The use of Novelas in Latin American countries
In Latin American countries the use of novella or tele-novellas (soap operas) can be appreciated as a pro-social use of media due to the topics and social issues raised in the storylines. The end of many of these programs is to provide social, political, economic and human rights information to a wise scale audience. The novellas are typically targeting women and young adults who make up the audience segment that is perceived to be at higher risk and propensity for unjust or unfair treatment in those countries. The audience is perceived to be more vulnerable and also to require more informative and educational programming to assist them with the plight.
Novellas take advantage of theoretical frameworks such as cultivation theory, uses and gratification, and agenda setting so to reach out that population. The story lines typically involve characters in situation and life’s that the audience can directly identify with because they represent them. Be it a young heroine facing the adversity of finding a way to become educated and making while she is discriminated against or ostracized due to her social-political place in society or even the homemaker and caring mother who works her hands to the bones to take care of her children and she is being violently physically and verbally abused by an estranged husband. Those stories are real to the population and through the use of Novellas the audience are introduced to changes in laws, social policies, political reform and options that they have at their disposal through social and welfare programs.
The overall effect of the media is positive in those cases as through the media information and education can be provided to a larger audience. The public is made aware that they are no longer invisible or bound to their situations as they can leave them and speak out to find assistance. A woman who is being beat will now know that she can reach out to the authorities and programs designed to assist in the removal of the threat or the removal of themselves from those situations. Woman are made aware that they will not necessarily loose their children and still be empowered to be productive and find a fulfilling place for themselves within society. Social programs will go after these cases to not only assist but to create a culture of continued assistance and communal reliance on each other to beat their odds.
Factors that influence how media impacts individuals are access to the media, re-enforcement, outreach, message clarity and message construction that is not at odds with the social reality that those individuals live in. Creating a character that is overly iconic or a heroine that comes across as above human would yield limited results, as her accomplishments would be taken as almost godlike and not feasible for the average person. Following the framework of social learning theory we know that people can learn through observation of behaviors and behavior consequences and they not necessarily need to take an action to accomplish the learning. So viewing and individual go through the motions and face challenges in a rational and methodical way provides a simulated and reflective environment for the audience to use as a tool to learn from and eventually mimic should they have the need to do so. The behaviors are learned, as the individuals become cognant of the information, choices and how-to deal with the consequences their actions may lead to.