Originally published at Being Latino Online Magazine as Novelas for Dummies.
When I was a little girl in Puerto Rico, I would climb out of bed, sneak into the living room and sit behind the recliner where my mom sat to watch her novelas. She would pretend I wasn’t there for the hour my favorite novela lasted, then she’d send me off to bed.
Like most Latinas (maybe even some Latinos) I grew up on novelas. When my primary language became English I stopped watching most Spanish-language television. The last novela I watched faithfully, and the only one I would probably watch again, was Quinceañera from my teen years.
In the last few years, the E! network show, The Soup, has begun to add novelas to the list of shows they poke fun at. This has reignited an interest in them for me, even if only to laugh at clips like this.
Wondering if novelas were really that campy, I asked a group of amigas to tell me what they knew to be true about every novela they watched. The responses were overwhelming—am I really the only one NOT watching novelas?—and it appears that though the actors and the story may be different, the underlying themes and characters remain the consistent throughout.
Novela actors and actresses can act for long-periods of time using just their faces, specifically their eyes. Any emotion can be conveyed by moving the eyes and mouth together in just the right way.
Along with facial expressions, tears also help to convey everything from hate to joy.
Good vs. Evil
Since no rich, beautiful princess with a heart of gold could ever capture our hearts, the heroine of our story has to be poor and/or unattractive with a heart of gold. Add points for glasses, braces and/or a job as a maid.
There is always a maid, child, or older person who provides comic relief. That person, with all of his or her jokes, is usually the wisest and most believable character.
Forget Jerry Springer, reality shows and the UFC; novelas provide a daily feast of slap-action fights, if that’s your thing.
If it’s true that Latinos have a flair for dramatics, then it’s doubly so for Latino actors. There is no shortage of gasps, sighs and hand gestures to add to an already ridiculous situation.
Family trees have more branches than you can count
Fulanas dad turns out to be her uncle while her love interest turns out to be her long-lost cousin. Keeping up with the extended branches of the family tree is the only reason to watch on a daily basis since everything else is neatly wrapped up in final week, culminating in the final episodes that inevitably includes…
What would a novela’s final episode be if it didn’t include the happy ending of happy endings… LA BODA!
Whether you watch them or not, like much of TV, novelas are an escape from the ho-hum routine of every day life; often seen as a guilty pleasure—and who doesn’t need to give in to those on occasion—strictly intended for entertainment purposes so if you watch, enjoy.
And since there aren’t lessons without quizzes, watch this wrap up of La Madrastra, courtesy of The Soup,and see if you spot the themes listed above: