FEATURES: Pinoy telenovela cliches and why they sell
June 14, 2019 Kae Luna
Gunfights, car chases, and baby switches. These don’t happen very often in real life, but they are still overused in Pinoy telenovelas. But why do they sell?
If you didn’t grow up watching tons of telenovelas at home, did you grow up a Pinoy ’90s kid at all? Pinoy telenovelas have been a constant in Pinoy households and people actually turn their televisions on every day to watch a certain favorite. Everyone in the house is also updated when the family’s favorite show changes its timeslot so the family can be there together especially during primetime. My favorite one to watch was ‘Princess and I’ (yes, I’m a KathNiel stan from the beginning)! Ah, the good ol’ days.
Today, Pinoy telenovelas continue to dominate our television choices, second to the news. And still, people are latched to it like crazy! If you’re someone who’s used to the themes o the Pinoy telenovelas we have, you can probably predict the course of events throughout the entire run of the series. Except maybe for ‘Ang Probinsyano’. So many things have happened in that show in more than 3 years, it’s hard to keep track! Needless to say, there is a long list of overused plots when it comes to Pinoy telenovelas, but oddly, they still sell. And we all wonder why.
Filipino telenovelas still incorporate plots that are so overused it’s almost hilarious, and here are some of the examples!
Switched at birth.
If there is any chance that your favorite telenovela has two main characters, question their backgrounds immediately. In the realm of telenovelas, there is a great chance they were switched by a nurse at birth! That takes irresponsibility to a whole new level, but the nurses are usually never heard of after that scene. Then there’s the DNA testing to verify, of course.
Boom, I’m rich.
You know that character that gets beaten up at the beginning by the rich character because she’s poor? Well, jokes on you, she’s actually the long-lost daughter or a billionaire or a royalty. After the revelation, she can’t be bullied anymore, goes through a major glow up, transfers to an elite school, and could buy anything she wants but somehow still chooses not to be opportunistic. A girl with a good-heart and riches.
This usually happens to love interests. They start as friends, but when they finally have feelings for each other, the producers decide to break our hearts and reveal that their parents have had beef in the past, oftentimes something big that would cause them to loathe each other forever. Because of this, the two are forbidden to ever see each other again.
Action, drama, or romance, there is always a car chase. This often ends up on an abandoned building where the antagonist is holding one of the family members or the protagonist’s lover hostage. Guns, of course. And sometimes even double gun wielding. It’s impossible to shoot accurately with that, but who cares, it looks cooler! With car chases come accidents… and amnesia. Seriously, how many people, in reality, do you know who has amnesia? It’s possible, yes, but it’s a very rare case, unlike in telenovelas.
Name a Pinoy telenovela that doesn’t have a hospital scene. I can’t because there’s none. Disease and accidents have been a common theme in Pinoy telenovelas that you won’t be surprised if someone dies in an accident on the way to the wedding, or if someone is terminally ill. What’s annoying is that, more often than not, people lack in research.
Let’s not consider the chance that there may be people who know about medicine and hospital procedure watching the show. This is all the prop we have, so let’s make it work, right? But these hospital scenes make it look so wrong.
If your driver is kind to you, he might be your true father. Scenes like this are very common on Pinoy telenovelas. Two characters find out they’re actually siblings, or that one character is their true parent. It usually comes in a dramatic revelation where two characters talk about the true identity of the main character, without knowing that he’s behind the door listening. Either that or the character finds his real birth certificate which reveals everything.
Everything is more dramatic under the rain. Accidents in the rain. Breakups in the rain. Confrontations in the rain. Name it. Everything happens on a rainy night.
Ending it with a bang!
There are several common endings to these telenovelas. One, a wedding. Two, the antagonist does to jail or is killed. Lastly, the antagonist realizes his mistakes and changes for the better to become actual friends with the protagonist. I mean, sure Claire, you can be my friend. Never mind you tried to burn my house down and kill my kids. Whatever way it ends, we want a resolution, and for the protagonist to win.
Why does it sell?
All these plots seem repetitive, but we all seem to always be hooked. But why? Quick research revealed that it might actually be linked to our desire for fantasy. We watch TV shows, put ourselves in the position of any character we can relate to. Oftentimes it’s the protagonist who we root for. And seeing ourselves in their place makes us hate the antagonist more by the minute. In their relief, we also find ours. And, we get it. We’re hooked to it because magically discovering that you’re the daughter of a millionaire is a very enticing fantasy. Far fetched, but enticing.
Especially in a third world country like the Philippines, these themes, though our minds are already set to expect them, become very entertaining. Though unrealistic, these themes take us away from the reality of life, and somehow takes us to a realm where things like that are possible. No one prefers the unexciting truth of our everyday lives, and that’s why we’re drawn to it. That’s why cliches sell!
Nonetheless, producers and writers alike work hard every day to tweak the formulas little by little and present new plots. Filipino creativity never stops, and we can only wait in anticipation for future telenovelas. In which case, you’ll catch me getting my daily dose of ‘Kadenang Ginto’ at home.