Thursday, August 25, 2016

Telenovelas are NOT Soap Operas

I want to start this blog post by being very candid for a second: when I signed up for this course, I thought that telenovelas were the Spanish versions of American soap operas and that we would be studying television shows like Days of Our Lives, The Young and Restless, General Hospital, and maybe even Jane the Virgin. I was excited about this idea, since I recently got hooked on Jane the Virgin and spent many nights this summer watching recorded General Hospital episodes with my mom, who is a loyal fan of the long time show. Fast forward to now, two weeks into the course, and I realize how very naïve and ignorant it was of me to think this way. My eyes have been opened in a big way over the last two weeks and my entire perspective on telenovelas has been completely changed because of the material we are learning in this course – in the best way possible.

I had absolutely no idea what a big deal telenovelas are in Latin American culture. Learning about the cultural phenomenon surrounding these shows has been truly fascinating for me. Here in the US, it’s no secret that soap operas are not all that respected. They are shown in the afternoon, when most people are at work, and they are not typically the shows that people make a big deal out of watching religiously. Sure, they are still popular, but they are not the shows that are shown during primetime or trending on twitter and breaking the internet – they are no Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal. Thus, when we began to discuss the nature of telenovelas in Latin America, I was honestly surprised.

The fact that people in Latin America literally plan their whole nights around these shows and are so fiercely loyal to the characters is so interesting to me.  I can relate in some ways, because I feel very strongly about my favorite shows, but from what I am gathering, telenovela watchers take fandom to a whole new level. Not only this, but while I can’t name a single American soap opera actor, the men and women that star in telenovelas are some of the most famous people in Latin America! This was, yet again, a fact that surprised me.

I also find it remarkable that while yes, many telenovelas are filled with far-fetched drama, they also often comment on very real societal problems in Latin America. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that is happening in American soap operas. I personally never would have thought that some telenovelas go way deeper than just your average melodramatic plots. This is genius to me because what better way to bring serious problems to the attention of the public than through the shows they are watching every single night, without fail.

The moral of this blog post is this: while telenovelas are not anything like what I originally thought, I am so pleasantly surprised at the things we are learning about them in class. I am truly intrigued by the telenovelas craze and I am very excited to continuing to learn more about them this semester.

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