Feb 28, 2008


For some this post will be boring. For others, it will be the most useful. Many people ask me about bibliography regarding telenovelas. Following is a list of references. Like any list it is marked by the identity of its author (me, Venezuelan professor in a U.S. university), and is unavoidably incomplete. I've included references to work written both in English and Spanish. Some are as "old" as the 1970s, some are from last year. There are references to strict academic work and others are the analyses written by those who work in the industry. I believe all of these are important. At the very end, I include a list with my own publications.

Alvarez, V. (2007). Lágrimas a Pedido: Así se escribe una Telenovela. Caracas: Alfa

Aprea, G., & Mendoza Martínez, R. (1996). Hacia una definición del género telenovela. In M. Soto (Ed.), Telenovela/telenovelas. Los relatos de una historia de amor (pp. 17-30). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Atuel – Colección del Círculo.

Avila-Saavedra, G. (2006). Discourse and traditional genres: The adaptation of a feminist novel into an Ecuadorian telenovela. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(3), 383-399.

Baldwin, K. (1995). Montezuma's revenge: Reading Los Ricos Tambien Lloran in Russia. In R.C. Allen (Ed.), To be continued...soap operas around the world (pp. 285-300). London, UK: Routledge.

Barrera Tyszka, A. (2002, Sep-Oct-Nov-Dic ). Desde las tripas de un culebrón. Revista Bigott, 62-65.

Barrios, L. (1988). Television, telenovelas and family life in Venezuela. In J. Lull (Ed.), World families watch television (pp. 23-48). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Cabrujas, J. I. (1995, Abril 29). De cómo la televisión se planteó ser menos estúpida. El Nacional.

Cabrujas, J. I. (1995, Mayo 6). Mala suerte: Pérez veía Rafaela. El Nacional.

Cabrujas, J. I. (1995, Abril 22). Materia fecal. El Nacional.

Cabrujas, J. I. (2002). Y Latinoamérica inventó la telenovela. Caracas: Alfadil.

Espada, C. (2002). El candor de Cabrujas. Revista Bigott, 66-69.

Espada, C. (2004). La Telenovela en Venezuela. Caracas: Fundación Bigott.

Fadul, A. (1993). Serial fiction in TV: the Latin American telenovelas. São Paulo, Brazil: Universidad de São Paulo.

Fernández, H. (1995). Evaluación de las telenovelas en la TV venezolana. Anuario ININCO(7), 97-112.

Garmendia, S. (2000, Octubre 23). Ibsen gana el juego. El Nacional.

Guaderrama, M. (1995). La construcción social de la telenovela en la prensa española. In C.Peñamarín, & P. López Díez (Eds.), Los melodramas televisivos y la cultura sentimental (pp.139-155). Madrid, Spain: Universidad Complutense.

Güerere, A. (1994). Producción de telenovelas. Caracas: IESA.

Guerra, I. (2001). Telenovela y consumo comercial en América Latina: Desde 'El Derecho de Nacer' hasta 'Betty La Fea'. Caracas: Comala.com Edición X demanda.

Hyppolite, N. (2000). Por estas calles- Down these streets. Paper presented at the International Communication Association.

La Pastina, A. (2001). Product placement in Brazilian prime-time television: The case of a telenovela reception. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 45(4), 541-557.

La Pastina, A. (2004). Telenovela reception in rural Brazil: gendered readings and sexual mores. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 21(2), 162-181.

Lopez, A.M. (1995). Our welcomed guests, telenovelas in Latin America. In R.C. Allen (Ed.), To be continued...soap operas around the world (pp. 256-275). London, UK: Routledge.

Martínez, I. (2002, Sep-Oct-Nov-Dic). Cordial abominación de la TV. Revista Bigott, 70-75.

Martínez, I. (2005). Romancing the globe. Foreign Policy(151), 48-56.

Martín-Barbero, J., & Muñoz, S. (Eds.), (1992). Televisión y melodrama: Género y lecturas de la telenovela en Colombia. Bogotá, Colombia: Tercer Mundo.

Mato, D. (2002). Miami in the transnationalization of the telenovela industry: On territoriality and globalization. Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 11(2), 195-212.

McAnany, E. G., & La Pastina, A. (1994). Telenovela audiences: a review and methodological critique of Latin America research. Communication Research, 21(6), 828-849.

Mendoza, M. I. (1992). La telenovela latinoamericana en la década del 80. Madrid: Universidad Complutense.

Mendoza, M. I. (1996). La telenovela venezolana: de artesanal a industrial. Diálogos de la comunicación(44).

Morana, O. (1978). Para una aproximación semiológica a la telenovela. Video Forum, 1-5, 12-28.

Padrón, L. (2002, Sep-Oct-Nov-Dic). La telenovela: ¿género literario del Siglo XXI? Revista Bigott, 44-54.

Policastro, C. (2002). TV en clave amistosa. Revista Bigott, 56-61.

Porto, M.P. (1998). Telenovelas and politics in the 1994 Brazilian presidential election. The Communication Review, 2(4), 433-459.

Rogers, E. M., & Antola, L. (1985). Telenovelas: A Latin American success story. Journal of Communication, 35, 24-35.

Rojas Vera, L. R. (1993). La telenovela venezolana: el éxito de un negocio comunicacional. Maracaibo: Imprenta de Mérida.

Rondón, A.E. (2005). Miniseries y telenovelas, la otra acuarela de Brasil. Caracas.

Rondón, A. E. (2006). Medio siglo de besos y querellas: La telenovela nuestra de cada día. Caracas: Alfa.

Santa Cruz, E. (2003). Las telenovelas puertas adentro: El discurso social de la telenovela chilena. Ediciones LOM.

Singhal, A., & Rogers, E.M. (1999). Entertainment-education: A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Straubhaar, J.(1988). The Reflection of the Brazilian Political Liberalization in the Telenovela, 1974-1984. Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, 7, 59-76.

Tufte, T. (2000). Living with the rubbish queen: Telenovelas, culture and modernity in Brazil. Luton, UK: University of Luton Press.

Verón, E., & Chauvel, L.E. (1997).(Eds.,) Telenovela: Ficción popular y mutaciones culturales. Barcelona, España: Gedisa.

Vink, N. (1988). The telenovela and emancipation. Netherlands: Royal Tropical Institute.

A couple of academic journals that have devoted special issues to telenovelas:

Television & New Media, 6(4) Nov. 2005

Global Media Journal, Spring 2003.

My publications about telenovelas:

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2003). Fraught with contradictions: The production, depiction, and consumption of women in a Venezuelan telenovela.
Global Media Journal, 2(2).

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2003). I’m not a feminist I only defend women as human beings: The production, representation and consumption of feminism in a telenovela.
Critical Studies in Media Communication, 20(3), 269-294.

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2003). Tackling the issues: Meaning making in a telenovela.
Popular Communication, 1(4), 193-215.

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2005). Home is where my heart is: Reflections on doing research in my native country.
Popular Communication, 3(3), 181-193.

Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2007).
Venezuela es una Telenovela. Caracas: Alfa.

Feb 24, 2008


This week the telenovela world lost one of its giants: Brazilian actor Rubens de Falco.

Rubens de Falco (1931-2008) had a long and fruitful career both in TV (La Sucesora, Los Inmigrantes, Gabriela, Pacto de Sangre, etc.) and film (Pixote and the legendary Venezuelan film Macho y Hembra, among others). However, he will always be remembered as Leoncio, the villain in the first version of La Esclava Isaura. Coincidentally, one of de Falco's last roles was that of Comendador Almeida, Leoncio's father in the recente remake of La Esclava Isaura. I'm not sure but this could be the only case in the telenovela world in which the same actor plays son and father in two versions of the same telenovela.

Rubens De Falco
will be missed. He was one of the most recognized faces and talents of Brazilian telenovelas throughout the world.

Here is his obituary as it appeared in the International Herald Tribune.

Below a video of episode 21 of the first version of La Esclava Isaura:

Feb 21, 2008


A couple of months ago I wrote a post about a conversation among telenovela writers Delia Fiallo and Leonardo Padrón. The context of this exchange was Padrón's radio program Los Imposibles, broadcast in Venezuela by Onda.

I'm particularly interested in conversations among telenovela writers because they illuminate the difficult craft of writing these stories that can hijack the lives of its authors. Today I bring another conversation among telenovela writers that took place in the first season of Los Imposibles. This time Leonardo Padrón talks with Colombian author Fernando Gaitán (Café con Aroma de Mujer, Yo Soy Betty, la Fea, Hasta que la Plata nos Separe, etc.)

Here is the "postcard" that Padrón wrote for Fernando Gaitán: (If you understand Spanish and prefer to listen to it, click here)

José Ignacio Cabrujas said it once: "Latinoamérica invented telenovelas". It can't be further denied, telenovelas are one of the main non traditional exports from Latin America. Intellectuals around the globe rack their brains trying to understand how come telenovelas seduce millions of people in every latitude of our planet. Today there are telenovelas for every possible taste. But, there are some that garner collective applause and earn a standing ovation. This is what has happened with a good portion of the stories written by Colombian Fernando Gaitán. It could take us a long time to read his resumé. But, really one of its lines is sufficient. Fernando Gaitán is the author of Betty, la Fea. Enough said. Betty, la fea was the twist the genre needed. Gaitán was the genious who drove his car the wrong way, who moved counter current. In an industry where the female protagonist MUST be beautiful, he placed his bet on a woman with thick eyeglasses, childish bangs and braces. And he discovered the evident. Today we're in front of Fernando Gaitán. We will explore the labyrinth of a writer that is impossible not to mention when we underscore one of the best moments in telenovela history. We're about to enter the secret world of one of the best writers of love stories in Latin America. Welcome, Fernando.

The interview is too long to report it here. It's really interesting and has no boring moments. Following are a few fragments that illustrate the difficult job of writing a telenovela:

People always want to know what is the methodology used by telenovela writers. What is your methodology?
Well...it's a disaster. I could be one of the best telenovela writers, but I'm the worst regarding methodology. Generally, as we say here in Colombia, I work with a gun pointed to my head.

There are writers that have great methodologies. They are organized and have the flight plan for the whole story before they even start writing. But, there are others who discover the story as they write. Which is your method?
I've always said that the telenovela is an imperfect genre that we perfect as we go. When we write a telenovela that is on the air, we make a pact with spectators. We ask, "what do you want?" and tell them "let me tell you the story I have", and we agree in the characters.

So, it's like playing a four hand piece in the piano. You write with the spectator, no?
Telenovelas are the last arrogant act one can commit. It's a popular genre that always finds twists and variants on its way. New characters and situations may arise, but we never veer too much from the flight map.

Why have you never dealt with the harshest aspects of Colombian reality, like the drug traffic, guerrilla, and the paramilitary? Have you ever been tempted by those topics?
Yes, of course, and I believe every writer is under the obligation of dealing with them, sooner or later. In my case I feel that my mission, as a Colombian writer, is to keep showing the other facets of Colombians. Who we are and what we live.

The full interview can be read in the book Los Imposibles: Conversaciones al Borde de un Micrófono (Padrón, 2006). It's a marvel to witness the conversation between two writers who know the genre's codes so well that they can transgress them successfully.

Feb 17, 2008


A week ago I asked the question: How many episodes of a telenovela do you watch before you decide what's your opinion of it? Here are the results gathered in the two versions of this blog. (It's important to remember that given the nature of blogs, this is an informal poll. It's still quite interesting, though).

There's quite a disparity in the two versions (Spanish and English), both in the number of people that participated in the poll, as in the results themselves. These differences suggest, among other things, that the blogs' two versions are read by different publics.

144 people participated in the Spanish version of the poll
22 people participated in the English version

Following are the two graphs. Numbers represent the percentage of respondents that chose each option.

Do these results surprise you?

Feb 13, 2008


The telenovela genre is plagued with paradoxes. Their main paradox is that these shows are both consumed and despised by millions around the world.

One of the consequences of this paradox is that actors who work on telenovelas are sometimes considered second class by those who despise telenovelas. Hence, actors live their own paradox: telenovelas give them a level of recognition that is unsurpassed by film and theater (especially in countries, like Venezuela, in which these cultural industries aren't well developed), but their talent is doubted precisely because they work in telenovelas.

This is one of the reasons why I think it's important to see actors perform in film and theater. I enjoy very much having the opportunity of watching actors who work on television when they perform in the theater. The energy that is established in the triad actor-character-audience is unique. It's a completely different experience to see an actor perform live than to watch him or her in our television screen. It's also different from watching them shoot a telenovela.

Below are a series of links to photographer Nicola Rocco's blog Photomanifiesto, where you will be able to appreciate excellent pictures taken of recent theatrical performances by actors who also work in telenovelas. I hope you will enjoy them, and I wish that, wherever you are, yo get the chance to see your favorite actors perform live.

Julie Restifo and Javier Vidal in Tal Para Cual: 1, 2, 3

Marialejandra Martín and Elsa Stella in Ladrona de Almas: 1, 2

Mimí Lazo, Luis Fernández and Marcos Moreno in Golpes a mi Puerta: 1, 2, 3

Carlos Montilla and Karl Hoffman in Entiendeme tú a mí: 1, 2, 3, 4

Nacho Huett in La Celestina

María Cristina Lozada, Iván Tamayo and Marisa Román in El Día Que Me Quieras

Nohely Arteaga and Andreína Alvarez in Locas, Trasnochadas y Melancólicas.

Elba Escobar and Beatriz Vasquez in La Duda

Caridad Canelón and Carlota Sosa in the reading of Dos Soledades en Buenos Aires

Tania Sarabia in Ay Carmela!

Carlos Cruz and Juan Manuel Montesinos in Todos los Hombres son Mortales

Fabiola Colmenares, Beatriz Valdés, Lourdes Valera and Marisa Román in Y las Mujeres También

Feb 9, 2008


Recently I wrote a post about the diversity of opinions that each telenovela can generate. In the Spanish version of this blog, someone wrote a comment that made me think about how much time a person spends with a telenovela before she or he decides if it's good or not.

Telenovelas last for months. So, how many episodes do we watch before we have an opinion about them?And, if our opinion is negative, do we ever watch it again? How many more episodes do we watch before deciding to change or keep our original opinion?

Because my approach to telenovelas is academic, I try to watch the first episode of those telenovelas that, as part of my general education about this genre, I have "under observation." The first episode is key to understand the main plot and subplots, how clearly drawn are the characters, whether the cast is a talented one, what's the story about and whether it has the necessary elements to hook the audience, the production values, etc. This allows me to have an opinion of that first episode. But, to have a more complete (and fair) perception, I watch the first 12 episodes. Then I decide whether I want/should continue watching. I do monitor comments about these telenovelas that appear in the press and on message boards. Sometimes these comments make me watch again.

Now, the telenovelas that are my case studies receive a thorough analysis. I watch every episode several times. The first time I try not to be very analytical, and I allow myself to "feel" the story. My subsequent views of the episode are very analytical. In these instances I deploy my academic analysis "toolbox" and stratagies. To my textual analysis I then add the studies of production, regulation and reception...This is why each case study takes me years...

How many episodes do you watch before deciding whether you like a telenovela? (If you want, let me know via the poll I've placed at the top of the right-hand side column of this blog).

Feb 4, 2008


Tomorrow, February 5, is Super Tuesday here in the U.S. This is the day in which 24 states, plus American Samoa, will hold caucuses or primary elections for one or both political parties. Fifty-two percent of the Democratic delegates and 41% of their Republican counterparts will be elected tomorrow. To say that it's a key date in the decision process to elect the next U.S. President is an understatement.

In several of these states the vote of Hispanic/Latinos/Latinas will play a crucial role. Therefore, some candidates (especially Democrats) have been courting their vote. It's fascinating to take a tour through the candidates websites and see how (and if) they assume the Latino vote as important:
Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama
John McCain
Mitt Romney
Mike Huckabee.

Back in November I published a post about the intersections between telenovelas, politics and society in which I mentioned the three-episode pro-Barack Obama mini-telenovela prepared by Vote Hope targeting the Latino vote in California, a state that is Super Tuesday's juiciest prize.

This mini-telenovela has caught the attention of journalists, bloggers and immigration groups:

La Política
The Border Line
Hispanic Tips
The Huffington Post

But, this isn't the only telenovela related to the U.S. Presidential race. Voto Latino, an organization that seeks to empower the Latino community by encouraging its participation in all aspects of U.S. life, has an online spoof of a telenovela enticing Latinos to register and vote. Starring La Pasión de la Decisión are Rosario Dawson (co-founder of Voto Latino) and Wilmer Valderrama. So far, it has two episodes:

The question of whether these "telenovelas" will achieve their goals will take some time to be answered. Meanwhile, I'm very interested in finding out if these melodramas "feel" like telenovelas to those who have made of this TV genre a part of their everyday life.