Note from BW of Brazil: Two years ago we presented a post about racism in Latin American children’s TV programs and in that post, we also touched on the popularity of foreign television program’s in Brazil’s TV market, a vast majority coming from the US. Today, we return to that topic, specifically as it relates to black representation in Brazilian television, which, as we’ve seen in various posts, is minimal and overtly stereotypical. In general, Brazilians like television programming coming from the US, but what is the impression of American TV programs that feature majority black casts among black Brazilians? Afro-Brazilians are vastly under-represented in Brazil’s media and very rare are there programs that feature majority black casts. When these programs are broadcast, the most recent examples being Sexo e as negas and Subúrbia, they are usually loaded with cliches and stereotypes about the black community.
To be sure, many of these same problems exist in American shows featuring majority black casts, but coming from the black Brazilian perspective, at least these shows exist to be able to critique. And they’re based in contemporary times. Why would this be an issue, you ask? Well, Brazilian TV is also quite comfortable portraying Afro-Brazilians in novelas (soap operas) set in the slavery era. Yes, in the late 20th and 21st century. Sinhazinha Flô, Sinhá Moça, Jornada pela Liberdade, Xica da Silva and Escrava Isaura are just a few novelas set in the slavery era.
Some of these novelas are so successful that after the initial releases between the 1970s and 1990s, they’re sometimes broadcast in re-runs or updated and re-produced with completely new casts. Slavery era novelas are so common in fact that when filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo did research on Afro-Brazilians in the history of Brazilian novelas, to assess black participation he divided the novelas into slavery era and non-slavery era novelas! Slavery, consistent stereotypes and under-representation.
Is there any wonder why so many black Brazilians tune in to the adventures of blacks in other countries? Besides programs from the US and England, the TV Brasil network recently began broadcasting Angola’s Windeck, its first novela from Africa. So what is this message here? The media has no problem broadcasting Brazilian-made products that portray Brazil as overwhelming white. And it has no problem featuring programs of majority black casts from other countries. For this writer, the message matches perfectly with Brazil’s political ideology of the 19th century: to be a nation that has no black people!
So while American TV most certainly has its own problems in terms of black representation, it’s understandable that black Brazilians would look to their cousins around the world to see a little of themselves!
Black representation in TV series
by Amanda Lima
Our identity is constructed in a historical and social way. Especially during adolescence, when we are use to forming ourselves according to what we see and hear, while we reflect ourselves in the other to strengthen our self.
Therefore, it is particularly difficult for black people to see themselves in a positive way even in the simplest things, like a movie or a TV series.
This is not by chance a coincidence of fate. The media production is guided by instruments of exclusion of realities and representations of non-white people. You turn on the TV, go to the movies, see a short film and do you feel like you belong and are minimally represented?
According to the IMDb, the largest virtual bank of film collections and series, of the list of the 50 most popular series launched in 2014, only 6 have among its protagonists black actors or actresses.
So this Capitolina list is especially for those who want to kill time watching series, while feeling part of something. Something that is not only related to slavery (not that our history does not deserve to be told, but we sometimes we have the impression that this is all we have). We are more than that.
The following list has some pointers. As you can imagine, it was not as easy to prepare, but I did it with the help of someone who knows that representation is to show. Thank you, Ve.
I hope you enjoy and can be ensured program on vacation!
1. How to get away with murder (2014)
Parental guidance: 16 years old
43 min – Crime | Drama | Mystery
This series is incredibly starred by Viola Davis (actress of a prestigious filmography, twice nominated for an Oscar and nominated for a Golden Globe), and produced by the brilliant Shonda Rhimes (American writer, director and producer nominated for an Emmy, creator of already known and acclaimed series such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal). Two black women with a great history in the industry.
The series recounts the cases and classes led by Annalise DeWitt (Viola Davis), a law professor of the discipline called “How to Get Away With Murder.”
The number one in her area she recruits a team of five students to accompany her during her powerful and controversial cases. Prepare for twists and turns.
2. Scandal (2012)
Parental guidance: 14 years old
43 min – Drama | Thriller
Former consultant of White House communications, Oliva Pope (Kerry Washington), opens her own company and now manages and defends the image and reputation of elite people. But the fact is that she cannot seem to fully break the bonds that bind her to her old job.
3. Luther (2010)
Parental guidance: 14 years old
60 min – Crime | Drama | Mystery
The story follows the trajectory of Detective John Luther (Idris Elba), who returns to work after having had a strong emotional crisis of having been being suspended, after involvement in an important case. His return is marked by his instabilities and obsessions.
Finally, we would like to remind you of the series that have been and still continue to have success today. This is the case, for example, Eu, a Patroa e as Crianças (My Wife and Kids, 2001) e As Visões da Raven (That’s So Raven, 2003), award-winning US TV series that portray the life of black families in the United States in the first decade of the 2000s from a fun and comical view.
About Amanda Lima
[Collaborator of Film & TV & Music] Amanda, 19, but with a face of 14. Loves the meaning of her name, but prefers to be called Nina. She’s baiana (from the state of Bahia), a psychology student and feminist activist. Loves: sloths, series, feminism, cooking videos and Moça milk (the most powerful ingredient of the universe) (1). Accustomed to having an unconditional love for Beyoncé.
Will and Chris: black families on television
by Andreza Delgado
There are not many black families in movies, TV series and magazines … It’s amazing how we, blacks, even accounting for almost more than half of the population, are minorities in the media. One of the few black families on television is the Banks family in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire (known as Um maluco no pedaço in Brazil) a very successful 90s American TV series on NBC. I, particularly, really like the show, but I think it’s good, girls, to point out some things.
I have the impression that the show is very much sticks meritocracy in the subconscious. I will try to explain to you: The head of the family, Philip Banks, is a renowned judge who worked hard and achieved a prominent place in the social stratum. Throughout the series, I see Philip often reproducing phrases about meritocracy, and how social mobility is a good thing. The Banks family, even being a black family, has many “white” values, and this is expressed very much in the luxuries, individual and collective attitudes of the family: the oldest daughter, Hilary, with all her eccentricities, and Carlton, with his way of speaking and dressing. I find it important to raise the discussion about values of blackness and how this is relevant.
But the presence of Will, the protagonist, who is this “maluco no pedaço” (the crazy one in the piece), comes to break this a little. I remember the first episode, in which Will tells Philip that he forgot his roots. Will’s presence comes to remind the family a bit where it came from, Will always redeeming his poor origins in Philadelphia, and it’s amazing how little interested he is in falling into that standard in which the Banks family fits. But I want to stress that, even with all the money and status, one cannot deny the racism they face. And despite raising these points, I think it’s important to turn on the television and see an entire black family as protagonists of a series.
Only I would be happier to see more families like Chris (the series Everybody Hates Chris known as Todo Mundo Odeia o Chris in Brazil). Despite being in another context, taking place in the United States, it has so many people, so many of our black families and from the periphery (or in American terms, “the ‘hood”). I see myself much more in Chris’ family than the successful Banks family, because they make us think more about our daily lives. I think that this is about feeling represented, you know, turn on the television and see some of our black family in a series, I feel more like Tonya, Chris’ sister than Hilary Banks.
The point is: we need more black representation on television, only at the same time fighting stereotypes, because this is a rather important tool against racism.
About Andreza Delgado
[Collaborator of School, Vestibular and Occupation] Andreza Delgado, 19, a Leo and baiana da terra do cacao (Bahia native from the land of cocoa), is a Letters student, but not just that, she likes astrology because she thinks that it sums up half of her problems with people, is a militant of the Movimento Negro, passionate about putting ketchup on everything that is food, speaks more than the elbows (2) and thinks she will change the world.
1. Moça is Brazilian brand of condensed sweet milk for baking recipes.
2. Brazilians who always touch people’s elbows while talking to the person to keep the person focused on what they are saying are said to speak with the elbows. Maybe this isn’t necessary with Andreza!