. I read the first page. I read the next. I get to the 5th page, maybe I'll even get to the 7th...
I turn to the last chapter of the book and read the ending so see how the story ends. This is what happens I about 70% of the time I read a book. Mind you, I love reading. There have been plenty of books in my lifetime where I've read every single word of every single sentence on every single page from the very first chapter to the epilogue. There are also many books that seem so intriguing when I read the plot summary, that I sometimes feel my hands shaking as I open the file on my Kindle app. But a lot of the times I find myself bored by the first couple pages and skip to the end to see what happens. Whether this is my fault, because I have no patience, or the authors' because they couldn't capture the reader, I do not know.

Like telenovelas, the books I read contain a female and male protagonist. They fall in love, and there are many obstacles getting in their way. Whether it be financial issues, personal issues, ex-lovers trying to separate them, or even the protagonists themselves getting in the way of their own love in some form or another. Occasionally, there are a couple pregnancies thrown in there, maybe a kidnapping or two, and maybe even amnesia caused by a terrible accident. Regardless of how repetitive the plots are, the angst felt through the characters' struggles is addicting, and that's what keeps me reading romance novels over and over again. That is what I bet keeps the audience coming back to the ever-popular telenovelas over and over again.

With that said, because the plots are very similar with their "rags-to riches" stories, character angst, and dramatic declarations of love, I don't see why I shouldn't love telenovelas with a burning passion and dedicate weekends upon weekends binge-watching on the 100+ episodes and spending a good amount on tissues to wipe up all my snot and tears. They have similar plots and everything I love about a good story, however, the problem is that they are very long. As I mentioned before, I do not have the patience for long drawn-out plots, and prefer episodic television for most of my shows. However, I do believe that if I started watching a show that aired recently and was on it's 5th or 7th episode and it was not yet completed for at the 10th episode mark, I do believe that I would get caught up in all the drama, fall in love with the series, and watch it consistently day-by-day as intended. In that aspect, I also admire the scriptwriters' skills of putting a cliff-hanger at the end of every episode to make the audience want more. However, if a show is completed and the last episode has already aired, it is terribly likely that I would just skip to the very last episode and enjoy that.

It's not a good thing. It's unfortunate. It's a terrible habit, and it undermines all the hard work put into the show. This is especially so if it is known to be a wonderful series, but regardless, I just cannot bring myself to sit through all 100+ episodes when all I want to see is the characters getting their HEA (happily ever after). Telenovelas are a wonderful genre of TV shows that have provided generations one after another with proper entertainment. I can only hope that a really good telenovela starts soon so that I can watch it episode by episode and emerge myself in that world as well.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Seeking Excitement

Some people have lives that are full of action, surprise, and pure excitement... And some people don't. Whichever category you believe you fall under, it doesn't matter, because in the end, every person in this world craves more excitement and more thrill in their lives than what is already there. Telenovelas are full of drama, action, excitement, and suspense, drawing any viewer into the plot and into the character's lives. Why are we so drawn to this excitement? Simply put, it's in our human nature. We picture ourselves in the character's positions and wonder what we would do if something so crazy and radical could happen to us. It provokes our imaginations to go above and beyond, thinking bizarre and unexpected solutions. Although telenovelas are full of extreme drama that most people will never encounter in reality, this drama is based on real-life situations and problems that people actually face in their daily lives. Obviously, the drama in the telenovelas is exaggerated beyond belief to capture viewers, but the root of the drama is a reminder that every person faces pain, love, sacrifice, and other dramatics in their lives. This connection to the underlying issues gives the viewer something to think about while watching a telenovela, as if addressing one's own problems. The struggles of a single, working mother are portrayed in the telenovela, La Patrona, where a single mother works in a gold mine in order to provide for her son. Single mothers around the globe can connect to this show, not because they work in a gold mine, but because they relate this drama back to their own lives, where they must work strenuous conditions to provide for their families. This example portrays the idea that telenovelas, although full of intense drama, still make connections to the real world and everyday life. They show daily scenes, but add in action, dramatics, excitement, and many other intriguing aspects that fulfill the human being's craving to be involved in something crazy and intense. This pull to the exciting side of life creates a viewing empire for the genre of telenovelas.