Beyond 'The queen of flow': the soap opera fever in the age of 'streaming'

The name of Yeimy montoya it has a celebrated global reach these days. In different parts of the world the rhythmic steps of 'La reina del flow' - a formula of reggaeton and overflowing passions that has been on the Spanish podium of Netflix's most watched fictions for weeks - are followed with relish, in the same way that decades ago it was throbbed in Russian, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic or Korean, the laments of Mariana Villarreal (Verónica Castro), protagonist of 'The rich also cry'. The Latin American soap opera has long been a kind of regional identity document whose dissemination has multiplied and gained in immediacy from the existence of streaming channels and the search for old programs on YouTube, which provide many hours of consumption to the platforms and large doses of entertainment (and guilty pleasure) to the audience. Who was going to say that in the call it was of "quality television", the 'extreme' Latino dramas, like the Turks, were also going to experience a era of splendor.

Strictly speaking, Latin Americans do not speak of soap operas but of soap operas, a tradition that comes from the serial, goes through the radio drama and then is installed on the screens. It is not by chance that 'The right to be born' –the tear gas 314 episodes of 30 minutes written in 1948 by Cuban Felix B. Caignet for the CMQ radio station in Havana– went immediately to television to establish itself - again starting of the contrite eyes, but in the end happy, of Verónica Castro - in one of the first and unrepeatable events of the genre.

At a time when the so-called new television fiction does not usually exceed 10 chapters per session or three seasons because, the producers maintain, from then on attention plummets, it turns out that 'The queen of flow' presides over Netflix with a second season of 90 episodes. Beyond updating with punch elements such as reggaeton or suppressing -or at least diluting- their old tics of sexist violence, Today's soap operas share with their predecessors their fidelity to traditions that come from far away. As Nora Maziotti says in 'Telenovela: industries and social practices', there is a thread that connects Sherezade - who to postpone his death sentence each night tells a different story in 'Arabian Nights'- with the screens in which the programs are broadcast.

The key to success is that the genre continues to take charge of the dreams and emotions of large sectors of the population


There has undoubtedly been a substantial turn in the ways of appropriation of the soap opera from the moment a whole story is available on the platform, whatever it was. The days of expectation are over. The followers of the misadventures of 'The Isaura slave', in Brazil, had to wait, on the other hand, a week to know if their suffering was accentuated or not. What to say about the almost impossible love between the tailor Diego Moreno (Pablo Echarri) and Julia Malaguer (Celeste Cid), the stars of 'Resistiré', the Argentine television program that ended with a massive party in a theater between the protagonists and the spectators.

Years ago, the Hispanic-Colombian Jesús Martín Barbero already tried to investigate the implications and scope of the soap opera. And he confirmed his intuitions: the melodrama is played with the daily life of those who consume it: children who struggle for the recognition of their identity; manifest destinies of love, which overcome incompatibilities; supposedly negative gender archetypes that finally prevail, as in 'Yo soy Betty, la fea', by Fernando Gaitán. Narratives of manners or with a criminal background, as in 'La reina del sur'. "The soap opera has taken over the dreams, fantasies and emotions of large sectors of the population", argues Maziotti. It is an artifact that seeks to provoke a range of emotions in viewers, from compassion and laughter, to fear and crying, through anger: the villain Fernanda del Castillo, played by Aylín Mujica, was invited to be "hated »In Corazón valiente, the 2012 Telemundo telenovela.

In a complex and uncertain world, the serial offers the consolation that good always ends up triumphing over evil


Talking about a Latin American soap opera is, at one point, a generality. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela, its main factories, have very different styles. The same as the productions that take place in Miami. But they agree on the fundamentals. The world they paint is usually binary. The characters embody opposite sentimental universes. In 'La tempestad', the Mexican soap opera that is based on another from Colombia, 'La Tormenta', Hernán Saldaña (Iván Sánchez) is part of a criminal plot dedicated to the kidnapping and trafficking of people, especially women, who are destined for the prostitution. Her counterpart is Marina Reverte (Ximena Navarrete), who has been fired from a hotel where she worked as a manager after denouncing a powerful businessman for an attempted sexual abuse of an employee. Good, of course, always triumphs over evil, despite temporary misfortunes that are believed to be eternal.

Permanent obstacle course

The soap opera is the realm of chance, even the implausible, because it also helps to straighten relationships that were believed to be settled or impossible. It is a permanent obstacle course that - the spectators know it - they will end up being surpassed, but what counts, ultimately, is to follow that path to the end. It seems that there could be no soap opera without staging abysses of class and ties of blood that should not be mixed, misfortunes that have the form of divine punishment but that, in the long run, lead to paradise. When everything is about to end, a golden rule must be adhered to: those guilty of causing so much pain and grief must pay. Justice comes from the hand of the longest and most intense kiss in the strip.

Latin American audiences, by now global, build a close affective relationship with the protagonists: they identify with their achievements and sympathize with their bitterness. Sometimes they dress like them or them, adopt turns or idioms of speech. And even violence dressed as outbursts has also been whitewashed. At the beginning of the 80s, the soap opera 'Amo y Señor' was broadcast in Argentina. Its main actor, Arnaldo André, used to settle his passionate discussions with Luisa Kuliok on the basis of loud slaps. Those slaps, André has admitted, "today would be a scandal."

For a long time, especially in its artisan years, the soap opera was looked down upon by certain cultural elites. But the days of bias and disqualification are over. And not only because those stories can inform a specific reality, but also because, at this point, they can be consumed without intellectual guilt. Many even allow themselves to love what they hate.


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