I let it known that I watch telenovelas. I don’t have great, elaborate reasons. The actors are mostly attractive, the acting is outlandish, the stories tickle my humour, and they have erotic love scenes. This doesn’t mean I ignore the messages they put in them. If I did, I’d end up being a mindless consumer; not my cup of tea. As such, I have found telenovelas to be toxic media of messages, which when taken up by people not bothering to question the messages, or critique them, then promote harmful ideologies, and cultures in the viewer.

Why do I write this? Well, I’m watching Lo Que La Vida Me Robo; a Mexican telenovela about Monserrat, whose first love, Jose Luis, is framed for murder by her family because her brother committed the murder, and the guy is poor. Her other suitor is rich, and through spectacular manipulation, helped along by no-cellphones, and the woman believing a sceptic too easily, she ends up married to suitor number 2. There’s turmoil as she rejects him when she finds out Jose Luis didn’t betray her and thereafter seeks her out. But then she finds herself falling in love with her husband, suitor number 2; which provides another source of friction.

I’d have no problems with the telenovela based on such premise, save for the execution of the story. Suitor number 2 rapes his wife, and with a flippant apology, expresses his regret about it. Apparently all is forgiven when she falls in love with him. If that isn’t an endorsement for marital rape, then someone needs their definition of marital rape aptly adjusted.

Do I mean that rapists shouldn’t be forgiven? That they aren’t loved? I don’t. I’m not so idealistic as to think they don’t get either. I, however, get pissed when a story handles such a real issue badly. Monserrat doesn’t get a remorseful husband for long; she doesn’t get an appropriate apology. And she doesn’t seem perturbed by the rape for more than five episodes. When the husband refers to the rape when she finds out she’s pregnant, asking if she doesn’t hate it because of the night of conception, she shrugs and says no. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

Bad-telenovela-teachings said what?

They aren’t problematic alone. Monserrat’s murderous brother gets protected by the family, and his brother-in-law when the truth is revealed. They could turn him in, and clear Jose Luis’ name, but not even Monserrat tries to do that. Why? Cause Jose Luis is working on her husband’s hacienda, and she fears her husband would kill him if he knew. I rolled my eyes five hundred times during that particular arc in the story. It’s not over as yet, but good-writing-Shonda if it doesn’t make me wish logic existed in telenovela lala land.

The murderous brother is also a thief, and fraudster. He, and his homoerotic friend execute a plan of falsely marrying a rich woman(who’s supposed to be ugly), and then making off with her fortune to Brazil. Him, and his friend run off to his sister’s hacienda to hide when the truth is found out. And it takes weeks for the jilted rich woman to find him, and only because he steals from his friend, who decides to get revenge by telling the rich woman where her fake husband is. What does the murderous brother get in punishment? A 12 month deal to be her legal husband, and suffer her vengeance. So far in the show, she doesn’t have a mean streak. It feels like the vengeance will entail home arrest, and considering her house, that’s a vacation for the murderous brother.

What does Jose Luis get? If telenovelas teach one thing, it’s that eros love is limited, and as such you can only love one person at a time. Bogus. Because of this, Jose Luis is turned into a villain. Which is bogus. Of all the characters, he suffers the most; the story should even be about him primarily as he loses his career, his identity, his standing in society, his family is apparently non-existent, his best friend, his lover, his wives as he marries twice. But it wouldn’t be in line with the teaching of the telenovela that the person to lose the most may be justified in bringing hell upon those who thrive in their misfortune. It just wouldn’t work.

I dislike what the telenovela has shown thus far as intriguing, and appealing themes. A murderer shouldn’t get to not even worry about going to jail beyond framing someone else. If Dimitrio(the murderous brother)  is that apathetic, then it works. Hopefully, that’s the point of his story thus far. Nevertheless, knowing he’s not the villain, and all the defence he gets from his aunt, reeks of a bad boy turned good. It shouldn’t be the case, cause mindless viewers are going to see it as a legit move. Possibly even apply it to their real lives.

Bad boys aren’t a real life thing cause storybooks, and Hollywood didn’t prop them up as salvageable beings in need of good hearts, and soft touch.

Someone having their life taken away from them shouldn’t be punished by being villainised so that the people the storytellers want to be liked by the audience can live well, and good.

A wife shouldn’t be afraid of her husband, or flippant of his actions, especially when he commits violence against her. Nadia, the lead’s best friend, has a violent husband who she thinks is gay because he doesn’t touch her, or any other woman sexually. Way to strongly imply that homosexuals are dangerous televisa. Two for one. She fears him a lot, until she finds a lover, and missing his attention, and affection is what drives her to be defiant towards her husband. It hurts my head to await her journey’s progression; cause on the one hand, it’s great she’s standing up for herself; on the other, I hate that it’s because of her lover. As if to say victims of abuse shouldn’t stand up to their abusers for anyone but someone who is their lover.

Furthermore, the lead female character shouldn’t be welcoming her husband, and contending that beneath his rage issues, he’s really a good guy, so that’s why she just shrugs off his abuse. Even the show’s priest supports, and promotes the idea to her, that her husband’s anger issues are solved by loving him. Talk about a dangerous message.

The telenovela is barely halfway through in airing, therefore, there’s still room for the characters to develop better, and contentious issues be addressed well, and good. But so far, the messages have been too harmful to be ignored. I hope no one is watching it and thinking they only need to be affectionate towards their abusers to change their ways; or that protecting criminals because they are family is the best thing to do.

It’s not.