Oct 31, 2007


This is the fifth and last installment related to my students' presentations regarding the topic of telenovela reception. We will focus our attention first on La Mentira. Then we will move on to Telemundo's Dame Chocolate, and we will finish the cycle with one of the telenovelas we examined in the first installment: Pasión de Gavilanes.

Presenter: Ashley Davis

Topic: La Mentira and the evolution of consumption.

Sources: Blogs, message boards and http://tunovela.net/

Objective: To analyzde the reception of La Mentira, and explore the conceptualization of interactive telenovelas via Internet.

Findings and conclusions:
- La Mentira has been sold to more than 90 countries. At this time it's being broadcast in Greece.
- Some episodes won the ratings in L.A. and Chicago.
- There are more messages objectifying the male actors than the women in the telenovela.
- Interestingly, the director, Carlos Sotomayor, responds to messages in boards and blogs.
- Carlos Sotomayor, Kate del Castillo and Guy Ecker have a new project: interactive telenovelas on the Internet. In these mininovelas (5 minutes daily for 3 weeks), audience members can provide their opinion regarding the direction of a particular plot or twist.
- They also organize live chats with these actors and director.
- However, their webpage hasn't been updated since the beginning of October.

My thoughts: Telenovelas have influenced other genres. For instance, in Venezuela there is a serialized TV ad for a detergent in telenovela format and starring actor Roque Valero. In addition, there have been several attempts to broadcast mini-telenovelas via cell phones. Melodrama sells. Here in the United States we find melodrama not only in soap operas. But also in the tv coverage of the Olympics and in the press' political beat. The question remains: Why is melodrama universal?

Presenter: Felicia Hylton

Topic: The consumption of Dame Chocolate

Sources: Telemundo Yahoo message boards, Facebook

Objective: To explore the reception of Dame Chocolate

Findings and conclustions:
- For audience members who watched Dame Chocolate, Carlos Ponce and Génesis Rodríguez were "the perfect couple".
- The public's loyalty was manifest in the number of episodes they uploaded, their messages requesting a sequel, and their fascination with the transformation of Rosita (Génesis Rodríguez), who becomes Violeta Hurtado.
- Product placement--Clorox and Ikea--were present in this telenovela.

My thoughts: While studying telenovelas I've often come across the success (audience-wise) of the physical transformation of a "good" character. The audience gets hooked particularly when they know or anticipate that such transformation will revindicate or redeem a character they consider "good." It's the other side of the principle of "crime and punishment," in which the "good" person is rewarded and, many times, her/his transformation will allow her/him to get revenge from those that wronged her/him (yes, like the Count of Montecristo).

Another theme that comes to mind when we examine Telemundo productions like Dame Chocolate, is how (at least up until now), Telemundo's telenovelas are more successful abroad than in the U.S., where the demographics of the Latino population keep Univisión and its Mexican Televisa telenovelas on top.

Presenter: Christine Bassett

Topic: The consumption of Rosario in Pasión de Gavilanes

Sources: Blogs and message boards

Objective: To understand the reception of the triangles involving the character of Rosario in telenovela Pasión de Gavilanes

Findings and conclusions:
- Rosario is involved in two hot relationships. First, with Franco Reyes and then she falls for, and marries, her manager Armando.
- Both relationships have a good deal of ambiguity re: Rosario's real feelings. In particular, her relationship with Armando is love-hate.
- At the same time, the audience established a parallel love-hate relationship with this couple: Rosario-Armando.

My thoughts: Just like there are characters we love to hate, there are couples that capture our attention precisely because of their ambiguity, which, in turn, generates ambiguous feelings in us. Among the many paradoxes present in the telenovela genre stands out the fact that the public likes the traditional codes because they know well how to decode them. (For instance, a man and a woman fall in love, overcome obstacles, only to end up happy everafter). At the same time, it is now frequent to see the public hooked by a story in which ambiguity reigns and the traditional code has been broken. Such is the case of Rosario and Armando's, in which there is no redemption or happy end.

Oct 28, 2007


Continuing with my students’ presentations, today I bring two that focus on two telenovelas that are considered landmarks in the industry: Los Ricos También Lloran y Corazón Salvaje.

Presenter: Jenny Reid

Topic: The impact of Los Ricos También Lloran

Objective: Although Los Ricos También Lloran were broadcast before the Internet boom, what traces can we find today in the Internet regarding how this telenovela was received?

Sources: Internet blogs and message boards

Findings and conclusions:
- This telenovela had immense success in post-communist Russia. From members of the working class to the political elite, Los Ricos También Lloran was watched by almost everyone.
- By today standards Los Ricos También Lloran has modest production values. In addition, its plot is pretty predictable. However, Internet messages suggest that this telenovela is still one of the all-time favorites.
- There have been several remakes of this story, and they have also been successful.

My thoughts: Among the many questions that I’m constantly asking and trying to answer regarding telenovelas is: How do these stories “work” within a specific historic moment of consumption? For instance, in Venezuela Cosita Rica’s success was linked to the country’s polarized and hiper-politicized reality during 2003 and 2004. The success of Los Ricos También Lloran in post-communist Russia begs the question: What were the characteristics of this sociocultural formation that determined, at least in part, the audience’s attention? In addition, why do its remakes work so well time after time? Why is it that these cinderella-stories work most of the times? Is this related to the global phenomenon of the feminization of poverty? Or is it that the dream of socioeconomic ascent is universal?

Presenter: Amanda Young

Topic: The consumption of Corazón Salvaje

Objective: Understand why Corazón Salvaje is considered by the public “unforgettable”

Sources: Internet Blogs and message boards

Findings and conclusions:
- Two main reasons determined Corazón Salvaje’s success: The work of actor Eduardo Palomo and the chemistry between his character, Juan del Diablo and Mónica (Edith González).
- Eduardo Palomo was, at first, considered an unattractive protagonist. However, his character hooked the audience. There are messages that extoll his performance, the nuances of his character, and, above all, his powerful gaze.
- Many consider that the chemistry between these protagonists hasn’t been surpassed yet.
- Juan del Diablo was the defining character in Eduardo Palomo’s career.

My thoughts: There are characters that become unforgettable for the audience. These characters also leave their mark on the actor's career. This is the case of Eduardo Palomo and Juan del Diablo. By the same token, there are telenovela couples that captivate the public. They penetrate the audience's imaginary. This also happened in Corazón Salvaje, in which the love triangles not only rotated (Juan del Diablo begins in love with Aimee, and ends up falling in love with Mónica), but also permutated (Triangle 1: Andrés-Aimée-Mónica . Triangle 2: Juan-Mónica-Aimée). What factors determine a perfect engagemente between actor, character and audience? There are actors who've been marked by a particular character. Case in point is Eduardo Palomo and Juan del Diablo. There are others who have the ability to leave their mark and be marked by several of the characters they have interpreted. Moreover, these characters also remain in the public's mind. For example Venezuelan Gledys Ibarra has given us Eloina Rangel, Luna Camacho, Patria Mia and La Diabla. All of them women from a popular socioeconomic level, all different, all unforgettable.

Oct 24, 2007


Here are three more student presentations. Three new topics in the always fascinating world of telenovela cosumption:

* The consumption of Amarte Es Mi Pecado
* The controversy generated by the Colombia TV version of Gustavo Bolívar's book, Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso.
* Consumption from the perspective of a US woman who leads a group of bloggers who write daily recaps in English of the telenovelas broadcast in the U.S.

Presenter: Jessica MacLean

Topic: The consumption of Amarte Es Mi Pecado

Sources: Internet bulletin boards and message boards

Objective: To analyze the reception of the successful Amarte Es Mi Pecado.

Findings and conclusions:
- It mattered to the audience that the telenovela was produced by Ernesto Alonso.
- The public enjoyed watching actor Sergio Sendel (Arturo) as the protagonist, and not as yet another villain in his career.
- The audience commented the romanticism of the main love story. However, there were also posts that suggested they would have preferred the antagonist, Paulina (Alessandra Rosaldo) as the progagonist.
- Casilda, interpreted by Tiaré Scanda, was considered by many as the best character in Amarte Es Mi Pecado.

My thoughts: One of the most interesting aspects related to telenovelas is the relative importance given to producers, directors and writers. These days in Mexico producers are preponderant in the credits. Many telenovelas are known as "the new telenovela by" producer so and so. Their names are recognized. For example, the late Ernesto Alonso, known as "el Señor Telenovela", Carla Estrada, Salvador Mejía, Valentín Pimstein, etc.). In countries like Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, the author is given the most important place. Names like Fernando Gaitán, Bernardo Romero, Benedito Ruy Barbosa, Aguinaldo Silva, José Ignacio Cabrujas and Leonardo Padrón (to name a few), sell telenovelas. It's interesting also that, in spite of their tremendous power in the set and locations, the public doesn't know directors as well as they recognize producers in Mexico and authors in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. A possible reason for this could be that often a directorial team changes throught the production months of a telenovela. Scholar Thomas Tufte argues that "their role as intermediaries between the author and actors clearly works against their getting any public credit" (Tufte, 2000, p. 135). Whatever the reason, I'm intrigued by the directors' relative anonymity since in the film industry it is quite the opposite.

Presenter: Alli Gates

Topic: Reactions to Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso

Sources: Press, Internet message boards and blogs

Objective: To study the reaction to how reality was made into fiction in Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso.

Findings and conclusions:
- The author's lesson seems to have reached those who post in message boards.
- Even though Gustavo Bolívar aimed at a story with universal qualities, there were protests and even lawsuit threats from the Colombian city of Pereira where the plot takes place.
- The title is also controverial. Some argue that it's vulgar. There are countries where the series aired with a changed title that didn't include the word "tetas."
- Female actor María Adelaida Puerta, who was the protagonist, Catalina, has taken the message in Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso, that "paradise" is only reachable via education and honest work, to public schools.
- However, current Colombian reality suggests that physical appearance, breast size and plastic surgery have tremendous importance in the social formation.

My thoughts: Is Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso a telenovela? It's too short to be considerede one. But it's also too long to be defined as a miniseries or a TV version of a book. Regarding its codes, Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso has both melodrama and love triangles, like a telenovela. At the same time, it doesn't have a happy ending. Instead, its tragic end points to the series final lesson dispensed by two of its main actors: María Adelaida Puerta and Andrés Toro (Byron).

Presenter: Jackie Barnett

Topic: Telenovela consumption in the U.S. from a blogger's point of view

Sources: Caray, caray!, Pratie Place and an interview with blogger Melinama

Objective: To explore the person that is behind the blog Caray, caray!. Why does she have this blog?

Findings and conclusions:
- Jane Peppler, "Melinama", is a musical artist and a Yale grad who lives in North Carolina. She is the leader of blog Caray, caray! where daily recaps of telenovelas are posted in English.
- The principle of crime and punishment everpresent in telenovelas captured her attention first. "The more dastardly the villain, the more extraordinary the demise" is the telenovela premise that this blogger enjoys and welcomes.
- She began recapping telenovela Alborada in her blog and received many positive comments. She then started Caray, caray! where a heterogeneous group recaps daily the episodes of telenovelas broadcast in the U.S.
- In these blogs comments focus on two main aspects: the physical appearance of cast members, and the variations of the telenovela code present in some twists of the traditional plot.
- Comments suggest a diverse captive audience. Men and women (in many cases, couples who watch together) from different cultures and countries. People who are watching their first telenovela and audience members who have been hooked for a long time, English-speakers, and Spanish-speakers.

My thoughts: Thanks to journalist Luis Clemens who introduced me to Caray, caray!, I've been one of its readers for several months. I know that for my students the blog's recaps were important for understanding the telenovelas they chose to study. This is a blog that is useful not only for people who love and watch telenovelas, but also for those who want to learn Spanish. As a researcher I confess my amazement at the effort, time and energy invested by Melinama and her team. It is one more evidence of telenovelas' strong magnetism.

To be continued...

Oct 21, 2007


Here's the second installment of my students' class presentations about telenovela consumption/reception. Today I feature two presentations about Amor Real and a small study about four telenovelas produced in four different countries.

Presenter: Bryan Perry

Topic: The consumption of Amor Real

Sources: Univision message boards

Objective: To understand the reception of the broadcast of Amor Real in Univisión.

Findings and conclusions:
- The audience believed that the scandal between actors Mauricio Islas and Génesis Rodríguez marked the broadcast of Amor Real in Univisión.
- The telenovela generated a battle between the characters of Adolfo Solís (Mauricio Islas) and Manuel Fuentes Guerra (Fernando Colunga) that was present in the audience's messages in the Internet.
- Amor Real's immense success seems to be related to how it differentiated itself from other telenovelas that were on the air at the same time. For instance, in Amor Real there are several mature characters, and since it was set in the 1800s, costumes and dresses were beatiful, but didn't show a lot of skin.

My thoughts: I believe that the fact that the main love triangle "rotated" (Matilde is at first in love with Alfonso, but ends up passionately in love with Manuel) kept the public's attention. There is a particular chemistry between Matilde and Manuel. The careful and lavisth mise en scene also contributed to the telenovela's wonderful ratings.

Presenter: Fiorella Montalvo

Topic: The reception of Amor Real

Sources: Several Internet message and bulletin boards

Objective: To explore the reasons behind the success of telenovela Amor Real.

Findings and conclusions:
-One of the elements that seems to underpin the telenovela's success is the "surprise" factor. The fact that Adolfo, who seems to have a good heart and be the protagonist, ends up being the antagonist. While, Manuel, whose behavior isn't always the best, is the true protagonist.
- The mise en scene is widely approved and applauded by the audience who lauds its realism. Actually, the number of comments regarding the mise en scene are more numerous than those focusing on the protagonists' physical attributes.
-In spite of their devotion for Amor Real , the audience underscored what they perceived as contradictions between some of the characters' vocabulary and behavior, and the time period in which the telenovela takes place. In particular, the public criticized that Matilde only had one child.
- Because Amor Real is a remake of Bodas de Odio, there were many comparisons between the two.

My thoughts: It's interesting that production values are many times equated with the "realism" of the mise en scene. In the case of telenovelas "de época" (depicting a long-ago time period), this equation is more obvious, since the audience's knowledge of that historic visual "reality" is not acquired directly, but is the consequence of other media products and some works of art. However, when exposed to a lavish production, with beatiful sets, costumes and exterior locations, we feel it is "real."

Presenter: Megan Ward

Topic: The consumption of telenovelas among Hispanic students in the U.S. and Mexico.

Sources: Internet survey conducted by Megan

Objectives: 1.- To examine whether these students watch telenovelas produced in countries other than theirs. 2.- To determine if certain telenovela themes carry over across countries.

Findings and conclusions:
- Telenovelas made in Mexico are the most widely consumed in the U.S.
- All the telenovela themes explored appear in the four telenovelas studied, and were recognized by the study's participants.
- When asked about a telenovela not produced in their country of origin, the participants ignored which was the producing country.
- Of the four telenovelas examined, Rubí was the most watched by the participants.

My thoughts: It's important to mention that Megan's study isn't statistically generalizable. However, it suggested things that we already know: that Mexican telenovelas are the most watched in the U.S. This is mostly due to the fact that Mexicans constitute a majority of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. But Megan's sample also determines the findings. And since more participants watched Rubí, it isn't surprising that the theme most widely known is the "evil protagonist", even though this finding isn't consistent with the number of evil protagonists that we see in telenovelas. An evil protagonist is still an important exception.

To be continued...