Table of Contents
History of Mexican Telenovelas
The production of telenovelas started back in the 1930s as graphic novels, evolving afterward to radio programs and later to television novels as they are referred to today (Huska, 2016). In the 1930s, American companies sponsored radio programs in Cuba that had evolved from graphic novels. Unfortunately, they later stopped sponsoring these programs, leaving a diaspora of talented Cuban writers, actors, and producers who were scattered throughout Latin America including Mexico (Huska, 2016). With time, these producers, writers, and actors came together and started to produce television novels. The programs by then were shorter and only lasted between fifteen to twenty minutes per episode, and they were just shown a few times a week (Smith, 2016). The programs also entirely relied on the written novels most of which revolved around romance and they were not so popular since they were just developing. This means that the audience was also not that big.
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However, as time goes by, these programs started to gain popularity among the locals in Mexico and the neighboring countries. Today, telenovelas, due to their prevalence and technology associated with them, are shown in Mexican televisions five to six times a week (Piñón, 2014). The programs also last three to six months to complete all chapters /episodes before they come to a climatic close and a new one is produced, and all have 75 to 150 chapters. This makes telenovelas the widely known programs which are viewed by millions of viewers across age and gender lines and all social classes.
Key Features of Telenovelas
Telenovelas in Mexico have the same characteristics as American soap operas. However, due to public demand of viewers, Mexican telenovelas have distinct features that are different from soap operas. First of all, unlike soap operas that run for decades without an end, Mexican telenovelas have a contained story arc which only ends after a few seasons mostly lasting three to six months (Barrera, 2017). However, if there are successive ratings to a particular episode, they may be extended to last a bit longer. The American soap operas mostly target female audiences while the Mexican telenovelas target audiences across age and gender lines and thus can be viewed even by a family. Being a melodramatic serialized fiction, Mexican telenovelas don’t only talk of love like other soap opera. Instead, they focus on other subjects like betrayal, corruption, revenge, jealousy, violence, passion, oppression, incest among other relevant topics. All of these issues may be classified as either educational, political or historical (Barrera, 2017). Like telenovelas in other countries, the Mexican telenovelas also tend to use music when actors are performing on the stage. Also, unlike the American soap operas which are broadcasted during the day, the Mexican telenovelas like other telenovelas from other countries are televised in the evening thus targeting a larger target. We also find that there are advertisements in between these telenovelas from Mexico.
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Telenovelas are the most viewed program in Mexico when compared to other television programs, making them the most popular in the whole country. This is made possible by the fact that they are broadcasted between seven and ten in the evening when everybody is relaxing in their homes after the hard day’s work (Barrera, 2017). Nevertheless, viewers are not only family members but also people who go clubbing, because due to love and loyalty to the telenovela, the Mexican citizens prefer watching telenovela than any other programs in some clubs, restaurants and coffee shops (Smith, 2016). Unlike the traditional telenovela that revolved around love matters where a couple falls in love and have to fight obstacles and disapproval until they get back together, the monotony has been broken (Lizarzaburu, 2006). Today the Mexican telenovelas do not only deal with love matters, but they had gone further to include controversial events and government criticism which has attracted many audiences from people who are in high class as well as people from low class.
Mexico alone is estimated to produce 3,000 hours of telenovelas each year with a budget of roughly US $250 million (Lizarzaburu, 2006). This is made possible by the very loyal market that the producers have created. The suspense, love, emotions, and logic found in Mexican telenovelas makes them hard to leave out even one episode and thus making them like a daily date and a must watch programs (Lewkowicz, 2014). Some audiences view telenovelas with the aim of looking at beauty things like necklaces and earrings that actors wear when acting. Others like the music which is played, because it usually hits, while others listen to the language of love being used (Smith, 2016). Thus making these programs capture the audience from all people starting from children, adults and elderly. Another aspect that makes the Mexican telenovelas popular is the fact that they listen to their audiences and change the plot and setting of the programs accordingly (Lizarzaburu, 2006). This makes the audience feel like they are part of the programs as their opinions are attended to. Internationally, they are watched by hundreds of millions of people. For instance, telenovelas were viewed more in Brazil more then they viewed their world cup title. Other countries have gone ahead of broadcasting Mexican telenovelas in their language.
Traditionally, telenovelas in Mexico were romance related, but with time, they took another dimension where they talk more about educational and political subjects that have controversial stories with a melodramatic subtext. However, the producers of these telenovela programs are tasked with studying people and what they like. This will help them to produce programs that are relevant to them, thus, keeping their audiences in the play which will translate to many views (Piñón, 2014). Due to the high level of education among Mexican citizens, producers are therefore required to create strong independent protagonists as well as stories that are crisp and do not take long to complete. This will mean that in future, we might expect to see shorter versions of telenovelas in Mexico to meet the expectations of its audience (Piñón, 2014). Due to political and economic change, the producers are also aiming to broadcast up-to-date programs that are related to Mexican day-to-day activities and happenings.
In conclusion, I would say that Mexican telenovelas are a number-one form of human entertainment in the whole world. This is shown by the many viewers and reviews and email addresses that producers receive from their audiences. We also find that the ability of producers producing family-friendly programs makes the programs to be liked by people from all social classes, across all age and gender lines. Another thing that makes me feel like Mexican telenovelas are number one form of human entertainment is the fact that they are reproduced and broadcasted by other nations in their specific languages using actors from the original Mexican telenovelas.
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- Barrera, E. (2017). The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Encyclopedia of television. Huska, M. (2016). Cutting Cárdenas: Revising the revolutionary family in 1980s Mexico. Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, 34(1), 1-27.
- Lewkowicz, E. (2014). Rebel love: Transnational teen TV vs. Mexican telenovela tradition. Continuum, 28(2), 265-280.
- Lizarzaburu, J. (2006). How telenovelas conquered the world. BBC.
- Piñón, J. (2014). Reglocalization and the rise of the network cities media system in producing telenovelas for hemispheric audiences. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 17(6), 655-671.
- Smith, P. J. (2016). Dramatized societies: Quality television in Spain and Mexico (Vol. 14). Oxford University Press.