Tuesday, December 3, 2013

That's a Wrap!

When I first enrolled in this course, I did not anticipate the impact it would have on my perspective of other languages and cultures. I have thoroughly enjoyed every class meeting and telenovela episode that I have experienced this semester. This course has broadened my understanding not only of telenovela culture, but of the cultures that view telenovelas as well.

I think the multidimensional nature of this course is what really made it so effective for me. I loved showing up at class and having a new experience await me every day: from clips of telenovela and behind the scenes footage to skypeing with industry professionals, every day was exciting.

I have highly recommend this course to all of my Grady friends seeking awesome electives, and I am so grateful to my advisor for recommending this class to me.

I have had such a great experience in this class this semester, I will truly miss my telenovelas experience next semester when I'm enduring the hardships of comm law ;).

Good luck to everyone in this course on finishing your courses and have an awesome winter break. Thank you to Dr. A for making this semester unforgettable!

Final Episodes

Reading through everyone's last posts I too want to say how great this class has been and how I have brought what I have learned and observed to my other classes and even when I watch films and shows that are not telenovelas. I wonder about the writer (or writers), how extensive was production, the music (who chose it, why, does anyone have their own song etc.), how awkward a scene must have been with no music and a ton of set workers watching. It is really amazing what this class has opened my eyes to and I will be forever grateful.

I wanted to write my last post on my thoughts of the final episode scenes we watched at Dr. A's house.  I liked that we started with the classic rosa ending of a wedding, that is what I remember from the finale of Betty La Fea when I watched it with my mom. But it was all the more romantic by showing them as older and still together, in love and happy reliving their wedding day. It was very sweet.

Leonardo's finales, on the other hand, were completely unexpected and wonderfully original! At first I thought they were strange, having a real audience there telling them the ending and sort of breaking the fourth wall and changing the type of medium completely for Cosita Rica. But then I thought the 'classic' endings of most of my favorite television series like "Friends", "Boy Meets World" etc it is usually just a string of old scenes to make the audience reminisce.  But with Leonardo's version  the audience, both in the theater and at home living vicariously through them , got real closer rather than reminisce. Which is almost better than reliving the show in the last episode. You want the last episode to have meaning!

 My roommates and I are going to watch Sin Tetas no Hay Paridiso next semester and after watching the finale I cannot wait to see how much sadder I get with actually knowing the character and the whole story.

This class has taught me that entertainment is all about pushing the boundaries, even with telenovelas rosas the best ones always seem to have a twist like Corazon Selvaje, because they are a reflection, frame, mirror and lens of society. Society is not stagnant and telenovelas reflect that, even through their cliches and formulas.

I will greatly miss this class and hope that we can all get together and watch a telenovela together sometime, or maybe together through social media. Figures crossed!

El Capítulo Final de Corazón Salvaje

Since our last class meeting was all about final episodes, I decided that my final blog post would be about the last episode of the telenovela that I watched, "Corazón Salvaje." As Dr. A told us in our last lecture, final episodes of telenevolas rosas tend to have traditional endings: lots of melodrama, intense action, probably tears, happy reunions and the promise of happily ever after. (Keep in mind that I watched an abridged version of my telenovela, so my last episode may not match up entirely with the actual last episode.) At the beginning of the final episode, Andrés, the antagonist, is recovering from the earthquake in which he almost died. He is processing the fact that Juan del Diablo, the protagonist, saved his life in spite of everything Andrés has done to him. He realizes that Juan is a better man than he is and deserves to be treated better. 

Meanwhile, on the beach, Mónica (Juan's wife and the protagonist), is searching for Juan. The two had been separated during the earthquake. Juan ends up in a seemingly random sword fight on the cliffs ((the intense action)), where he is pushed into the water. Mónica rushes to the spot where he fell. She dives into the ocean, where the two lovers embrace and surface together. There is a dramatic scene of them lying on the shore, cut and bloody, completely soaked, gasping for air, chests heaving. And then of course making out. 

Once he has recovered, Andrés decides to move to Europe. Before leaving, he asks Juan to meet with him. Andrés and Juan are half-brothers, although Andrés has never recognized Juan as such. At this meeting, Andrés tells Juan that he did not actually sleep with Mónica. He also tells Juan that he has treated him horribly. And for the first time, Andrés calls Juan "hermano." ((the happy reunion)) The two men tearfully embrace. ((the tears))

In the final scene, Mónica and Juan sit on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Mónica wears a (completely revealing, as usual) long white dress. The ocean breeze tosses Juan's hair. He tells Mónica that nothing and no one will ever separate them. ((the promise of happily ever after)) "Ni la muerte" ("Not even death") she replies. EL FIN.

As you can see, the episode successfully incorporates all the elements of a perfectly rosa finale. No, it is not a creative Padrón finale. There are no earth-shattering, industry-revolutionizing surprises. But that's not what rosa audiences are looking for. We just want to see everything resolved so the good guys can live happily ever after. We want our favorite characters to entertain us one last time (before we move onto the next telenovela). And so they have. Bravo.

Response to interviews with Marisa Roman and Roberto Stopello

I have really enjoyed the skype interviews with the writers, directors, and actors of some of the telenovelas we have looked at in class. My last blog post was rather difficult to write. As a response to something Chascas said, it was hard to express my views. During the talks with Marisa Roman and Roberto Stopello, they both said things that I was also very struck by. Hopefully, this time, I'll do a better job of expressing myself.

"They deserve better TV."
-Marisa Roman on the Venezuelan people and public television

It was really amazing and moving to see how emotional Marisa became when she started talking about Venezuela. I've never thought of television as something people actually deserved. While it has always been a commodity for me, it has also been incredibly demonized. "TV melts your brain!" my mom would say on a weekly basis. I have never thought of good TV as a privilege. I have always considered television itself a privilege because to have it one needs a set, electricity, and at the very least, good ole' classic bunny ears. But I never thought that about good TV. When you really look at it, public television is a service provided by the government. It’s sad to see something that was once thriving slowly shrivel up and die. It makes me very sad that not only do Venezuelans no longer have access to good TV, it is no longer a viable career path either. Historically, Venezuela has been a frontrunner in the telenovela game, but less funding means fewer telenovelas. This in turn means fewer actors, writers, and directors are being discovered for doing the things they love. PAs and cameramen are losing sets to work on. It’s amazing how many people are affected.

"Ratas is the representation of the new generation of narcos...no honor."
-Roberto Stopello

After spending the semester watching “La Reina del Sur,” it was really fantastic to get to speak to the writer, Roberto Stopello. Because “La Reina del Sur” was adapted from a novel, I wasn’t sure how much of a creative license Roberto Stopello had during his writing process. I was surprised to find out that he actually created a new character who had not been in the novel, who in turn ended up being his favorite character, Ratas. I also really liked Ratas, but I have to admit that he drove me mad! He didn’t listen to anyone and was always getting himself into trouble. The best word to describe Ratas is “brat,” he’s been given everything and hasn’t worked for it at all. Roberto Stopello said that he created Ratas as a representation of narcotraffickers today. While Ratas represents the young trafficker, he differs from many of the other characters on the show who hold honor about everything else. Ratas has no honor and is only in the family business because it will make him quick money. I think it is very important that Stopello made a character like this to give an updated perspective on drug trafficking.


..............EL FINAL

Two days ago marked the 10-year anniversary of the death of Pablo Escobar. In a sudden but inevitable finale, I have finally finished Patron del Mal. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT’S ALL OVER. This show (in combination with our class project) has truly opened my eyes to Colombia and it’s viewers. The ending of the show was exactly what the viewers needed – they needed to see him at his wit’s end. And they needed for his last phone call to be with his children (ironically, it was this phone call that let the Search Block track him). The audience also needed to see his mother crying in the midst of the soldiers celebrating. On the other hand, the audience needed to justify his atrocities with his assassination. In a way, the finale was a beautiful tragedy – the death of an intelligent and manipulative businessman with so much potential.  

Pablo’s demise was a slow process that began from the inside. As Peluche pointed out in episode 68, Pablo has no power without his men. After Pablo ordered the assassination of his most important partners Ramada and Arellano (along with their entire families), he lost the trust of many of his colleagues and inside men. From that moment on, his men were picked off or left voluntarily. Eventually his tight inner circle became frayed and paranoid. As time passed, Pablo was left to fend for himself. He went into hiding with his sister, speaking to no one except for his family. Meanwhile, Pati and the children struggled to find a place to flee to, attempting to go to Miami and Germany. While Pablo told them he was making progress with the embassies, it was obvious there was no hope for their removal. Once they left successfully left the country, he vowed to turn himself in.

Throughout the show, Pablo made it evident that his family’s protection was his first priority. However, I thought it was very interesting the way this ‘protection’ was portrayed. ‘Protection’ to Pablo was consistent with male identity – the men were to protect the women by remaining strong. In one of the last episodes, Pablo orders Emilio to remain strong in the face of uncertainty. He tells him that he is the one who must protect his abuela, mother, and Daniela. After Emilio agrees, Pablo gives him a gift –the gift of Mireya. This entire sequence was very interesting to me. Pablo’s ‘strength’ was actually stubbornness and ruined his family (His mother’s apartment was attacked by the Pepes and his brother’s jail cell was bombed with a package. He later became deaf and blind). Then in order to initiate his son as being the head male figure, he takes his virginity with a prostitute. What a display of male strength!

The last six episodes centered around Pablo’s closest friends, family members, and even Mireya, the prostitute, trying to convince Pablo to turn himself in. They kept asking him “Was it all worth it?”. I believe this question was asked so explicitly multiple times to make the audience reflect on their desires and the consequences of those desires. For example, when Pablo was at the top of his game, as the richest drug dealer in the world, the audience wanted to be him. But after watching his self-destruction, they felt guilty for even considering coveting his lifestyle. The finale was a lesson-learned type of ending. With his family in ruins, Pablo was brutally killed and his death celebrated across the world. Then the entrada song played with more verses about resilience, demonstrating Colombia’s ability to reconcile and learn from the past. In other words, just as the entrada states, “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it”.  

Never Letting Go!

After reading through some of the latest blog posts, I just have to agree with everyone on how awesome this class was. I didn't even care how late it was all semester because I was always so excited to come to class. Something that really stuck out to me personally when we had dinner at Dr. A’s house was the importance of keeping our bilingual skills active and how important it is.

This is something I have heard all my life. My first language was Spanish but as I grew up I lost a little bit of my fluency over the years, and now I consider English my first language. It is not something I am proud of, and I'm really working on regaining my fluency and confidence. When I’m in Athens at school, I am away from my most prominent connection to the Spanish language—my parents. That is why I decided to minor in Spanish instead of continuing French or learning a new language. At the beginning of the semester, I was worried about being almost done with my minor. With this class, I realized I didn't need to be tested on grammar to hold on to my second language. I just needed to be around it. I just needed to watch TV!

Obviously practicing a second language is the most beneficial way of learning and keeping it but just listening to it helps so much. I plan to continue watching telenovelas, not just to keep my Spanish in tact, but because I really love them.

Thank you Dr. A for being such an awesome telenovela wizard. You astounded me every day with your extensive knowledge and passion. I don't think any of us knew how much of a big deal you are in the world of telenovelas in the beginning of the semester, but we all definitely do now. This class has been such an amazing experience and I can definitely say it will be missed!

I Kept It "Nosotros"

During the last lecture at Dr. A's house, I got asked what it was like being the only man in the class. My response wasn't very thought out because I haven't ever thought about it before. After reading the other blog posts, I can confidently say that I, too, really enjoyed going to this class. I looked forward to this class every Tuesday and Thursday. Why? Becaue it was fun, Dr. A was always smiling, and it was very simple. It's a very modern thing and Dr. A was very excited about it. As far as being the only man, I would say that when everybody "oohh"ed and "aaahh"ed during various scenes, I didn't.  It's not that I'm a man and I'm supposed to be tough or whatever, it was just that I didn't feel the same way.

The evening after my sister came to my classes, she was telling our mom about all the classes. She was especially excited about this class and told my mom more about Hugo Chavez than my mom cared about.

I am extremely sad that this class is over because never again will my classes be as fun. I think this blog was a great idea also. It brought us closer as a class. I feel like we're a telenovela family now.

It was luck that I got into this class because it is only taught once every two years and this semester is the only time I could've taken it.

Personally I feel special because I single-handedly changed the class possessive pronoun from nosotras to nosotros just by being in the class. That's awesome. That's probably my most productive thing all year.

Thanks for a great class. I hope to see all of you and Dr. A around campus in the future.

Skewed Perception of Venezuela & the Solution

I have learned far more about the country of Venezuela than the average person. I can't say I know the factual information, but I do know how the citizens truly feel about their country. From winning numerous Miss Universe titles people may form an opinion about the popularity 'plastic surgery' in Venezuela. For example, a student in my Spanish class gave a presentation of the recent winner of Miss Universe and merely focused on the fact that she had plastic surgery performed on certain parts of her body. I had an uneasy feeling about this- and I suddenly thought to myself, "Does this student know anything about the state that this country is in right now?" There is FAR more problems in Venezuela than Miss Universe having plastic surgery.

For this reason, I feel like the genre of telenovelas in Venezuela is an extremely vital communication method for the countries struggles.  If more americans, or any foreign country could be exposed to more specifically, venezuelan telenovelas, a true awareness would be made about the current state of this country.  I think that the reasoning behind this decrease in the production of telenovelas is the mere fact that the government does not want anyone to know the actual struggles of the country. I feel like they want everyone to see their country as flawless, and much less accept any help from another country.  Clearly, from our exposure to actual citizens of Venezuela our class became well aware, on a more personal level, that these struggles are real.

As I sat down to right my course evaluation for this class, I began to think about all of the opportunities that were given to our class this semester. I asked myself the question "in what other class would I be able to talk to people that are active in the subject in which I am learning?" Much less, in what class would the professor be so kind enough to invite us to her house and provide such hospitality? I am truly so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this class this semester.  I have never experienced such a method of learning, as I did in Telenovelas and Society. 

End Scene

Wow. I can't believe that this semester is already over and this class is about to come to a close. I guess it's finally time to say 'end scene'.

Just reflecting on everything that I have learned this year... it ranges from newfound knowledge about telenovelas, to life lessons, to just learning in general.

When I first signed up for the class, honestly I had no idea to expect. I want to say that part of me thought we were just going to watch scenes of telenovelas every class and talk about them. That just proves how little I knew, and how little honor and credit I gave to the telenovela industry. I never imagined the amount of hard work, passion, time, and dedication went into each episode, and just being a part of this industry. Learning about consumption, production, themes and plots, story lines, different actors and writers and producers, behind the scenes, etc. Everyday is a production.

What I loved though the most, is just like there is a behind the scenes to the finished amazing telenovela episode you watch on your television... there is a behind the scenes personally for the actors, writers, directors, and producers. They have their own "production team" that leads them to do what they do. We caught glimpses of this during our Skype interviews. There are memories and childhood stories that inspire. There are people in their lives that inspire. There is the deep love of a country that inspires. And there is a passion and a love for the audience that drives their work.

I think what I fell in love with the most as I learned more and more about this industry, was the amount of emotion, heart, connection, and bigger picture story behind it.

Telenovelas are messages, are dreams, are happy ever afters, are hard truths, are escapes, laughs, tears, screams, and forever "I do's". It's almost impossible to not have a soft spot for the telenovela and what it stands for after learning what is between the lines and end scenes.

At our final class at Dr. A's house, when we watched final episodes, the ending to Cosita Rica was the perfect compilation of everything I had fallen in love with and came to believe in this class. It ended with the cast all together as a family, and on a simple stage in front of a part of the audience that loved them. It ended with a summary of each character's happy ending, and then a giant party with the cast and the audience. I really believe that, that right there is what telenovelas are all about. It was a beautiful visual of the heartbeat and reason behind why they exist.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Freedom to truly think

To be honest, Dr. A's syllabus scared me a little at the beginning of the semester. Broad guidelines for the papers, open topic blog posts, and a group presentation with the only guidance being "Consumption of Colombian telenovelas". You mean, I had the freedom to write about anything? Wait, Dr. A you mean you don't have a rubric on how we are going to be graded? In theory having the freedom to write about anything sounds great, but it honestly gave me anxiety.

All throughout high school and college, I was used to writing papers and doing projects by following specific guidelines. I knew that if I included everything I was supposed to and followed all the rules there would be no reason the get a bad grade. So I have to admit, the freedom Dr. A gave us in all of our assignments truly worried me at first. I remember writing my first blog post and think "what on earth should I write about? How long should it be? Does this sound too informal?" (This was about the same though process for the first paper and the consumption project).

Now, as we are nearing the end of the semester, I realize that this class challenged me to think in ways I never had before. Instead of following specific instructions from a syllabus, this class made me reflect on what I truly wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. And you know what? Figuring out what it is you want to say and not letting grades get in the way is hard. In a world where we have mostly been taught to follow so many guidelines, we almost start acting like robots. I am not trying to generalize by any means, I am simply talking from personal experience. As hard as this freedom was for me at first, I am so glad Dr. A gave us this opportunity. Yes, I have learned all kinds of things about telenovelas in this class but the most important lesson I gained was to actually think about my personal opinions. This class taught me that it is okay to express myself and I am really appreciative of that.

My perspective has changed.

When I walked into this class, I expected to see how telenovelas affect Latin American culture, but I certainly never expected them to affect my perspectives on my own native entertainment culture.

I was born here in the United States, and it’s the only culture I’ve ever been immersed in. I grew up on TV shows and movies produced in this country--with more and more exceptions as I got older, but still, my opinion of TV and movies was based only on whether a production was funny or captivating.

Two weeks ago, I was watching a primetime show on ABC and talking to my mom on the phone. One character in the show was all but destroying his life because of alcoholism, and my comment to my mom was, “Wow, they’re really trying to make a statement about alcohol in these last few episodes.”

Now, if I had watched the same thing in January, I would’ve said “Gosh, that character is such an idiot.” But since looking at telenovelas from the perspective of a writer who is trying to say something with their work, I can’t look at any work of television or cinema the same way. When I watch a movie or show, instead of considering the characters as simply tools for entertainment, I find myself constantly thinking, “I wonder what the writers wanted to say with that scene,” or “Was that element there because the writer wanted it, or because the network pressured them and they fear losing their job?”

I’ve been continuously blown away at how telenovela writers can cleverly put their own views and opinions into a telenovela. I’m particularly impressed by Leonardo Padrón. I sincerely appreciate the foundations of Ciudad Bendita and La Mujer Perfecta because he gave the protagonists some kind of “health problem” that would be considered a reason for alienation in society. He wrote plots that showed the audience that people who were seemingly “handicapped” in some way are capable of living full lives despite exterior appearances, and they should be treated accordingly.

Throughout the semester, I’ve seen examples in many telenovelas of this sort of “activism,” and now I’m starting to pick up on similar things in other shows and movies. I’m more aware of the intelligence level of what I watch, and I’m able to discern whether or not I agree with messages being conveyed. Even though a main goal of this class was to examine the culture of an area through its telenovelas, it didn’t stop with teaching me about Latin American cultures. I can honestly say that this class has made me a smarter, more aware consumer of TV and movies, and it’s opened my eyes to the very culture I’ve been living in for 20 years.

Thank you Dr. A for an incredible experience and a new outlook ("no text is insignificant") that I will not soon forget.

No text is insignificant

Dr. A told us something during our last class at her house that really stuck out to me. Her daughter, who recently completed her thesis for her Master’s degree, dedicated it to Dr. A and wrote, “to my mother who taught me that no text is insignificant.” I think this quote sums up almost everything I learned and will take away from this course. Even telenovelas, a genre that many people ignore due to its negative stereotype, have something important to say about a culture and a society. Dr. A said she never even remembers telling this piece of advice to her daughter, but clearly her hard work and dedication to the research of telenovelas is a clear representation of this idea.
The work of Leonardo Padrón, the writer who Dr. A has studied for many years, is a perfect representation of the importance of telenovelas as a genre. With their huge popularity in Latin America, telenovelas have the unique ability to reach many people all over the world. It is for this reason that the genre is very important and deserves to be respected and researched. Leonardo Padrón has tackled many controversial topics, challenging the people of Venezuela to open their eyes to new ideas. He has used telenovelas to discuss Asperger’s Syndrome, the world’s obsession with beauty, political problems in Venezuela, cancer, and many other important topics. His telenovelas have challenged and educated people all over the world, while also inspiring hope, and just because his medium of choice is telenovelas, does not make his work any less credible. In some ways, his work just has the unique ability to touch the lives of far more people than he would be able to reach using another medium.
Before taking this class, I believed the stereotype. I did not think telenovelas had anything important to say. I really had not thought much about the genre at all. But because of this class, and the amazing work of Leonardo Padrón, my eyes have been opened to the many important roles telenovelas can play in a society. And in the case of Venezuela, the work of Padrón serves as a symbol of hope to the Venezuelan people.
Like she taught her daughter, Dr. A has also taught me that no text is insignificant, even a telenovela. I am extremely grateful I had to the opportunity to take this course, and I learned far more than I ever expected.  

The Most Important Lesson

It didn't occur to me until I started writing this post just how impactful this course has been on my way of thinking. Coming in at the beginning of the semester, I thought this class would just be a fun way to talk about silly soap operas; now I see not only how off my assumption was, but also just how much I've learned.

I have genuinely never enjoyed a course more than I enjoyed this class. This has been the only class I've ever taken where I was disappointed that our time was up at the end of every class meeting. I've never felt so driven to learn and to understand, and I genuinely never thought that a class about telenovelas would be the one to keep my interest in such a way. I think what really grabbed me in this course was looking at something so seemingly simple- a television program- and dissecting it until its multitude of meanings and its significance came through. Learning about the various representations of different identities found in telenovelas and their significant meanings, the intense production process that those involved in submit themselves to just to make a quality product for their audience, the risks taken to broadcast these programs and the regulation involved, and even hearing face to face from those involved all made this course so impactful and important to me. What I've taken away from this course overall (among many other lessons) is that audiences feel and respond to passion. Telenovela audiences pick up on the meanings of characters represented, the amount of work that goes in to each production, the risks taken in each broadcast, and consequently the passion that comes from those who are making these programs for them. I think that's what hooks telenovela audiences and what will continue to hook them; a passionate production creates a passionate audience.

And parallel to the reception of telenovelas, I think I've been passionate about this course because Dr. A is so passionate about this topic. Her absolute love and respect for this industry has shone through and has helped me to understand just how important telenovelas really are to society and the impact they can have. I'm so grateful that Dr. A created such a welcoming and compelling class that extends far beyond just telenovelas. Being passionate about what you do and experience in life is such an important lesson and I feel that that's one of the most valuable things I'll be taking from this class.