Saturday, December 5, 2009


Alright, so I'm slightly nostalgic that we had our last official class yesterday. Where has the time gone?

As I'm writing up my last paper (which, by the way, THANK YOU DR. A. FOR PUTTING ME IN TOUCH WITH PERLA FARIAS! She emailed me back and I about had a heart attack!), I'm realizing how well-versed we are in telenovelas now. I mean, really- think about it. Not only do we know about all the history, but we know about codes, we know about the different types of telenovelas, we know about production and consumption... we even know people now! From Marisa to Ruxi, all the way to Alberto Gomez and (I pray this works on Sunday) Leonardo Padron and Roque Valero. WE EVEN MET DR. A's MOM!

So let's recap some of the highlights of the semester and what we've gotten out of it:
-Our surprise visit from Marisa: we now know how tricky Dr. A can actually be.
-Watching our own telenovelas (and perhaps falling in love): this actually improved my Spanish skills. I don't know about anyone else.
-The world really is a smaller place (thanks to Skype, etc.): it's been unreal to be able to use technology to talk to people all around the world. We've read blogs from people who live all over the world. You can't say that it's a pretty amazing thing to know how small the world is thanks to all the social media that's around the world.

It's been a whirlwind of a semester and I know that it's only the beginning of telenovelas as a part of our own culture. I'm about to order "Todos Quieren con Marilyn" and "Juana la Virgen" to watch. Anyone wanna come with me?

Thanks for everything, Dr. A. You've made your passion a part of our lives too.

Finding Inspiration

We have had the opportunity to speak with a couple of writers about the process of creating successful telenovelas. Telenovelas are very demanding on everyone involved in creating them; all of the components (writers, actors, producers) must depend on one another to make a successful telenovela. Writers in particular have a challenging role because if they don't produce anything that it can set back all of production.

Telenovelas air every weekday, meaning writers have to produce a script per day for however long the telenovela lasts. Although there are key elements of a telenovela that they must include in the story, they must be creative and stretch their imaginations in order to keep watchers intrigued. It makes you wonder where they find the inspiration to come up with such crazy stories. What influences them? Do they write in the same place everyday or do they try writing in different settings? Do they incorporate anything from their own lives in the scripts? Do they study the people around them or in the news to develop certain characters?

I know that every writer has their own unique process but I can't help but wonder what kind of struggles they face with trying to push out a script. I have a hard enough time trying to think of something meaningful to write about in blog posts, let alone create something that has to entertain thousands of people. One thing's for sure, writers really have to love the art of telenovelas because so much blood, sweat, and tears has to go in each and every script that they write.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Last Post--So sad!

Over Thanksgiving Break, I had the great opportunity to go to Southern France. While I was there, I met a ton of interesting new people from all over the world and I couldn't help but to bring up this class and telenovelas to them!

One lady in particular who I had talked to really struck my interest. Her name was Diana and she was from Mexico and from the older generation, about 65 years old. When I brought up telenovelas, boy did she get excited and couldn't believe that someone from my background (haha, I think me being Asian?) and age was talking to her about telenovelas.

She was fairly privileged when she grew up in Mexico as a child and they were fortunate enough to have TVs (not just one!) in her home. As she grew up, she also married into higher society and didn't have to do much except be a regular housewife, so she had a lot of time to watch telenovelas. The few that I remember her mentioning were called "Pecado Mortal" and "Cartas de Amor" and "La Leona". She had mentioned more, but with my broken Spanish and her broken English, we did have some trouble communicating! I wasn't familiar with any of these novelas, but she told me that they came out around 1960 and that "Pecado Mortal" now has a remake that is "Abrazame muy fuerte" I believe, and said she refuses to watch it! I thought it was really funny, because it's just like the consumption we discussed in class--a lot of the originals just simply can't be replaced to the viewers!

I think what I enjoyed the most while talking to her was how we could connect on the same level even though we're from such different backgrounds, which is such a valuable thing! So, I really want to thank Dr. A for everything she's done for us--this was definitely my favorite class and it was an amazing experience for me!

The World of Telenovelas

I’m really glad we decided to wait until the end of the semester to talk to the writers. We had so many more prying questions than when we first started in this course and so much more appreciation for what a telenovela is. I have not seen any of Alberto’s telenovelas, but it was so exciting to get to hear from him and hear about his experiences as a writer. Being a writer seems like it would be really hard; he said that at times he was responsible for 4 tevenovelas. I had no idea that the networks pretty much tell them what to write, and they have to follow these guidelines. Also, it was good to hear that if the writer hates where the direction of the telenovela is going, he usually is passionate enough to stop writing because it is not what he envisioned. They work so hard to write these stories, and they shouldn’t let the networks rewrite what they have spent so much time developing.

I think one of the most surprising things that I learned from taking this class was the globalization and popularity of the telenovela. Millions of people watch them, and not only in Latin America but all over the world. We even got the really popular series Ugly Betty from a telenovela. There are SO many that have been made, both remakes and originals, and they dominate Latin television. There are a lot of factors to why people love them, but in my opinion any good television show has drama and a strong love story. One of my favorite shows, The Office, has a lot of humor but also still manages to incorporate a love story between two of the main characters. Their love story is one of the reasons I have continued to watch the show from season to season. This idea of love forever and a one true love really keeps viewers watching.

Last Episode Lessons

I found the lecture on last episodes to be very interesting today. What interested me most were the telenovelas that had the conversations with the audience at the end. I have noticed this sort of thing happen in shows here in the US. I am by no means a fan of gossip girl; I find the show extremely annoying, but nonetheless my roommate Melissa is obsessed with it. Generally we watch tv together at night, so I tried to watch for a few episodes. The show ends always with gossip girl sort of summing up either a lesson or conniving remark, followed by "xoxo, gossip girl."

The similar thing happens at the beginning and end of Grey's Anatomy. Eeach episode beging and ends with a character, usually Meredith, giving some sort of life lesson. For example,
Meredith: [narrating] Everyday we get to give the gift of life, it can be painful, it can be terrifying, but in the end it's worth it. Every time. We all have the opportunity to give. Maybe the gifts are not as dramatic as what happens in the operating room, maybe the gift is to try and make a simple apology, maybe it's to understand another person's point of view, maybe it's to hold a secret for a friend. The joy supposedly is in the giving, so when the joy is gone, when the giving starts to feel more like a burden, that's when you stop. But if you're like most people I know, you give till it hurts, and then you give some more.

I feel as though this summary can also be a summary to a telenovela. It's so interesting to me to see the similarities and differences in the telenovelas and shows here.

The Final Episode...or blog entry

Wow- I cannot believe how this semester has flown by! Watching clips from final episodes today made me realize how many telenovelas there are that I want to watch. I think that I want to watch pretty much every single one of Leonardo Padron's novelas. This man is a genius, and I can't believe how lucky we are to interview him (hopefully) on Sunday! I love the way that he breaks from the "traditional" ending and in its place has an original yet equally exciting fin. The ending to "La vida entera" was especially cool. The disassembling of the set was such a neat way to express the end of the story and of the show. The artistic element behind it was impressive as well. Showing the camera men in the mirror, and just the logistics of filming the filming, was really cool. It seems like the mixing of the fiction with reality, and jumping from one to the other is common in Padron's novelas, at least at the end of the telenovela. Speaking to the public, the audience, is also an interesting approach. I wonder what it feels like as a viewer, to watch 160+ episodes as a complete spectator to this fictional show, and then to be addressed directly by the actor, or the character. I can't wait to watch Cosita Rica, Ciudad Bendita, and La Vida Entera, even though I already know the endings!

The Final Goodbye

As the semester wraps up, I can’t believe that this is already my last blog post. It has flown by and this class has absolutely exceeded my expectation levels. The last episode presentation in class today was a great way to end the course. I found it extremely interesting to see how many different endings a telenovela could have. Like almost everything else, it is completely up to the discretion of the writer to decide how to end it. I wonder if writers start to develop a reputation for having a particular type of ending?

The final episode of La Vida Entera was the best example that showed me how unique a writer could make it. That ending in particular was a great way to say goodbye to the viewers and the cast. I can definitely understand how it could be emotional, when the set was literally getting taken apart, but I also think it could be a time of celebration and looking back on their accomplishments. One question that occurred to me was this: Since they literally took the set down during the filming process, what would they do if the scene was not 100% satisfactory? Did the director check the film to see if it was good? This question led me to think back to the chaotic production process. Because the actors are on a strict time schedule and must film an episode a day, does this sometimes hinder the quality of their work? I wonder if there are instances in which this has happen…

In conclusion, I just wanted to say thanks to Dr. A for teaching such an incredible course! I have enjoyed every minute of it and am so glad I had the opportunity to learn about such a unique subject.

My Inspirational Blog Post: Gracias!

I wanted to wait until after today’s class to write my final blog post. I was waiting for inspiration because I have to admit that this last post is somewhat bittersweet and sentimental. The inspiration that I was looking for did not come when I thought it was going to come. I thought I would be immediately inspired by the “final episode” lecture and hop right on the internet to blog about it.

Although the lecture was extremely interesting and I especially liked learning about Padron’s unique endings, my true inspiration came when I was writing my course evaluation. Because my on-campus job primarily consists of typing up student evals for the UNIV courses, I normally do not write anything on teacher evals if given the opportunity. This is just because I know that students typically say the same thing over and over and I frankly empathize with the people who have to sit and type all of those up. However, I knew without a doubt that I was going to write today because even if all the comments are going to say the same thing, I guarantee its all good things. Those are my favorite evals to type, the positive ones, the ones where students love the teachers and feel that they have benefited from the class.

There was so much I wanted to say but just didn’t have the time or space on the page. This is the first class that I have taken that has been truly inspiring. I wanted to come to class each and every day and I was eager to absorb as much as humanly possible. I learned so much more than I expected to learn and that is so satisfying. I could come to class and simply listen and ask questions and take it all in because I loved the topic; not just the telenovela stories themselves but the impact they have on the culture, the viewers and the Latin American society as a whole. I would come home and share things I learned in class with my friends, roommates and family members. This is how I know that I was really learning, because I felt myself wanting to educate others around me. I wanted everyone I knew to love the class even if they were not taking it. Anyone who crossed my path that may have been in Grady or in Latin American Studies I felt compelled to tell them about my “Spanish soap opera class” and how they HAD to take it if they were given the opportunity. I am so happy to have had the experience of taking this class and I know that it will continue to have an impact on me. I have a renewed interest in the Spanish language and more importantly the culture. I can take so much away from this class and that is what makes it truly inspirational. So even though this is cheesy I would just like to thank you, Dr. A, for making this class one of the best I have ever taken and thanks to all the actors, writers, youtubers , message boarders and everyone else that furthered my learning experience!

Parting shots

As the semester winds up, I have a confession to make.

You've all heard me bitch about Los Ricos También Lloran and the horrible way in which Televisa royally screwed the editing. How bad it was. How it was unbearable.

But I confess: I was still a bit hooked.
The accelerating and increasing plot, the dramatic twists and turns, all of the insanity packed into 13 was a roller coaster that I was still hooked to. I realize this now when I look back at how I talk to my roommates about the plot of this telenovela and others that we've discussed in class. How my hand gesturing goes wild. How I get intense in talking about it.

I confess: I, too, am hooked.
The emotional race catches me and I MUST know what happens. I'm grateful for not having a TV, otherwise I may find myself stuck in front of the television every day like millions across the globe.

But nevertheless, I am hooked.

Hi, my name is Zak, and I'm a recovering telenovelaholic.

Final Thoughts

I really have loved our skype conversations in class this week!! You should have heard me try to explain this concept to my mom over the phone. This is a condensed version of how it went:

My mom: “sky?, skippy? what did you say?

Me: “no mom, Skype”

(then my father in the background) “Honey, its like Twitter”

My mom: “oh, Twitter! Cool!”

Me: “um… no its not like twitter at all actually”

When they finally let me explain, they thought what we are doing in class this week is really amazing. I am not just making fun of my parents here, I think it is really amazing what technology lets us do as students now that my parents didn’t get to enjoy when they were in school. And I, like my parents, also think it’s been really amazing to get to talk this week with our guests.

I really enjoyed our conversation with Alberto Gomez because it got me once again thinking a lot about the consumption side of telenovelas. Gomez mentioned that he needed to make Telenovelas that the audience will enjoy and receive well and I immediately wondered if it was as simple as that in terms of audience consumption. I definitely agree that audiences play a huge role in the success or failure of a telenovela, but I also wonder if writers and networks, who so often play it safe with telenovela themes and plotlines, can really know if an audience would reject a more daring telenovela.

It seems like such a never-ending circle between production and consumption that it is difficult, or maybe impossible, to discover who shapes who more. Do audiences choose their plot lines or are their preferences dictated by what is available on TV? I know its not that simple but I wish I could dissect this relationship further. I want to know if one of Leonardo Padron’s telenovelas would be successful in Mexico or in the United States, even though the telenovlea tastes of these countries are labeled as more rosa. I think that Ruxi proved to us in our discussion on Monday that these more daring telenovelas are not just a Venezuelan taste and that people all over the world enjoy a telenovela that is as ruptura as Padron’s telenovelas.