Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos, protagonists of Lado a Lado
“A carne mais barata do mercado é a carne negra.”
(“The cheapest meat in the market is the dark meat.”) – lyric from the song “A Carne”
When Elza Soares made the song “A Carne (The Flesh)” in 2002, two years later Globo TV prepared to launch the novela, Da Cor do Pecado (Of the Color of Sin).
|Da Cor do Pecado, 2004|
At the time, the station was making noise. “The plot was noted for presenting the first black protagonist of an urban and contemporary novela,” still reads the text on Memória Globo website.
Eight years later, the channel will air simultaneously three productions whose black characters appear not only in large numbers but also in prominent roles. On October 22nd debuts the Glória Perez 9 pm novela Salve Jorge. Two weeks later, the series Subúrbia. Completing list is the 6pm series, Lado a Lado, which has been airing since September.
The trend comes as president Dilma Rousseff announced quotas for blacks in the civil service and the Ministry of Culture proposes an ordinance unique to black producers. Everything comes from the rise of socioeconomic class C, which is 53% black and brown, according to the Datapopular Institute.
“It’s more than coincidence. Surely Globo (TV) would not risk this change if it meant a risk of a loss of audience, ie revenue,” says Joel Zito Araújo, director of the documentary A Negação do Brasil, which is about the role of blacks on national television dramas.
By calculating the Datapopular, which considers race according to self-declaration, today blacks move R$673 (US$336.5) billion per year in the country. The income of blacks who make up the new middle class grew 123.2% in the last ten years.
“The roles of Taís Araújo* on TV show the change of the representation of blacks. She started as a slave (lead role in Xica da Silva in 1996), was a peddler (as Preta in 2004’s Da Cor do Pecado), later the daughter of a senator, who thinned her nose with makeup (in 2008 as Alícia Rosa in A Favorita),” says Renato Meirelles, a partner of the institute.
“From there, she played a top international (supermodel Helena in Viver a Vida of 2009-10) with all the beauty of the black woman, and in Cheias de Charme (in 2012 as Maria da Penha) she was part of this ascending class C, with pride in her history.”
Taking place partly in the Complexo do Alemão area of Rio de Janeiro, and partly in Turkey, Salve Jorge follows Morena (played by Nanda Costa), young woman who is a victim of the trafficking of women.
Around the protagonist, at least six black actors will move the novela. Lucy Ramos will be Sheila, her best friend. Roberta Rodrigues will Vanúbia, Morena’s rival, and girlfriend of the father of her child. Nando Cunha, Neuza Borges, Mussumzinho and Cris Vianna will also be part of the cast.
In the predecessor, Avenida Brasil, there were only two prominent roles for black actors: Zezé (Cacau Prostásio) and Silas (Ailton Graça). In Lado a Lado, there are nine blacks in prominent roles, among them the lead characters, Camila Pitanga and Lázaro Ramos.
Directed by Luiz Fernando Carvalho, the miniseries Suburbiawill show through Conceição (Erika Januza), blacks and the suburbia**. About 90% of the cast is made up of black actors. “It’s not only the crime, but the music, culture, religion, the work. Life without stereotypes,” says Paulo Lins.
Author of Cidade de Deus (City of God), the book that inspired the film by Fernando Meirelles (2002), he is co-author of the series. Black, he defends the Minister of Culture’s ordinance project.
“Globo has created quotas voluntarily because it felt the social force and urgency,” argues Joel Zito Araújo. When contacted, Globo said that it doesn’t divide a cast up by skin color and the casting is according to artistic compatibility.
* – Arguably the most successful black TV actress in Brazil’s history. See more about her here
** – It is also important to point out here that the term “subúrbia” or “subúrbio” is understood as the complete opposite of the meaning of its English translation “suburb” as used in the US. While the English term suburb as used in the US conjures up images of middle class lifestyles, the terms “subúrbio” and “peripheria” (periphery) as used in Brazilian Portuguese, are in some ways reminiscent of the images associated with the term “ghetto”, meaning a location outside of the central area of a city, the favela (slum/shantytown) an area inhabited by the poor and excluded from society. In the social imagination, it also conjures up images of various stereotypes, danger, against the grain lifestyles and drug trafficking.
TV series Subúrbia, featuring a 90% black cast, being hailed as groundbreaking for Brazilian television
Actress Taís Araújo covers May edition of Marie Claire magazine
Do you think of Brazil as a white nation? You would if you watched Brazilian television