LGBT-inclusive storylines and characters are most certainly not new to Spanish-language soap operas. Just two recent hit novelas were “Más Sabe el Diablo,” which featured a transgender and gay main character and “¿Dónde Está Elisa?” which followed the intimate but secret relationship between two gay men. Both aired on Telemundo and won GLAAD Media Awards. But in terms of LGBT-inclusion, Telemundo’s sleek, modern and provocative novela, “Relaciones Peligrosas” (“Dangerous Affairs”), which is set in a Miami high school, breaks the mold with its fair depiction of the highs and lows in the life of the novela’s so far only gay character, Alejandro “Ale” Portillo (played by Puerto Rican actor Kevin Aponte).
Sensible, resilient, and compassionate, Ale is a frequent target of bullying along with black Haitian-Dominican classmate Cassius. But rather than being presented exclusively as one of hardships, Ale’s life is presented as having the potential for triumph and empowerment. In a recent episode, he confronted a bully after attempting to take his own life, telling him “I’m gay, and I want to thank you. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t have to live my life in hiding, scared, silent,” which was prefaced by a reference to Jamey Rodemeyer, the real-life 14-year-old openly bisexual teenager who died by suicide last year. With the support of his friend Nora, Ale subsequently made an “It Gets Better”-like video in which he took a stand, saying “The struggle against your bullies ends the moment you accept yourself for who you are, because you get to be at peace with yourself,” and concluded with, “Hi, my name is Alejandro, and I’m proud to be gay.”
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“Relaciones Peligrosas” deals with an array of social issues including substance abuse, crime, dating, violence against women, as well as race, class and LGBT issues.The novela, which premiered in January 2012 and is an adaptation of the Spanish series “Física o Química," airs weeknights at 10PM/9PM Central on Telemundo.
In its first weeks “Relaciones Peligrosas” ranked number one in Miami in ratings across all stations regardless of language, and was number one in New York beating all Spanish-Language stations, according to Telemundo. The novela was also heavily promoted by Telemundo and touted for its cutting-edge incorporation of social media.