Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It’s about influence….and Soap Operas

Written by: on November 15, 2012

There was devotion and dedication.

There was love and passion. 

There was craving and yearning. 

We could see it in the faces of our neighbors and friends.  A surprise at first, but after some time, we too began to experience the same sensations! 

And it happened each night.  Six nights a week!  It was our attitude, as we anticipated the latest “Novela” or Brazilian soap opera that appeared would appear on our favorite TV station – Rede Globo!

Throughout Latin America, in both Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, the Novela or Telenovelas as they are called in Spanish, are adored and watched by millions.  The most popular shows change culture, change language and change the attitudes of countries.  It’s truly amazing how influential they are.  And we were living in Brazil, experiencing it with the rest of the world!

Remember how the TV show Seinfeld created and popularized the phrase “yadda, yadda”?  Imagine that type of influence multiplied and you get a sense of the capabilities of Novelas.

Briggs and Burke in Social History of the Media (second half) speak about the holy trinity of television; information, education and entertainment and how each country supports a bias toward one of the three.  I think in Brazil’s case, it’s definitely entertainment! 

However, not every house had a TV when we lived in Brazil.  Neighbors and others would stand outside, looking through the window of a neighbor’s home, just to get a glimpse of the nightly Novela.  Commerce and business would come to a halt during the hour and a half of the show’s airing, unless it was a small café or restaurant that had a television on the wall, in which commerce instead would flourish, guaranteeing that small business a full house!

The authors wrote of the early concerns to protect children and how the Children’s Television Act of 1990 birthed the series Sesame Street.  They wrote of how religion, usually one of the first to adopt a new media form benefitted, allowing Robert Schuller and Jimmy Swaggert to become household names.  Even today, I find that religious personalities such as Joyce Meyer are at times more popular in Africa and Asia than in America because of the power of television.  It’s all about influence.

The winners today are those that see this media movement globally.

Although there is talk of using the media for “cultural sovereignty” instead of “cultural imperialism,” the demand for Hollywood and Bollywood films continues to grow, as does the impact of Lady Gaga, Usher and Bono. 

Last year I was in a small alleyway in a non-descript neighborhood of Sarajevo, Bosnia.  There on the wall of a house, in this Muslim city, were sayings and images from the American rapper Ice Cube.  Geographers are studying the impact of the flow of culture in similar ways as trade routes were studied in the past.  It’s all about influence whether it was silk in the days of Marco Polo, tea during the reign of the British Empire or music and film today.

We shouldn’t miss the ramifications of globalization if we are to remain relevant. 

A 2010 attendance review shows that Major League Soccer is enjoying higher per game attendance than basketball and ice hockey!  But unless we view media globally we might not be aware of that phenomenon, because the top four soccer channels are Spanish speaking, with NBC coming in a distant fifth.

Jeremy Lin, the sensational young basketball player is more popular in China than the US.  The Houston Rockets understood this fact when they offered him and incredible contract.  It wasn’t as much for his playing as it was a way for an NBA franchise to enter the Chinese market where untold millions are at stake in advertising and marketing.

It’s all about influence

Influence and media are growing and at the same time specializing.  What will that mean for Christianity?  Will we become even more divided because of the vast media specializations or will we use media to bring all Christians together for common causes?  I hope it’s the latter. 

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