A Melodramatic Miracle: The Telenovela in the Making of Mexican Politics and Culture, 1950-1980
Abad Izquierdo, Melixa
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My dissertation examines the relationship between politics and popular culture in post-revolutionary Mexico. The television industry is often dismissed as an evil empire that was at all times allied with the interests of the one party state system: the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000. A parallel perspective later influenced negative perceptions of cultural productions such as telenovelas (Mexican soap operas). However, my work suggests a far more complicated cultural and political reality. My study examines telenovelas not as mere mindless conservative entertainment, but as a cultural industry product from a period when the realities of a developing economy and an uneven modernity affected the country. The recurring themes of these series highlight many of the issues that caused anxieties for the urban middle class. Problems such as massive migration from the countryside to the city, the dangers of unmarried young women joining the work force, and challenges to racial categories left middle class Mexicans anxious about the social order. The themes of these telenovelas are even more striking because of their international appeal. The importation of these programs all over Latin America and the world has challenged the notions of an underdeveloped South that is a passive recipient of American culture through television and movies. Mexican telenovelas include nationalist themes, but are the product of transnational forces that include American products, Cuban scripts, Spanish actors and an audience that extends from New York to Patagonia and beyond.