Friday, November 8, 2013

Why can't we get back to inspiring people?

“You want to offer your audience hope. If you live in an ugly city, you don’t want to see an ugly city.”

-José Ignacio Valenzuela aka El Chascas

I used this quote in relation to Yo Soy Betty la Fea during my group’s presentation, and I really wanted to explore its implications further.

I love that Betty and other telenovelas can give audiences hope of a better life. I truly believe that we all need to escape from harsh reality and laugh when we can, and I admire telenovela writers for providing that outlet for viewers.

But, at the same time, is it false hope? Is it longing for something that one cannot have? I certainly believe that hard work can carry you farther than any wishful thinking, and for that reason I have to wonder if any telenovela has ever inspired someone to work until they changed their situation.

Has watching Betty ever made someone say, “Hmm, maybe I’ll apply for my dream job”? Has someone with a physical disability or ailment ever watched an episode of Ciudad Bendita and thought, “I know there’s someone out there who will accept me no matter what, so I’ll start loving myself”? I sure hope so.

From an artist’s perspective, that’s all I can ever hope to do-- inspire someone to change something for the better. After listening to El Chascas and Marisa Román talk about the different forms of crisis happening in the telenovela industry today, I fear that writers may lose the freedom to write with the goal of inspiring their audience.

As sad as that makes me, I see it everywhere. Creative freedom is no longer the center of concern in songwriting, in radio programming, in writing as an author. It used to be that the goal of an artist was to “make it big” and do something like get a record deal, or become a paid telenovela writer. Now, doing that almost robs the artist of the joy of freely creating. Everything is so much about money and competition and being the best, and no one has time to care about inspiring people because they’re too busy worrying about how to maximize profits.

Where has the creative inspiration gone in the creative arts?


  1. Allie,
    You are so right on this front and we even see it in U.S. media and films. But the irony is that the people want to be inspired. I think it was Chascas and Marisa who talked about how the audience knows (and decides) when it is a bad novela and I feel like those are usually the ones talking down to their audiences or not incorporating real life problems that people can relate to in the novela (and instead characters having issues like which porche can I buy or which building?)
    But talking to Chascas and Roberto instilled my faith in the medium a bit more because El Chascas asked us, the audience, what we did not like seeing in novelas. And with writers that care like that I think that their work for inspiring people isn't done. With Roberto he discussed the not being afraid of cliches, which could be used as a way to talk down to an audience. But rather he focuses on how to tell the cliche in a different way. And I don't think this is like putting lipstick on a pig (trying to make the cliche something it's not) but more like adapting them to relate to (and inspire) this generation.

    I think it is defiantly there but it's just hiding under all the implants, fake eyelashes and repetitive songs. Don't lose hope!!

  2. Allie,
    I definitely see your point in this idea that writers are writing for the money, and in this world that moves at a break-neck pace, it's easy to be all about it for the money.
    I can't say definitively, but I do think that telenovelas inspire people. Whether writing for the money or not, telenovelas still can change cultures for the good. Obviously, there are a lot of negative messages in the stories, a lot of inappropriate situations, and a lot of drama, but I believe that telenovelas still inspire for the good.
    Just think about the example that Dr. A gave in class last week. Brazil's birth rate has severely decreased in the past decades, and that can be attributed in part to the messages and families portrayed in telenovelas. They definitely are making a difference.
    I know what you mean though. After listening to so many plot lines of telenovelas, you start to wonder, "where is the inspiration? When will we see any fresh, new stories?" They're out there, we just have to be on the watch for them!

  3. Allie: This blog post is AMAZING, and very eyeopening. I was thinking about the same sort of things when El Chascas said that quote, and I'm very glad that you put all of it into a blog post. It couldn't be more true, this departure from creativity and artistic expression vs. making it farther and becoming a bigger hit in life. We see it in all facets of the media. Songs on the radio are repetitive and sound the same. Why? Listeners like certain things, so artists sing what the audience likes, even if it isn't really what they want or envision. Why? More sold out arenas and more money in their pocket. We see it with television shows. We even see it with movies sometimes. There is a fine line in giving the audience what they want while keeping your own beliefs and dreams intact, and giving the audience what they want in this seemingly desperate attempt to climb the ladder. It's one of the reasons that I read old classic literature and listen to music that isn't mainstream.

    It's very easy to feel that, and I also think it is true, but we also have to look at the other side of it, and realize something else. Maybe the repetitiveness is because it is something that the audience needs to be reminded of.

    However I feel like hearing El Chascas restores some of that doubt. Like Katherine said, regardless, telenovelas offer hope, and I feel that is also the case with other types of media that are out there, whether it is moves, music, literature, etc. Everyone listens to something, reads something, sees something and gets something different from it. The one good thing that we need to lean into, is that even though media can be repetitive, telenovela plots can be cliche and similar... every viewer has a different brain, heart, and story; therefore they will take something different from watching it. It will apply to their life in a very specific way, whether it is a little similar or completely different from their fellow viewer.

    So all in all, yes I agree with your blog post completely, and I also agree that if we are going to hope for hope, we have to hope ourselves. We have to believe that people aren't robotic, and can take something that seems used and repeated if that is what the industry is putting out there, and turn it into something beautiful and different for their own life.

  4. This is a topic that we could all talk about for hours. What is real and what isn't real? When is it appropriate to give people false hope if it will make them happy in the present moment? I wrote another blog post that was similar to this one.

    Everyone has mentioned that Telenovelas give people hope. Therefore, they also make them happy. But I guess the problematic question is, is this okay? People might become inspired but the situation might not be possible for them or in the cards for them. I think people should do what makes them happy while at the same time realizing that some things can't and won't happen realistically. I do believe that curing a limp or finding prince charming can happen. So why can't people do all they can to make that happen for them?

  5. Honestly it just makes me sad that artists don't have the freedom to use creative inspiration anymore, you know? I mean, in Venezuela, we know that some writers are fearful for their jobs if they write something that the network or ultimately the government doesn't approve of. I really loved talking to the writers because they did give me hope that they're going to fight what I would call "creative opression." I admire Chascas and Leonardo Padrón for continuing to write what they want to and having the cleverness and intelligence to write it in such a way that it kind of slips under the radar so that they aren't reprimanded for it.

    I think my main thing, from working in the music industry and now seeing some of the ways telenovelas are censored as they're written, it just makes me sad that the art is no longer the controlling factor-- money is. I know it's important for people to make a living and all, but the business is sort of exploiting art and changing its very nature just so they can make money.

    I can only hope that in the future, there will be more people like Leonardo and Chascas who want to make art for the purpose of making art. Because when the goal is money, I feel like you lose the catharthis that comes from making true, expressive, sincere art, and that's exactly what I've seen during my time in the music business. Thanks for your thoughts, y'all!