A case of global love : telenovelas in transnational times
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This dissertation presents a case study of the current globalization process affecting most productive activities in the world today, including the cultural industries. Specifically, it studies how telenovelas, which constitute the most popular television genre in Latin America, may have been affected by their own recent success in the transnational realm. Telenovelas successfully combine the creation of a national product that satisfies the internal demand and is also marketable abroad. Because of their tremendous popularity with domestic audiences, telenovelas also serve as a cultural forum for social discourse in many countries. After an appropriate contextualization of these programs within the regional television industry, the central issue guiding the study emerges: given the current export orientation of Latin American cultural producers, are the pressures to increase the global appeal of this genre having an effect on its contents? If so, what is then likely to happen to telenovelas in their capacity as a cultural forum for social discourse? That is precisely what this study investigates: whether the pressures for increasing the transnational marketability of the most popular cultural product ever in Latin America are likely to significantly affect its contents and, if so, in what ways. Of special interest is the question of whether the treatment of social issues specifically relevant to the country where a particular telenovela is being produced is likely to diminish, or whether the local flavor of the narrative will be downplayed or watered down. The arguments presented in the dissertation are informed by a careful consideration of the pertinent literature, as well as by interviews with telenovela producers, distributors, and programmers. In addition, a number of currently produced telenovelas are reviewed in order to complement and enrich the findings yielded by the interviews. Given that these television programs are widely consumed throughout Latin America, it becomes particularly relevant to learn about the consequences of their own globalization. In doing so, I hope to contribute in a small but tangible way to the ripening process of globalization as a social science concept.