On average, on Brazil’s top TV networks, Globo, Record and SBT, only 8% of current casts of soap operas are black



Note from BW of Brazil: I’ve said this before, it’s an across the board policy. Since the controversy surrounding the cast of Brazil’s top television network Globo TV’s newest novela was introduced to the public, there has been criticism and debate over the few black actors/characters on the soap opera that is set in the northeastern state of Bahia, known for its huge black population. But it’s not just a Globo thing. As I’ve written before, under-representation of black actors/characters on television applies to ALL of the television networks, whether we speak of TV journalism, talk shows or novelas. Thus, while it may be true that Globo TV is by far the most dominant network on the airwaves, there’s no point in only pointing the finger in the direction of that network when its competitors have the same “dictatorship of whiteness” policy in place.

Globo, Record and SBT have, on average, only 8% of black actors in novelas

Segundo Sol Segundo Sol
In May, Globo TV’s new novela, Segundo Sol, provoked controversy due to its overwhelmingly white cast set in Bahia, a state with a majority black population

By Gilvan Marques

There is only 7.98% of black actors working in the dramaturgy of the three major broadcasters in the country, currently, according to a survey done by a UOL news report. The calculation took into account the novelas (soap operas) that are on the air or in production at the Globo, Record and SBT TV networks, and the cast reported by each one of them.

As Aventuras de Poliana (SBT)
Cast of SBT-TV novela ‘As Aventuras de Poliana’

While As Aventuras de Poliana, which debuts on this Wednesday (16) on the SBT, is the plot that has the largest black representation (14.5%), Globo’s Deus Salve o Rei has only one  black actor (Rosa Marya Colin, despite her name not appearing in the list of characters on the official website). In Record TV’s Apocalipse novela, of 81 actors listed on the technical information, only two are black — or 2.46% of the total.

Deus Salve o Rei (Globo) - Copy
Actors of Globo TV’s ‘Deus Salve o Rei’ novela

The discussion on the subject was raised at the end of April, after activists of black movements complained on social networks about the fact that the new 9 o’clock novela on Globo, Segundo Sol, was formed mostly by whites. The story written by João Emanuel Carneiro is set in Bahia, where 80.2% of the population declared itself pretos ou pardos (blacks or browns), according to 2017 data from IBGE.

For Sidney Santiago, actor, researcher and activist, television has become the most effective tool for the maintenance of racism. “When people cannot see themselves, they don’t think they’re deserving of rights. We, black actors, are still tied to an item. There are 200 characters in a novela, you have three blacks, and they are all dehumanized people, who don’t have their story told”, he critiques.

Apocalipse (Record) - Copy
Actors of Record TV’s ‘Apocalipse’ novela

“The problem is not being a black maid, the problem is that maid black doesn’t have a family, doesn’t have affectivity, is de-politicized. It’s against this that we need to fight,” says the actor who participated in novelas such as Caminho das Índias (Globo) and Escrava Mãe (Record), referring to stereotypes.

Santiago does not believe in the real attempt to change on the part of the broadcasters. “I don’t see a real mobilization. I’m not speaking of factoid, production of note, inclusion campaigns of one day to night. What we are seeing is this: a social clamor, a mobilization, but, for me, is still not a real mobilization. They are factoids trying to relate to the public outcry.”

Sidney Santiago - Mundo Deserto de Almas Negras - Copy
Actor Sidney Santiago (center) in 2016 film ‘Mundo Deserto de Almas Negras’

After the controversy, the Globo TV delivered note saying that “in fact, we still have a smaller representation of what we would like and we will work to evolve with this question.” Record and SBT were also consulted, but has not responded to questions by the time this text was published.

The author of As Aventuras de Poliana, Iris Abravanel said he has difficulty finding black actors to compose the casts during the release of the SBT child/teen novela, last week.

“When we look for actors, it’s not easy to find an ator afro (African descendant actor). We have difficulty finding (them). I think that they themselves need to overcome some difficulties and go forth to achieve. I am so happy when I see someone who manages to be a lawyer, a physician, an actor. Sometimes when we request, there aren’t many, no. So, that that we got, we took advantage of.”

Fabiana (Fernanda Rodrigues) é presa ao lado de mulheres negras em cena exibida em O Outro Lado do Paraíso - Copy
In a scene considered racist by some viewers, Fabiana (played by actress Fernanda Rodrigues) is imprisoned surrounded by only black women in the Globo novela ‘O Outro Lado do Paraíso’

“Ridiculous and weird” discussion

In contrast to other actors, the veteran Ruth de Souza, one of the first black actresses to earn a prominent role in a novela, considers today’s times “better” in relation to the escalation of black actors, but assesses how “ridiculous and weird” it is having to discuss the issue in the dramaturgy.

“It is very different from before, it’s better now, we have more (black) actors and actresses and [novelas] are mixing marriages of blacks and whites, there’s even a (black) judge,” says the 97 year old actress who recently participated in the Globo series Mister Brau.

“The career of an actor is bad for anyone. I think it’s ridiculous and weird for the Brazilian arguing about blacks and whites. In my family, for example, there are blacks, Japanese, has a lot of races. I think what we need to enjoy is that of the human being, no matter their race”, she adds.

Ruth, who says she has never experienced racism –“or if I experienced it, I didn’t see it”– cites as examples of representation on television, besides judge Rachel, interpreted by Erika Januza on O Outro Lado do Paraíso, the journalist Maju Coutinho, who presents the  weather forecast on the Globo news program Jornal Nacional (see note one).

Judicial measures

Last Friday, the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) sent a notification to the TV Globo requesting that the broadcaster make an adaptations in Segundo Sol and in other programs of the broadcaster. The Court gave a deadline of 10 days for which the broadcaster can “deliver the representation of ethnic-racial diversity of Brazilian society”.

In an interview with columnist for the UOL, Mauricio Stycer, the prosecutor Valdirene Silva de Assis, head of the newly created National Coordinator of promoting equality and combating job discrimination, says that the notification made to the Globo is “a preliminary step of a more effective action” and that the organ must knock on the door of other broadcasters.

“We want these broadcasters to open this debate. Review their practices. The broadcasters don’t do it alone. It is a reflection of this situation.”

In Congress, on April 11, the federal deputy (congressman) Marco Antonio Cabral (PMDB-RJ) presented a bill which obliges television and radio broadcasters to have at least 30% blacks in their respective areas, including the dramaturgy. If approved, the motion would reach  both public and private TV stations.

In social networks, the committee justified the project. “The system of quotas in higher education today makes a difference by decreasing the historic inequality between whites and blacks in this country. Brazil is a country that is racist, and that is why we need to break these barriers.”

Source: TV e Famosos


  1. I must say that it was very disappointing reading these comments from such an important actress as Ruth de Souza. Her career began with the groundbreaking Teatro Experimental do Negro in the 1940s and spans over 70 years and no doubt opened doors for the following generations of Afro-Brazilian actors. But with so much struggle still in 2018 to see decent Afro-Brazilian representation on the airwaves, it’s, in her own words, “strange and ridiculous” to hear her basically repeat Brazil’s long decades long deceptive discourse of “my family is mixed, we Brazilians aren’t racist”. I have deep admiration for Ruth de Souza and what her career has meant and, after all, she is 97 years old now and I met her I would never think of debating this issue with her. But it’s difficult to read that she sees progress on Brazil’s airwaves because the networks are showing mixed couples on TV when seeing black couples is such a rarity. It’s also difficult to read her mentioning journalist Maju Coutinho presenting the weather on the Globo network without mentioning her being targeted with racist comments a few years back being one of the biggest stories in the media. I disagree with her views, but this doesn’t take away from her importance.
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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