Apr 29, 2007

Understanding Telenovelas: Three Case Studies

To understand how the telenovela "works," I've conducted three comprehensive case studies which have one thing in common: the three telenovelas were written by Leonardo Padrón.

This author's telenovelas are particularly interesting to me because of the way he mixes melodrama, romance, humor and reality in his stories.

El País de las Mujeres (1999).- This telenovela allowed me to examine not only the telenovela genre, but also a society I know well, one in which women are oppressed in overt (machismo, marianismo, domestic violence and male infidelity) and subtle ways (a limiting definition of the feminine, a cultural obsession with physical beauty and the prevalence of Catholicism). El País de las Mujeres afforded me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of how Venezuelan women are socialized into their expected gender roles, and the role media play in this process.

Cosita Rica (2003-2004).- From September 2003 to August 2004, two melodramas threaded reality and fiction as they shared the heated and hypermobilized Venezuelan political stage: The rocky road to the recall referendum of President Hugo Chávez and the telenovela Cosita Rica. This television show, an intriguing example of the telenovela genre, was inextricably linked to Venezuelan reality. As Cosita Rica mirrored, and reflected on, the country’s political crisis, the telenovela became the epicenter in which media, culture and society evidenced the complexity of their articulations.

Ciudad Bendita (2006-2007).- What happens when a Venezuelan author writes a telenovela with the explicit purpose of critiquing Venezuelans’ vanity and obsession with beauty? How does the Venezuelan audience receive a telenovela in which the protagonists transgress the genre’s beauty code, (i.e., the female protagonist has a noticeable limp and the male protagonist is not considered handsome)? How do Venezuelans interpret storylines that criticize the national obsession with physical appearance, eternal youth, weight loss and plastic surgery?

Ciudad Bendita is my current study and obsession.

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