New series ‘Sexo e as negas’ debuts: critics denounce portrayal of black women, stars and creator counter criticism

New Globo TV series "Sexo e as negas" debuted on Tuesday, September 16th
New Globo TV series “Sexo e as negas” debuted on Tuesday, September 16th

Note from BW of Brazil: The controversy over this new program, which has already been the topic of four posts here on the blog, will be not be dying down anytime soon and is sure to heat up even more now that the show has actually made its debut. Needless to say, the web, blogs and social networks are on fire after viewers had finally gotten their first peak at the show after anticipation and fears of the worst stereotypes possible about black women. Before we present more opinions about the show as they come, let’s delve into the initial reactions and counter reactions. Keep in mind that the comments made below were made days before the show actually made its debut. We will feature reactions since its debut in future posts. 

First episode of Sexo e as negas: much ado about nothing?

"Sexo e as negas", tells the story of four black women in Rio de Janeiro
“Sexo e as negas”, tells the story of four black women set in Rio de Janeiro

New Globo TV attraction, which debuted on Tuesday, was accused of racism by activists

by Fernanda Grabauska

After much brouhaha, they appeared. In a first chapter that gave a good idea of ​​what we will see going forward, Sexo e as negas stacked some clichés and addressed the issue of racism, social exclusion and urban mobility. But, most of all, it did justice to the title and showed sex. Lots of sex.

We invited the Communications doctoral student Lúcia Coutinho, who studies the representation of black women on television, black student and activist Kelly Freitas and the editor of TV + Show, Vanessa Scalei to opine throughout the chapter. Readers also made their contribution to the debate.

Stars of Sexo e as negas record opening music theme video

Opinions were divided: the controversy surely subsided after the first episode. Lúcia says that this may be due to the name. There wouldn’t be any “negas” controversy – if the series was called “Sexo e o suburbia” (Sex and the Suburb), for example, maybe the discussion wouldn’t have even arisen.

Kelly, however, drew attention to the hyper-sexualization, which was remarkable: the black woman, at least in the first episode, appeared as “always available” for sex, exposing themselves to situations of consummating the act even on the floor of a public place.

Vanessa saw positive points:

“Miguel Falabella’s plot, at least in the first episode, was loaded with clichés, not only about the race question, but also the social and gender (question). However, it opened space for discussion on these topics. And there he earns points.

The controversy must surely extend to the next episodes. It’ll be worth paying attention to the developments.

Bloggers create alternative series to Sexo e as negas

Blogueiras Negras respond to new show with web series that will analyze the series. "Here there are no Sexo e as As Nêga". #AsNegaReal, coming soon to You Tube
Blogueiras Negras respond to new show with web series that will analyze the series. “Here there are no Sexo e as As Nêga”. #AsNegaReal, coming soon to You Tube

The new Globo series, which premiered on Tuesday, was accused of racism by activists

by Fernanda Grabauska

They are women, they are black…and as you might expect, they vehemently reject the fictionalized stereotype Sexo e as negas, the series created by Miguel Falabella that debuted on Tuesday telling “the loves and struggles” of a group of women from a Rio community.

It was enough for the first trailers of the show to initiate a barrage of criticism in the typification of the black women as an inferior and hyper-sexualized character to reach social networks, quickly coming to the offices of Rede Globo. The Secretaria Especial da Promoção da Igualdade Racial (SEPPIR or Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality), until this Monday, to accumulate 11 complaints of racism against the station because of the series.

But why? The series, which is one of the major gambles of the Globo network for the second semester, is a parody of Sex and the City. Transposed from the glamor of New York to the suburbs of Rio (Miguel Falabella’s inspiration was the Cidade Alta of Cordovil), brings the drama of four black friends: a maid, a cook, a manual laborer and a seamstress.

The series' creator, Miguel Falabella continues to defend his show
The series’ creator, Miguel Falabella continues to defend his show

All the controversy caused an outburst from Falabella in social networks, divulged through the UOL website. After explaining that he had the idea of the series in a feijoada in Cordovil, he rejected the idea of prejudice:

Sexo e as negas has nothing to prejudice. It speaks of four women who dream, who search for the ideal love. They could be doctors and live in Ipanema, but that is not my universe in essence, as an author. I’m from Ipanema. I am suburban, I grew up with malandragem (hustling) in my ears. Hence, my characters are maids, cooks, seamstresses, manual laborers. And since when does this diminish anyone? They are black, they are poor, but full of fantasy and love. They are playful! They survive thanks to humor. Human beings. Real. With a right to a dignified life and a lot … But A LOT of sex! You’re going to say now that I’m racist? Ah! Nega …Give me a break …,” wrote the author.

No – the internet, and black activists, principally, did everything but give the author a break. That’s how the Blogueiras Negras (Black women bloggers) collective, formed by a group of feminists, created the series “As Nêga Real” (The Real Black Women).

Charo Nunes, architect and one of the bloggers of the collective, pointed out five errors in the structure of the series for those who want to understand the controversy.

“The premise transforms our existence into an object of study and media manipulation, constituting a symbolic rape. It reduces our social place, emphasizing that our goal is just to find a sexual partner. It has also been shown, so far, normative cis-hetero, besides reinforcing the stereotype that we are all domestic workers. And finally the title, which is directly linked to racist and sexist expression “não sou tuas nêga” (I am not your nêga), defined the value and the treatment the black woman will receive in relation to a white woman. It dehumanizes the black woman, and the name of this is racism.”

Larissa Santiago, an advertiser who also writes for the site, emphasizes that the criticism made does not turn its back on black men and black women portrayed on the show:

“It was clear that we, black women, are also those characters with their professions and their desires, but we are much more!”

For young people, it’s time to also signal the change in television in which Brazil has gone through in recent times:

“Every time we are represented in serials, series and the like, the stereotypes are repeated: we are always domestics, the cooks, has nothing changed in 350 years? Yes, we climb into other places and roles in society and this needs to be shown, we need other references for younger black women and children. We’re not denying that we have empathy for these black actors and actresses, but we want to emphasize, especially to those who construct  these stories, those who have symbolic and institutional power of producing such media content, that our sexuality is of an intimate and personal nature and should not serve as a background for dramaturgy and fictions,” says Larissa.

Protagonist of Sexo e as negas, Karin Hils talks about controversy: “I thought it was nonsense”

One of the protagonists of Sexo e as negas, former member of the group Rouge, Karin Hils talks about the controversy surrounding the show even before its premiere: “I don’t feel my identity as a woman corrupted.”

Karin Hils, one of the four 'negas" featured on the program sees the criticism as 'nonsense'
Karin Hils, one of the four ‘negas” featured on the program sees the criticism as ‘nonsense’

by Flávia Faccini

What did you think of the criticism and accusations of racism that the show has been receiving?

I thought it was a marvelous controversy! At first I was upset. I didn’t follow it much, because I’m in a rush because of the tremendous pace of recordings. But there came a time when I had to stop to see what was happening. I’m sure that because of this controversy the IBOPE will be wonderful. But I found it be great nonsense. This controversy, yes, it’s a bias in the strictest sense of the word, as whoever created it or doesn’t even know what the series is, hasn’t seen it yet.

At no time did the title bother you?

Of course not! I didn’t see much weight in this title, I thought it was super funny, I don’t feel my identity as a woman corrupted by that title. This is drama, I want people to see it, because different from what they are thinking, the show also deals with social issues, but with the view of Miguel, who is light (hearted). They are women who are positive despite difficulties, beautiful, dress the best they can, cherish the family. Woman is a woman whether she’s black, rich, white, or poor. It has nothing to do with racism in the view of racism that I understand.

Have you ever felt discriminated against?

Of course I’ve ever felt discriminated against. In Brazil, it is enrooted, much of the population is black, but Brazil does not see itself as black. I’ve suffered much prejudice. Early in my career, when I was still part of the group Rouge, which was directed at children, I was turned into a doll, and when I went to see my doll I was almost white. I felt very sore with it, very painful. The black and mulato children had a place within that group, they felt represented, unlike my time, when I wanted to be a Paquita, but didn’t see myself in them. I was very upset when I saw the doll that was nothing like me, and I fought for there to be a change, but it was not like I wanted. I was discriminated against in a luxury hotel in Rio de Janeiro when I was doing the Pé na Cova (novela) on several occasions. I know what prejudice is.

Actress from Sexo e as negas strikes back at criticism: ‘We’re here to break taboos’

Maria Bia, one of the show's four black friends, believes the show can be a reference for black girls and women
Maria Bia, one of the show’s four black friends, believes the show can be a reference for black girls and women

One of the four main characters of Globo-TV’s Sexo e as negas, the actress Maria Bia hit back at criticism that has been made about the show’s title.

by Louise Soares

Debuting on television, she plays the cook Soraia, part of the quartet formed with Zulma (Karin Hils), Lia (Lilian Valeska) and Tilde (Corina Sabbas). The actress, who came out of musical theater, thinks that there may be criticism, but defends the proposal of the Miguel Falabella series.

“Everybody has sex. The black woman, the white woman, everyone. I don’t know why they’re talking so much about sex and black women. Why? Because our bodies are the most voluptuous? This is beautiful to see. We don’t have to have this taboo. I’m glad that Miguel chose to four black women to do this. It could be four white women. We’re here to break taboos and talk about this sex thing and of blacks that are unafraid of being happy,” she argues.

The actress suggests that the critics watch the program first before issuing an opinion in this respect and hopes that her example and that of her cast mates, besides the stories of the four protagonists, set an example for black women.

“This is cool on this show; it brings that blackness to the small screen. I keep imagining I’m a menina negra (black girl) watching and saying ‘how cool these girls are, look where they got. I can get there too with my identity, being negra with cabelo crespo (curly/kinky hair), I don’t need to straighten. If I can be a reference to a girl and she grows up saying ‘I can do that’, I’ll be too happy with this work,” says the actress.

Note from BW of Brazil: In reviewing the comments above, let’s first recognize the fact that as black women are so rarely featured in leading roles in Brazil’s Eurocentric media, we cannot expect that these black women are going to “bite the hand that feeds them.” Although it is very likely that they truly believe the things they said, if they thought otherwise, they would most likely keep these thoughts to themselves as it would jeopardize a rare opportunity. And as for the creator’s comments? What else could we expect? It’s his show! But take a closer look at a few of these comments.

Perhaps if the series was called “Sexo e o suburbia” maybe there would be no discussion.

I don’t think this comment takes into consideration the full range and meanings of certain buzzwords. The point here is, although the term “negas” doesn’t disguise the reference to this parcel of the society, but because terms such as “negas”, “negros”, “pobreza” (poverty), “suburbia” (suburb), “funk”, “favela” (shantytown/slum), “periferia” (periphery) and “crime” are so inextricably connected in the public’s mind, it would not change the perception because definitions and ideologies about blackness are connected to all the other terms. We saw this in 2012 when another highly touted series featuring black characters was actually entitled Suburbia and it lived up to nearly every stereotype imaginable.

“You’re going to say now that I’m racist? Give me a break”

It goes without saying that powerful white men clearly don’t know how to deal with the racial question. The Globo network and its team of defenders have long helped to defend the “we’re not racists” slogan while simultaneously helping to promote it. There are too many manners that racism continues to be produced to even warrant a response to Falabella’s rather simple rebuttal. The very fact that a white man has the power to create a show about black life based in stereotypes that he uses this power to continue speaks to his privileged position. As such, I wouldn’t expect that he would understand that racism goes much further than the obvious displays of racism such as segregation, insults and obvious discrimination. In fact, I believe he knows exactly what he is doing. Media has used the same formula for a number of years.

Não sou tuas nêga (I am not one of your negas), we are always domestics the cooks.”

A new battle cry for black women. A number of posts on this blog show how black women continue to be portrayed as primarily maids, cooks and mulatas in the Brazilian media (See here and here for only a few examples).

“A woman is a woman whether she’s black, rich, white, or poor. It has nothing to do with racism in the view of racism that I understand.” – “It could be four white women”

In these comments by two of the black actresses featured in the series, we see that they are both either victims of the “we are all equal” belief system or they have been thoroughly coached to share this opinion publicly. The point here is, in society, having black skin or white skin makes a huge difference, thus saying that a person “could be” a certain color doesn’t really address the facts of the differences in perception when one actually is one color or the other. Sexuality is judged differently depending on skin color. “Suspect” appearance is judged differently according to skin color. Perception of one’s occupation and residence in certain neighborhoods are judged differently based on skin color. So, sure a certain role “could” be a black woman or white woman, but the reactions that blacks receive when they are judged to be outside of their “place” is simply not something that a white woman is judged on based on her race. Comments such as these simply put new clothing on the old mythical “racial democracy” ideology.

“…when I wanted to be a Paquita, but didn’t see myself in them”

The lack of black female role models and the desire to be one of the popular Paquita dancers on TV host Xuxa’s children’s program is mentioned by numerous Afro-Brazilian women on this blog. The fact that all of the Paquita girls had white skin and blond hair again speaks to the previous comment. There “could have been” a few black girls in the group, but precisely because of their black skin, there were none.

“Everybody has sex. The black woman, the white woman, everyone.”

Yes, sexual relations are common throughout humanity and history. But again, white sexuality has not been judged under the same microscope as black sexuality which is regarded as “different” from the “norm”. Again, another attempt to smooth out differences where they already exist in the social imagination. As a previous post emphasized, white women are not consistently portrayed in roles that highlight their sexuality as black women are. White women are not the ones who will told to not enter a certain upper class establishment because she is thought to be a Carnaval dancer or a prostitute.

“We don’t have to have this taboo”…”We’re here to break taboos”

Very interesting to see that she a TV series that so prominently associates sexuality with black women will somehow break a centuries-long stereotype. Indeed, if the association between black women with sex has long been a sort of stereotype that everyone is familiar with, featuring four black women in precisely these roles actually legitimizes and re-enforces it. I would think that featuring four black women in a series in which they are highly educated, in positions of power that have nothing to do with their sexuality, which is rarely ever seen in the media, would break a taboo.

“I keep imagining I’m a menina negra (black girl) watching and saying ‘how cool these girls are, look where they got.”

Yet another ironic comment. First, because of the high sexual content of the show, it comes on at 11:20pm, presumably when most black girls (and children in general) would be in bed. But let’s imagine a little black girl were to watch this program; what would she get from it? Well, if the first episode is any indication, she would probably get the image that black girls are here to have sex and lots of it (as the first article points out). And as black girls and women have always been used this way in Brazilian society, I wouldn’t think this would be an image we would want another generation of black girls to be subjected to.

In short, it’s curious how black people are often used to help and legitimize their own oppression. As we saw in the first episode of Sexo e as negas, the media will continue to divulge these types of images that maintain persons of visible African ancestry in a certain “place”. And as we saw in the recent case involving the comments of the “King of futebol”, Pelé, there will always be black folk who will willingly substantiate this “place”. I guess the women of “as negas” will too. After all, that is the price of being a “nega” on Brazil’s most powerful television network.

Source: Black Women of BrazilZero Hora, Zero Hora (2), UOL Caras, O Guia da Cidade

About Marques Travae 2898 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. I think the show has positive potential in that it does feature well dressed, beautiful Black women. They happen to like sex, and they are in control of their sexuality, rather than being a play thing of the men they encounter. It shows that Black women can be sexy (rather than mearly sexually objectified), dynamic, beautiful, and friends. I am especially pleased with the fact that these women are wearing their natural hair and that one wears a crown (decorative head wrap). In this show, I believe that they are not the sum of what is between their legs, but that their sexual expression is an outpouring of the freedom and control they feel in their lives. These women are not being portrayed as prostitutes who can do nothing else. Rather, they are beautiful Black women of all shades who are alive and sexy. They struggle, but they also have each other. It would be disingenuous to portray them as nuns. I think the show is a potential first step for Black actors and I commend the creators for having the cajones to cast a show with 4 Black lead characters. It will have some stereotypes, but I believe their stories can also be compelling and entertaining. I will suspend judgement for now. I will definitely be watching the show!

  2. Whites have no desire to portray those of African descent in a positive way. I encourage those of Afro-Brazilian descent to protest and try to take legal action the creator of this show.

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