Today’s guest post is by Daniela Gomes who shares her thoughts on the popular children’s novela Carrossel, which is shown on Brazil’s SBT TV network. BW of Brazil touched on some of the racial aspects of the program a few months back (for more background see here). Blogger Rosa Estrada also discussed her thoughts on this program back in January. In today’s post, Gomes discusses the possible ramifications of showing a young, poor, black boy in love with an arrogant white girl who is the daughter of a doctor and carries herself as if she is better than others. As noted in the previous post on this topic, the Cirilo character, the only black child character on a program with 16 children, is often the butt of jokes of friends on the show, but takes particularly abusive treatment from the Maria Joaquina character, the girl with whom he is helplessly in love.
In a world that is completely equal and all persons are treated the same, the racial aspect in this relationship wouldn’t matter. It would simply be a situation of a young boy willing to do anything to capture the affections of his dream girl. But as Brazil can hardly be considered a country of equality where the media blatantly portrays all things white as being superior than all others, the racial aspect of this TV program speaks volumes. In a previous four-part post, BW of Brazil also discussed a common belief by white and black Brazilians alike that black Brazilian men have a preference for white women. Historically speaking, Brazilian elites also spread the ideology of “embranquecimento (whitening)” as a means of whitening the country’s population at the end of the 19th century. This ideology spread among black Brazilians who often times encouraged their children to pursue white partners. Keep this in mind as you read this post and watch the included videos.
Cirilo’s Syndrome: When black males will do and accept anything for the love of a white female
(originally titled Síndrome de Cirilo/Cirilo’s Syndrome)
by Daniela Gomes
A few days ago the SBT TV network began broadcasting a new version of the novela Carrossel, a Mexican soap opera that was very successful when I was a child that had has one of its principal attractions the passion of a black boy for a little white girl and her contempt for him because of his social status and his race.
In the original plot, (the black boy) Cirilo suffered all kinds of humiliations while trying desperately to get the attention of Maria Joaquina while she responded aggressively and violently making the kid a victim of bullying.
Maria Joaquina destroys flowers given to her by Cirilo
I was very sad to read a story where the author (who incidentally is the wife of the owner of the station) that is making this Brazilian version of the novela saying she would keep all the scenes of racism, because she wanted to be faithful to the original and because she believed that it would be a way to show a real problem in Brazil.
Cirilo dreams of how Maria Joaquina will react after he gives her flowers
At the same time I wondered how the humiliation of a black boy on primetime television, without any type of reaction from him would help in combating racism. I was even sadder to see my little nephews watching the show, but was there is nothing I could do, so that my cries of protest were heard, I started thinking about it. I thought of when I saw the first version of the novela how much I suffered from the injustices committed by the girl and Cirilo’s suffering.
Cirilo has a bad dream about Maria Joaquina
I thought of the joy we felt when Cirilo won a motor car that was black like him in a raffle and competed in a race with the boy who was considered handsome in the story that was rich and had a motor car that was white like him. (In the story Maria Joaquina was in love with the white boy and made a point of showing Cirilo how she and the other boy were equal and therefore superior to Cirilo). It was as if we were all winning as well.
Note from BW of Brazil: In the scene below, note how Maria appears irritated with Cirilo, again, wanting her attention. Cirilo tells Maria that although other girls keep telling him to stop fawning over because she doesn’t like him, he will continue to give her compliments. Below is the dialogue translated and video of the scene (in Portuguese)
Cirilo: Maria Joaquina. Hi Maria Joaquina.
Maria Joaquina: What is it?
Cirilo: When I compliment you the (other) girls treat me bad
Maria Joaquina: And?
Cirilo: And, even though they don’t understand me, I will always compliment youMaria Joaquina: You know, Cirilo. I think that you should listen more to your friends, wasting time with someone that doesn’t give you any importance
Cirilo: I only wanted to compliment youMaria Joaquina: I only wanted to compliment you (mockingly)
Maria Joaquina treats Cirilo badly in front of other girls
I thought of all the little black boys who received the nickname Cirilo in their schools during the time of the novela. And I started to wonder if this didn’t help to develop in boys of my generation (now men in their 30s), the Cirilo’s syndrome. What I’m dealing with here in Cirilo’s Syndrome is the need that some boys have to accept being treated with inferiority when such treatment comes from a white woman.
I will never judge interpersonal relationships, after all I don’t mandate anything in people’s hearts, but I’ve seen many black men being humiliated and accepting this humiliation in a submissive manner simply because of the desire to have a white woman by his side.
I wonder if the behavior exhibited by this “innocent” soap opera could not have helped shape the minds of many resigned black men who accept being called a monkey by their girlfriends as if it were an affectionate nickname. I wonder if in our society where the myth of racial democracy continues operating its very successful form of brainwashing, where the biggest problem of blacks is their own badly formed black identity or lack of identity, it’s not a disservice to create another generation of victims of this syndrome that only creates low self-esteem.
Unfortunately for today, I have no answers only questions, but I would like very much that the Movimento Negro (black movement) moved themselves to demand that lady who is adapting the novela to the Brazilian reality, at least create an ending where there is some sort of reflection and show the horror of racism in our society.