The process of picking a telenovela to watch this semester has been quite a journey, if I may say so. As a major in both Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, I feel genuinely guilty in having never watched a telenovela. I have been to more than my fair share of Latin American countries, but have never watched even a minute of an episode. To be frank, I was dismissive of the genre as a whole without any sort of reasoning (pretension, I suppose). However, after having been finally introduced to the genre, I have become obsessed. The genesis of telenovelas as an advertising ploy by soap companies is fascinating to me, as is the way that they have changed over the last 50 or so years. Where once I saw only cheesy melodrama, I now see an important art that is an enormous form of mass media.
My attention was first drawn towards the Argentinian Montecristo, or other such versions of the Alexandre Dumas' classic. It wasn't the plot that intrigued me. The story is an old one. More than anything, I liked the idea of a telenovela paying tribute to its literary precursor, the feuilleton. This form of serialized fiction heavily influenced the development of first radionovelas, and later telenovelas. Such an adaption seemed very pleasantly introspective, and I hoped that the plot would dive into the metaphysical realm. However, I wasn't holding out much hope that the novela would deal with such philosophical inquiries, and ultimately decided to continue my search for the perfect telenovela.
Next in my quest was the lengthy list of telenovelas that deal with sociopolitical issues. Several Colombian friends of mine recommended that I give the so-called narconovelas a try. Their treatment of the narcos that wield so much power in Colombia was very intriguing to me, as I have written and read extensively about the issue in previous classes. Sin tetas no hay paraíso and Rosario Tijeras were the two most often mentioned, both dealing with the world of drug cartels and the related phenomenon of prepagos (essentially "prepaid" prostitutes for drug traffickers). I also heard of Brazilian telenovelas that dealt with the landless peasant movement, the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra). I will be trying to watch at least parts of a narconovela, and scenes in which the MST is represented, provided I find the telenovela and it is dubbed/subtitled. However, I again chose to abandon my overly-academic preferences. This time, I threw caution to the wind and picked a random telenovela.
I think what I finally learned in my search for a telenovela is that I was being overly-analytical in attempting to pick the "perfect" one. After all, I decided that I want to pick a telenovela like any other. I really want to experience the sappy melodrama, the predictable love triangles, the teenage angst. So, along with Carla, I picked the Argentinian Alma Pirata. Why, you ask? It looks crazy, surreal, and moderately funny. I'm really excited to get started. I purchased a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes, and intend to shamelessly abuse both while watching 5+ episodes on Saturday morning. More updates to come!