It was a struggle to pick a telenovela. I looked up lists of the greats and watched maybe ten different "Capítulo 1"s, but I finally settled on Relaciones Peligrosas because it hooked me in twelve minutes.
The novela opens with scenes depicting teenage drug use and discussions of improper relationships (relaciones peligrosas, if you will). Later, there is an attempted rape and an explicit portrayal of birth control. A character commits suicide, and his classmates grieve.
Some of these things are truly horrible, but they're captivating for reasons beyond the fact that they're dramatic. They're real issues that play a huge role in modern society. When I found this telenovela that is not afraid to bring all of these things to light within the first two episodes, I knew I wouldn't mind sticking with it for 100-something episodes.
The way the show deals with these intense topics made me expect a telenovela de ruptura, but I'm finding it to be a closer fit to the traditional telenovela rosa. Yes, the storylines are modern and racy, but as of the fifth installment, they rest on a very traditional skeleton: We have a main couple (Miranda and Mauricio) that lean heavily on the Cinderella and Prince stereotypes. They fall in love immediately but are promptly torn apart. There are simple, 3-person love triangles.
Although I think Relaciones Peligrosas falls on the rosa side of the spectrum, it's more interesting to discuss the ways in which it breaks from tradition.
Miranda, the female protagonist, is not exactly naive or virginal. On the contrary, it's possible that she is even more savvy about romance and, yes, sex than her love interest as she is a full decade older than him. That said, neither is completely inexperienced: the two not only fall in love quickly, but they also casually fall into bed together in the very first episode.
Another spin on the traditional Cinderella character is that Miranda doesn't come from the countryside but rather another country. The culture shock of moving from Mexico to the U.S. is a twist on the traditional transition from a rural area to an urban one or a poor lifestyle to a lavish one. It is not exactly naïveté that causes Miranda to struggle with her relationship to the young Mauricio, but a difference in culture. She knows that it is illegal to be with him, and she understands all the consequences; however, she comes from a country where the legal age of consent is 16. When Miranda called home to Mexico to discuss the issue, her mother didn't understand what the problem was. "I was that age when I had you," she said.
I'm only a few episodes in, so the it characterization is still light, but I think I can already see some good breaking of stereotypes in representation. Miranda's mother actually calls out society for appreciating men who seduce younger women while ostracizing women who date younger men.
The variety is great. We see machismo with the flirtatious Juan Pablo, but we also see women being comfortable with their sexuality in Miranda and Elizabeth. We see a hardworking single mother as well as a wealthy socialite mother. We see different sides to every story, and it keeps me on the edge of my seat.
Relaciones Peligrosas walks the line between the traditional and the unfamiliar, just as it walks the line between tasteful and inappropriate with its coverage of topics that are sometimes disturbing.
I'm excited to see where it goes!