Telenovelas vs. Soap Operas

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, when a person is judged on trivial things or when a stigma is attached to something of no importance out of ignorance.  One of those things specifically is watching Mexican soap operas.

See, in the Mexican culture, telenovelas or novelas as they are called, are extremely popular.  Women make up the majority of the viewing audience and if you ask a woman in Juarez, for example, she can tell you that she watches this novela or that one.  Now, a lot of people attribute watching novelas as a complete waste of time and further, dare to say that it influences some of a woman’s character or behavior, such as her speaking, decor, or style.  If you were to ask a man in this culture if his wife or girlfriend watch novelas, he will roll his eyes and say something negative.  You see, novelas are no different from American soap operas when it comes to popularity, although American soaps boasts longevity, but no real imagination (my opinion, that last bit).  They are actually not any different from watching a favorite, in-the-moment sitcom like Modern Family, or a drama like Game of Thrones.  It’s just the idea that is it is a soap, hence, a waste of time.

What makes these shows so different and widely viewed and very different from American soap operas?  There are major differences between the two.  American soaps are shown during the day, telenovelas are shown at night.  American soaps don’t end, or maybe they do…eventually.  They go on, and on, and on, and on.  You get the picture.  Novelas last about 6 to 9 months and have very systematic story lines.  There is a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Most of these are pretty predictable, however.  Most have the same basis such as a poor girl (a maid, an orphan, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, etc.) who ends up marrying the hero or some rich guy in the story.  Also, the heroine usually has some kind of tie with a rich family (long-lost daughter, a stolen daughter, or a baby who had been given away, etc.) and usually ends up being rich when everything is discovered.  The endings are also pretty predictable:  the hero and heroine get married in a lavish ceremony and live happily ever after.  So why are telenovelas so popular?  There is intense drama.  The plot twists are unique.  The settings are breathtaking locations around Latin America.  The climax keeps you tied to the end.  Knowing their predictability, each of these aforementioned elements give the story that magic, keeping a viewer tied to the show.  The viewer gets into the story.  You feel yourself drawn in, rooting for this person or that.  The villan or villainess in the story is another key element because it is they, in grand part, who keep the story going and lock the other elements together.  You usually don’t know what will happen to the bad guy until the end which is one of the most exciting pieces of the these shows.

Is watching novelas wrong?  Absolutely not.  When I was starting out in the workforce, I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know Spanish very well.  Being in school and having a few friends who even spoke that language, I managed to lose it almost altogether.  My father suggested that I watch novelas to brush up on my Spanish.  Was I glad I took his advice.  Not only do I speak Spanish very well now, I am a big fan of telenovelas.  I love watching because most of the current, popular novelas being talked about are shown when I’m getting ready for bed, so no, I’m not wasting my time.  It’s part of my mini ‘me’ time.  Also, as addictive as these shows are, they can be watched any time online.  The advantage to our demographics is that we have several Spanish channels that cater to novelas so if you miss an episode, it is usually shown on a different channel at a different time.

I know this sounds crazy but if you want to learn Spanish, this is an option.  Really.  The actors speak the language correctly; they are native speakers.  You will learn pretty well, if not fast, how to speak Spanish.  It doesn’t hurt to see eye candy either.  Or beautiful actresses.  Most are seasoned actors so watching them is also another reason to see something new they are in.   I think this is so cool.  If you want to know who would be someone to watch, William Levy has had worldwide success in telenovelas.  He was a contestant on season 14 of Dancing With the Stars.  Now you know!

File:Amor Bravío.jpg

A current novela running on the primary network Univision. Recognize the guy?  Yup, that is Cristian de la Fuente, also a previous contestant on Dancing With the Stars.

%d bloggers like this: