Friday, October 30, 2015

My Reflections on the Telenovela Consumption of Narconovelas

                      After listening to all of the group presentations from the past few classes last week, I became particularly intrigued by how audiences have perceived certain telenovelas and thematic material. The presentation concerning the consumption of narconovelas (telenovelas that concentrate on the effects of drug smuggling in Latin America and abroad) left me particularly captivated.  Even though the programs mentioned in this presentation demonstrate seemingly unrelated television genres (Narcos, a Netflix drama and Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal, a Telemundo telenovela), both address the topic of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, albeit from markedly diverse angles.
      As discussed in class, Narcos explores Escobar and the problem of narcotics in Columbia from the 1970s to the 1990s. It does this with a large budget, but within the constraints of ten episodes per season. In terms of how Narcos handles the thematic material it unfortunately presents an ethnocentric perspective by focusing only on how the United States handled Escobar. Based on the trailer, it comes as no surprise that this North American drama is presented mostly in English… combined with some moments of terribly acted Spanish dialogue. The more Narcos had been explained in-depth, like how the show misrepresents Columbia through stereotypes, the more disappointed I became. At times, I wondered: Did the team behind Narcos even try to research the topic for the program in order to strive for historical or cultural accuracy, at least with how it portrayed this area of Latin America? My guess is, probably not.
       On the other hand, after watching the trailer for Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal (a telenovela lasting over one-hundred episodes, with a substantially smaller budget), I had found that this program offers a much better interpretation of the same subject. This stems from the fact that the telenovela had been created in Columbia, specifically for Columbian audiences who remembered Escobar and the brutality of his power. Even though El patron del mal probably leaves bits of information out for the sake of time, I still feel that it pays more attention to detail when compared to Narcos. Also, El Patrón del Mal devotes more time (and effort) to Pablo Escobar by exploring his life and the dangerous causes and effects of the wealth that he acquired. However, this telenovela does not attempt to glorify him in any way. Instead, it serves as a reflection on Columbia’s dark past and hope for a better future. To me, that sounds like a more effective and significant approach.


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  2. Anthony, I found this topic very interesting as well. My roommates decided to watch Narcos last month and I watched the ten episodes with them. I am sad to say that I watched this before ever watching El Patrón del Mal. I wish I would have watched the original telenovela before going straight to the Netflix American re-make of Narcos.

    I enjoyed the show but after last weeks presentation I have started to second guess my opinion. I do not like that Narcos was not historically relevant/correct and how Colombians found it disrespectful and portrayed "Americans saving the day" as always. I am now going to begin El Patrón del Mal and I am very interested to see how different this telenovela is compared to Narcos and also to see if my opinion toward Narcos continues to change into not liking the show at all.

    1. I hope that one day the North American media in general will actually portray Latin Americans correctly. It is really sad how stereotyping has become a recurrent pattern: from the culturally confused films of the 1940s and 50s, to West-Side Story in the 1960s, to No Country for Old Men in the 2000s. It never seems to stop. I think that telenovelas, if they are done correctly can help to fix this problem.

  3. Anthony, I'm glad that you shared your opinion about these two fascinating telenovelas. As you also stated, I was intrigued by both Narcos and Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del mal for the same reasons you were. Comparing the historical accuracy and the portrayal of historical figure, Pablo Escobar, between the two telenovelas is really interesting.

    In my recent blog post, I talked about how sometimes I’m skeptical of movies that portray such significant historical events or figures. I immediately assume that some facts have been intentionally removed or twisted to fit the agenda of the production company. As a result, I discussed in my last post how I wonder what the perception of the two telenovelas has been in Colombia. Have people been skeptical of El Patrón del mal because it’s about a Colombian issue that took place several years ago or did people criticize the United States for portraying the historical events inaccurately? However, Anthony, you make a fantastic point. The United States took a Colombian story and made it relevant and interesting to the American public. Apparently the high-quality style in which the telenovela was created is also appealing to viewers outside the United States as well. However, by only offering 10 episodes a season and using Colombian stereotypes to add appeal, Narcos seems more like a story about “America saving the day” than a story about a Colombian pastime. In my opinion, this makes Narcos lose credibility. It may still have appeal to the American audience; however, it probably won’t receive the same attention in Colombia.

    Ultimately, I think it’s really interesting that Colombia made a telenovela about such a negative and difficult time in their history. Their effort to portray historical events accurately and to confront the issue by using the telenovela to say, “We won’t let this happen again,” is intriguing and admirable.

  4. I also found this topic very interesting. It's funny how the American television show is less historically accurate and seems like there was less research that went into it. I think that Americans have an attitude that our way is better, and sometimes we aren't as interested in knowing about other cultures even though other cultures are interested in learning about ours. Dr. A even said that other country's news has much more news about the world, but in the U.S., we are primarily worried about what is happening in our country.

    I also think that Columbia was brave for making a telenovela so accurate to their dark history and something that is still going on today. It's interesting to see how they view the problems in their own country. We always stereotype and assume everyone in a particular country is a certain way, but they too know that they have a huge problem in their country that not only effects them but other countries as well.