Note from BW of Brazil: Throughout the history of television in Brazil, persons of visible African ancestry have been largely invisible, under-represented or presented in tried and true stereotypes that anyone who has studied the media could recognize. Representation of Afro-Brazilians in the media is yet another avenue that begs the question as well as points out the contradiction in what most Brazilians believe about their country: If Brazil is truly proud of its mixed ancestry and variety of phenotypes, why do the majority of faces and bodies on television only represent the European side of this mixture?
Afro-Brazilians are rarely even featured in TV commercials. It’s as if black people don’t use soap (another stereotype?), shampoo or drive cars. Noting this invisibility, back in January we featured actor Érico Brás and his family who addressed this issue with their own series of self-produced You Tube product commercial parodies. The series became such a hit online that, in March, Brás announced a second season of the series ahead of its April release. “This time we’ll have, besides comedy, a framework chat. The idea is that, every 15 days, four black women gather to discuss any issue,” added Érico. Brás also hinted that the second season would discuss the then coming Brazil-hosted 2014 World Cup and discussions of controversial issues.
As the old saying goes, “if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself.” And in terms of television representation, this obviously still applies in Brazil.
Blacks on television
by Nathali Lima
The importance of television in the lives of Brazilian citizens is undeniable. Present in most homes eventually becoming a fundamental instrument in the cultural formation of the country. Among the various forms proposed by the context of entertaining television are the telenovelas. The novelas (soap operas) displayed on television are, by far, the construction of television fiction that arouses the most interest in the viewer. Faced with a society that systematically excludes blacks from spaces of power, television could not be different. This type of artistic production is widely distributed throughout the country and is consumed by a large portion of the population.
For its relevance, it is important to raise the issue of racial inequality, and its false inclusion: where blacks take the place of second-class citizen exercising roles rejected by whites and that ends up, within the racist logic, legitimizing the structural exclusion of blacks in these spaces. Understanding it as a tool to maintain the hegemony imposed by racism (precisely for being accessible and present in the everyday of Brazilians) it’s notable the low black representation on television and, in most cases, when inserted it is to make a caricatured representation.
In novelas, blacks enact, almost always, subordinate roles or characters that don’t have prominence in the plot. Knowing of the limitations of opportunities present in this business, we can imagine the labor shortage for black artists. In 1964, Isaura Bruno, a black woman, gained notoriety for her role in the television hit O Direito de Nascer (The Right to be Born). The success didn’t guarantee a stable career. She died poor, working as a street vendor. It’s necessary, beyond the requirements that intend to ensure the presence of blacks in spaces like these, mostly white and racist at its root, to formulate spaces that are inclusive, in its essence, to this type of posture.
Tá Bom Pra Você? – Cereal Black
Fortunately, the internet provides the black actors, writers and visual artists the possibility to create beyond the mainstream and large television corporations. Initiatives such as the channel Tá bom pra você? (Is it good for you?), illustrate alternative gifts for working with blacks and the creative process in parallel with the insertion of blacks in the television landscape and mainstream media.
It is important that this process aimed at inserting blacks in television be accompanied by a critical vision and intention in proposing a debate on the exclusion of blacks in these spaces. To make this discussion possible is to pave the way for it to become possible in other spheres of society.