If you can't see it, here's the YouTube version:
Frequently, Produ.com publishes an Excel file that is a database of all the telenovelas on the air in Spain and the Americas. The data in this file allows us to get a clear idea of which are the dominant producing countries in the international telenovela market. You can download the file by clicking the button NOVELAS AL AIRE, located in the left-hand column of Produ's webpage.
1.- The data file includes telenovelas broadcast in the Americas an Spain during the week of March1-7, 2008.
The instant photograph that these charts give us is pretty clear. It's one more reason why I believe (and fear) that the globalization of telenovelas means their mexicanization. And, if we consider the undeniable dominance of Televisa in the international arena, and the fact that it has been producing only remakes...you can understand my concern that the fundamental ingredient of telenovelas--creativity--is being curtailed. (See my post about remakes).
Last Sunday, April 13, VH1 premiered its new reality show Viva Hollywood, where 12 aspiring actors compete for a role in one of Telemundo's telenovelas. María Conchita Alonso is "la diva de la casa de los locos" "the diva in the house of the crazies" and the main judge. She's accompanied by Carlos Ponce and Walter Mercado.
"Latin telenovela stars are so hot, so sexy, so emotional, so extreme...don't you wish you knew what the hell they were saying?"
And here are the first two segments of the first episode, which are plagued with simplistic and stereotypical depictions of Latinos, Latinas and telenovelas. Look at them carefully...from the toast with tequila, to the dress wore by María Conchita Alonso in her introduction to the contestants, Viva Hollywood drips a dangerous mix of the elements that perpetuate Latino stereotypes:
- Distributors believe that 120 episodes is the magic number to sell telenovelas in the international market. However, when non-Latin American cultures produce their own telenovelas, those are generally longer than 120 installments, as is the case of the many versions of Yo Soy Betty, la Fea.
- Telenovela actors are frequently dismissed as second class talent. However, their names are often the ones that attract audiences to theater and movie theaters.
- Even though there's an increasing number of scholars studying telenovelas, we still have to justify sometimes our interest in one of the most watched (if not the most watched) tv genre in the world.
- Telenovela writers who come from the literary world (theater, film, narrative and poetry) spend a good time of their lives explaining why the write telenovelas.
On April 2, Venevisión premiered its new telenovela, Torrente, written by Benilde Alvarez and Neida Padilla. The press wrote extensively about the first episode (El Universal, El Nacional, Ultimas Noticias, El Mundo), highlighting the beauty and proliferation of exterior shots in Venezuela's Gran Sabana region, and the central plot of surrogate motherhood.
Torrente is a change from the style of telenovelas broadcast in Venevisión. Some press reports have defined it as a return to the rosa style (see, for example, El Nacional). Personally, I believe that we're facing an involution of the text (script+incidental music), that contrasts with the undeniable technical and directorial advances that allow the extraordinary display of natural beauty that we see in Torrente:
and the mise-en-scene of sequences like the airplane accident depicted in the following videos (10:30 in the first video and the beginning seconds of the second video):
- The flat depiction of important characters (and their stereotypical interpretation). For instance, villain Cayo Gabaldón, interpreted by actor Félix Loreto.
- The inclusion of predictable and trite dialogues.
- The backwardness of certain dialogues: "I'm an incomplete woman who was born with a useless womb", "We, women, need to have children. We were born for that", says the protagonist, Ana Julia. Those words construct a woman that, even though she has a stable and loving relationship, professional success and beauty, has a microscopic self-esteem exclusively based on her ability to bear children. It's an outdated depiction of women that denies our struggle for an identity that goes beyond being "so and so's mom" or "the wife of..."
- There are problems in the connection among scenes and in the handling of the mini-time elipses. The consequence is an irregular rhythm in the storytelling, and sequences that don't make sense. The source of the problem could be in the edition process. But, I think it's in the script's outline. Both the director and editor are trying to minimize this issue, without much success so far.
- The incidental music consists of excessively dramatic scores, utilized only to exaggerate the melodrama. The result reeks of telenovelas from decades past.
I must say, however, that this isn't a good moment for the Venezuelan telenovela industry. With the forced transformation of RCTV into RCTV Internacional, and the changes in priorities of Venevisión's top management (priority to the international market over the local one), we're beginning to see telenovelas whose best attributes lie on the technical aspects of production (much like the telenovelas produced in Miami). I think this is a loss for the genre because telenovelas are losing their ability to connect with the public not only through the love story, but also through well designed characters and situations that we both recognize and recognize ourselves in since they're ingredients or our dreams and realities.
Today I was planning to write about the latest in a string of new Venezuelan telenovelas, Torrente (Venevisión). However, I'm going to postpone my analysis for a few days because I must note a review about my book, Venezuela es una Telenovela that was published today in Venezuela's most read newspaper, Ultimas Noticias. The review's author is respected literature and performing arts critic E.A. Moreno-Uribe, who's also the author of one the blogs I visit and respect most, El Espectador.
Her tastebuds will never forget the flavors of black beans, arepas and plantains that she ate for decades with her family, even though she cooks them in her home in the United States--Athens, Georgia, where she has lived with her husband and children for the past 14 years. She comes periodically to Caracas, where she was born 50 years ago, to recharge her batteries, test her memories and also her feelings. More importantly, her research on telenovelas also keep her eyes fixed on this city.
She does not want to write a telenovela or to teach how to do it. She is a researcher interested in the links between media, culture and society, which she teaches in the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Her book is a polished academic work in which she applies theoretical models to understand the production, representation, identity, consumption and regulation of telenovelas. She does not want to demonstrate anything, but to study the impact and social phenomenon that each telenovela is....
Fifteen months of fieldwork, plus two years of analysis and writing make her book, Venezuela es una telenovela. It is obligatory reading for those who want to know the truth of that fantastic entertainment genre.
In the past 48 hours the Spanish version of this blog has quadrupled the number of visits it usually receives (click on image to see it more clearly):
Eighty percent of those hits come from search engines using these terms: "novela arroz con leche", "arroz con leche novela", "canciones novela arroz con leche", "telenovela arroz con leche" and "capítulo final de arroz con leche" (click on image to see it more clearly):
The most visited posts also reflect this telenovela's impact (click on image to see it more clearly):
Such effect can also be observed in the comments written by blog readers in a post I wrote months ago about the cultural meaning of the telenovela's title, and in the youtube page where user turocola uploads episodes of Arroz Con Leche.
Given the effect that the followers of Arroz Con Leche have had on my blog, here's a gift for them. A video of one of the most beautiful scenes of this telenovela, one that can only be fully understood by those who followed nightly Arroz con Leche: