Note from BBT: I was trying to figure out what was going on. On one of my social network accounts, I read that rapper Karol Conká is confirned as one of the contestants on the new season, the 21st, of the ever popular Globo TV reality show, Big Brother Brasil. OK. That’s cool. But I saw a post that comedian Nego Di and social media influencer Camilla de Lucas are also confirmed. OK, three black contestants. But then the posts kept coming. Another black contestant, and yet another and then still another.
“What’s going here?”, I thought. I mean, actor Babu Santana had a lot of support before he was eventually eliminated from the possibility of becoming the first clearly black man to win on the program and of course, all of black Brazil celebrated the eventual winner, the doctor, Thelma, who took home the BRL 1.5 million prize. But even so, this is BBB and it’s pretty standard to have only a few black people on the show since in debuted nearly 20 years ago.
In 2019, with the presence of five black participants, the media was abuzz about one of the most popular television programs having the largest number of Afro-Brazilians in the program’s history. Now, in 2021, that record is being broken. As you can imagine, the show has even started yet and black Brazil’s social networks are already dancing in the streets. OK, I get it. In Eurocentric Brazil, this IS a big deal and as I’ve explained my relationship to BBB in several previous posts, I DO understand why people are so excited about this.
But hollup. Let’s put this in perspective. Black Brazilians are still be discriminated against for their natural hair. Black Brazilians are still being massacred in the streets by police bullets and the masses of the black Brazilian population is still barely getting by. Perhaps this one of the reasons for so much celebration. The way black people are treated by Brazil, maybe seeing people who look like them will offer a sort of escape from the realities of being black in Brazil.
In the same way that advised not to be fooled by six black women competing for the Miss Brasil competition back in 2016 because things will return to normal very soon, I’m saying the same thing with the announcement of, I think, now eight black participants on the most popular reality show on television. In 2017, the second black woman in a row was crowned Miss Brasil. She became the third black winner in the contest’s 63 year history up to that point. But guess what. Since 2017, three straight white contestants in a row have won the competition. As I predicted, things would return to normal very soon and they did.
You can count on the same happening on BBB, so enjoy it you while you can.
Big Brother Brasil reality show’s 21st season will have largest number of black participants in its history
By Fernando Oliveira and Luiz Prisco
Judging by the list of participants released by Globo TV this Tuesday (19), BBB 21 will try to repeat part of the plans of “BBB 19”, until today considered a trauma on the part of the production of the program. The new season should set the record for the largest number of black participants in the history of the reality show.
According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 56.1% of the Brazilian population declares itself black or brown. However, this division is not seen on national television and cinema, still dominated by white protagonists. One of the main products of national entertainment, Big Brother Brasil, will try to change this unbalance on the 2021 edition.
So far the singers Karol Conka and Pocah, the social influencer Camilla de Lucas, comedian Nego Di and the actor Lucas Penteado have been named as participants. All are part of the cast, the group of guests by Globo. The popcorn team includes geography teacher João Luiz, who is also gay.
For the most attentive fans of the attraction, this could be a great opportunity to follow up on the historic reparation started with Thelma Assis’ victory last year. In BBB 19, which had five black participants, the champion was Paula Sperling, accused of giving several statements considered racist.
In the book Confinamentos & Afins, released last year, Rodrigo França justified why he avoided going head to head with his reality show companion: “I confess that, out here, I have had to raise my voice a few times, as a resource to be respected, yes. But, in the program, I knew that if I did that, I would be the ‘mad black man’, the ‘dangerous guy’, the ‘bandit'”, he said. “My silence wasn’t cowardice, it was saving energy. Racism is not entertainment. You can’t romanticize on television something that excludes, diminishes and kills every day.”
In the United States, the CBS network decided that its realitys shows, including the the American version of Big Brother, would have 50% non-white participants. Globo, it seems, was inspired by the idea: Almost half of BBB21 cast will be black or brown participants. Remembering that the format belongs to the Dutch Endemol and, in the rules, doesn’t provide any restriction as to race or any other characteristic.
Black participants announced for BBB 21
Lucas Penteado, of Team Camarote
Nego Di, of Team Camarote
Pocah, of Team Camarote
João Luiz, of Team Pipoca
Camilla de Lucas, of Team Camarote
Karol Conká, of team Camarote
Projota, of Team Camarote
Lumena, of Team Pipoca
After seeing black doctor Thelma Assis win the 2020 edition, representativeness may be the key this year. Both on team Camarote, consisting of famous participants, and on team Pipoca – consisting of unknown people – there is a cast formed by pretos (blacks) and pardos (browns). Of the 20 cast names, 8 are non-white.
Among the famous, who in this new format of reality call more attention, is rapper, feminist and anti-racism activist Karol Conká. The Curitiba native will join humorist Negro Di, singer Pocah, actor Lucas Penteado, rapper Projota, and social influencer Camilla de Lucas. On team Pipoca are João Luiz and Lumena.
Social and commercial demand
For Maíra de Deus Brito, PhD student in Human Rights and Citizenship at the University of Brasília (UnB), and author of the book Ele Não Está, this adaptation of BBB21 to the racial profile of Brazilian society meets a growing demand in society and commercial pressure.
“20 years ago we watched a program that reflects the Brazilian culture and that is why racism is so clear and relativized. The same thing that happens inside the house (set of BBB), happens outside. However, I was impressed by Thelma’s victory in 2020, as well as the increase of black people in this year’s edition. But I think it’s naïve to believe that changing this profile is only interested in representativeness. BBB is a highly profitable program and must follow discourses and trends to succeed. The issues of race and gender are stronger than ever and reality shows follow this wave,” says the researcher.
The presence of a greater number of black people, Maíra de Deus Brito points out, also fulfills the function of showing the variety of bodies and beauties existing in diversity.
“Black people on BBB will prove that there is (and a lot of) black beauty and that this white-hetero-cis pattern should be undone. It’s a timid start, but when we think about how many houses the program has come to, it can be a very relevant action,” he ponders.
“In 2019, the Mangueira samba school paraded with the theme “Stories to Lullaby Great People,” in which the people said: “Brazil, my black/let me tell you the history that history doesn’t tell.” Karol (Conká) and Lucas (Penteado), among other black men and women participants, will tell our stories in culture, politics and in all other sectors that we are present, but that they insist on erasing or stereotyping us,” concludes Maíra de Deus Brito.
BBB21: Globo is no more and no less racist with this season
By the Alma Preta newsroom
As the names were announced, a riot took over the social networks, with people excited about the possibility of accompanying black men and women on the program, especially during the period of pandemic and social isolation.
The largest Brazilian television station, as is well known, has not increased the participation of black people because it believes in representativeness or in the greater diversity of people. There is a pressure from society and from the market so that the products presented to the public respond to everyone’s interests. This, definitely, does not make Rede Globo a more diverse broadcaster or committed to the structural changes imposed by racism.
CBS, the owner of the rights to BBB, demanded for the reality shows of 2021-22 the presence of 50% of non-white participants. “As we strive to improve all of these creative aspects, the commitments announced today are the first important steps in gaining new voices to create content and further expand diversity in our reality show programming as well as our network,” said George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group.
It’s worth liking BBB and wanting to change reality
Even with all the limitations, including those already known to the public, the reality show with a massive audience will allow the discussion of a number of interesting topics. The profile of the guests suggests this, with black people engaged in the struggle against racism, sexism and different social inequalities.
If Thelma and Babu could barely say the word “racism” openly in the 2020 edition, this time the game will literally be different.
The program will also allow both the “fans” and the participants of the reality show itself to show the differences between black people. The six participants will certainly have affinities, but the disagreements will be present, as well as the fights and the mismatches. Black people are unique and diverse, with the similarity of sharing the social construction of blackness.
It’s worth remembering that the black population in Brazil has more than 100 million black and brown people and they will not be represented in all their diversity by 6 people. Even with the jump from 2 participants, the standard number of Black participants on the reality show, to 6 is significant, the singularities of the povo negro (black people) and of each individual are unique.
Regardless of the characteristics of each member of the program, it is healthy that Black people have the possibility to consume representative entertainment products, in which it is possible to recognize themselves, at least in some way. Entertainment is part of our daily life and the BBB will be the subject of discussion, with or without the presence of black people. If this is the case, it is better that this social segment is involved and that black people have more and more reasons to have enjoy themselves, especially during social isolation.
To deny the relevance of Big Brother Brasil is to row against the tide and close your eyes to a program that will move people’s daily lives. It is a space for the construction of imaginary and it is fundamental that it walks towards breaking the myth of racial democracy and helps in the mobilization of people.
BBB, however, should stay in its place, as a space of entertainment, with the possibility of important discussions, but without the understanding that it is an environment of struggle for rights.
Having access to rights and having the possibility to consume representative products are different. One does not deny the other. It is possible (and a lot) to like about BBB, to cheer for black people, and to keep mobilizing in group and in daily life to change the unequal reality of the country. One thing, however, is not equal to the other.