This semester, I’ve been watching La Reina Del Sur. Oddly, what I’ve found most surprising isn’t how much I like the show (a lot), how much I feel connected to the characters (also a lot), or how much more I feel I’ve learned about some aspects of Mexican and Spanish culture (quite a bit). No, what I’ve found most surprising is the depiction of violence in the show.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was certainly expecting violence in this story. I chose a narconovela for a reason, and I was clearly looking for a telenovela de ruptura. But Reina del Sur has a lot of very difficult-to-watch, painful scenes. A lot of rape. A lot of blood.
What surprised me most is that, after a discussion we had in class and a comment made by Marcel Granier in his talk today, I wouldn’t have expected violence done like this. Mr. Granier mentioned that, because Venezuela is so dangerous, Venezuelan viewers of telenovelas don’t want to see that kind of violence in their entertainment. It’s too real. We had discussed this point in class as well, and it makes sense. I wouldn’t want to watch a television show about a very stressed-out college student because that’s already my reality, in the same way that violence is the reality for many telenovela viewers.
But Reina del Sur is successful, which means either that the entertainment value of the show outweighs the potential heavy dose of reality, or that this violence is not a reality for the primary viewers of the show. This makes sense, because in large part the audience of this show is American, and even the show itself is aware that violence is treated differently here in the United States. In an early episode, when a character called Ratas is in the U.S., another character reminds him of this, telling him that he has to be careful because in the U.S., there are consequences, not like in Mexico. Even this one offhand line demonstrates the difference- he’s saying that a death there would be a big deal, but in Mexico, the same crime wouldn’t be as much of a problem.
Additionally, I think that cultures have different expectations for their entertainment separate from wanting a difference between the show and their reality. For example, crime shows represent a significant portion of shows broadcast in the U.S., and the sunnier or more melodramatic soap operas or children’s shows are often seen as cheesy. I think it would be interesting to look into these cultural preferences, as well as the nuances between different cultures within Latin America based on country of origin, socioeconomic status, and religion. If I had thought more quickly, I would have been interested to hear Mr. Granier’s thoughts on the topic.