Being a millennial teen that doesn’t watch the Block on Channel 9, as per most, I tend to find myself leanings towards television shows that aren’t particularly from around here. By ‘around here’ I mean series that have been produced in a place that exceeds local, regional and national boundaries of Australia.
Factors like age, personality, interests and the use of familiar themes, ones that relate to my own life, definitely impact my decision on the type of television I choose to engage with, but location not so much. The ever expanding selection of streaming sites, both legitimate like Netflix and not so legitimate torrenting websites, make it easier than ever to break past national confinements of content.
An international show I particularly enjoy is Jane the Virgin, which was produced and aired in the United States through the network The CW. The show is also available through Netflix, which was how I got my mitts on it.
The show uses classic tropes used in Latin American soap operas and heavily focuses on romance, with a dramatic flare. I am a sucker for hyper romantic shows, including The Bachelor, which could be due to my youth and possibly gender, but a key factor is how different it is to my life. I don’t know if I want a lover to return from the dead who has amnesia, or a drug lord stepmother, but the stark contrast between that and my student life is enough to hook me.
Only recently did I find out that Jane the Virgin was inspired by the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. As suspected, the US has done what it does best, and makes it more westerner friendly. The American version ups the age of the lead woman from 17 to 23, who falls pregnant (spoiler) and heavily hits on the stable romantic relationships in her life which differs from the adversity of being a single teen mother in Latin America addressed in the original.
Latin America occupies a unique place in the internationalization of television, since it has greater linguistic and cultural cohesion than any other world region, which makes the global flows and potential reach of the American show more cemented (J. Skrede, 2014). The show is on an American TV network and Netflix (as mentioned before), however it is also available on several other streaming sites across the globe. The pieces of Spanish dialogue are subtitled for English speakers, while the entire show is subtitled for numerous languages such as French and Arabic.
The American version does hold onto some cultural ties of the original and includes a substantial amount of Spanish dialogue, however it has been made more palatable for western audiences. The humour takes more of an ironic standpoint, and has a lightheartedness about it that would not be expected with such a dramatic plot. Adapting a television show that is deeply rooted in the culture of the production country can cause the rewriting of cultural values, assumptions, and norms for nonfictional entertainment (L. Ganguly, 2019). The upbeat and vibrant show takes on the dreamy nature of romance that many people enjoy, but has definitely been very very loosely inspired from its Latin American parent.
Ganguly, L 2019, ‘Global Television Formats and Their Impact on Production Cultures: The Remaking of Music Entertainment Television in India’, Television & New Media, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 20–35.
Skrede, J. (2014) ‘Latin American Television Industries, by John Sinclair and Joseph D. Straubhaar’, Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, (Issue 4), p. 262.
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