Sep 24, 2007


It's been a while since I wrote in my blogs. I have an excellent reason for my electronic absence, though: the presentation of my book in Venezuela: Venezuela es una Telenovela.

Last Tuesday, September 18, Editorial Alfa presented its new collection Homo Videns which focuses on the study of television. For me, it is a real privilege that Venezuela es una Telenovela and
Valentina Álvarez's wonderful book, Lágrimas a Pedido, are the inaugural books in this new collection.

The event was quite significant for me. I had the opportunity to share it with people that I love and admire deeply. Family and friends who are the constants and pillars of my life, and some of those who have participated in my research studies. Without them, the book wouldn't exist.

In short, my universes--the personal and the academic--collided for once, and the result was that I saw some colorful and joyful fireworks. It was a very personal celebration for me and for many of those who were able to be there for the presentation. Almost one week later, I still struggle to find the right words to describe it. Therefore, I rather share with you the words and pictures that were written and taken by some of the people who were there. (The writings are in Spanish).

Olla de Grillos, opinion column written by journalist Marlene Castillo
Cara y Cruz, opinion column written by actor Carlos Cruz

Utópico Real I
Desenterrando Artes y Más...I
Desenterrando Artes y Más...II


Sep 11, 2007


A few days ago we had a very special visit in my course "Telenovelas, Culture and Society": Marisa Román.

A talented Venezuelan actress whose double role as Verónica and María Suspiro in Cosita Rica garnered her the applause and appreciation of both the press and the audience. More recently, Marisa was the protagonist of the highly successful Ciudad Bendita. A telenovela with an unusual twist: The female protagonist, Bendita Sánchez doesn't fall in love with the male protagonist until after episode 70.

In a genre with strict codes, unusual love stories like Bendita's require a particular effort from the actors. In Bendita's case, Marisa Román had to work on her character's transitions: infatuated with the antagonist, being the protagonist's friend, she begins to feel something for him, feels insecure regarding her feelings, and finally, she is absolutely sure that she loves her "Lobito", as she called the protagonist, Juan Lobo, played by Roque Valero.

I had prepared my students for a "phone conversation" with Marisa Román. Therefore, when she arrived in person to my classroom, there was immense surprise and a huge commotion. A wide smile appeared in each of my student's faces and stayed with them throughout the class.

Marisa answered with enthusiasm, honesty and warmth the thoughtful and insightful questions my students posed to her. At the same time she praised her fellow Venezuelan actors and writer Leonardo Padrón (author of both Cosita Rica and Ciudad Bendita).

Time flies when one is having fun. We all learned a great deal.

My students learned some of the things that are generally difficult to grasp by the general public:

- That it's important to distinguish between the actor and his/her characters.
- That actors are smart and sensitive human beings.
- That real actors never trust totally the work they've done, and have embarked in a self-examination and self-awareness journey.
- That a committed actor understands well that fame is only a circumstance that comes and goes. What really matters is their personal and professional growth, and the satisfaction they feel when they do their job well.

For her part, Marisa Román had an enriching experience. She was able to see up close the life of U.S. students, and received and corresponded the warmth that my students gave her with great pleasure and generosity.

I felt the immense satisfaction of seeing both my students and Marisa enjoy a unique learning experience. I also felt the pride of being able to show in the country where I live, the talent and warmth of the country where I was born.

Read more about Marisa's visit to my class

Sep 7, 2007


Telenovelas are a perfect place to study the links between media, culture and society. That is one of the reasons why in the last few years they have been the preferred site of my research.

This week Venezuela saw the premiere of telenovela Arroz con Leche, written by Doris Seguí, who has worked for many years as a writer for Leonardo Padrón and Mónica Montañez, among other authors. I consider Doris Venezuela's best dialoguista (team writer), and it was due time that she authored her own telenovela.

Every time I read the title of a telenovela, I ponder the connections between that name and the society and culture that produced it. Arroz con Leche has brought to mind that Venezuelan women grow up singing and/or listening to two melodies that may be leaving their footprints on who we are or want to be:

The musical theme of the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant:
En una noche tan linda como ésta,
cualquiera de nosotras podría triunfar
Ser coronada Miss Venezuela
y el mundo así conquistar

In an evening as pretty as this one,
anyone of us could triumph
Be crowned as Miss Venezuela
and in that way conquer the world

And...Arroz con Leche:
Arroz con leche
me quiero casar
con una señorita de la capital
Que sepa coser
que sepa bordar
que ponga la mesa en su santo lugar.

Arroz con leche (Rice pudding)
I'd like to get maried
to a young girl from the capital
Who knows how to sew,
who knows how to embroider
who's able to set the table in its rightful place

Two songs that underscore some of the cultural mandates that Venezuelan women face: physical beauty as a requirement, marriage as the goal, and the domestic quality of the parameters that underpin women's sociocultural value.

Sep 1, 2007


Recently, the interesting video blog of blogs Telúrica, "Tu blog en TV" published a reaction to my post TELEVISA V. YOUTUBE--WHO WINS? NOT THE AUDIENCE, OF COURSE

Telúrica's comments are always smart and loaded with a mix of humor and information. However, those contents are also a reflection of society and culture. As a scholar dedicated to the study of the links between media, culture and society, I can't avoid noticing the set of ideas that underpin Telúrica's reaction to my post about Televisa and Youtube, and the loss of telenovela material on Internet:

- Telenovelas are watched only by not-so-young women who have nothing important to do with their lives

Telúrica's narrator in melodramatic tone:
"Thanks to Youtube, many ladies can re-live the glories of Colorina, Rosa Salvaje or Cristal..."
"And to think that this is the only option left for these ladies (esas señoras)..."

The myth that telenovelas are only watched by women with nothing else to do, or by women from low socioeconomic levels is just that: a fallacy. When we analyze the ratings and shares of telenovelas in the countries that consume these shows, we find that telenovelas are watched by men and women of all ages--from childhood to the golden years. These men and women belong to all socioeconomic and educational levels.

Moreover, when we observe Internet bulletin boards, fora and chatrooms dedicated to telenovelas, we clearly see that they are dominated by teenage and young adult males. Partly, this is an extension of the demographic trends in Internet. But, this pattern is also a reflection of the demographics of current telenovela followers.

As media products, Telenovelas present us with a paradox. They are a highly successful media product (most watched TV genre in the world), and, at the same time, they are disdained and denied even by those who watch them loyally (and in secret). To be sure, the telenovela isn't the only media/cultural product falsely associated with female consumption, that is disdained by many.

In that sense, Telúrica's post is a reflection of society's disdain towards telenovelas, and general minimization of women's--"esas señoras"-- roles, tastes and media consumption.