Before this class, I thought I already knew what telenovelas truly were seeing that I had been exposed to them since fourth grade, the year I had my first Spanish class. However, all of my preconceived notions could not have been more wrong. Since fourth grade, I thought every soap opera, telenovela, Asian drama, etc. served no purpose outside of entertaining mindless viewers. I thought the plots were dumb and surface level, the ratings must have been extremely low, and that anyone who watched them extensively was wasting his or her time. Honestly, I had no idea how a professor could have enough meat on the topic to create an entire semester long course around it. Perhaps that's why I was so intrigued and interested in taking this class. I quickly learned to eat my words.
Let's back track a little. Growing up in a traditional Vietnamese family home (that just so happened to be stuck in the middle of suburban America), my childhood was filled with Chinese and Korean dramas playing in the background of my tiny living room. My parents and grandparents were obsessed. My mom told me a story once about her youngest sister, Nga, and how badly teenage Nga wanted to become a famous Vietnamese actress after college. My grandfather quickly crushed those dreams saying, "You can aspire to be a famous Vietnamese voice over, but Vietnamese actresses do not exist."
Twenty years later, these words are still true. Much like the Venezuelan government, censorship is something plaguing Vietnam to this day, and much like the Venezuelan people, Vietnamese citizens love soap operas. They love anything that can take away from their daily struggles and mask living under a corrupt, communist tyranny. In the famous music variety shows my parents watch, the songs they sing have been around since the '80's. Rarely are the entertainers under forty years old, and rarely do they play a song my parents don't know every word to. It's as if the entertainment industry is at a stand still. If nothing new is being created, nothing has to be censored. And so, Vietnam imports dramas from China, Taiwan, Korean, Japan, etc. and finds people to do voice overs.
Every day in this class, I learn more and more about the importance of telenovelas not only in Latin America, Spain, and Turkey, but across all borders. Television has such a power over its viewers and captivates audiences of all ages and languages. Drama, romance, and comedy can help you forget about all your worries and issues, and how scripts are written speaks volumes to the culture and politics surrounding a country. I honestly believe in a day where my aunt, Nga, will begin to see more and more Vietnamese actresses just like I believe that eventually Venezuela will see a day where its telenovela industry prospers once again.