The non-Soap Opera of the World

February 21, 2010

Telenovelas. I have been told that these are different from soap operas. They have an ending, for one, even if it is revoltingly cliche. But I think, unless it takes a unique angle or the romance is not the driving plot then I will never have a place in my heart for telenovelas.

My biggest criticism of Avatar was that its plot was too soft and formulaic. I am a digital media major, hoping to model and animate creatures like those that appeared in Avatar – obviously the part of the movie that James Cameron wished to highlight most – but it appears I cannot even separate the innate writer in me.

The whole point of the article about telenovelas is just how much broad appeal they have. Their stories are based on a cliche, but there is a reason why – they are tried and true and tested. Not everyone can engage in an intricate story for years on end, but telenovelas are easy to go back to after a long spell.

But the writer in me won’t give up without a fight. Just because cliches work doesn’t mean that’s all the audience wants. I personally enjoy keeping the audience guessing. The feeling comes with being a writer much like putting our own characters through hell. It’s what we do.

The United States apparently does not have a place in its heart for them either since the writers apparently butchered ‘Ugly Betty’ and now it’s been canceled. Aside from ‘Ugly Betty,’ I find it interesting that telenovelas are having a hard time in the United States for the whole population, not simply the Hispanic American niche. There’s an article in Television Week from 2007, which states, “Advertisers are eager to romance the continually growing domestic Hispanic audience, estimated at 43 million and rising….reaching 71.7 percent in 2010, up from 69.9 percent in 2005.” And basically the advertisers would like to invest in more telenovelas since they are so popular in Latin America.

(Article can be found here.)

The U.S. has this predominant view that telenovelas are soap operas and only middle-aged home mothers would care about them. However, networks are always looking for smash hit shows and if ‘Ugly Betty’ could start off so well on a main network for all of America rather than just Hispanic America, why haven’t there been more attempts to purchase licensing fees for other hit shows? Is it national pride in our own Hollywood productions that we limit our foreign consumption (can we really be blamed for our concern on this? I mean, we already owe China trillions of dollars in debt from our imports) or is there something else? I find it difficult to believe that a main network wouldn’t at least try a telenovela if it meant millions of dollars rolling in.

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