the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Univision

Aristemo fandom shows LGBTQ acceptance is the future for telenovelas

July 12, 2019

When I was younger, I used to run to my mother’s room late at night with pan dulce or a concha in my hand to watch our favorite telenovelas like “La Rosa de Guadalupe” or “Fuego en la Sangre.” Although I only needed to watch half of an episode of a novela’s hyperbolic representation of real life situations in order to get my daily dose of drama, that didn’t stop me from watching at least six episodes a night.

My mother and I would tell each other “I told you so” after each big reveal and yell at our favorite supporting characters to “leave him!” And even when we were exasperated with the characters and screenwriters, something about their complicated love lives and stories kept us committed to watching every night.

In my Mexican family, everyone, even the neighbors, come together to watch their novelas every night. It’s astounding to see how a show can bring everyone together. But we aren’t the only ones!

In the U.S. alone, telenovelas reach 5.7 million viewers a week which is almost twice as many viewers as soap operas, the so-called English version of novelas. Novelas are often marketed as family programs, so it’s no surprise that they appeal to 10 year olds and grandparents alike. Additionally, novelas are frequently modified and translated into various Latin American languages in order to reach more people. It is because of this wide audience that shows like “Mi Marido Tiene Más Familia” — which places gay characters in important roles and doesn’t ridicule them with degrading stereotypes — are so important.

The two gay characters from “Mi Marido Tiene Más Familia”, are Aristóteles and Cuauhtémoc, or Temo for short. They have fans of the show going wild online for “Aristemo,” the ship name for the couple. The couple even won E! News’ “TV's Top Couple 2019” award. The couple has received so much attention that Televisa has chosen to create a spin off called “El Corazón Nunca se Equivoca” which will continue to tell the story of the two love birds.

What started as a relationship between two close but closeted friends blossomed into one that was courageous and sensational. Aristemo’s storyline led viewers of the novela to understand serious topics such as coming out, rejection from family members, and bullying of queer youth.

The depiction of this gay relationship is encouraging and uplifting because the characters are not confined to stereotypes and social constructions of what it means to be gay. In the last ten years, only about 3% of characters in telenovela series were LGBTQIA+. Of these characters, many of them are either defined by toxic stereotypes or hold minor plot lines. In contrast, “Mi marido tiene más familia puts two gay, Latinx characters in the spotlight, showing families that gay couples can be happy and that their lives and stories are valid.

When I came out as gay to my own family I was met with a lot of hostility. My parents told me that gay people could never be happy. They even tried to convince me that homosexuality was sinful by showing me testimonials of queer people who underwent conversion therapy. My own mother told me “it feels like you stabbed me in the heart” when I told her I was gay. I was devastated and broken. I’m sure if my parents had seen gay representation like Aristemo in our favorite novelas, they would have shown me compassion for the hatred I faced on a daily basis and realized that I am still deserving of love, no matter who I end up loving. My hope is that my family will not only listen to me tell my story, but that they will also see it represented in a familiar way, through novelas, and learn to sympathize.

It is refreshing to see stories of young queer love being featured on primetime television for major channels like Univision and Telemundo because it brings more awareness and attention to LGBTQIA+ issues. If I had seen LGBTQIA+ representation in the novelas I watched with my mother when I was young, my coming out may not have been as bad. Seeing couples like Aristemo displayed to millions of Latinx folks across the nation and Latin America gives me hope for young queer people like myself that one day we won’t have to worry about being rejected by our families. I hope future novelas will follow Aristemo’s lead and continue to open hearts and minds across Latin America to show that “el corazón nunca se equivoca— the heart is never mistaken.

Daniel Segobiano is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and rising junior at the University of California Santa Cruz studying computer science and dance. Daniel served as a Membership Organizer for the GLAAD Campus Ambassador Program in 2019.

the voice and vision of a new generation