Note from BW of Brazil: The news about the new Globo TV series Mister Brau starring real life couple Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo has garnered the attention of two English-oriented media outlets: in the UK, The Guardian newspaper covered the series and Shadow and Act, a site that focuses on films of the African Diaspora, also ran a story on the series. Both reports were released on October 7th, 2015. This blog has followed the career of actress Taís Araújo since its inception and two of our recent posts touched on the new series in which she stars with her husband, Lázaro Ramos. But it’s great to see others news outlets giving full coverage to the importance of the series that made its debut just a few weeks ago.
In both articles, journalists Bruce Douglas and Kiratiana Freelon touched on various aspects of the series that are one of the principal focuses on this blog: race and representation in the Brazilian media. Besides the general issue of race, both pieces included a specific issue that this blog has focused much on in the past few years and specifically in regards to this series: black couples. As we pointed on in that article:
“To understand the importance of the Ramos/Araújo duo playing opposite each other in a romantic pairing of a novela on Brazil’s top TV network, it’s also worth pointing out that, of the few black actors that appear in novelas in all of Brazil’s top TV networks, the norm in these series is for black actors and actresses to be paired with white actors in amorous settings.”
It is an issue that more and more Afro-Brazilians are picking up on and, as mentioned in that previous piece, the Ramos/Araújo pairing in the series was celebrated in numerous Afro-Brazilian-oriented social networks. In the Freelon piece, she spoke with a college-educated Afro-Brazilian woman, Naiara Paula.
“Paula thought the show was groundbreaking because black people are usually shown on Brazilian television as maids, bandits and, in general, poor people.” She continued, “On television, especially on Globo, it’s very difficult to see a black man and woman married, living in a big house and wearing beautiful African clothes. So Lázaro and Taís are amazing for being able to achieve this on Brazilian television.”
In his article, Douglas interviewed filmmaker and media critic Joel Zito Araújo, whose opinions and work have been reference frequently on this blog. And similar to Paula’s view, Araújo also saw ‘Brau’ as important as, normally, Brazilian TV presents Afro-Brazilians in “the way in which Brazilian society likes to see black people: as slum-dwellers, domestic servants, criminals. This is still happening today.” Araújo also recognized the importance of the Ramos/Araújo pairing because: “There are very few examples of love between two black people. The expectation of Brazilian society is that the black person does not have pride in being black and looks to escape blackness with a white partner.”
The articles both point out that while the series should be celebrated, it is not without its problems. One of the problems that this writer noted immediately is the age-old Brazilian image of Afro-Brazilians as musicians, entertainers or athletes. In a February 2014 piece, we pointed to a study that confirms a stereotype that ‘Brau’, unfortunately continues:
“This portrayal of Afro-Brazilians can be noted throughout all areas of the Brazilian media. For example, doing research on one of Brazil’s most important magazines, Veja (similar to the US Newsweek) Derval Golzio found that of the 1,826 covers of the magazine in a 35 year period, blacks were featured on 58 covers, or 3.17%, while whites were featured on 1,337 covers, or 73.2%. Even more telling, when blacks were featured on the covers, 32 of the 58 featured them in roles of sports or culture, representing 55.2% of those from the original figure.”
As such, we do wish success to the ‘Mister Brau’ series, but considering these figures, we also hope to see Afro-Brazilians being able to portray powerful lawyers, important doctors, bankers and who knows, even a president.
Article about Globo TV’s “Mister Brau” featured in UK newspaper for addressing racism
British newspaper The Guardian published an article dealing with the low presence of black actors in leading roles on Brazilian television
The Mister Brau series, which replaced the ratings success Tapas & Beijos on Tuesday nights on Globo TV, made the news in England for addressing racism in Brazil – a country still surrounded by the myth of racial democracy. The British newspaper The Guardian published an article on Wednesday in which it discusses the place of blacks in Brazilian television and shows how the black share of the national dramaturgy is narrow and full of prejudice: 75% of the roles intended for black actors in the country are characters in subservient positions, according to data taken from the documentary A Negação do Brasil (Denying Brazil), by Joel Zito Araújo.
The protagonist couple, Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo, is described by the publication as the Brazilian Jay Z and Beyoncé and the participation of the two in the series is seen as an important attempt to change the present racism on national television.
The British newspaper also makes an overview of racial prejudice in Brazil, citing a survey conducted by an anthropology professor at USP (University of São Paulo) Lilia Schwartz. In it, 96% of Brazilians said they didn’t believe that there is racism in the country, but 99% said they knew someone who is racist. The numbers, as one sees, are contradictory, reveal that there is something rotten in the kingdom of Denmark – oops, in Brazil.
After a short summary of Brazilian history and of the intense immigration of African slaves for centuries, The Guardian concludes that the country is experiencing an unprecedented rise of blacks, who have begun to have more presence in the dominant classes. Despite being late and slow, the process has been going on in Brazil and blacks have gained ground on television. The newspaper also cites the presenter Maria Julia Coutinho, known as Maju, a recent victim of racism in social networks.