13 December 2007

The vast wasteland

The New Yorker article "Life Lessons" (only partial content online) from the 5 June 2006 issue examines how soap operas are used in South American and Asian societies to introduce egalitarian and health concepts to the broad viewership. My only experience with telenovelas is with the wonderful-yet-Americanized Ugly Betty and clips of that evil Bruno from La Madrastra (copious examples of ridiculousness have been uploaded) that Joel McHale would show on The Soup. These may contain some social conscience, but it's lost to me through the scumbling of melodrama or meta-melodrama (camp) that can be both lovable and laughable.

What Ms. Rosin pointed out was that in places where local custom makes advances difficult, the telenovela acts as an entertaining PSA (as long is it doesn't get too preachy). An example: the day after an adult literacy campaign was included in a storyline on the Mexican telenovela "Ven Conmigo," more than twelve thousand people caused a traffic jam in front of the country's literacy headquarters, lasting past midnight. Another: in the year that "Accompaname" aired, with stories containing many conflicts that were resolved through family-planning, over-the-counter contraceptive sales went up 23%. Hard science it's not but with the fanatical following of these shows in all-countries-but-the-US it's not unlikely. This is the put[ting] the people's airwaves to the service of the people and the cause of freedom concept that Newton Minow spoke of.

[ posted by sstrader on 13 December 2007 at 9:30:43 AM in Science & Technology ]