I have to admit, this class had made me fall in love with telenovelas. Like ice-cream bars and tabloids, they are truly a guilty pleasure, and one that I have been and will continue to indulge in (the next one on my list is La Reina Del Sur, but I'm thinking I'll watch the USA version.) But I use words like "admit," and "guilty pleasure," because I truly do feel like loving these shows is often a small crime against myself, and against femininity. So, for my last blog post, I wanted to spend some time talking about the use of love in telenovelas, and how it defines the characters of women on TV.
Let me say this as a foreword: I myself am in a relationship of a year and a half. While I love my boyfriend with my whole heart and much of my life does relate, in some way or another, back to him, I could never surmise my life story by simply telling the story of how we met and fell in love. I could never. My life has so much more to it than the years we've been together. And, even when we've been together for 50 years, I still expect that the sum of my life will be much more than just the sum of our love story. Furthermore, I'm hardly expecting a "happily ever after," life as soon as I get married. In fact, "happily ever after" seems terrifically boring to me. I don't want my wedding day to be the end of my story- my story will be so much more than that.
So, that being said, let's talk about telenovelas. In my telenovela (as I discussed in my last blog post) the female protagonist is constantly- CONSTANTLY- being let down by the male protagonist. He disappoints her in every possible way. By this point, they've made plans to run away together 4 or 5 times, and EVERY SINGLE TIME, Lucas fails to show, and Jade waits for him, only to be disappointed once more. And not only is she disappointed, but Jade (being from a strict Muslim family) is actually in danger of being lashed or stoned to death in the streets. And it's always entirely Lucas' fault! His inability to show-up when it matters most for the girl he supposedly is madly in love with baffles me. But what baffles me even more is that Jade continues to wait for him! Every single time. She's always willing to leave her life behind for the chance that Lucas might show up and whisk her away to a better life.
Here's the problem: loving someone and giving someone your entire life despite of their constant failure to meet expectation is portrayed as a sign of strength. It is not. Loving someone who repeatedly puts your life in danger shows a complete lack of regard for yourself, and for what you deserve. As such, Jade becomes a woman entirely devoted to a man, yet she is still portrayed a strong, independent woman. There is a serious danger in this! What does this teach children, what does this teach women?
Furthermore, (and this is not specific to my telenovela because I haven't actually watched the last episode) it seems as if most telenovelas end with a fairy-tale wedding. And just like that- the story is over. The protagonists are in love, and that's all we need to know. That should be satisfying enough! But, should it be? To me, for a story to culminate with the protagonists finally being able to love one another seems degrading to what semblance of life, importance, and individuality each person has. It implies that love is a resolution to everything- it is not. Love is important, for sure- in my opinion it's the most powerful force in the world, and it can solve most every problem. However, love is not a resolution to any one person's life. To say that is to reduce the individual to their relationship with someone else, which is as good as taking away their individuality all together.
All this being said, clearly not all telenovelas are written in this way. In class, we talked about a telenovela (forgive me, but I can't remember the name) which ended with a woman telling her love interest that it was unrealistic for them to be together, and that even though she loved him, they each needed to move on. This, to me, is a story that needs to be told more often. It reminds me of the novel-turned-movie, Wild, in which Reese Witherspoon starred. By the end of the movie, the main character has no job, no money, no prospects, and no relationship, yet she has profoundly moved and motivated the audience. The world is in need of these stories of independent women, with everything and with nothing, doing amazing things for themselves and for the world WITHOUT the culmination of their story being relative to their relationship with a man- or with anyone else, for that matter. I would be terribly interested in seeing more telenovelas like this.
Of course, none of this means that I don't intend on continuing to indulge my obsession with telenovelas. I absolutely intend to continue doing exactly that. But it does mean that I will take most telenovelas with a grain of salt. Though they are entertaining and a fabulous way to spend a night in, I will not be inspired by the stories, or by the women, and will certainly never wish to be like them. So, like I said- telenovelas are a guilty pleasure. I love them, but I love them with an understanding of their misrepresentation of both women and love.
A final word- It has been a lovely handful of weeks- I feel so blessed to have had this chance to (1) expand my cultural views, and (2) watch telenovelas for a grade!!!! I've loved being in your class and I can't thank you enough for teaching us so well! Thank you, thank you, thank you!