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Drugs, Thugs, and Divas

Drugs, Thugs, and Divas

O. Hugo Benavides
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    Drugs, Thugs, and Divas
    Book Description:

    Soap opera speaks a universal language, presenting characters and plots that resonate far beyond the culture that creates them. Latin American soap operas-telenovelas-have found enthusiastic audiences throughout the Americas and Europe, as well as in Egypt, Russia, and China, while Mexican narco-dramas have become highly popular among Latinos in the United States. In this first comprehensive analysis of telenovelas and narco-dramas, Hugo Benavides assesses the dynamic role of melodrama in creating meaningful cultural images to explain why these genres have become so successful while more elite cultural productions are declining in popularity.

    Benavides offers close readings of the Colombian telenovelasBetty la fea(along with its Mexican and U.S. reincarnationsLa fea más bellaandUgly Betty),Adrián está de visita, andPasión de gavilanes; the Brazilian historical telenovelaXica; and a variety of Mexican narco-drama films. Situating these melodramas within concrete historical developments in Latin America, he shows how telenovelas and narco-dramas serve to unite peoples of various countries and provide a voice of rebellion against often-oppressive governmental systems. Indeed, Benavides concludes that as one of the most effective and lucrative industries in Latin America, telenovelas and narco-dramas play a key role in the ongoing reconfiguration of social identities and popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79466-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. One MELODRAMA AS AMBIGUOUS SIGNIFIER: Latin American Telenovelas and Narco-Dramas
    (pp. 1-22)

    As a result of the postmodern turn, Latin America is more than ever a crossroads of local and global interaction. Many times it is difficult, or even impossible or irrelevant, to differentiate the local from the global. Yet, within this cultural problematic, what García Canclini (1992) refers to as a process of reconversion, incredibly vibrant and provocative identities are reworked and represented throughout the American continent. It is also within this postmodern framework of hybridity and reconversion that multiple hegemonic constraints and ideologies of resistance are being represented through popular media such as soap operas (telenovelas) and film. Therefore, one...

  5. Part One

      (pp. 25-45)

      As one of the characters in the Brazilian soap operaXicadeclares prophetically, “The best way to forget about the past is to not mention it, to not even talk about it” (all translations are mine unless otherwise noted). This statement by the male patriarch of a well-to-do family concerned with hiding the family’s Jewish ancestry could as easily be interpreted as an expression of the anxiety over the colonial past that haunts contemporary Latin America (and the colonizing European powers, as well). Since the 1800s, Latin American nation-states have consistently strived to escape the relations of domination and exploitation...

      (pp. 46-66)

      In his soul-searching book on the geopolitics of colonial oppression,Black Skin,White Masks, Frantz Fanon (1966) elaborates on the difficulties of living within contested social, national, and personal identities. In one of the more personal accounts he declares that if his son’s fingernails (or skin, height, language, and physical disposition) were carefully examined to define his identity, they would reflect how the mythologies Fanon is trying to expose would have survived intact. In this, and other equally moving passages, he explores the contesting discourses of the west (and the nonwest), global and local, and the ethnic identity struggles that...

    • Four KAREN’S SEDUCTION: The Racial Politics of Appropriate Dinner Guests
      (pp. 67-87)

      Colombian melodramatic production has seen a resurgence since the 1980s, evidenced in the manufacture and export to the rest of the continent of a myriad of successful telenovelas. Among the most popular arePobre diablo(Poor devil),Adrián está de visita, andPasión de gavilanes, all three of which were preceded by the overwhelming success ofBetty la fea(see Chaps. 1 and 2).Betty la feaopened up spaces not traditionally available to Colombian media. Its success was used to justify extending its run and to produce a sequel,Ecomoda, a highly atypical move.

      Not surprisingly,Ecomodadid not...

      (pp. 88-108)

      Pasión de gavilanesis the latest Colombian melodrama to find success throughout the continent. On the air in the early 2000s, it had strong production support from U.S. Latino media based in Miami. This support explains the telenovela’s more homogeneous Latin images and the strong Tex-Mex influence on its music and plot.

      Pasión de gavilanestakes place in an unidentified rural landscape of large landholdings (haciendas) and familial conflicts. The central plot concerns class conflict between a widowed landholder (and her daughters) and three brothers (the Reyeses) who are seeking revenge for their dead sister. As the story unfolds we...

  6. Part Two

    • Six BEING NARCO: The Evolution of a Continental Sensibility
      (pp. 111-131)

      This chapter and Chapters 7–9 engage with a unique form of Mexican melodrama, the narco-drama, and the cultural elements that they express not only in Mexico but throughout Latin America. My analysis of melodrama in Latin America dovetails with my interest in narco-drama, and not only the longer versions in the form of telenovelas. In many ways it was a narco-drama that triggered my concern with the effect that melodrama has on the Latin American imagination and how it translates in the wider transnational project of postcoloniality on the continent.

      I remember being enchanted by a narco-drama late at...

    • Seven SAINTLY FIGURES AND ICONS: The Migration of a Continental Dream
      (pp. 132-151)

      The landscape of Latin America is filled with icons embodying particularly powerful elements that spiritually secure the different communities’ survival and well-being. Saintly icons and spiritual protectors range geographically and culturally from the opulent cemetery in Buenos Aires’ upper-class neighborhood of La Recoleta, where thousands flock every year to pay their respects to Eva Perón, to the more humble grave site of Juan Soldado in Tijuana, Mexico, where as many come to ask for protection when crossing to “the other side.” Despite their many differences, these folk saints share a great many ideological and spiritual components that have allowed them...

    • Eight LA REINA DEL SUR: Gender, Racial, and National Contestations of Regional Identity
      (pp. 152-170)

      Pérez-Reverte’s impressive novel about a female Mexican drug lord who, after having to flee her country, makes it big in southern Spain sets the stage for a provocative reassessment of the narco-genre in all its gender, racial, and national glory. The fact that Pérez-Reverte is a best-selling Spanish writer only makes more explicit the underlying and enormous tensions of Spain’s colonial legacy. These same tensions are further intensified by the provocatively accurate depiction in the novel of the violent narco-culture that characterizes Mexico’s northern region.

      As part of the writer’s ethnographic foray, Pérez-Reverte lived in Sinaloa for almost a year...

    • Nine SEX, DRUGS, AND CUMBIA: The Hybrid Nature of Culture
      (pp. 171-190)

      As a mixed regional narrative of drugs, violence, and music, narco-drama expresses discourses essential to the structures of daily reality in Latin America at the same time that it allows a dynamic manner of assessing, by both accepting and questioning, many of the cultural norms inscribed in the continent’s contemporary existence. In this manner, and as with other cultural products and melodramatic enactments, such as the telenovela, narco-drama provides a safe and insightful way in which to engage the terror, both literal and imaginary, of life at the border.

      Studies of the geographical and symbolic space between Mexico and the...

    • Ten CONCLUSION: The Postcolonial Politics of Melodrama
      (pp. 191-210)

      In the mid-1980s, an interesting melodramatic scenario was expressed in the movieMisterio Estudio Q(Mystery Studio Q). Unlike other melodramas, it plays on the medium itself, questioning reality from the viewpoint of fantasy and the nature of melodramatic fantasy and social reality. The film opens when a second-rate telenovela actor finds himself unable to turn down the latest soap opera script when he realizes that it is based on his life. He finds himself repeating the same lines that he is saying on a video so that he and his image are saying the same things at the same...

  7. Postscript UGLY BETTY
    (pp. 211-216)

    As I was writing this book, ABC began airing a new television series,Ugly Betty. The series is based on the Colombian telenovelaBetty la feaand looks to further capitalize on the U.S. market that the original telenovela opened up.Ugly Bettythus joins other remakes of the melodrama, such as Mexico’sLa fea más bellaand European versions that have been produced in recent years, to emphasize the success of Latin American telenovelas in capturing viewers’ imaginations worldwide and how melodrama serves as an unconscious catalyst for many of the social conundrums that a globalized world has brought...

    (pp. 217-228)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 229-234)