Sep 1, 2007

ONLY "SEÑORAS" WATCH TELENOVELAS?



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.

4 comments:

Robin N said...

Does Telurica by any chance work for those same networks that value only ratings driven by the 18-30 market? Good thing that many mature (read: over 40) viewers have the time, resources, and inclination to remind networks that they have the economic strength that keeps programming on air.

I partially fit into the demographic so thoughtlessly dismissed -- though I have plenty of things to do with my time -- so I appreciate your rebuttal. I choose to spend time on some quality programming that falls in the genre of the telenovela. For me, it's a gateway into other cultures, an opportunity to learn, maintain fluency in a language not my own. When I'm watching TV Chile, I'm discovering voices and actors and authors that have a different viewpoint than I see in the States. When I'm watching Caracol, I'm savoring a sense of humor and wit ("Pecados Capitales" could play on any network in the US and be a hit, I believe).

I also participate in one of those fan forums you mention and the demographics are diverse (and yes, many foristas are young men!). There is no one single unified typical viewer posting.

Gracias!

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru said...

Robin, thanks for your comment. I really don't know the relationship between Telúrica and tv networks, if there is a relationship.

Humor is one of the best places to observe how cultural assumptions and shared meanings underpin our thoughts. This is the case with their particular post about telenovelas.

I appreciate your post and your description of telenovelas as a gateway into other cultures. It is a role played by these shows that few people talk about.

Again, many thanks.

Robin N said...

I'll add another positive message provided by the telenovela industry (not just limited to Latin America, it's a global phenom), found in the Sunday Chicago Tribune's editorial columns:

"Two American economists, in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, reported that watching TV has dramatically improved the status of women in rural Indian villages.

"Television vastly increases both the availability of information about the outside world and exposure to other ways of life," wrote University of Chicago's Emily Oster and Brown University's Robert Jensen.

Seeing cultures where women are wives and mothers -- but career women as well -- has prompted many rural women to rethink their own lives."

For the complete editorial, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/chi-0903edit2sep03,0,5594984.story

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru said...

Thanks, Robin. You make an important point.

There isn't enough research regarding what it means to be exposed to Cinderella stories (like telenovelas rosa) or to telenovelas in which women are agents of their own destiny (like telenovelas de ruptura). What we know for sure is that around the world, not only uneducated women over 40 watch telenovelas. To me, that is one of the key points regarding these shows: that their appeal works across national, socioeconomic, educational, age and gender differences.