Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been more than two weeks since councilwoman Marielle Franco was brutally murdered on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. In the days and weeks that followed, Brazilians rallied, chanted, screamed, cried and expressed their indignation with Rio’s out of control violence claiming the life of yet another human being, this time a rising political voice. Shortly after hearing the tragic news, numerous well-known Brazilians issued statements on the councilwoman’s murder, but one famous voice drew attention for her silence: singer Anitta. Many people took to social media and slammed the singer who, like Franco, rose from poor origins in the city of Rio.
In the days after the councilwoman’s murder and the controversy surrounding Anitta, I listened to a few people debating over Anitta’s silence. In that lunch environment, there were a number of opinions but most opined that Anitta, a pop singer, shouldn’t be expected to issue statements on political matters. Here’s my thing. In today’s extreme commercialism, get paid at all cost, I don’t give a fu*k environment, rare is the artist of the stature of someone like Anitta who will risk her fame and fortune to take a stand on political issues. Honestly, I don’t expect such personalities to do so. I’m not saying I agree with this silence, but simply that I don’t expect it. We’ve seen this all before with futebol superstars past and present such as Neymar and Pelé, and basketball icons such as Michael Jordan, so what else is new?
Being a top entertainer and taking on political issues can derail a career, as the legendary Nina Simone once discovered, which is why most artists will choose to, if not remain completely silent on controversies, take very soft positions. I remember a few years ago when the internet was abuzz because of singer Beyoncé’s “militant” display at halftime of the Super Bowl. But really, what was militant about her performance besides the images and what has Beyoncé done or said politically since that performance? Exactly. As one of the world’s most popular entertainers, there’s simply too much to lose.
The problem for me arises when Anitta wants to represent female empowerment and considers herself a feminist that wants to “do her part” but then can’t position herself on the murder of another woman with a very similar background as hers. If she wants to keep shaking her ass and clocking them reais, cool, that’s her prerogative, but don’t call yourself a feminist in favor of empowering women and then hide in the corner when a woman who was truly trying to empower people who looked like her had her power and very life taken away from her.
Similar to her taking a very vague, ambiguous position in terms of her racial identity and assuming a sort of “black when convenient” stance, Anitta’s seems to be making a clear statement on her politics by simply not making clear statements.
Anitta’s silence on the murder of Marielle Franco brings backlash. Singer publishes text on the issue, is criticized and erases the post
Courtesy of Pragmatismo Político with info from Nexo Jornal
“At the time of releasing (the hit song) ‘Vai Malandra’ she loves to say that she came from the favela, right? When they kill a black woman in the favela of her city, then she remains silent?” Anitta’s silence about Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco’s murder bothers web surfers. Pressed, the artist justified her lack of positioning, but went back and deleted the post
Anitta and Marielle Franco
Many artists have positioned themselves on social networks over the murder of councilwoman Marielle Franco, while others have chosen not to comment on the case. Popular singers such as Ivete Sangalo, and the sister duo of Simone and Simaria didn’t make mention of the assassination of the Rio city councilwoman. However, Anitta’s silence, especially, bothered netizens.
The indifference of Anitta was questioned by many posts of users in the social networks, since the singer had been exploring concepts like feminine empowerment and origins in the poor community.
“At the time of releasing ‘Vai Malandra‘ she loves to say that she came from the favela, right? When they kill a black woman from the favela (slums), a councilor of the city where Anitta was born and lives, she remains silent?” wrote one commentator. “I am not demanding a positioning, maybe if I have created some expectation for something that was purely commercial. It’s good to keep your feet on the ground,” said another.
“The favela for you is only good when it is to profit, Anitta. You appropriate flags and fight to make money and nothing else. It’s hypocrisy,” criticized another.
On March 19, five days after the death of Marielle Franco, Anitta published a text on the Instagram in response to the pressures. She explained that she would make a statement three months after the case, but anticipated the statement of impatience with what she called “free hate from Internet users.”
“I was going to make a post in a little while, which was when I thought it would make sense to me. But I didn’t have much patience to put up with the free hate from Internet users until then,” she said.
In the text, the singer cited deaths like the murder of the judge Patrícia Acioli and the boy João Hélio before finalizing: “If she were not a feminist like me, she would have my feelings, if she were not a favelada (favela resident) like me, also she would have my feelings. Left, right, straight, gay, sinful, religious, whatever … No one deserves to die.”
The response was also criticized, her text being called generic and insincere. An hour after it aired, her text was removed.
“The celebrities, including those of music, have a visibility that generates a type of expectation from the audience,” said Adri Amaral, a post-grad professor em Comunicação da Unisinos and a researcher of CNPq. When a personality doesn’t position herself, contradicting the discourse that she had adopted, as in the case of Anitta, a rupture happens that provokes fan reaction. “It’s like when a band changes their style of sound,” compared the researcher.
Amaral remembers that engagement and demands for positions have existed in popular music since the 1960s. One of the differences of recent years is that, because of the internet and social networks, today it happens in the Pop sphere of Anitta and Beyoncé, while before it would happen more in alternative scenarios.
Fabiana Batistella, director of the SIM musical conference, explains why Anitta’s silence was not well digested. “In times when we live in Brazil today, when an artist who defies the conservative structures of society that comes from the morro (hill, favela), whoever imposes herself for the right to be free, is silent after a murder of a militant black woman, not only can artistic discourse appear empty, but she misses the chance to bring her message of transformation to thousands of people in a much stronger and more direct way,” he said.
On tour around the country, American singer Katy Perry projected an image of Marielle on the big screen at a show in Rio. The artist also received and hugged the sister and daughter of the councilwoman on stage.
In her Twitter profile, Sertaneja singer Marília Mendonça wrote: “Please, women who are out front, who fight for all of us, don’t let this tragedy silence the voice of a generation …”.
Rapper Karol Conka posted that “the councilwoman Marielle Franco was executed in Rio while thousands of Brazilians dream about equality, security and empathy”.
In her Instagram, Funk singer MC Carol wrote a text in which she reported a personal experience she had with Marielle and said “I only feel hate, I only feel rage and a lot of fear.”
Even American actress and producer Viola Davis said: “I just read about this brave woman, Marielle Franco, who fought for the rights of the poor in the favelas. I’m getting up and fighting with you, Brazil! Viva Marielle and Anderson,” the actress wrote on Twitter.
Viola Davis won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2017 for her part in the film Fences (released as Um Limite entre Nós in Brazil). Other international voices expressing themselves on Franco’s murder were model Naomi Campbell, drag queen model RuPaul and actor Jesse Williams.