A two and an half hour wait for a new visa at Santiago’s Ministry of Immigration and Foreign Affairs needn’t be dull. You can watch TV. And what else would be on at 8.30am but a string of South American soap operas?
I have absolutely no idea what I was watching when I went there on Friday. The sound was on low and I was sharing the waiting room with what appeared to be every single Peruvian, Bolivian, Cuban and North American citizen in Santiago.
I can tell you that the first soap opera of the day involved a lot of hair-wrenching and anguished looks to camera. There was also some hair-pulling (clearly these ladies were no longer friends), a muscular man and some romping under the sheets. I think there were some horses (but not in the bed). The maid looked like she was up to no good and the daughter escaped out of the window.
Then there were some adverts in which various glamorous women appeared to be ecstatically happy as they removed stains, did sit ups, made their husband’s tea and washed their families’ clothes. This was followed by a second show which was equally as confusing.
A bunch of 30 something actors were pretending to be 15 year old school-kids. The ‘girls’ were all pouty and sultry. They’d clearly had their growth spurts early and were struggling to keep their gigantic breasts in their miniscule school uniforms. The ‘boys’ had obviously taken advantage of the home gym equipment advertised in the commercial break and had six packs you could break bricks on. Maybe they were very bad at maths and were being forced to stay on at school until they passed the trigonometry test? Whatever was going on, the sexual chemistry was compelling. Even the teachers were coming out in hot sweats.
It got me thinking and I have to wonder, what on earth do South Americans in Britain make of our soap operas? To demonstrate my point, here’s what happening back home (according to the internet):
Sam tells Jack she cannot accept his job offer, but ends up accepting a passionate kiss instead. As news of his visit filters out, is the game up for Owen? Zainab eats humble pie… and someone is watching Syed and Christian.
Sounds riveting doesn’t it? But wait. Here’s..
News of Leanne and Peter’s plans to open a bar spread across the Street and an angry Liz confronted them over their plans. Will they be put off by the reaction?
I bet South Americans in London can’t keep themselves away from the water cooler to chat about that one.
To further ram my point home, here’s a summary I found of the season finale to the Chilean smash hit ¿Dónde Está Elisa?, a soap opera about a kidnapping based on the Argentinean show of the same name.
Juanita Ovalle is brutally murdered by Elisa’s killer Consuelo Dominguez. After Juanita saw her throwing the murder weapon into the river, Consuelo offered to buy her silence but after being rejected by her ex-lover Raimundo, she confessed to the killing of Elisa and beat Juanita to death with a candelabra.
Ok, so British soap operas have had their moments I admit. I was glued to Brookside when Beth (of the lesbian kiss fame) and her mum buried dad under the patio. Then there was Michelle in Eastenders who had Den’s baby and Mark got Aids and Arthur stole the Christmas Club money. And who could forget Curly getting his heart broken by Raquel in Corrie?
But really, where’s the glamour? I’ve never watched ¿Dónde Está Elisa? (at least not consciously) but I don’t imagine that Juanita and Consuelo look like Peggy Mitchell and Pat Butcher…or Emily and Rita in their backstreet Salford newsagents. You’re more likely to be clubbed over the head with a pint of stout or a meat pie in Coronation Street and the school kids in Eastenders are all gangly, spotty chavs who wear puffer jackets. The only person spilling out of their bra is Pat Butcher and the only six packs on offer are the ones being drunk. Sexual intrigue comes in the form of Fred Elliot bragging about his meat pies and Ken Barlow fumbling into bed with a bored Mancunion housewife.
There are no polo matches. There are no cruel house staff with chips on their shoulders. There’s no religious intrigue. No affairs with lusty lifeguards. No plastic surgery. Everyone is horribly normal and well..ugly.
Really, I pity any South American soap opera fans in England, I really do. My how they must miss their home-grown TV.