Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s post is a follow-up to a story first presented here last week involving a white singer and the representation of her black dancers in her latest music video. When one is concerned with racial issues in the context of Brazil’s racist past and its ongoing treatment of its black population, you really have to wonder what the director of the music video in question was thinking during the recording of this piece. It’s almost as if the person actually wanted to stir up some drama or something. Critics of the video made numerous comparisons to the antics and videos of American Pop stars such as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift who were also accused of cultural appropriation and exploitation of blacks in their videos and performances. Below Zero Hora and João Gusmão report and critique the incident.
Mallu Magalhães apologizes after accusation of racism in video
Courtesy of Zero Hora
The latest clip from singer Mallu Magalhães became a target for criticism almost immediately after publication. Launched last week, the video for “Você Não Presta” shows the singer surrounded by black dancers and was accused of racism by web users and activists.
On Wednesday, she used her official Facebook profile to apologize: “I am sad to know that the clip … may have offended someone. It is very disappointing to me that this has happened,” writes the artist before apologizing and saying that her work has no “destructive or aggressive” ideas.
The main accusations are of Magalhaes’ outfit in the clip, which would not make the singer’s body as prominent as the bodies of the black dancers – at another time she wears a 2002 Oscar shirt, a historic edition of the award, which delivered statuettes for Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, both black, in the main categories of performance.
A text by Aline Ramos on the Buzzfeed website, which reverberated in the discussions on the subject, also cites the use of dancers as the “setting” of the clip, as well as showing them behind something that resembles a cell at a certain time.
Our everyday cultural appropriation: Mallu Magalhães and the video of “Você Não Presta”
By João Gusmão
On February 4, 2017, the young white woman Thauane Cordeiro reported on her Facebook profile that she had been reprimanded by a group of black girls for wearing a turban. According to the black girls, Thauane should not wear a turban because she’s white, considering this cultural appropriation, but the white girl responded by saying that she could wear whatever she wanted and the reason for wearing the accessory was due to cancer that left her bald – caused by chemotherapy. The account is terminated with the hashtag #VaiTerBrancaDeTurbanteSim (there will be white women wearing turbans, yes), revealing an imposition with no path for dialogue.
Thauana’s post gained empathy and solidarity from the people, was shared by thousands of Facebook users generating a heated discussion about cultural appropriation. Questions have arisen such as: Can whites no longer wear a turban?, leading the already minimized debate to an exclusively individual dimension.
Fact 2. April 24, 2017, a young black woman named Dandara Tonantzin Castro, representative of the National Council for the Promotion of Racial Equality and director of the State Union of Students of Minas Gerais (UEE-MG), was physically and verbally assaulted by a group of white men during a graduation party for the course of Civil Engineering of the Federal University of Uberlândia – UFU, for wearing a turban. Dandara had her turban snatched from her head by a white student who, after trampling on the accessory, called on other colleagues to do the same, and so when the battered woman retrieved her turban from the floor, they threw beer on her head. Dandara’s account was posted on Facebook, but did not receive empathy and viralization like that of young white Thauane. The racism suffered by Dandara doesn’t seem to be important to society, as does the debate on the subject. When whites are “offended” by cultural appropriation the subject appears to be more urgent and relevant.
Mallu Magalhães – “Você Não Presta”
Mallu Magalhães and cultural appropriation
In the period of debates about cultural appropriation, referring to the case that occurred with Thauane Cordeiro, in the social networks all gave opinions on the issue, personal opinions without any basis and/ or study about the concept. Among the many empty and reductionist opinions on cultural appropriation, Djamila Ribeiro, a researcher in the area of Political and Feminist Philosophy and former deputy secretary of the Secretariat of Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo, published in her Facebook profile a text about the debates in respect to cultural appropriation, of which I highlight an excerpt:
“The debate on cultural appropriation cannot be done individually, in my view. I am more interested in discussing why companies profit from cultura negra (black culture) while the população negra (black population) dies. Because mediocre white singers get rich singing samba while genius black songwriters and singers die or will die in poverty.”
But what does this have to do with Mallu Magalhães? Everything!
Mallu Magalhães appeared in 2007 on the defunct MySpace site and soon began to find success on the web. The girl started out playing folk, played guitar and composed her own watery songs with little sugar, but after starting a relationship with Marcelo Camelo, she started flirting with more Brazilian musical rhythms. So it was with “Sambinha Bom”, a single released in 2011, from the album Pitanga.
After a while without releasing solo album, Mallu Magalhães resurfaced this week with the single “Você Não Presta”, a samba-pop song – I don’t know if this nomenclature exists – a tasty ditty that makes everyone want to dance. The lyrics of the song, well… always leaves something to be desired. But what interests us here is the single’s video.
If it were not enough to be a very limited samba singer, Mallu Magalhães decided to make a clip with an aesthetic full of references from the cultura negra from hip-hop and Rio funk. The video is well directed and has a beautiful photography – it looks like a Nike commercial, it would be a nice clip if it were, for example, the Dream Team of Passinho, but it is not. In the clip, Mallu shows all her lack of ginga (swing/swag) amidst the pile of black dancers with their sweaty bodies dancing, while the white hipster girl is there dressed/behaving and making a garish face. Mallu seems to be the leader of that gang of black shirtless, dancers greased up in oil, a sinhá “amiga” dos escravos (the missy/friend of the slaves)”, but everyone knows who’s in charge.
There is no representation of black culture when blacks are extras and their bodies are in the service of the white aesthetic, there is only exploitation and appeal. Mallu Magalhães showed us what cultural appropriation and racism are, I hope we have learned and stop using it in pop music.