Today, in the midst of all of the craziness of Carnaval, we received conformation that another famous African-American public figure will be arriving in Brazil for the last day of the festivities as well as taking the time to get to know her Brazilian fans. In the past few days or so, we informed you that Spike Lee returned to the northeastern city and center of Afro-Brazilian culture, Salvador, Bahia, to continue work on his documentary Go, Brazil, Go! We also reported that actor Will Smith and rapper/producer Kanye West popped up in Rio de Janeiro hitting some of the popular tourists destination. Now, after about a month of speculation, it’s been confirmed that actress Tichina Arnold will be arriving in Salvador, Bahia, sometime today! American TV viewers probably know Tichina best for her role as Pam on the 1990s TV series Martin and in the 21st century in her role as Rochelle on the Chris Rock produced TV series Everybody Hates Chris.
What Americans may or may not know is that this program is also very popular in Brazil. As we mentioned several posts back, Brazilian TV networks have been airing American TV programs on their airwaves for several years. Besides Everybody Hates Chris, other popular American shows featuring primarily black casts include The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, My Wife and Kids and That’s So Raven. Each of the latter three programs have been renamed in their Brazilian versions while the title of Everybody Hates Chris is an exact translation, Todo Mundo Odeia o Chris, in Portuguese.
As we have consistently reported on this blog, there is a severe under-representation of black faces in many realms of Brazilian society, including TV and the media in general, politics, modeling runways, school textbooks and many other areas. When Afro-Brazilian actors are featured on Brazilian TV channels, they are often featured in cliché, highly stereotyped roles. Every now and then, a Brazilian TV network will feature a series with a higher than average percentage of black actors, but often times, as with the recent, highly-anticipated series Subúrbia, (which was the topic of much hype with its 90% Afro-Brazilian cast) these programs ultimately end up as a big let down for media conscious black Brazilians who expect much more.
With all of this in mind, I was curious to know what people thought about Everybody Hates Chris in general as well as the character portrayed by Tichina. There is so much to think of in speaking on this topic: cross-cultural/language translation, globalization, the transmission/reception of African Diasporic cultural specificities and media images of African descendants in the context of transcontinental under-representation.
Tichina Arnold (Rochelle Rock) Come to Brazil! – Produced by Mable Ivory
I would like to thank Mable Ivory, Ms. Arnold’s consultant for bringing this to our attention. Speaking of Mable, in anticipation of Tichina possibly visiting Brazil, she produced and posted an interesting video clip of her discussing “Rochelle’s” fan base in Brazil and interviews with a few Brazilians about the EHC/TMOC TV series. If you’ve seen EHC and are curious about how Brazilians see the show, check the following clip. The show is left intact in its original version with Brazilian actors doing vocal overdubs in Portuguese.
Season One: The Gout/A Gota
Speaking of overdubs, sometime between 2011-2012, I discovered an interesting, or would it be ironic, little tidbit about the Brazilian actors who do the overdubs for the show. If you follow the show, you know that Tichina’s character, Rochelle (Chris’ mother) questions/accuses her husband Julius (Terry Crews) about the possibility of his having some sort of extra/pre-marital affair with a white woman. In one episode, the Chris character (Tyler James Williams), in the voice of narrator and show creator, comedian/actor Chris Rock, thinks his father has a whole other white family on the side that he’s leaving them for. If you grew up in many black American communities in the 1970s, you knew that your “blackness/down with the cause” card could come into serious question if someone discovered that you had more than just a platonic relationship with a white girl/woman.
With this in mind, how funny/ironic is it that the Tichina’s Portuguese overdubs are performed by a white Brazilian woman? As a matter of fact, ALL of the overdubs on the show are done by white Brazilian actors! WOW! So, black Brazilian actors are in general nearly invisible in front of the camera and even in the overdub recording booth?!?! Tichina, if you’re reading, holla at me! Inquiring minds would like to what you think, on the real though….LOL
Anyway, on the more serious side, I wanted to dialogue with black Brazilians who were familiar with the show and get their impressions of the show, the images and Tichina’s Rochelle character. Below are a few of their comments in English with the original Portuguese comments near the bottom of the page.
We hope Tichina enjoys her trip to Salvador, Bahia, and gets to know her fans in other parts of the country in the future. Special thanks and “shouts out” to our friends over at the Correio Nagô website and again Mable Ivory!
Questions and comments about Everybody Hates Chris/Todo Mundo Odeia o Chris
People: The actress Tichina Arnold (Rochelle of Everybody Hates Chris) wants to visit Brazil! It’s possible that she could arrive for Carnaval or afterward. I would like to know what you think of the Rochelle’s character on the show. Do you like Rochelle? What do you like or not like about this character? What does the character represent to black women of Brazil? What do you think about the program in general in Brazil, where blacks are almost invisible in the media?
Adriana– My kids compare me to her during those PMS days, but my husband doesn’t have two jobs and I don’t count cents…I think that she is another stereotype character and almost doesn’t seem like us Brazilian women…for me, she doesn’t represent many things…LOL
Marco – Hello. Always taking into consideration that it is a 30 minute televised comedy series (a limited time) – sitcom style – situation comedy (here in Brazil comédia de situações), however it amplifies the characteristics of the characters, almost a caricature and that predominates the point of view of Chris, a 13-year old boy, Rochelle represents a certain type of common black woman, a resident of the popular/poor neighborhoods – SHE RUNS THINGS IN THE HOUSE. In terms of the children, she always worries about “staying firm” on their education and, without academic knowledge of the more modern formulas of primary education (if this formula exists), she does her job as a mother the best possible way, rigid, she punishes when the child gets into mischief (because she knows that society will put their responsibility on her) and an almost overprotection of the dangers of the neighborhood. But, in spite of the apparent judiciousness, she is always at their side in the worst situations giving incentive and affection. And she is democratic, she gets in the business of all of them indistinctively. In regards to her husband she is the link between him always working (two jobs) and partly-disconnected Julius, with the kids and the necessities of the house. As he follows the advice of wise-people, Julius normally accepts that Rochelle is almost always rights and when she is not right he is wrong, however….(LOL)…Rochelle is strong, really runs things, because it’s fitting for her to train and educate the kids over 13 years and giving strength to her husband, including his famous coupons. However, if you notice, she’s used to consulting Julius on many occasions and reporting the facts to make shared decisions. Even not being the financial provider, she’s the one that has the decision-making power most of the time, including that of sending Chris, the oldest, however that that is the model for the younger siblings, to a better school even though it’s far and located in a “white neighborhood” (knowing of the problems of racism that he’ll face). With this decision Rochelle trusts in education, character and strength that she and Julius give to Chris. Well, I could speak of the character in various aspects, because she really changes according to time/life. She went to work, has friends/enemies, brother, etc. I think that she, in spite of being a caricature, has many aspects of black Brazilian women (respecting the cultural aspects). Well, I think that I gave a good contribution for healthy reflections/debates. Hugs.
Cristiano – Sometimes I think that the Americans came to Brazil to secretly copy the history of my childhood. “CHRIS!!” When my mother screamed my name, any boy named Chris in the neighborhood answered….HAHAHAHA
Cristiano – Outside of the behavior of the Brazilian and the American that are completely different, the series is from another era. It shows the childhood of the comedian Chris Rock (when I comment or show his picture to some people they don’t believe it,,,) in the ghetto of New York almost 30 years ago. It’s not even like that anymore there, imagine here. I only think that it’s a shame to come to Brazil during Carnaval, she will be another (person) that thinks that our country can be summarized to only that.
Marco – Many times we, black men, are “unfair” (in order to not start any controversy) with black women. They always were the basis of the survival of the black community. Historically, while we were dying for actions and/or lack of actions of the Brazilian State, by violence, by the excess of alcoholic drinks and other types of drugs, by the lack of education, etc. It was the Rochelles that sent the survivors to school, that sustained the homes selling sweer, doing domestic work in the homes of the “rich”. All of this often times alone. And in the moment of recognizing, who knows. (This is something) to think about.
JP – Us not some black men…I appreciate the black woman a lot, even for the fact of being the son of one. This is worth it for black men that prefer white women because of the issue of status.
JP – Respect to the actress Tichina Arnold (Rochelle of TUDO MUNDO ODEIA O CHRIS). She will be welcome in Brazil, excellent actress, besides being pretty and attractive. What a mouth, huh….LOL LOL
Junior – I hear many of us complain and ask for more blacks in television programs and when there is one that has a practically a majority of black actors it seems to me that it’s little watched….Hypocrisy?.……Or an I deceiving myself?
Weberton – Unfortunately what Junior Sarrinha Junior said is true, I’ve already heard many of us saying that they don’t like the program in question, some say they don’t think it’s funny, other say they don’t have time, others say that they don’t watch because they don’t like the station. And for all of them I ask, don’t you identify with any scenes of the series? In the majority (of times) responses don’t come. I particularly enjoy Everybody Hates Chris; I’ve already watched all of the seasons and I don’t get tired (of them), it portrays in a simply and objective way prejudice and racism from some time ago and if we analyze them, prejudices and racism continue in a “maybe more subtle” form.
Moisés – I consider the character in question to be quite caricatured and stereotyped. I don’t appreciate such a profile because I consider it negative to the already fragile situation of black women. I never saw my mother or my grandmother “act” like Chris’ mother. I never quite understood the type of message that Chris Rock tried to get across with the series in question. My wife likes it a lot. I don’t. Anyway, I think it’s always enriching (when) African-American personalities come to Brazil. I, myself, have appreciated them quite a bit.
PS: In case you know the backstage/background of the series in question, please let me know.
Junior – That’s what I’m saying my guru W.A., unfortunately our people complain, ask for, give ideas, criticize the system, but when it’s time to come together for a cause we dissipate and maintain our same habits…..it’s clear that our mothers and grandmothers don’t have and didn’t have the same behavior as Chris’s mother, really because it’s another culture and another type of upbringing, quite different from ours, if we were to look from this angle it has many things that are passed on in novelas (soap operas) that my progenitors didn’t have the same behavior and even because of this I didn’t stop watching and liking, what’s in question is us appreciating more what is ours, if this program is not our own, with our actors, besides that when it’s being made with ours (people) it’s not accepted and still gets criticized badly like what happened with Suburbia.
Jorge – I think that any offer (film, TV series or program) can be analyzed tranquilly and our critical sense doesn’t have color. A good actor is a good actor. A good program is a good program. And it should never matter the ethnicity of the cast, the director or producer, after all. How much the presence of black celebrities is celebrated is another subject. I think that we should always celebrate that a black personality is making moves, always when a black personality makes him/herself present in some event, wherever this personality is or where they were.
Junior – I want to leave it quite clear that I make critiques of the system of choices for a cast and it’s not my intention that this or that program be only for blacks, even though we search for equality it would not be coherent that we preach exclusivity….thinking that we are confirmed to be more than 50% of the Brazilian population why are so few or almost none shown in the novelas? It’s certain that BBB (Big Brother Brasil) doesn’t bring any educative benefits but why is there only one or two black among the 16 participants in all of the editions (seasons)? (It’s) history for making a script and quality actors we have, only (they) don’t let us shine.
Tute – It represents from a way (perspective) quite different from our reality, because there they choose what they want to do depending on what they have at hand, and here not even this, but the strong personality in general does absorb the mothers of our Brazil.
Eloise – She represents the role of the woman in the home, as any woman in society, with one difference: she has visibility!
Carlos – The simple fact of a series featuring a black family (emphasis on the word FAMILY), with a father that works hard, with a dedicated, loving mother (there are controversies about how ‘loving’) and a young black (boy) – in a hard-working neighborhood –that goes to school. THAT’S ALREADY WORTH THE ‘TICKET’.
Daniela – I think that the character is part everything, the entire series is admired by Brazilians, if you do research you will see that the same thing happened with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and My Wife and Kids. Brazilians identify with this type of American series, I believe that because of the fact that we don’t have anything similar in Brazil, something that has more of our face. I think that the Rochelle character is an extreme caricature, accenting the stigma of the African-American woman of being bossy, but I don’t put too much into this, it’s a comedy (and) it has to be exaggerated like this. I believe that her coming would be interesting, especially so that she can feel how successful the series is around here and what her image represents in Brazil, but it would be better if all the characters could come.
I think that she is a little of the image that every black woman knows, that she needs to be strong to raise her children without them getting into trouble, some because they raise their children alone and others because the husbands have to work too much to sustain the house.
Anyway, the series is also successful, because the situations that they show are very similar to what happened in the periphery of São Paulo in the 1980s. For example, the lack of opportunities, wanting to buy things and can’t, many people in the same age group as Chris Rock identify with the series.
I don’t think so, maybe the fact of her being so bossy with him (Julius) is strange for some regions in a country as sexist as Brazil, but I really don’t believe that they can bring up doubts, I doubt that people even stop to think about this but maybe it would be cool to create a quiz in Facebook about this, if someone would like to ask something about the character.