Note from BBT: Hol’lup, pump the brakes. Well, maybe that should be slam on the brakes. The story that I want to discuss today is an exact example of why black Brazilians and persons of African descent globally need to have their own media sources. And the choice of the word globally is needs to be stressed here. Why?
Well, first, obviously, with the largest and most influential television networks not being black-owned, we should understand why it is that black people are presented the way that we are on a global level. If we don’t have a say in what’s presented and control of the decisions of what goes on the airways, how can we expect any sort of full and decent representations of ourselves?
To go even further and referring to a point that I made just a few days ago, having people of African descent in influential positions of the media isn’t necessarily the complete solution to the problem as we know that there are perhaps millions of black folks around the world who laugh and enjoy some of the worst depictions of black people in the media.
Beyond having black faces in the offices where media productions are discussed, these people also have to have a certain consciousness and standard that rejects depending on long-believed stereotypes that audiences already associate with black people in order to earn high ratings.
With that said, what we’ve seen in recent years in Brazil is a seeming willingness by several sectors to allow black Brazilian participation in the society that they had never before had access to. One of the most influential companies that has contributed heavily to the invisibility of black Brazilians as well as how the society as a whole sees them is the Rede Globo television network.
Rede Globo is considered one of the most powerful, influential companies in all of Brazil. so, when the network announced that one of its longest-running novelas would feature not only two black writers but also a majority black cast, it was big news in the Afro-Brazilian media. The novela in question, Malhação, has been on the air for nearly three decades. I have never been an avid viewer of the program but I too can say I’ve watched a number of scenes and episodes in my two decades of following ‘’coisas do Brasil’’, or Brazilian stuff.
The news was quite a surprise as the cast of this show, like most other television productions on all Brazilian stations has regularly featured majority white casts with occasional appearances by black or brown actors for most of its run. With this track record, in reality, no one should have been holding their breath to watch this. Simply put, the master giveth, the master taketh away.
First, to understand this story from the beginning, I will present the breaking news about the novela from about a week and a half ago and then follow it with the latest. First, I’ll start with the master giventh…
70% of the cast of the new “Malhação” will be black
Courtesy of Mídia Preta
Rede Globo is planning to launch a new season of Malhação next year. The network is betting on a plot written by two first-time authors: Eduardo and Marcos Carvalho, known as the Carvalho Brothers.
Information is from columnist Patrícia Kogut, from the O Globo newspaper. The authors will create a story set in a neighborhood of Rio’s North Zone. It will take place in a school considered to be “the worst in the country”.
During the novela, the school will run the risk of being closed. The students, then, will have to fight to keep it running. According to the publication, the new Malhação will have two girls and a guy as protagonists. The director, Paulo Silvestrini, has been doing casting auditions. The big certainty is that more than 70% of the actors will be black.
For now, the new Malhação has been called ‘Eu Quero é Ser Feliz’, or ‘I want to be happy’, which will air next year – possibly after the reprise of Sonhos, which was the 2014 season of the novela.
Eduardo and Marcos were born in Morro do Salgueiro, Rio de Janeiro, and studied Cinema at PUC-RJ. The two produced short films such as Boa Noite, Charles (2015) and Chico (2016); the latter was awarded the Candango for best direction and best sound at the Brasília Film Festival. Eu, Minha Mãe e Wallace (2018) won the same award, in the best short film category.
Note from BBT: …and now for the master taketh away..
Globo cancels Malhação; cast of the next season was to have been 70% black
Globo cancels Malhação after 27 years and the 28th season would have besides the authors, 70% of the cast black
By César Lui
Globo announced, this Tuesday (28), the end of Malhação after 27 seasons of the teen telenovela. It is not yet known what program will replace it in the channel’s late afternoon programming. The 28th season of the attraction was already being scripted and because of the pandemic it would be a reduced version. The authors Eduardo Carvalho and Marcos Carvalho, twins known as the Carvalho Brothers, were to become the first black people to script a season of the show.
With the idea of having a 70% black cast, a fact the abrupt cancellation, generated criticism from the public to the network.
“Globo canceled Malhação, in the season that would be scripted by the Carvalho brothers, two black scriptwriters … then wants to talk about representation,” wrote a fan of the program on Twitter.
Black majority this time didn’t please 100% of the audience
The idea of the “Eu Quero Ser Feliz” version having 70% of the cast being black pleased the audience, but quickly displeased them after seeing the storyline. “From the storyline, it is explained why so many black people. Globo doesn’t tie a knot,” wrote an internet user on social networks. “Because of the storyline it was better to have canceled it,” wrote another.
An internet user reflected on if the storyline was reversed.
“It’s funny that if it was about the best school in the country, 99% of the cast would be made up of whites, but since it is something bad, they put on 70% blacks and the other 30% teachers, politicians and playboys will be white,” she said.
Note from BBT: So, there you have it. From everything I’ve seen, people were initially excited about the possibility of seeing one of Globo TV’s most popular series feature a majority black cast, that is until they learned the plot and setting of the new season. The very idea of a majority black cast was newsworthy for the simple fact that, year after year, the cast of Malhação always seemed to follow the same ethnic mix. A vastly white cast with a few negroes thrown in here or there for the sake of ”diversity”.
Thus, similar to what happened when the largest number of black participants in the history of Globo’s long-running, top rated reality show Big Brother Brasil was announced, there was a huge buzz in the air celebrating the fact. In that case, just like the 2012 Globo television series Subúrbia, people were disappointed with what they were seeing on the small screen. I’ve long argued that it not enough to simply have black writers, black directors and a black cast if the content itself and representation of any given programming bring the same tried and true stereotypes about the black population, its existence, where it resides and its situation.
I’ve seen this over and over again. For many non-blacks, the black community is supposed be a presented a certain way or it lacks authenticity or the potential to attract wide audiences. Brazil has long followed this standard. Consider series such as Sexo e As Negas, Força do Querer, Irmandade and Impuros among other examples. Such depictions don’t happen by accident.
Actor and director Kevin Hooks once shot a park scene in a Harlem setting, but the white executives of the studio for whom he was working believed there needed to be more trash, filth and litter spread throughout the set because the way Hooks was presenting Harlem was seen as ‘’too clean’’ for white people to accept for that particular film project. Apparently, Globo TV sees the depiction of black life in a similar manner.
Who knows, maybe by cancelling the novela, Globo may have done us all a favor. At least those of us who have grown weary of seeing black people presented in this manner.