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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The beauty of imperfection

After reading many of the previous posts here on our class blog, the "low budget" appearance of telenovelas appears to be a primary concern. I myself wrote my last post about this very topic. It seems that lots of us here in the United States (myself included) are very accustomed to everything being "perfect." Television shows here are edited to the point of perfection, with budgets larger than life. As I've discussed before, the same goes for the movie industry. Low budget films rarely garner the attention that hack directors like Michael Bay do. This trend seems to exist outside of mass media as well. It seems that here in the US, our roads are perfectly built, constantly policed, our cities perfectly organized in little squares, etc. etc. etc. After hosting several couchsurfers from Argentina several months ago, their first impressions of our country mirrored this same sentiment: "we love the US, but everything just seems... too... perfect."

After learning a bit about the production of a telenovela, the genre as a whole appears to be the antithesis of this esthetic that the US consumes. Telenovela episodes are written, shot, edited, and put together in far shorter time than shows in the US. Dr. A's stories of rushing around to find birthday candles on set, bribing jackhammer operators, or setting up Scrabble boards, give an indication as to the environment surrounding production of a telenovela. Lower budgets, time constraints, and other factors converge to create an esthetic that us here in the so-called "1st world" are not exactly used to. However, it is this supposed imperfection that I have found so captivating about telenovelas.

Earlier this year I watched a FANTASTIC documentary about copyright law called Good Copy Bad Copy (it can be seen here, in full, for those interested). Part of the documentary covers the nascent film industry in Nigeria, which faces the challenges of producing films with much lower budgets than most telenovelas even work with. The final ten seconds of this clip is very valuable to understanding the issue at hand, when the man says the following: "we can't go to the L.A film schools, but we can tell our own stories with our own pictures. They look atrocious, the acting is horrible, but it's piecing together the stories." To him, having a native film industry displaying issues relevant to the country, its people, and culture is far more important than looks. The important thing is looking past the standard set by Hollywood, or network television, and to appreciate things for what they are.

This has changed my perspective on telenovelas drastically. No longer do budgetary concerns plague my thoughts when watching these productions. There is a real beauty in the way they are produced, the people who work night and day to produce them, and the millions worldwide that cling to every episode. They are important to people for what they are: entertainment, escape, relaxation, a time to come together as a family. These are important aspects of telenovelas that have nothing to do with budgets.

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