Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Telenovelas: Contributing Factors of Consumption and Production

Formally disregarded by academics as a more-or-less innocuous pastime, scholars are now beginning to take note of the telenovela industry's compelling social impact—or more specifically, the powerful influence producers of this particular medium have over their target audience and why.  As outlined in Hugo Benavides' Drugs, Thugs, and Divas, understanding the comprehensive effect telenovelas have on viewers is contingent upon a thorough grasp of a variety of contributing factors. 

Cultural Diversity
While western media continues to erroneously homogenize Latin American culture, this largely ignorant notion of likeness is quickly contradicted upon further analysis of categorical preference in regards to the consumption of telenovelas.  Careful consideration in respect to a given telenovela's target audience is imperative to the production's popularity and longterm success.  The most obvious component of this market-based research is manifested in telenovela typology, which ranges from the traditional "rosa" to the more contemporary "de ruptura."  By simply comparing and contrasting the demands of telenovela powerhouses, such as Mexico and Brazil, we can easily recognize the overt cultural distinctions producers must consider in order to attain a dedicated viewership.   

Socioeconomic Consideration
As telenovela production continues to thrive across most of Latin America, the overall economic state of these countries tends to fall short.  For instance, according to The United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Mexico will not meet its projected growth of three percent this year.  Even Latin America's largest economy, Brazil, is experiencing loss as a result of decreased private consumption.  So how does this all relate back to the consumption and production of telenovelas?  Well, as Benavides states in Drugs, Thugs, and Divas, "the fact that telenovelas are able to provide emotional relief to a continent burdened by enormous socioeconomic and material hardships is not devoid of importance. Therefore, it is not surprising that millions of Latin Americans sit in front of their (and others') television sets to escape the conundrums of daily existence for at least a couple of hours each day."  In other words, not only does the telenovela industry appear to remain unscathed despite the current economic downturn, they may actually be at an advantage. 

In January of 2014, Venezuela's president, Nicholas Maduro argued that telenovelas promoted a lack of morality amongst viewers and were potentially in violation of a law created in 2004, otherwise known as the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Digital Media.  This is just one of many complaints the Venezuelan government has made in regards to telenovelas, perhaps in an attempt to distract from the country's bigger issues.  Nevertheless, here we see a very different perspective in regards to telenovela outreach and impact.  Opposed to serving as a means of entertainment and relief from daily life, in countries like Venezuela, it seems that telenovelas are merely an outlet for further censorship and control. 

As an entity fundamental to the Latin American identity, telenovelas will more than likely remain at the pinnacle of the Spanish-speaking entertainment industry, but it is our responsibility as consumers to reflect on the implications and potential opportunity costs of our viewership. 

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