Note from BW of Brazil: It’s really interesting how one can gauge the climate of a particular country by just reading one article, the way the media outlet framed it, what the subjects of the article said and then how people reacted to it. Case in point, the recent Veja magazine cover story on the actor couple Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos, who have been previously featured in numerous posts on this blog. Walking past a magazine stand a few weeks ago, the Araújo/Ramos cover grabbed my attention in the same way that the recent Vogue Brasil cover featuring model Laís Ribeiro caught my attention a few weeks back. And like a previous Rolling Stone Brasil cover featuring the couple, I had to pick this one up too!
Of course everyone in Brazil is familiar with this couple, but the material of the article was perhaps as important as the article itself in demonstrating how Brazilians continue to react when the topic is race, inequality, opportunity and affirmative action policies. Before going any further, let’s get to coverage of the cover itself and then take a look at the reaction.
‘The Unbeatable Couple’: Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos are very powerful on the cover of Veja magazine
Edition highlights the success of the acting couple in Brazilian showbiz.
By Amauri Terto
Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos have everything.
The couple is on the cover of Veja magazine this week, which presents the title “The Unbeatable Couple, The Most Powerful Couple in showbiz.” And they also symbolize the victory of talent over the racial barrier.”
Married with two children: João Vicente, 5, and Maria Antônia, 2, the actors met in 2004. At the time, she starred in the novela (soap opera) Da Cor do Pecado and he was part of the series Sexo Frágil.
According to the magazine, the first contact was pure strangeness.
After getting to know each other quickly at the Globo studios, Taís voted for Lázaro as the negro mais lindo (most handsome black man) on TV in a Video Show poll. He thanked her with flowers and she reciprocated with sunflowers – which the actor ended up delivering to another girl he was “kickin’ it” with. And worse, Taís found out, as the girl was the friend of a friend of hers. Although this would seem to be a poem about a mismatch, it wasn’t! The couple ended up thinking it was funny.
As you know, the misunderstanding was overcome. In fact, very well surpassed. Today, Lázaro and Taís are a reference for millions of young black artists who battle for a place in the sun in a country marked by racism.
More recently, the couple became partners also in front of the TV and on stage, as protagonists of the series Mister Brau, a critical and public success; And in the play O Topo da Montanha (Mountaintop) – that since 2015 has already been seen by more than 70 thousand people. They really have it all.
It is worth remembering that despite the numerous works, the couple doesn’t leave aside activism for the end of racial prejudice and social inequality, be it in social networks or in events.
To accompany the release of the report, Veja magazine prepared a duel of knowledge with the couple of actors. As a joke, they had to answer questions like: Favorite movie? Greatest idol? Best quality? Biggest defect?
Veja cover with Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos irritated many readers of the magazine
Courtesy of Brasil Post
The citation of the racial question in the trajectory of the couple displeased many readers of the magazine. In the comments it’s possible to see several criticisms of the presence of the actors on the cover, besides messages of a prejudiced nature. Some classify the issue as an adhesion to “causes of mimimi (whining)” and a “leftist agenda”.
There are those who consider the so-called example of a press that has a “tendency to look for racism in everything” and also those who call the couple’s position “coitadismo” (playing the victim). Other comments still invalidate the idea of empoderamento da comunidade negra (empowerment of the black community).
See some comments below:
As is known, Taís and Lázaro are also very active in the struggle for racial equality and often use their social networks to address the issue. Successful on TV, in the theater and in the cinema, they are now a reference for millions of young artists who confront the invisibility of blacks in the media.
A post shared by Tais Araújo (@taisdeverdade) on Jan 27, 2017 at 7:01 PST
More recently, the activism of the couple has taken the stage. Since 2015, Taís and Lázaro have appeared in the theater with O Topo da Montanha, inspired by the last speech of black activist Martin Luther King, in Memphis, hours before he was assassinated in April 1968.
Jorge Pereira: Bla, bla, bla…cultural appropriation….whine whine…Historic debt….Bla, bla, bla…I already know that it’s stupid
Haroldo Valadares: Look here, Onmar Ali. This whining isn’t a coincidence. The press is acting to divide society with racism. So after this comes solutions: more quotas, higher penalties for racism and the “vote for me so that I will; do all of this to free you for the oppression of the whites” and the “black that isn’t stupid only votes for the left because it is the one that defends his interests.” The political war today is being done in the backstages and in the minimum details.
Ademir Frota: Damn these people only live to make themselves into victims…pqp (puta que pariu)(see note 1)…they always screw me because of my being white and I never understood this, they call me macaxeira (cassava), candle, silly, white roach and etc. Damn and I always took it well…Damn you all are no longer in the era of the slaves…and who said that it was only blacks that were slaves? Whites also.
Mauricio Antonio: It’s obvious that Veja embraces whining causes…The only problem is that they don’t admit it…They would lose advertising and readers…It’s already been some time that they send me the magazine even though I haven’t paid in some time. I throw it in the trash when it comes.
Elizabeth Hofman Jardim: Historic debt, the big house, hehehehe…and let’s wash clothes, whine, boring, boring, boring and empowered women, collectives with minorities “in the struggle” and weird and bizarre pride A waste of time this leftist agenda.
Antonio Nascimento: This business of social barrier very much used by them, makes this couple the most racist in the media…They only talk about color, race…this nauseates people…
Carlos Zanella Fichtner: And here come people saying that there have to be quotas for blacks. IT’S THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE RACISTS. They think that just for being black they are inferior. There’s the proof. THE COLOR OF THE BRAIN IS THE SAME IN BLACKS AND WHITES…You have to have the force of will to be someone.
Isabel Bueno: And how many talented, shining whites can’t get their place in the sun? Unquestionable the talent of the two but the fact of having come to the top of success only shows that all this prejudice that you all make an issue of trying to provoke doesn’t exist. Stop this, stop working (for free) for the left.
Stella Nobre: Talent over racial barrier?! And does someone care about this nowadays?! They are great actors period! Obsession of seeking racism in everything!
Eduardo Cruz: The country fucking itself in an unprecedented crisis and VEJA brings vitimismo (victimhood) as a highlight of a successful couple. To make it worse it keeps Arruinaldo Azevedo (see note 2) employed.
Note from BW of Brazil: So what should we take from the article itself as well as the reaction that came with it? Well, there are a few things. Having read the 12-page article myself, I must first say that the focus of the piece itself is not even about racism, prejudice or “playing the victim”. In fact, these topics only came up sparingly during the entire article. The article discusses the family backgrounds of Araújo and Ramos, how they got into the entertainment business, how they got together as a couple, the courses of their careers, their success, brief breakup, children and personal as well as professional challenges. The topic of race and racism only came up sparingly in the entire piece. Of course there are discussions of the “astro negro” (black star), “pele negra” (black skin), “desigualdade” (inequality), “discriminação” (discrimination) and “atores negros” (black actors). The article even reveals that over the last decade, many things have changed in Brazil in terms of the race question with the admission that “TV and commercials today produce much more Brazilian diversity.” And even with the still minuscule representation of Afro-Brazilians in the media, this is nevertheless true.
What I noticed about the article was that Veja magazine, typically a strong voice against the implementation of affirmative action policies in federal universities, made sure to include in the article’s subtitle that “any person can overcome through work and talent”, a not so subtle dig at people who support racial quotas. It is the magazine arguing that, “See! Look at this successful couple. They made it without quotas, so can you!”
I always find this type of discourse funny because when the debate is about race, or gender for that matter, there is always a need to present those who represent the exception, as if they are somehow the rule. If the magazine were to be more honest, they would tell their readers that top actors such as Taís Araújo and Lázaro Ramos, the two most successful black female and male actors in the country, are rare in Brazil. Sure there are many who people know by name, but never on the same level as this acting couple and that there are infinitely more top, prime-time white actors and actresses. The magazine itself doesn’t bother to point this out. In this very edition we see a blatant example of the overall position of Afro-Brazilians in society.
In the 98-page, March 1st issue featuring the acting duo on the cover, throughout the pages, including the advertisements, we see countless persons with white skin featured. Judges, best-selling authors, politicians, etc. On the other hand, besides the article on Araújo and Ramos, I only saw two other articles that featured Brazilians that I considered to be black; the entrepreneur Renato Cordeiro and another featuring a group photo about Carnaval. Other black people featured in this edition are black Americans, including a still from the film The Color Purple, former President Barack Obama, a feature on the film Moonlight and the singer The Weekend. All of the people presented in the rest of the images are white. So what conclusion can we draw from this? 1) Despite the improvements of racial inclusion that have slowly taken place over the past decade, Brazil’s media still has a problem featuring black Brazilians in numbers equal to their proportion of the population. 2) Brazil’s media is still more comfortable presenting black Americans in media outlets rather its own black population in Brazil. 3) The numbers of black Brazilians of prominence continues to be minuscule in comparison to the white population.
What I also note here is that, even with black Brazilians being regularly under-represented in the media, white Brazilians don’t want to hear any more discussion of the fact. For them, the article shouldn’t approach any of the realities of race that the duo had to deal with as they climbed the ladder of success or the fact that there are so few other black Brazilians who have reached such a pinnacle. Apparently, having one successful couple means all discussions of race should now be off of the table, since Araújo and Ramos have made it to the ‘topo da montanha’, or mountaintop, ironically the title of play of which they’ve earned rave reviews.
The attitude taken about the article is very typical in the fact that, historically, Brazilians have long denied the very existence of differences in the ways that white and non-white Brazilians are treated in the country. There is one reader comment that I would like consider: “The press is acting to divide society with racism”. I can agree with that statement, but only partially. While I do note an agenda on the part of the media to fan the flames of racial divisions, this doesn’t take away from the fact that racial inequalities DO and have ALWAYS existed in Brazil. This same press is adamantly against any government action to address these inequalities. Comments by both Carlos Zanella Fichtner and Antonio Nascimento that speaking of racial issues “makes this couple the most racist in the media” is laughable. I would LOVE to know how speaking of racial barriers and inequalities makes one racist.
I can honestly admit that I often see that the mainstream media does in fact use sensationalism and junk journalism to encourage animosity among certain groups and thus maintain their ratings/readership; I’ve seen the same formula used repeatedly in the American media as well. But my thing is, even with that being the case, it doesn’t erase the FACT that Brazil continues to be a vastly racially unequal country in which persons whose African ancestry is more visible than that of lighter-skinned Brazilians with more European features continue to be at a disadvantage in nearly all markers of quality of life. One black couple enjoying success doesn’t make it less of a problem. The very fact that it is still necessary to highlight such a couple in the media specifically because of their race is sufficient proof to show the rarity that they continue to be. If Brazilians react this way to a cover featuring a couple of a race that continues to be made invisible in the media, I wonder how they would react if suddenly they were to be presented in the media in equal numbers to VIPs who are considered white. Well, I’ve already seen how people react when there are “too many black people” in certain malls, university campuses and other places where they aren’t expected to be seen in large numbers…and I think I already know the answer! Today’s piece just confirms it…
- The phrase “puta que pariu” is a shortened version of the phrase “Vá pra puta que te pariu” can be translated as “go to the whore that gave birth to you”. In it’s full form it can be strong insult but in it’s shortened version it is often used to simply express surprise or frustration with a given situation.
- A reference to political journalist Reinaldo Azevedo. “Arruinaldo” is a slight variation of the word “arruinado”, which means ruined, which would be a manner of expressing a negative opinion about the journalist.