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

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Social issues in telenovelas

In previous blog posts and essays for this class, I have focused on the issue of social critiques being made by telenovelas. In class, we have talked about Cosita rica's portrayal of the Chavez regime, La Mujer Perfecta's analysis of beauty, etc. In my telenovela, Sin tetas no hay paraĆ­so, the issue of beauty too is brought into question. As I have mentioned before, the novela questions a society that treats women like commodities, prefers "fake" over "real," and values only a woman's physical appearance. However, despite its efforts at social commentary, the women in the novela are still portrayed in this same way. Only Miss Colombia worthy women are ever seen, constantly in bikinis, having sex, and seducing men. I argued in my Representation and Identity essay that for this reason, the novela fails in challenging hegemonic power relations between men and women, and thus fails as a social critique. However, I just didn't understand WHY this was the case. Why does the novela, despite all of its efforts at questioning society, fall into the same trap as every other telenovela. It wasn't until we started studying the consumption of telenovelas that I got a sense of why this was so.

Consumption has everything to do with why telenovelas fail in making serious critiques of society. Despite the efforts and good intentions of the writers, actors, directors, editors, etc, at the end of the day telenovelas are a product to be sold by a large network. These networks exist for one reason and one reason only: to make profits. Network executives could care less if their telenovela challenges the status quo, so long as it makes the network (and of course, themselves) lots of money. It is exactly this reason why telenovelas constantly fall back on the same tropes. They want to draw in as large of an audience as possible, because as we have seen, ratings are like God. For this reason, social critique is included with violence, sexist imagery, and other things the run contrary to the critical message of the telenovela (if it even exists in the first place). Networks want to appeal to the intellectual side of their country, as well as wanting their telenovela to "sube cerro." It is this unfortunate combination that makes the medium of the telenovela a poor one with which to make commentary.

Hopefully, however, things may one day change. Seeing issues like autism being tackled in La Mujer Perfecta give me some hope, but only some. Don't get me wrong, I am still hopelessly addicted to my telenovela. However, I am increasingly disillusioned with novelas that try to make social commentary while working for a large network, but such is the way that things are.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you Dusty. It is more than unfortunate that despite the efforts of writers, production, actors, etc to make a telenovela a critique, it is merely seen as another story and nothing is taken away from it. I certainly hope that network executives learn how to respect the writers more, because we have seen with the writers, such as Padron, they have a message in mind and due to execs sometimes that message is undermined by other things.