May 30, 2009


I've written before about the distance between the public's perceptions about a telenovela and what really happens in the show's creative process. In particular, there is considerable distance between what the audience knows about the writing process and what actually happens in the mind and soul of telenovela writers. 

Today I bring a document that bridges the latter distance in a significant way. This document is a window in to the mind (and heart) of the writer who tackled the very difficult job of transforming the Venezuelan classic literary novel Doña Bárbara (Rómulo Gallegos) into telenovela format: Valentina Párraga.  This Telemundo telenovela polarized its audience members, who were vocal in their positions regarding the main love story triangle of Doña Bárbara-Santos-Marisela.

After the telenovela's last episode was broadcast, Valentina wrote me a letter where she reflects on her journey writing Doña Bárbara. It's an honest analysis that illuminates the effort behind writing a telenovela and the ever-present tensions between the genre's commercial and creative requirements. Generously, Valentina has agreed that I share her letter with my blog readers. You can read it in Spanish or in English. And, then, let the conversation start in the comments section of this blog! 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this letter available to all of us. It was very evident the script was a labor of love. The letter confirms it. I did not become a "Barbarita" nor was I a "Mariselita," I enjoyed the play between both tendencies. I have been watching novelas for 20 years and I think this had one of the best, most coherent, most authentic scripts of any I ever have seen. And it still told a wonderful story.

Anonymous said...

I don't care who liked this novela and I want to say that I didn't like this story-terrible. I never again will watch any novela from this writer. This is my answer on that letter.

Anonymous said...

I like to know if Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru just wanted tell us about this web site.This is the best way to tell the people about this web site. For me this letter and this web site are not interesting for me.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating to glimpse the mind behind the the telenovela that created such astonishing levels of hostility among its fans. Thank you.

I have always believed that TV violence diffuses (and ultimately reduces) real world violence. But the hostility in many online posts made me question that belief.

Now I've concluded it was not the overt and abundant violence on the show that created such "barbarie" amongst the viewers. ("24" has been pretty violent but the forums are relatively polite.)

I suspect that the real cause of the outrageous posts was confusion among the fans. The usual predictability of telenovela was missing: boy meets girl; writer keeps them apart for 150 episodes; boy marries girl.

But Barbara was not going to get her "boy", so the Barbaritas came to her aid, clamoring ever more loudly that she should have her happy ending. The Santicelas, ironically claiming to be on the side of light and goodness, responded with the same fire in the belly, albeit with more reasoned (and better spelled) arguments.

Each time the beliefs and expectations of either side were challenged by the story, confusion grew and hostilities increased.

Bottom line: I suspect it was a certain confusion and disorientation that caused so many viewers to act out as they did.

It was an interesting phenomenon to watch. There's a dissertation topic here for someone!

Anonymous said...

About the conflict between those two camps: frankly, I found it just plain silly. I can well understand getting emotionally involved in a good story or novela -- I love it when that happens to me. But the insults and bad behavior associated with this story, both between camps and toward Valentina, I thought is was juvenile, lacking in taste, and an embarrassment to the community of telenovela watchers. No more about that.

Regarding the story itself and Valentina's letter, I can accept her points and the reasons she gave for her discussion. However, I stopped watching the show around the time of Melendez' death because I found the story line becoming too unrealistic -- to the point that it was worth chucking my viewing investment.

I did not feel that the Doña Barbara character was true to the psychologically damaged/dangerous sort of person she was supposed to be. She wobbled like an unbalanced top between being a satisfactory level of intimidating level of evil and menace at the beginning to a hysterically silly person later on. That Edith Gonzalez could wring so much out of this character is a tribute to her undeniable talent, but she really deserved better, I thought.

Marisela became far too cloying as the "noble savage," going from a louse-ridden beast to the all-knowing, all-wise, all-sweet, and all-holy image of some pollyanna straight from a Disney movie. In a few months, she went from a jungle savage to a savant, with flashbacks to an uncultured rube when convenient to the plot's need for a gimmick or a gag.

Santos wound up being just too stupid to be believable. Cecilia started out right, but that character didn't ring true after a while, despite the awesome talent of Katie Barberi. She too, deserved better.

As characters, the 5 rapists were well done and the character of Melquiades was superb, and well done by Lucho Velasco.

The short story for me is that, despite the work that Valentina put into this story, it just didn't work for me the way other Telemundo novelas have, and I felt it best to quit when I was no longer enjoying it.

However, I'd like to point out that I'm not interested in taking part in the tasteless insults that have been flying back and forth over this show, which is very unfortunate and totally out of line. Some people need to simply grow up and take a story for a story.

My comments are intended to portray my thoughts on Doña Barbara.

Anonymous said...

not all that shines is gold that is what happen with this story due to the fact that praraga want to out do the real essence of the story .in the original version santos never make love to barbara.never the less it was a good plot.the performances of each indiviual was great juan prmito eustaquia cecilia la dona santos y por demas decir marisela sin ella no habia novela sufi llore rei me enoje y odie a santos por hacerla sufrir fueron 9 meses para un final tan cursi como el que tubo si hubo algo que no isnpiro fue el bano entre madre e hija gran desatre para notros los televidentes. julio 5 2009