This is a class blog run by Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru and her students in the course "Telenovelas, Culture and Society" at the University of Georgia during Spring 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comparing "Brothers and Sisters" with Characteristics of Spanish Telenovelas

During the first week of class, we have started to learn the characteristics of Spanish telenovelas and what differentiates them from popular television shows in America. For this post, I want to analyze certain characteristics of Spanish telenovelas with one of my favorite shows, Brothers and Sisters. Brothers and Sisters centers around single mother Norah Walker and her five children. The Walker family is a close-knit family, and the show becomes quite addicting as we experience the family's trials concerning love, career choices and family ties. I became hooked the first episode.
It was interesting to learn about the idea of "despechado" in Latin America. While Americans have the "move on, get over it" attitude that we discussed in class, Latin Americans tend to drown in their sorrows. Whenever any of the Walker children act "despechado" (moping around, not getting out of bed), another member of the family quickly brings this character to reality by instilling the American mindset of moving on with one's life. For example, Kevin Walker, the middle child, found out one episode that his husband had cheated on him with an employee at the couple's restaurant. Kevin spent the next weeks acting bitter towards everyone around him and even started a huge fight in front of family and friends. According to the other Walkers, Kevin was hurting his marriage even more by continuing to dwell on the situation. The other Walker children and Norah stepped in to rescue Kevin from this "despechado" attitude. Kevin and his husband were able to start working through the problem by going to therapy, communicating openly and acting proactively to fix their marriage.
After studying the list of different plot ideas that are present (to some degree) in all telenovelas, I picked out the two that are existent in Brothers and Sisters, betrayal/vengeance ( ie The Count of Montecristo) and obstacles/family feuds ( ie Romeo and Juliet). Betrayal and vengeance was the focus of Brothers and Sisters when Norah found out her deceased husband had cheated on her many years ago and had given a good deal of money to the "other woman". Obstacles and family feuds are the focus of pretty much every episode. The Walker family turns against the youngest child, Justin, when he surprises them by announcing he wants deploy again to fight in the war.
A similarity between Spanish telenovelas and Brothers and Sisters is the presence and necessity of cliffhangers. Before every commercial break, there will be a statement or a happening that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. This is how I got hooked on Brothers and Sisters.
Examining the differences, and similarities, between Spanish telenovelas and my favorite show, Brothers and Sisters, has allowed me to begin to comprehend the uniqueness of both in their respective culture.

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