We, the Cuban Viewers

Yusimi Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 11 — In recent years, reruns of foreign telenovelas have been broadcast on the Cubavision television network at 6:00 in the morning, which is way too early for many viewers.

Consequently, one network (Tele-Rebelde) started showing these same soaps a little later, at 8:30.  At 10:45 in the morning the reruns of Cuban soaps are shown.

This made me wonder: Do people really spend that much time watching soap opera re-runs, ones that in many cases were recently aired?

Well, yeah, they do. I discovered that we love to watch repeats of the same thing for a second time (a third time, a fourth, a fifth…). We return to crying over or laughing at the same thing time and time again – despite the absence of surprise.

We love to remember the part in which so and so is discovered or what’s his name escapes. These are shows where we jump for joy, bite our nails (over what we already know will or won’t happen), or stomp on the floor in frustration over the bad guy’s victory (temporary, of course). In some ways we act like well-trained dogs.

But most of all, we love for them to fool us with happy endings, ones totally impossible in real life.

The Brazilian telenovela Paginas de la vida” (Pages of Life) — which we saw four or five years ago — just concluded…again.

I have a friend who didn’t miss a single episode, just like she didn’t miss a single episode of the same show four or five years ago. She would get up every morning at 6:00 a.m., and if she was still home an hour and a half after the ending, see would go ahead and watch it yet another time.

On the culminating last episode, her emotions got worked up stating at 6:00. When it was over at 7:00, I asked her, “What are you going to do now, watch the 8:30 repeat?” As if something were wrong with me, she looked over and replied, “Of course.”

A few days ago, another friend was watching one of the many Indian films that have come on TV lately. At first she thought it was one she had seen previously, but then she became convinced that it was a different film. This one too was from India; it too was very long, but it seemed different.

When there was little less than a half an hour to go, she realized that it was in fact the same film she’d seen before. So what did she do? She sat there and finished watching it – of course.

How do they succeed at not only deluding us with the possibility of something new, and even after we realize that these are the same we’ve already seen, we decide to re-watch them all the way to the end?

I’ve come to the modest conclusion that it’s the actors. We prefer depending on their abilities to fool us. Not only do we want them to fool us, but to fool us completely – and above all to keep us entertained.

Viewers are a complex phenomenon.

I should make it clear that I’m talking about telenovelas, soap operas and movies – all those items under the general heading of audiovisual materials. But if for some reason totally unrelated to my intent you detected some slight analogy with reality…I won’t mind that at all.


One thought on “We, the Cuban Viewers

  • In this instance, Cuba seems to be behind the curve. Up here “soap operas” (i.e. telenovelas) have been dying off at a faster rate than restaurants are closing in my town! Instead, they are being replaced by something worse: reality shows! (Although as far as these are concerned, Cuba could benefit from watching (Chef) “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares!” My favorites are: “Survivorman” and “Man vs Nature” (which in return have been the catalyst for a whole cropt of copy-cats, such as a “man and woman vs nature” and a “tow guys vs nature” wilderness survival program. Of course if I were eve to try surviving in the wilderness, I’d last no more than a couple of days, despite the advise of “Bear” Grils!

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