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Title: Woman and telenovelas (soap operas) in northeast Brazil
Author: Brown, L. R.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2003
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In this dissertation I look at the consumption of one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Latin America: the telenovela. My research is based in Brazil, which has the most successful and most profitable telenovela industry in Latin America. Current research into telenovelas has reached an impasse. It either posits the telenovela as an ideological tool to brainwash the masses, or as a symbolic site at which 'culturally competent' agents negotiate with the text and are involved in the construction of meaning and culture. I argue that this impasse is the result of dependence either on textual analysis or on interviews rather than immersion into a particular context. In order to overcome this, I adopt the technique of ethnographic immersion into the lives of viewers in a particular environment. Moreover, I focus on viewers who have been neglected in the scant account of in-depth work into telenovelas: unemployed women living in low-income neighbourhoods in one of the poorest regions of Brazil, the Northeast. I begin the dissertation with an in-depth description of the women's lives, and I show how the telenovelas are an important form of sociability and pleasure in these lives. Strikingly, the women say that the world of wealth and opportunity portrayed in the telenovelas is like real life. What they find so pleasurable about the programmes is the suffering that the female protagonists have to endure. I investigate this in terms of the Christian glorification of suffering, which I argue is apparent in the women's real lives and in the telenovelas. I connect this cult of suffering to a system of valuation in which women are treated not as whole people but as body parts for others. I then illustrate how the majority of women mobile the telenovelas to overcome this fragmenting system. However, given their conditions of existence this is achieved only at the level of imagination or fantasy. My analysis reveals the gendered ideas and practices that connect the women's real lives to the telenovelas. It also demonstrates how the women use their creative powers to affirm a social world in which they are oppressed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available