Welcome to a blog dedicated to enthusiasts of the colorful and exciting world of Betty La Fea. Philippine's "I Love Betty La Fea" soap opera is based on the Columbian telenovela ,Yo soy Betty, la fea, that has spawned over 20 editions worldwide. This website has been established to offer a portal connection for fans of any Betty La Fea adaptations around the globe. The Betty La Fea saga is not just a franchise but a universal organization for everybody to share their country's culture and sensibilities.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Central Paradox: The different versions of Betty La Fea

Contributed and Written by:
Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru

The Spanish newspaper El País published a story titled Hay 'feas' por todo el mundo (There are 'uglies' all over the world, describing the characteristics and success of the different remakes of Yo soy Betty, la Fea, underscoring the local differences of each of these "Bettys."

This news story generated in me two reflections:

Reflection 1.- The success of Fernando Gaitán's telenovela suggests that there are universal storylines that work everywhere. At the same time, each of these versions is adapted to the local culture that produces and consumes it. Therefore, even though all these "Bettys" use eyeglasses and sport braces, each one of them is a different version that is culturally acceptable in the social formation that consumes it. (Following are: Lisa-Germany, Katia-Russia, Jassi-India, Betty-USA, Lotte-Neatherlands, Letty-Mexico, Bea-Spain and Maria Asximi-Greece)

The success of Betty and its versions begs the question of whether her global success is due to the universal nature of the tale of the Ugly Duckling, or if it's because its versions are tailored to each culture. This question underlines one of the facets of the local-global debate that permeates the telenovela both as an industry and a form of art and entertainment.

Reflection 2.- These days the number 120 is frequently used as the standard number of episodes for a telenovela. There is such strength in this standard that many often lose sight of the fact that some stories cannot or should not be told in 120 episodes. As I read the article in El País, I couldn't help noticing that these versions of Betty are way longer than 120 episodes: Spain (300+ episodes), Germany (364), India (556), Russia (700). This presents an interesting paradox: The 120-episode standard is frequently use to gauge the "export-ability" of a telenovela. The argument is that only 120-episode telenovelas sell well in non-Latin American countries. However, when these cultures produce their own telenovelas, they are longer. What is the meaning of this apparent contradiction?

In sum, the success of Betty and its different remakes suggests a set of interesting questions re: the universal quality of storylines and their ideal length, measured in episodes, and highlights some of the paradoxes and tensions inherent to the genre.

About the author:
Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru is an Associate Professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela. For the last ten years telenovelas have been the main focus of her research, the locus where she study the inextricable and fascinating links between media, culture and society, and the thrust of her intellectual journey. She's also the author of the book Venezuela es una Telenovela: Melodrama, Realidad y Crisis. You can visit her blog at http://telenovelas-carolina.blogspot.com


sirlizard said...

That's a really good article. I just have one nit to pick with Dr. Acosta-Alzuru, though. Russia's version had 200 episodes, not 700. I'm pretty sure that India's version has had the most episodes... so far, that is.

Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru said...

Thanks sirilizard for your comment and the correction. I found the number of episodes in the Russian version in several press articles, but you never know when the wrong number will end up being repeated without correction. It's interesting, though, the wide range in the number of episodes of every adaptation. Again, thanks!

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