Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

What’s wrong with the show “Sexo e as negas”? Plenty of sex but the “negas” don’t go beyond “their place” in Brazilian society


capa

Note from BW of Brazil: It seems that the more you watch this program and hope for the best the more likely you are to be disappointed. Let me offer a few good points of the show that I actually enjoy. 1) I love the bright colors and camera work of the program; the combination offers a very exciting visual. 2) The songs that the women perform at the end of each episode remind me of a number of black American women’s singing quartets from the 1960s to the late 1990s. 3) The women all look great! If a TV show were judged just on these areas Sexo e as negas would surely be a winner. Unfortunately it takes much more than visuals to translate into a well-written show that doesn’t rely so heavily on the expected.

Soraia, played by Maria Bia, as the black maid, and her white boss, played by Flávio Tolezani

Soraia, played by Maria Bia, as the black maid, and her white boss, played by Flávio Tolezani

There have now been five episodes and there have been so many depictions of sex that it is sometimes difficult to define one episode from the next. It’s almost as if the show’s creator, Miguel Falabella didn’t fully develop his ideas about the show so he decided to fill in the blanks with sex. Either that or he thought that a show that featured four black women in prominent roles didn’t need much else. The articles below will touch on this as well, but I want to highlight one particular interaction that nearly ended my determination to see the show improve. The interaction in which I speak was probably in the second episode. The character Soraia is a maid that works for a middle class white couple. This is a stereotype of the role that black women represent in Brazilian society and media in itself, but then I noted the look of sexual curiosity of the white male in the house as he set his eyes on his maid when his wife left the room. I already considered what could possibly develop but I didn’t want to jump any conclusions. 

Brazilian saying: "White woman for marriage, mulata for sex, negra for work." Soraia's escapade with the married boss continues the tradition

Brazilian saying: “White woman for marriage, mulata for sex, negra for work.” In her escapade with the married boss, the maid Soraia continues the tradition

I thought, surely Falabella is quite familiar with the stereotype, in Brazilian life and in its novelas, of the boss having sexual encounters with his black maid. I mean, surely he wouldn’t stoop to using this old cliche. Surely he had more imagination than that, right? Maybe the maid would fight off the boss, tell his wife and then quit, right? Wrong! After initially trying to back away from the boss’s sexual advances, Soraia gives in. I mean, it’s a part of the country’s history, right? Everyone knows that in Brazil, negras and mulatas are made for work and sex, right? Oh well, so much for hoping for the end of stereotypes. I mean, the show IS called “Sex and the negresses”, right? Is this just shameful or is it just me? Let’s see what others have to say….

Prejudice according to the second episode of Sexo e as negas

By Dennis de Oliveira

I confess I still hadn’t seen a full episode of Sexo e as negas. The day and time in which it is broadcast coincides with the classes that I teach at the School of Communications and Arts at USP (University of São Paulo). Last Tuesday, I managed to watch the episode because I was at an event that allowed me to arrive home a little earlier. As I consider it necessary to give more support to the criticisms that are being made about the episode by the Movimento Negro (black movement) to make a more empirical evaluation of the show, I sought to pay attention to the details of the show.

First thing I noticed: the show is really bad. The theme of sexuality is treated bizarrely and unconvincing. In the episode I watched, the theme was “prejudice” (why the choice of this theme?). The four black characters go to a clothing store. The sensuality that they try to show is ridiculous, always making sexy poses, rebolando (shaking of the hips), as if all black women would walk like this all the time in their daily lives. So forced, the actresses chosen for these roles have their performances compromised. In this episode, they scream, laugh loud and wiggle their hips in the dressing room of the store.

"Sexo e as negas": do black women always make sexy poses and 'rebolar'?

“Sexo e as negas”: do black women always strike sexy poses and ‘rebolar’?

The scene of prejudice is also exaggerated. For reasons that one can imagine, the characters are discriminated by a security guard … a black one! This guard suspects that one of them has stolen a piece of clothing. The thing ends up at the police and the one that testifies in favor of the discriminated is another character… a white woman! That, by chance, is one of their bosses. Moral of the story: a black woman is discriminated against by a black man and backed up by a white woman who is her boss (1); the wickedness of the senzala (slave quarters) and the goodness of the Casa Grande (big house, slave master’s house).

The white boss comes to the rescue of the negas in  a TV news report after an accusation of theft

The white boss comes to the rescue of the negas in a TV news report after an accusation of theft

But the wickedness of the slave quarters redeems itself … In bed! For the same security guard who committed the act of racism, goes to the house of one of them, apologizes and the situation ends up in sex. Another conflict resolved in bed also occurs between the owner of a bar who fires a black employee – but, at his request, is reinstated under the condition of “providing sexual services” to the employer (2). As Gilberto Freire advocated in Casa Grande (e Senzalas, the 1933 book), sex is the settler of social, racial and class conflicts.

Soraia and the security guard settle their differences in bed

Soraia and the security guard settle their differences in bed

In the middle of the scenes there are stories about prejudice. A text read by Falabela himself concludes that prejudice is in the mind of the very people who do not accept themselves as they are. One of the black characters, in search of a job, accepts being a “mulata sambista” in a bar ala “Sargentelli” – refuses at first, but gives due to necessity. But affirming herself as a “mulata” she faces the jealousy of a former comrade. Or another black character who was invited to go out with a white playboy is discriminated against by a female friend of his and becomes outraged saying that it’s not because she lives in the suburbs that she “is a prostitute and a drug addict.”

In the end, all congregate at pub of the woman who hired the black employee for sexual favors. And celebrate with a hit called “Chora nenê” (cry baby). The episode about prejudice ends with images of leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X (3) with the four black characters singing a song against prejudice.

In the musical performance of the fifth episode entitled "Preconceito Puro", or "pure prejudice", various images of African-American civil/human rights icons such as Matin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela were flashed throughout the scene

In the musical performance of the fifth episode entitled “Preconceito Puro”, or “pure prejudice”, various images of African-American civil/human rights icons such as Matin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela were flashed throughout the scene

After all, as Falabela says, prejudice is not accepting one’s self as they are. In the case of black women, it’s saying “I’m hot, so what?” and take advantage of it. If the conflict comes, there’s nothing like a good fuck. After all, that’s how Casa Grande reconciled itself after the whips and exploitation of the labor of others. And Globo and Falabela delivered their message about what they think of prejudice.

Sexo e as negas exaggerates its sex scenes

by Carla Bittencourt

Scene between Soraia and Lagarto

Scene between Soraia and Lagarto

I swear I’m trying to like Sexo e as negas, but it’s really not my thing. I don’t not like the theme of the series, which shows the universe of a community in Rio with the right of a lot of people to talk loudly and funk (music). But what compels me even more are the sex scenes. In this last episode was only an appeal! Big (Rafael Machado) took a woman to bed, in which she appeared nude. Soraia (Maria Bia) had sex with Lagarto (Waldir Gozzi) again. Lia (Lilian Valeska) also took off her clothes to appear making love to her ex-husband, Alaor (Mark Breda).

Scene featuring Lia (Lilian Valeska)

Scene featuring Lia (Lilian Valeska)

Look, I’m no moralist, no, but I like a good story, clever dialogue, action. It really is not for me a series that shows three sequences of sex simultaneously with a unique proposition: show people having sex. And please, this has nothing to do with the main characters being black or not! I just think it’s completely unnecessary seeing so many naked people on a program that doesn’t appear to be an erotic attraction. If I wanted to watch that wouldn’t watch Sexo e negas, right?

What’s wrong with Sexo e as negas

by Daniel Martins

A few days ago I came across something on TV. Four black women are quickly presented, having one or another characteristic highlighted. I actually thought it was something in the style of the Antônia TV series. And, in bright letters highlighted by a pink background, the title appeared. It didn’t take a second to come to my mind the history of violence against black women in our country. I considered it an unfortunate title.

In the days that followed, I found on the internet a whole discussion around the show; voices against and in favor, interesting discussions or simple exchanges of insults. News of representations against the series and justifications given by Miguel Falabella, its author. And the program had not even premiered!

It was necessary to put aside the feeling of “I didn’t see it and didn’t like it” in order to have a more concrete idea about what the program was about. And considering everything that I saw in the series, and what I read there, I come to one conclusion: Sexo e as negas suffers from a problem of inadequacy of the content of its formation.

“It would be a good start to have a feminine narrative” - Photo: Esteban Avellar

“It would be a good start to have a feminine narrative” – Photo: Esteban Avellar

A man as the narrator?

The series is based on the American production Sex and the City. It features the daily life of four women emphasizing their sexual and affective experiences amid the dynamism of the big city. And therein lies the first problem of form and content. If the series presents women as alleged protagonists, why is the narrator a man? What is the place of the discourse of black women on the show? In American production, the narration is presented in the character of Sarah Jessica Parker. In Brazil, the voice that emerges is the Falabella. It may seem little, but if the series aims to provide leadership to the woman, a good start would be to have a female narrative.

Black women with the same professions as always

Still thinking about the four protagonists, we have black women who have as occupations the professions, we say, as always, when the subject is TV. Could it be that a black woman college student, business owner or lawyer doesn’t exist in the locality where the plot takes places? It is sensational that we have four black women as protagonists of a series. We know how limited the roles granted to blacks in our dramaturgy. Ruth de Souza, the first black actress to take the stage of the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, once commented on the limitation of roles for black actors and how black women, invariably, were presented as a sexy character and in menial occupations. We see this again in Sexo e as negas. How do we show the plurality of black women that exist in our society? Varying the perspectives precisely in order not to establish and reinforce stereotypes in the representation of black women.

Soraia accused of shoplifting but the issue is not explored in the episode

Soraia accused of shoplifting by black security guard

Racism is not discussed

When you have a Brazilian series with four black protagonists, it is expected that racism appears sometime in the plot. And indeed the author does not ignore it in his text. But the moments in which it manifests more openly are not thorough. They are not discussed. To some extent, the racism seems to be naturalized, as in the scene involving the bracelet – the white actress says to her black maid that she can wear her valuable bracelet, because on the servant’s arm no one will think it’s a real piece – in the first episode (4). A great opportunity was lost to throw open the prejudice that insists and persists, but becomes the object of discussion only at specific times, such as in the recent case of the goalkeeper Aranha.

Masculine perspective

We still have the issue of women’s empowerment. It is very nice to see on free access television, female characters who present themselves as being aware of their own sexuality, their desires, the owners of their bodies; that they make it clear that the search for female pleasure can no longer be seen as taboo. But again, we have about this empowerment the man’s hand. And it is not hard to see, for example, the camera angles chosen to portray the sex scenes that this is from a male perspective. It’s enough to notice how the female body is the central element of the scenes.

Talk is cheap

After two episodes the feeling is that Sexo e as negas could be much more than it is. It could take advantage of the space room to put on the agenda relevant issues, without neglecting the humor, its main ingredient. It’s not about creating a television flyer, but paying attention to the dozens, hundreds, or perhaps thousands of black women who went to the internet to express their indignant opinions about the series.It’s very easy to talk about all this from my position. I, a white man, just like Falabella. However I understand that in situations like this, it is essential to listen to the voice of those who felt offended, and even raped, because only they know the pain they feel in living a given situation.

It is not to patrol the politically correct, but to recognize black women as worthy of respect and consideration, including the way they want to be seen.

Musical performance – “Vaza”

Source: Revista Fórum, Extra, R7

Note

1. We’ve see the “good white person” defending the helpless black victim theme in a number of TV programs over the years, including recently in the series Em Família.

2. In Brazil, the male equal to the hypersexual negra/mulata is the strong, sexually satisfying negão (big, black man), represented in this scene by the character known as Big, a nickname that a previous episode revealed was connected to penis size.

3. I always find it interesting to see a major TV channel such as Globo TV and Brazil’s media in general showing images of international activists who challenged racism in their countries while in Brazil, the media and government went to great lengths to deny the existence of racism in their own country. In fact, only a small circle of Brazilians can name any Afro-Brazilian civil rights activists although most are familiar with international icons.

4. In reality, this is typical of how Brazilian society has always dealt with the question of racism. Everyone knows it exists, denies personal responsibility, avoids the issue or finds peculiar ways to address the issue without provoking serious dialogue.

2 comments on “What’s wrong with the show “Sexo e as negas”? Plenty of sex but the “negas” don’t go beyond “their place” in Brazilian society

  1. bamabrasileira
    October 30, 2014

    I still have somewhat mixed feelings about the show. After reading more about how Black Brazilian women (and some men) feel and think, I can see where they are coming from. I would agree with the author about the positive qualities, though. But most importantly, I am happy to see more Black Brazilians speaking up and holding pressure on the creators of this show. My hope is that, from this, more diverse depictions of Black people and their lives will come to the forefront in future tv shows! Though the show is offensive in many ways, a positive point is that it (in my opinion) depicts the women as those who are in control of their sexual conquests (rather than them being secondary characters that are simply there for men to screw), and it highlights their solidarity with one another. Also, it is the white characters that are depicted as somewhat downtrodden and uninteresting (which is the first time I have seen this on a Brazilian novella, though it may not be the first time it has ever happened. I do not see them as being victims of their sexuality, and I hope the characters will develop into some that, perhaps, experience finding love, go back to school, get promoted in a job, open a business, etc. I will continue to watch, to see if any of these wishes are fulfilled!

  2. coneroticas
    November 15, 2017

    I am happy to see more Black Brazilians speaking up and holding pressure on the creators of this show 🙂

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This entry was posted on October 29, 2014 by in Globo TV and tagged , , , , , .
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