Telenovelas: Romanticising and Desensitizing

Yesterday I spoke with Ted Lyon, my professor for the Latin Studies Senior Seminar that I am in, and he gave me some very insightful advice for the research I am doing this summer. I am doing similar research now for that class, but instead of focusing on rural populations of Mexico, I am studying how the media affects all youth from Mexico.  When I met with him, we spoke about the telenovela and how that is what most people watch in Mexico, even the youth.  That is where they might be introduced to more adult themes, along with a distorted view of romance, and the romanticism of war, death, and fighting.  I had not really thought about focusing on the distortion of reality as my focus, but even after talking to Natalie yesterday, I am leaning toward focusing on how telenovelas affect the youth on their views about romance and relationships and whether they see life through romanticized eyes.

Dr. Lyon referred to romanticism in novelas as a “distortion of our sympathies” and the “manipulation of our emotions.”  It happens in every telenovela where one of the protagonists is involved in some kind of inappropriate behavior, but it is presented to the viewer in such a way that we are sympathetic toward their plight.  He mentioned the example of the beautiful woman in an unhappy marriage, where she is mistreated and unappreciated.  This woman meets a handsome man at work, who makes her forget her troubles and treats her like he actually loves her.  Most viewers would not condone this woman’s unfaithful behavior in real life, but this woman’s story is given to us so that we feel like we understand what she’s going through and that her actions are justified.  Our emotions have been manipulated slowly throughout the life of the telenovela so that by this time, we condone negative behavior simply because we side with the protagonist.

The youth probably find themselves empathizing with their favorite characters, and this is because that is the intention of novela makers.  They intentionally distort negative values so that we see them through a different, more accepting light.  With this distortion of values comes the distortion of the way love is.  I’m still not quite sure I, myself, understand how novelas tend to portray love.  I’m giving myself the homework assignment of watching novela episodes to see if I see a pattern.

I do remember that when I was younger, I watched Rebelde and the things they did for young, teenage, “true” love were probably not very realistic.  I remember that many of the couples denied that they had feelings for each other and had many dramatic fights in public and pretended to hate being around each other.  Turns out they were just scared of their emotions, and eventually they would finally be together but it just seemed like such a weird way to portray love.  One girl would yell at the boy she loved to leave her alone, but he, wanting her so desperately, would send her a dozen roses and teddy bears, etc.  But then she would return the sentiments and he would be telling her to leave him alone.  There were plenty of scenes of girls crying in corners.

This might have been an exaggeration because it has been so long since I watched the show, but my opinion of love during high school is not what I know it to be now.  Back then, you could hate someone, but they might be your soul mate.  Your crush may not notice you now, but they will once they see you in a beautiful dress.  The boy you like might be dating someone else, but he really probably wants to be with you.  I want to see if novelas have a strong enough impact on these youth, boys and girls, to change their perspectives on love and romance.

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One Response to Telenovelas: Romanticising and Desensitizing

  1. Ben Jones says:

    Great thoughts in this post Yvette; I like that you have been able to narrow the focus of your project a little to the subject of telenovas and their influence on perceptions of romance. It will be a great project 🙂 By the way, for my SPAN 206 course I am required to watch episodes of “Yo Soy Betty, La Fea” online (the Colombian version). It’s been really interesting to watch because I have recognized that slight changes in perception that have taken place in the novela. Ask me more about it later… and good luck with the new spin on your project!

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