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"Overcoming Heartbreak": A Feminist Soap Opera?

Silvia Munguia is an English teacher from San Diego, California. She studied Literature in Writing at UC San Diego earning her B.A. in 2013.

The soap opera features stellar performances by Claudia Álvarez, Daniela Romo, Julia Urbini, and Valentina Buzzurro.

The soap opera features stellar performances by Claudia Álvarez, Daniela Romo, Julia Urbini, and Valentina Buzzurro.

Vencer el desamor (Overcoming Heartbreak) is a Mexican telenovela (soap opera) produced by Rosy Ocampo that was broadcast on Televisa from October 12, 2020, to February 19, 2021. In the United States, it began its broadcast on November 20th of last year on Univision where it continues till this date. It tells the story of four women of different ages and social classes who end up living in the same house by chance. At first, living together is difficult, but in the end, they learn the true meaning of sisterhood and end up coming together. The soap opera features stellar performances by Claudia Álvarez, Daniela Romo, Julia Urbini, Valentina Buzzurro, David Zepeda, Juan Diego Covarrubias, and Emmanuel Palomares.

 Ariadna Lopez (Claudia Álvarez) is a single mother who works as a journalist. She is committed to raising gender consciousness.

Ariadna Lopez (Claudia Álvarez) is a single mother who works as a journalist. She is committed to raising gender consciousness.

What Is Interesting About "Vencer el desamor?"

This soap opera's plot differs from that of traditional telenovelas in that the protagonists are not virginal characters subjected to a man. There are four main female characters and all are independent women with professional aspirations. The oldest of the four is Bárbara de Falcón (Daniela Romo); she is a widow and the mother of three sons. Barbara is old-fashioned, traditional, and conservative. However, she eventually learns to question the sexist views and archaic values with which she grew up and becomes more independent. The next on the list is Dafne Falcón (Julia Urbini), a young widow and the mother of two small children. Like Barbara, she is highly traditional in her values and gradually becomes a self-sufficient woman. She has a strong character and is highly professional; she has a B.A. in English and works as a teacher and translator. The youngest of the four is Gemma Corona (Valentina Buzzurro), a lively, hard-working, and studious 15-year-old who survives rape and is impregnated as a result. The character that draws the most attention is Ariadna Lopez (Claudia Álvarez), a single mother who works as a journalist; she is often labeled as a liberal and a feminist and is committed to raising consciousness about gender inequality, and the social problems of modern Mexican society.

Bárbara de Falcón (Daniela Romo) is a widow and the mother of three sons. She is old-fashioned, traditional, and conservative.

Bárbara de Falcón (Daniela Romo) is a widow and the mother of three sons. She is old-fashioned, traditional, and conservative.

What Does It Do Right?

Vencer el desamor touches on various social issues and problems that Mexican women face today. Some of these issues are sexual harassment in the workplace, child sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, and femicide. The topic of rape culture is particularly interesting. This is exemplified in one of the many journalistic investigations that Ariadna carries out. She interviews and conducts research on the story of Medussa, a young woman who was raped one night by a taxi driver. This story is reminiscent of the horrible things that rape survivors often go through. Women are often not believed when they speak up against rape. They are questioned by their own family members in the most ridiculous ways, "Why didn't you scream or fight back?" This humiliating treatment is replicated when the victim decides to report it to the police. "Why were you drunk at night in a hotel?" she's asked as her case is not treated seriously.

The telenovela does not stop there. It also talks about what generates these problems: poverty, lack of information, and especially sexism and social prejudices. Moreover, Vencer el desamor reminds women that their lives are not torn due to these problems and that there are actions that they can take. For example, they have the right to report abuse, harassment, and rape, and to demand that their cases be treated seriously. They also mention other rights that women sometimes seem to forget, such as single mothers’ right to demand child support, women’s right to choose or reject motherhood, and their right to pursue a fulfilling career.

Most importantly, this story tackles an issue that is rarely mentioned in telenovelas, in spite of being prevalent in Mexican society. That is the racism that exists in Mexico towards indigenous communities. Although this issue is not at the forefront of the telenovela's main storyline, it is mentioned a few times. The two most notable examples are when Ariadna writes and publishes an article about an indigenous community who is at risk of being dispossessed of their land due to the construction of a new mall; a highly common and realistic scenario. Another example is when Barbara's friend's daughter is disowned by her mother after marrying an indigenous man. Barbara comments, "How can such a beautiful girl marry someone like that." Ariadna is appalled by this remark and questions Barbara's racism, although Barbara is incapable of even acknowledging it.

Gemma is a lively and intelligent teenager. She survives rape and is impregnated as a result.

Gemma is a lively and intelligent teenager. She survives rape and is impregnated as a result.

Where Can It Improve?

Just as there are several aspects of this soap opera that are worth celebrating, there are also certain things it could improve on. For instance, the relationship between the character of Eduardo Falcón (Juan Diego Covarrubias) and Linda Brown (Isabela Camil) is an example of codependency; it is a relationship based on power and control. However, the telenovela does not abound much in this subject; instead, it simply portrays the relationship as one of Eduardo's many mistakes; it does not talk about the mistake that Linda makes by clinging to a man who doesn't love her, to such an extent that she deprives him of his freedom and autonomy. This is violence regardless of the gender of the person exercising it.

Dafne Falcón (Julia Urbini) is a young widow, mother of two, who works as an English teacher.

Dafne Falcón (Julia Urbini) is a young widow, mother of two, who works as an English teacher.

Another important issue that is mentioned in this telenovela is women’s right to choose. For example, there is a scene in which Ariadna appears with two other main characters in the story, Barbara and Dafne. In the scene, Ariadna addresses the issue of abortion with respect to Gemma who survives rape and is impregnated as a result. Ariadna expresses how unfair it is for Gemma to carry out an unwanted pregnancy, and suggests that, in her case, getting an abortion would be a reasonable option. Both Barbara and Dafne object to this. In addition, Dafne points out that Ariadna's position is "very liberal." The fact that a character that is portrayed in such a positive light like Ariadna believes in women's right to choose is groundbreaking for a Mexican telenovela. However, it is worth noting that Ariadna's position is not necessarily "very liberal." There are many places in the world (including Mexico City), where women have the right to end a pregnancy at any stage, at their own desire.

Ariadna is, first and foremost, a good wife and a dedicated mother.

Ariadna is, first and foremost, a good wife and a dedicated mother.

Upon separating from Eduardo, Ariadna begins a relationship with Alvaro Falcón (David Zepeda).

Upon separating from Eduardo, Ariadna begins a relationship with Alvaro Falcón (David Zepeda).

It is important to note that the main characters in the soap opera are women who lead conservative lives. They all have only serious romantic relationships and are extremely demure. Dafne marries her first boyfriend at 18. After being widowed, she begins a romantic relationship with Gael (Emmanuel Palomares) but does not have sexual relations with him until after many months. Barbara's character goes through a similar situation. After being widowed, she begins a relationship with Lino Ferrer (Marco Treviño) and also waits a long time before reaching intimacy. Ariadna's character is portrayed as the most "liberal," although her behavior is highly common and hardly unconventional. She chooses to cohabitate with Eduardo Falcón for 10 years. Upon separating from Eduardo, she begins a relationship with Alvaro Falcón (David Zepeda) and, as many people do, has sexual relations with him immediately.

Moreover, the topic of free sex is shown mainly as a man’s desire. It is portrayed through Gael’s character and his "friend with benefits" Romina (Alejandra García), who agrees to such a relationship not so much out of pure desire but out of love for Gael. In the end, Gael does not fall in love with the independent and modern, Romina, but with the conservative and fragile, Dafne. In this way, we can see that the telenovela still very much adheres to traditional standards.

As mentioned, the telenovela’s main character, Ariadna, frequently shows her commitment to feminism, not only by denouncing abuses against women in her journalistic articles but also by defending her right to fulfill her professional goals, and by showing her solidarity with other women; she commonly omits opinions in which she defends women’s right to choose and to live her personal life any way she wants. However, in the end, Ariadna is, first and foremost, a good wife and a dedicated mother. At the end of the day, Ariadna succumbs to her partners' wishes on several occasions. For example, she quits journalism for a while because her first partner asks her to. In the end, she also agrees to have more children to please the man she loves, even though she had already decided not to. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a good mother and a loyal partner. However, it’s interesting that the devotion with which Ariadna plays both roles is similar to that of the leading characters in traditional soap operas.

Daniela Romo | Vencer el desamor (Videoclip)

All in all, Vencer el desamor does a good job bringing up subjects that had been previously off of telenovelas. The topic of feminism had never been at the forefront of a Mexican telenovela, and that in itself is a step forward. However, at times, it seems that the soap opera still strays from certain themes and prefers to stick to traditional values.

© 2021 Silvia Munguia

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