Aug 31, 2008


Todotnv is one of my favorite telenovela blogs. Today there's a  post about how easy it is to blame telenovelas for all sorts of things. This post, of course, brings about the eternal controversy of whether media reflect reality, or reality is influenced by media content.

In Latin America, where telenovelas were born, we also blame telenovelas in a variety of ways...even if we watch them religiously. But, last week President Hugo Chávez attacked telenovelas in his weekly speech to the nation (he also attacked the Internet):
"Be careful with those capitalist telenovelas: they poison (...) They have an ideological intention: to destroy a child's potential, to induce the youth to a life that is plastic, and to induce them to violence, prostitution and a loss of values."

Here's the video:

President Chávez seems to have forgotten that the origin of telenovelas can be found in the feulleton literature (Dumas, Balzac, etc.), and that the cradle of telenovelas is Cuba. He seems to have forgotten also that his own network  TVES purchases and produces telenovelas.

These and other arguments were aptly expressed by Venezuelan telenovela writers in an article in daily El Universal on August 26:

Leonardo Padrón: Telenovelas Cosita Rica and Ciudad Bendita "were entirely Venezuelan. They constitute  400 hours of television that speak of the people who habit Caricuao or La Bombilla in Petare and how fragile are their living conditions, those hours aren't about the natives of Texas or Arizona.  "In my telenovelas, I've spoken about domestic violence, teen pregnancy and irresponsible fatherhood. Tell me how is it that I'm inculcating there capitalist values!"

Pilar Romero: "A telenovela is a love story. The only one that had a different slant, but wasn't 'capitalist' at all, was POR ESTAS CALLES. The rest are love stories with a moralizing intention. Evil is punished and good is rewarded."

Martín Hahn: "I've never thought about writing a telenovela that is capitalist or socialist. I only think of writing an entertaining telenovela with a positive message. The struggle to keep families together, forgiveness, reconciliation and personal betterment are the themes I like to touch on my telenovelas."

Benilde Avila: "I don't understand why Chávez said that. He must not watch telenovelas. It's a contradiction to say that telenovelas are poison when TVEs, his social television network, produces and broadcast them."

Personally, I'm quite surprised about this attack on telenovelas by President Chávez. Up until now he has been a shrewd communicator who knows how to respect and use the Venezuelan people's popular culture tastes and consumption. At times, he has even use that knowledge to manipulate Venezuelans. To attack telenovelas with empty arguments in a country in which people consume on a daily basis the same number of telenovelas as meals is a foolish mistake. 

We can criticize many things about telenovelas. But, we can also say positive things about them regarding the health messages they can transmit, etc. And, we'll never know for sure if Hugo Chávez would be president if there hadn't been a telenovela called Por Estas Calles

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