Unsettling a sacred relationship: The Mother-Daughter-Man romantic love triangle in telenovelas

TitleUnsettling a sacred relationship: The Mother-Daughter-Man romantic love triangle in telenovelas
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Acosta-Alzuru, C.
Affiliation (1st Author)Grady College of Journalism and Mass communication, University of Georgia, USA
Section or WGPopular Culture Working Group
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodePOPF3a
Slot Code (Keyword)POPF3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleMediating the Real
Submission ID5129

Two billion people in 130 countries watch telenovelas (Martínez, 2005). These shows constitute one of the most important Latin American exports and are becoming significant commodities for other regions of the world as well (Rios & Castañeda, 2011). Telenovelas are melodramatic love stories whose happy endings are postponed for 120+ episodes by intrigues and obstacles. The source of these impediments is also the basic building block of every telenovela: the love triangle, which usually consists of two women in love with the same man. In the traditional telenovela “rosa”, the protagonist—virginal, virtuous and naïve—eventually wins the protagonist, after being mortified and separated from him by the cunning unchaste antagonist. But even telenovelas that break the “rosa” mold, present triangles based on a virgin/whore dichotomy (Acosta-Alzuru, 2003a, 2003b). In terms of the metrics of success in the TV industry (ratings and shares), one of the most effective triangles is the one that confronts a mother and a daughter for the same man. With high dramatic potential, this triangle unsettles the mother-daughter relationship and presents varying moral dilemmas.  To be sure, these are prickly plots that are not easy to write or produce, and that frequently elicit intense reactions in the audience. In spite of their intricacies and success, telenovela scholars have not studied these triangles. Even scholarship focusing on the representation in literature of the mother-daughter relationship (Giorgio, 2002; Hirsch, 1989), has not examined romantic love triangles confronting these women. This paper examines the production, representation, consumption and social regulation of the mother-daughter-man love triangle in three telenovelas: Ciudad Bendita (2006, Venevisión-Venezuela), Doña Bárbara (2008, Telemundo-USA) and La Mujer Perfecta (2010, Venevisión-Venezuela). My study, located under the umbrella of cultural studies, uses a multi-perspective (writers, producers, actors, audience members) and multi-method approach that includes textual and ethnographic methods. The analysis underscores the writing and production challenges of this particular love triangle, considers the fit, or lack thereof, of the mother-daughter dyad with the virgin/whore dichotomy present in the majority of telenovelas, fleshes out the nuances of audience reception of this triangle, and details the articulations between production, representation and consumption that are part and parcel of the telenovela genre.REFERENCESAcosta-Alzuru, C. (2003a). Fraught with contradictions: The production, depiction, and consumption of women in a Venezuelan telenovela. Global Media Journal, 2(2).Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2003b). I’m not a feminist I only defend women as human beings: The production, representation and consumption of feminism in a telenovela. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 20(3), 269-294.Giorgio, A. (2002). Writing mothers and daughters: Renegotiating the mother in Western European narratives by women. New York: Bergham Books.Hirsch, M. (1989). The mother/daughter plot: Narrative, psychoanalysis and feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Martínez, I. (2005). Romancing the globe. Foreign Policy(151), 48-56.Rios, D. I., & Castañeda, M. (2011). Introduction. In D. I. Rios & M. Castañeda (Eds.), Soap Operas and Telenovelas in the Digital Age: Global Industries and New Audiences (pp. 3-19). New York:Peter Lang. 

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