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.