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 telemundo.com, 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.