Monday, August 31, 2015

El Planteamiento de "La Reina del Sur"

Choosing the telenovela that I wanted to independently view and analyze for our course was not a task I found easy. Before our class, my knowledge on telenovelas was slim to none. I have always been proud of my love for the Spanish language and culture, but find it disappointing that all of my studies up until this point in my academic career have been telenovela-free. I am the typical girly-girl. So naturally, when thinking about my choice, I was infatuated with the idea of romantic elements being tied together with a "great love story." I wanted to have the opportunity to witness my greatest love fantasy play out on screen. With this in mind, I figured that the traditional telenovela rosa would be the best choice for me. However, to my surprise, after researching different telenovelas of interest, I became hooked on La Reina del Sur.

La Reina del Sur does not contain the classic love story that most telenovelas encompass. Instead, it obtains various small-scale love stories that are surrounded by dramatic scenes of action, violence, lust, and suspense. Although these elements are not ones that I am usually drawn to, el planteamiento, or the setup of the telenovela in the beginning episodes, is what most attracted me to the story of protagonist Teresa Mendoza. 

As a viewer, it is difficult to understand Teresa's character in the beginning episodes. Her personality, grouped with her thoughts and feelings, can only be inferred by the frequent flashbacks that attempt to "catch up" the viewer. The opening scene sets the dramatic and quick pace that is continued and stretched into the following telenovela episodes. All typical components in el planteamiento are present, but are exaggerated in their display, such as the introduction of major characters and major plot conflicts. As a viewer, this technique allowed me to have a "first-person view" of the side plots that work together to create the larger, overarching plot of the story. This radical production decision by Telemundo is what hooked me and left me wanting more as a viewer. 

Experiencing La Reina del Sur in this light allowed me to realize just how important el planteamiento of a story can be. On its face, the type of story, classified as a narconovela, did not appeal to my preconceived perceptions of where my telenovela interests lied. Nonetheless, after watching the first few episodes, I realized that what really interested me was not what was displayed in a telenovela, but how it was displayed. The development of Teresa Mendoza's story is what peaked my enthusiasm about her story. Without el planteamiento of La Reina del Sur, I would still be searching for the "perfect love story."

Estoy contenta con mi elección de telenovela y me siento muy emocionada de ver lo que sucede a continuación en la vida de Teresa Mendoza. Estoy disfrutando este clase hasta el momento y estoy deseando que llegue el resto del semestre. 

The Complex (and Successful) Typology of Bajo el mismo ceilo

I do not consider myself a telenovela fan by any means. With the exception of my grandmother, my family and I would often avoid telenovelas (or, as one of my uncles used to call them, “no-ver-las.”). I originally thought that these programs featured the same structure as soap operas: full of “mushy” plots about love and betrayal mixed in with over-dramatic acting and cheesy instrumental music.

One can imagine my initial reactions when trying to choose a telenovela for this class. For me, that meant both annoyance and panic along the lines of: Oh, no!  I don’t watch telenovelas. AAAHHH!!!

Needless to say, my view towards telenovelas has changed slightly: thanks, in part, to the new Primetime Telemundo program Bajo el mismo cielo (Under the Same Sun). After watching several episodes on, this telenovela has left me surprised because of its complex typology. In many respects, the show overall has exceeded my expectations.

Here are some aspects of the show that have especially caught my attention:


The first thing that intrigues me about Bajo el mismo ciello is its “Intrada” (Title sequence). Aside from introducing the cast from the show, I am particularly struck by its theme song. I had anticipated something close to a sad, sappy 1980s love ballad (electric guitars and all). Instead, I heard a theme song that sounded happy: none other than… La Bamba??? It turns out that this theme song/”cover” song matches because Bajo el mismo cielo concentrates on legal and illegal Mexican immigrants adapting to life in Los Angeles.

-Country of Origin and Language

Based on the premise described above and the dialect used in the show, I had initially believed Bajo el mismo cielo to be from Mexico. After further research, however, I had found that this program is actually produced in the United States. It should also be noted that the actors in Bajo el mismo cielo use “vocabulario neutro,” which I had not noticed until the class discussions on “Telenovela Typology.” Despite the diversity of Latin American actors on the show, they all speak with predominantly “Mexican” accents: an aspect of the show that I find a little bizarre.

-Flexibility of Telenovela Categories

To me, what makes Bajo el mismo cielo compelling to watch stems from how it successfully combines different telenovela categories. I perceive the show mainly as a “De Ruptura” because of its serious tone and attention to realistic situations (e.g. illegal immigration, social injustices, etc.). At the same time, it also has moments of a “Telenovela Rosa”: particularly in scenes involving the protagonists Carlos Martínez (Gabriel Porras) and Felicia Méndez (Erika de la Rosa). Bajo el mismo cielo also works as a Contemporary telenovela, with elements of a Narconovela. One subplot in the first episode, for example, involves one character smuggling drugs from Mexico into the United States… only to meet a grisly fate:

Given this fusion of styles, I would say that this particular telenovela creates strong character development. While it is true that some characters are intentionally “good” (e.g., Carlos) or “bad” (e.g., members of the gang “La Colonia”), Bajo el mismo ciello does not lose sight of the “human” aspects of the show. After watching six episodes of this show, I am curious to know what will happen next as the telenovela progresses.

For someone who typically is not obsessed with telenovelas, that says a lot.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Villa Paraiso - a "Webnovela"?

Hi Class,

When browsing the web for Telenovelas to watch I always look for actors I like and try to find projects they have done. Two of the Telemundo Actors I am truly enchanted with are Ximena Duque (Colombia/USA) and David Chocarro (Argentina). 
When I saw they did a project together called Villa Paraiso I was surprised it had not shown up on my radar until now. Considering the status of these two actors I expected it to be a production of quite high value. It turns out that Villa Paraiso has only 20 episodes, each one with a duration of 3 minutes

So, what kind of a project is Villa Paraiso
Interestingly it seems to be an endeavor going back to the roots of the Telenovela we talked and read about in class today. In his essay "Breve historia de la telenovela" Valenzuela talks about the first daily Telenovela in Mexico being "patrocinada por Colgate" (p. 18) and Dr. A also mentioned it in class today, talking about Soap Operas and where they get their name form. Villa Paraiso was financed by Xfinity, a home entertainment service belonging to Comcast. In every single episode, one of the features of Xfinity is shown and very obviously explained and rather clumsily included in the story. In the end, it even plays a part in saving the protagonist and facilitating the happy ending, it might even be called a character on the show (a little provocative, I'm interested what you think!).
The episodes were shown on Telemundo in October 2014 but also widely spread through social media and are completely available on YouTube
So it is
  • a serial format with cliffhangers
  • starring renown Telenovela actors
  • broadcasted on Telemundo, a channel famous for Telenovelas
  • definitely commercial (maybe even too much?) 
  • and the story is all about love! 
--> So should we include it as part of the world of Telenovelas? 

Wikepdia calls it "telenovela" and also "web-novela", which considering its format might be more adequate. With 3 minute episodes it is clearly meant to be consumed on the web and not on TV.

But what about the -novela part? Summarizing the content I think it could be called a mini-, or considering the pace of the story, rather a turbo-novela, because everything (falling in love, betrayal, fighting, reconciliation) happens incredibly fast. Think about it! It's 60 minutes of screen time, normally that would one single episode. 
Considering the "classical elements": 
It definitely has betrayal and pretending to be someone else (the male protagonist seduces the female protagonist so she will sell her house to his company, pretending to be just a normal guy) and since he falls in love with her, there are also obstacles - his boss pressuring him to "seal the deal" and hurt the women he now loves. So how will they be able to be together being on opposite sides of a conflict of interests?

I am curious to read your opinions if you decide to watch it. I think looking at the attributes it can definitely be called a -novela (mini-, turbo-, or web-). But I also think it demonstrates that the format of the, to me very beloved, telenovela is not meant for such a turbo plot. The falling in love seems completely fabricated in such a short time and they strip it down to a skeleton and I'm missing the beautiful embellishments, and the problems in the middle. Remember, the telenovela is what happens between the falling in love and the happy ending? I think it really leaves not enough space for problems like this, since a chunk of each episode is also dedicated to promote Xfinity. 

I thought this little project fits well into the context of our class right now, having read about the commercial patronage of telenovelas and the different kinds. Maybe the webnovela is the future? Let me know what you think! 

- Lisa

Capitulo 1

A screenshot showing Xfinity

Monday, August 17, 2015


Welcome to our class, "Telenovelas, Culture & Society." 

Here you will practice the fundamentals of critical thinking via blogging about telenovelas. Your blog entries should reflect your thought process and your learning experience as you go through the course. In other words, your posts should be a thoughtful (and creative) expression of yourself. If you wish, you can complement the entries with images or other media.

Specifically, blog entries will be of two types:
  • Open topic entries: With the exception of the post due on October 15, which should be a reflection on what you learn about telenovela production, you are free to analyze, comment and/or reflect on any of the topics and readings we will cover in class. You can also write about the telenovela(s) you are analyzing for your class assignments. Be warned that mere description won’t meet my expectations.
  • Responses/comments to entries: A good blog builds a community. In that spirit, you should comment on the entries posted by your classmates or by me, be those open topic entries or responses to others’ posts. Your comments must be substantive and add to the conversation. In other words, merely stating “I agree” or “good point” is not nearly enough.

You must write at least five open topic entries and six responses/comments during our term. The open topic entries should be spread out throughout the semester. Therefore, I expect to find at least one new open topic entry written by each of you by 9 p.m. of each of the following days:
  • September 3
  • September 24
  • October 15 (Topic of the posts set by me)
  • November 5
  • December 3
There are no partial deadlines for your responses/comments, just the final deadline: December 3 at 9 p.m. I highly recommend you also write your comments throughout the semester.

Again, welcome to our class!