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“Honey-Drenched, Rags to Riches, Good versus Evil Stories”

The Telenovela as a Cultural Referent in the US Press

Guillermo Avila-Saavedra

ABSTRACT

A telenovela is a Latin American form of serialized television melodrama. Until recently, telenovelas were only broadcast in the United States for Spanish-speaking audiences. This essay explores how mainstream American print media framed the telenovela genre in their coverage of four telenovela adaptations broadcast in English on My Network TV (a Fox-owned station) in 2006 and 2007. The analysis helps locate the coverage of the telenovela in a larger social and cultural context. Specifically, My Network TV's telenovelas suffered from an identity crisis. They were never embraced as telenovelas by the network, they were promoted as a new US genre, and their Latino identity was never explicit enough to be relevant.

Ever since the first Spanish-language television network, SIN (Spanish International Network), started broadcasting out of Texas, California, Florida, and New Jersey in 1961 (Veciana-Suárez, 1990), Spanish-speaking audiences in the United States have been watching telenovelas. In doing so, they have been keeping a tradition shared by millions of television viewers in Latin America. In fact, this form of serialized melodrama has been the cornerstone of Latin American television since the first television adaptations of radionovelas were made in Cuba in the 1950s and were quickly exported throughout the region (La Pastina, ...

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