Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Couldn't Pick Just One.

Despite having been in Spanish classes for as long as I can remember (even though my Spanish-speaking abilities don't validate that), I have never been exposed to the world of Telenovelas. Despite my guilty pleasure of reality TV and various programs most people refer to as "garbage," I have also never been exposed to the world of soap operas. Therefore, my prior knowledge of telenovelas was clearly limited. However, once I found the "Spanish-Language TV" label on Netflix, my options for this class seemed endless.

I watched my first telenovela on Netflix after the first week of our class. I searched "telenovelas" and about 4 popped up -- I chose "Lo que la vida me robó" and I was hooked immediately. I decided to do some research about the telenovela and whilst reading a source about the show, I read some spoilers, which I instantly regretted! Typically I don't mind knowing what happens, but for some reason, it bugged me and I wasn't sure if I would be able to continue with the program. It was then that I decided to look at other options. I found "El secretario" on Netflix and the description intrigued me -- it sounded modern and light-hearted, which really fit my mood at the time. After watching 2 episodes of "El secretario," I didn't know how I would make the decision between the two for this class. So I didn't.

Dr. A permitted me to watch both telenovelas and compare them. This is the perfect option for me because I have two wildly different stories, one comedy and one romantic drama, with different tones that will allow me to watch a telenovela tailored to my mood.

Dr. A’s lesson about la telenovela rosa and la telenovela de ruptura rang true when I watched both of the telenovelas I’ll be following this semester. “Lo que la vida me robó” is a Mexican novela and it is definitely una telenovela rosa, just like Dr. A said most are, especially those on Televisa (in which this one is). On the other end of the spectrum, “El secretario,” a Colombian novela, is moving towards de ruptura. In her lecture, Dr. A said that Colombia produces along the whole continuum and it breaks the mold. I definitely find this to be true with “El secretario.” So far, I have seen certain aspects of various love stories, but it is not the focus – the central plot is about a man who moves from NYC to Bogotá after discovering through Facebook that he has a 6-year-old daughter (how modern)!

Also validating our class notes is information about cast composition. Dr. A mentioned that Columbia is included in a list of countries that admits actors from other countries. The main character (Emilio Romero, actor: Juan Camilo Pinzón) in “El secretario” is from Colombia, however the female lead is Peruvian and another male lead is from Argentina. While a majority of the cast in “Lo que la vida me robó” is from Mexico, one of the male leads (Sebastián Rulli, who plays Alejandro Almonte) is actually from Argentina. This is surprising because Mexico is very protective of their telenovela industry and most of their productions star almost exclusively Mexican actors and actresses.

I am excited to be absorbed into the two stories I have chosen. I feel as though I can already make some connections to real world stereotypes and cultural differences just from watching the first 3 episodes of each novela, and I look forward to exploring these issues and portrayals more in depth in future blog posts and assignments.


  1. Jesse, this is a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing! When searching through telenovelas a few weeks ago, I too ran across El Secretario and had the same opinions about it. It seemed light-hearted, humorous and modern compared to the other telenovelas I was finding. I thought the main protagonist, Emilio, seemed like a good guy—someone who cared about the family. This theme is something that I did not see in other telenovelas that I looked through. Like we discussed in class, it seems like most telenovelas are about a Cinderella story: a wealthy man from the city falls in love with a poor, innocent girl from the countryside, they overcome some conflicts and then there is a transformation. However, El Secretario appeared different. Emilio’s character was presented in such a way that made him seem innocent, caring and sensitive. He is also poor and without a good job. These characteristics are not similar to the ones that most people would attribute to the “princes” found in typical telenovelas.

    This idea of a transformed male character may in fact mean that Emilio is the “Cinderella” in El Secretario. Although I am basing my assumptions on one episode that I watched, I would not be surprised if Emilio went from being a poor man searching for his daughter, to becoming a respectable, wealthy man that has influence in society and in his daughter’s life. Since you are studying this telenovela as well as another one, it will be interesting to see what you think after you watch more episodes.

    Also, as you stated, I agree that El Secretario fits into the “De ruptura” type of telenovela. It’s fast-paced and most similar to the way people act in reality. It is peculiar to me, however, that I am naturally drawn to the “De ruptura” type of telenovelas. In my opinion, telenovelas that fit into the “rosa” category seem exaggerated and far from realistic, which takes away credibility for me. On the other hand, the more realistic and closely matched a telenovela is with reality, the more likely I am to believe and pay attention to themes presented. This is part of the reason I was drawn to El Secretario. Why don’t you think more people think like this? It seems like the “rosa” type of telenovela will forever remain a classic. What do you think?

  2. Hey Jessie!

    I also had a lot of issues choosing my own telenovela. I struggled with old vs new, funny vs. sad, love vs heartache, drug vs less hard matters. In the end I decided on something popular. I didn't think I would enjoy less popular telenovelas as much, knowing they had flopped. Maybe that's just me though? Popular opinion does matter to me when I'm browsing Netflix; I look at the "what's popular now" options. So that's what I did when choosing my telenovela. La reina del sur has many stars and followers and a high budget.I wanted to watch the best of the best telenovelas, so it was between la reina and Avenida Brasil. Inevitably I chose the first because I thought I'd be able to capture and understand more when hearing spanish (I can't speak Portuguese AT ALL). I think it was a terrific idea to choose two opposing types of telenovelas and at this point I imagine you've gone on many different roller coasters.

  3. Thank you, Hannah, for commenting on this post and bringing it back to my attention. I completely understand your hesitation with watching a telenovela that has "flopped," in a sense, but I think sometimes one man's trash is another man's treasure and personally, I've had that apply to television programs in the past, so I wasn't too concerned with the telenovela's success on live TV. I see how you were also between two novelas and I understand your decision to follow La reina del sur -- I hope you're enjoying it and feel like you made the right choice! What has been your favorite part about studying that particular telenovela?

    It's very interesting to look back on Kelly's comment and see how much we have learned over the past 2 months. Kelly, I completely agree and think you totally nailed the male Cinderella story concept in "El Secretario," that's actually something I wrote about in my first paper. Although I have not yet finished the telenovela, I thiink your prediction of Emilio becoming a respectable, wealthy man in society is not too far off the mark. From "la intrada," I can tell that Emilio and Antonia will get together, so that relationship will certainly cause a lifestyle change, when he finds his "Princess Charming" :)

    Your mention of the classic popularity of telenovelas rosas is also very important. After our consumption presentation, I have come to the conclusion that the most compelling part of a telenovela is the love story and that is what draws people in and shuts people out (i.e., when Santiago was killed off in La reina del sur). I believe we can attribute this to the fact that people enjoy watching telenovelas (and other TV and movies in general) for the element of escape -- to enter a world unlike their reality. I, however, agree with you that I enjoy the aspect of reality in some shows that I watch because it makes them believable and relatable. I will admit that I am not immune to the telenovela rosa genre, but I have definitely enjoyed following a telenovela de ruptura for the purpose of this class.