There are some words that continuously pop up in my research about telenovelas. One is PARADOX, and I've written about it before and should probably write a whole lot more about. The other is DISTANCE.


After all these years studying telenovelas, I'm still amazed about the enormous distance that I find between the audience's perceptions of what happens behind the cameras, and what actually happens there. This distance, of course, is influenced by another distance that exists too often: the one between press reports and what is happening. 

There is also an important distance between the audience's perception of the relative importance of a particular telenovela character and what the actor believes about her/his character. I've talked with many actors who adored particular characters and considered them key in their careers, only to read later in Internet message boards how some audience members believe that those characters were unimportant and that the actor's talent was "wasted."

Another distance I must mention is the one between what the public knows/believes about the telenovela writing process and what really happens in a writer's mind and soul as she/he develops characters and plots. 

There is always a distance between the script and the mise-en-scene we see on our TV screens. 

Personally, the word distance defines my research since I have to "go" to it and come back periodically. I get closer and farther away from my case studies. It is in these coming and goings, in this stretching and reducing the geographic distance that I can get really close in an intellectual and academic sense. Soon I must travel and get closer to my new case study. Its first episode is about to be broadcast in Venezuela after I've been following and examining the creative process of its head writer. Meanwhile, the Internet and technology allow us to take a peek into this new telenovela I'm studying--La Vida Entera:


In the past I've brought to my classroom (via phone or Skype) several people that work in the telenovela industry (Julie Restifo, Daniela Bascopé, Carlos Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, Marisa Román, Valentina Párraga and Leonardo Padrón).


This semester, on the last class of my honors seminar, I decided to invite someone from the consumption side of telenovelas. Therefore, Dragoons, who moderates the message board  Foro TVVI, came to our class via Skype.  

It was a fascinating conversation that allowed us to learn about the satisfactions, difficulties and dedication involved in the moderation of a message board that elicits a lot of  passion because it deals with television, in general, and telenovelas, in particular. 

Following is a brief video with an excerpt from our conversation:



We thank  Dragoons for his time and insights.

To end this post, here's a picture from our small end-of-the-seminar celebration. I cooked one of Venezuela's most typical desserts: a quesillo. Food is an important part of culture, and in this seminar we study how telenovelas are more than melodramatic love stories, they're a key place to examine the links between media, culture and society.




Venezuelan network Venevisión uses 14 of its best known faces and talent in a set of teasers about upcoming telenovela La Vida Entera, my new case study.

Belos the demo for La Vida Entera:


Last week writer Valentina Párraga visited my telenovelas seminar. She is an intelligent and charming guest who shared with us her experience writing telenovelas in Venezuela  (Viva la Pepa and Trapos Intimos, just to name the two most recent ones) and now in Telemundo (Anita no te rajes and Doña Bárbara). These two groups of telenovelas represent a contrast in style that is determined by the undeniable differences between the Venezuelan and the U.S. audience. 


It's always interesting for me to confirm once again that there is an immense distance between the public's perception (as expressed in message boards and gathered in my research) and the tough reality of writing a telenovela. This distance is encouraged by the entertainment press' trivialization of the telenovela writing job and its emphasis on gossip and rumors. 

From a teaching perspective, I believe that it's important for my students to understand the difficulties and stress involved in the everyday life of telenovela writing, a job that takes over the lives of its makers. They spend many hours at their computer keyboards at a time in their lives that is dominated by their telenovela characters and plots, while they try to win the ratings war. 

Following is a brief video where you can hear Valentina Párraga describing her daily routine as she writes Doña Bárbara:



We thank Valentina for her time, warmth and honesty.