The new novela

In Medellin, Colombia, a newspaper poll found that 78% of the population believes narconovelas (soap operas about drug trafficking mafias) are bad for young people, that they’re “teaching young people to seek the easy life and believe wealth can been obtained quickly and illicitly.”

Strictly speaking, however, that lesson is correct, especially in Latin America. Wealthy people – I’m talking the kind of wealthy people who can afford to own and maintain several yachts – don’t usually get their money “licitly,” through clever ideas and middle-class hard work. They get it by having a rich family, a juicy government hookup, or both.

Traditional telenovelas have always been about poor-meets-rich, and the aspirations of the former to become the latter. The difference is that they’re populated by hacienda owners and suit-wearing mansion-havers, not capos and kingpins.

In that sense, I guess you could argue that telenovelas haven’t really changed. They’ve just been updated.

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