Public demands that classic ‘Monica’s Gang’ cartoon’s film version choose black actor to portray character with kinky hair

capa

Note from BW of Brazil: So, the Turma da Mônica (Monica’s Gang) cartoon recently made its debut on the big screen with real, flesh and bone child actors.  The classic Brazilian cartoon put up impressive numbers at the box office, even against stiff competition. Marvel’s latest installment of Spiderman, for example, was shown in 1,640 theaters across the country. Turma debuted last Thursday on 710 screens and by week’s end, was still being shown in 640 theaters. 

In its first weekend, Turma managed to sell more than 300,000 tickets, trailing Secret Life of Pets, with sold more than 311,800 tickets, Annabelle Comes Home with 462,000 and Toy Story 4 that sold brought in more than 951,000 viewers in the same period. Even more impressive, Turma actually had a higher average audience per theater than the Pets movie, drawing in 604 versus Pets’ 462. Of course, this is to be celebrated in a Brazilian film market that is absolutely dominated by American movies. But this isn’t what I wanted to discuss here in this follow up to a previous post. But before I weigh in, again, let’s get to the story.

Public demands black Cascão in Turma da Mônica film and author makes decision

By Lucas Medeiros

A Turma da Mônica chega aos cinemas
Main characters from Turma da Mônica film

As we anticipated, the Turma da Mônica will become a movie with the characters being played by real actors. Turma characters such as Mônica, Cascão, Cebolinha and Magali became flesh and blood characters, played by Giulia Barreto, Gabriel Moreira, Kevin Vechiatto and Laura Raseo. The production of the film selected the children’s cast among more than 5,000 candidates, and Mauricio followed the steps and opined about the candidates.

turma-da-monica-1
Characters as they appear in comic books

However, the feature directed by Daniel Rezende is already facing a controversy, because the interpreter of the character Cascão, Gabriel Moura, being white and having straight hair. The public expected a boy with trimmed, black, cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). However, the author Maurício de Sousa spoke on the subject.

The cartoonist made the decision to leave everything as is and defended the choice of the actor. “The selection was the result of meticulous work. And, incredible as it may seem, it worked out so well that we were more than satisfied. They incorporated the characters so well, they acted like them,” he says.

“We made some concessions. We came to the conclusion, for example, that Cascão’s hair shouldn’t be equal to the hair of the comic. In Rio de Janeiro when found a boy who was Cascão himself in the gestures, in his way, in the physical and in the body: that skinny little leg, the cleverness and everything,” he reveals.

“The idea was long ago, but we knew it was a difficult product to assemble because it was going to deal with very strong characters. We were aware that we would have to be very careful with the selection of the cast, just as we have now,” he says, adding the physical profile to the communication.

Regarding criticism about Cascão’s color, Maurício says: “I was a bit “like this” (surprised) when I saw this repercussion because, in comics, we never left that position clear. Cascão was never drawn black.”

“We have Jeremiah and other characters who are decidedly black. Cascão, no. That was surprising to me. Anyway, our Cascão will be in the movie, with his little dirt from time to time, and with that obsession of escaping from water,” he concludes in an interview with the Extra newspaper/website.

To close the subject, just look at Maurício’s drawings, that never designed Cascão with a color different from Mônica, Cebolinha and Magali, since he created it in 1961. And this is, in fact, a very positive fact, because the character is in essence considered dirty, because of hating to take a bath. It is even strange that the politically correct people demand a version that would propagate prejudice, in a horrible analogy between dark skin and dirt.

Note from BW of Brazil: Although I’ve already weighed in on this, there is another point I want to emphasize here. In Brazil, as in the US, hair texture is a MAJOR marker of racial classification. I can personally attest to a sort of “hair privilege” that I’ve experienced with the African-American community, but as I am not light-skinned, my hair texture doesn’t influence how people perceive my race. But in examples of two light-skinned friends of mine, this issue of hair texture can be a big deal. 

My friend Daniela, a black Brazilian woman with very fair skin, is often told within her own family that if she were to straighten out her afro, she would probably be able to be accepted as white. In the case of my American friend, Jene, another woman with very fair skin as well as green eyes, her experience bears this out as well. 

In her experiences with family, she recalls how people in her family would always suggest that her eye color and light skin were her “saving grace” because her cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) was not something to be proud of. She also remembers how, growing up, light-skinned children of a direct mixed ancestry would let her know, in so many words, that she wasn’t one of them. Jene, although having light skin and green eyes, had two black parents, while the mixed children had a parent that was white and a looser curl texture in their hair.

Gabriel Moreira and baby, white skin
Actor Gabriel Moura at left. Not exactly white. But for some, a sort of “Brazilian white”

I point these details out because in the drawings of of the Cascão character, even the comic’s creator acknowledged that there is a difference between the character’s hair texture in comparison to that of the actor chosen to portray him. If we look at the young actor Gabriel Moura’s skin color, he is not clearly white, but the director had no problem with this. I point this out because, as one writer wrote, in the cartoon, Cascão and the other characters appear to have the same skin complexion, as such, he argued, Cascão shouldn’t be considered black. Given the stigmas many persons of African descent experience due to hair texture, the creator of the comic downplayed an issue that is often a source of painful memories for black Brazilians. As such, for me, and many other black folks, the issue of the Cascão character is not as simple as Sousa would have us believe. 

But it’s very typical with how the issue of race is dealt with in Brazil. 

Source: O TV Foco, Pipoca Moderna

 

About Marques Travae 3170 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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