Note from BBT: As you who follow this blog know, I’ve been following the goings on the Globo TV reality show Big Brother Brasil for some time. This year’s season, number 21, has not disappointed in terms of controversy. And, to keep it 100, there’s no way I can keep up with every little detail that comes out from this program. A recent turn of events on the “most watched house in Brazil” brings yet another opportunity to discuss how incidents on BBB21 (and BBB in general) are reflections of where Brazilian society is on many levels.
The latest dust up is yet another example. As I’ve pointed out on nearly every piece I done of this season’s edition, it was breaking-record from the very beginning as it featured the largest number of black participants in its 21 seasons. Even that isn’t without its dilemma. Whenever we deal with Brazil and race, there will ALWAYS be a question of who is black, who is white, and who can only be simply labeled mestiço (mixed). To be real about it, even as Brazil’s black rights movement has long argued that all pretos (clearly black people) and pardos (brown people or people of mixed race) should be considered representative of the country’s black population.
Sometimes, if not the majority of times, this proves to be a task riddled with contradictions and black Brazilians themselves show this. There was already a discussion about the racial identity of one of the participants, Gilberto, on this season’s show. Then, a popular media outlet targeted at the black population held a vote on the identity of another participant, Sarah, that was also considered one of the black participants. The results? 51% said she was black while 49% said she was white.
Before getting into the latest incident, I have to address this issue again. The participant who was the co-star of this latest incident, the singer Rodolffo, is yet another example of the twists and turns of dealing with race in a country like Brazil. Rodolffo was not considered one of the black participants when the this season’s lineup was announced, and for good reason. I don’t think anyone in Brazil would define Rodolffo as black, but at the same time, when I look at him, I don’t see a white man either. Like an estimated 90% of other Brazilians, Rodolffo too has African ancestry. This would later come up during this whole controversy.
The topic of hair texture is one that has been a regular topic on this blog. I haven’t done an article specifically on this topic in a while, but everything I’ve written in past posts set the stage for this latest headline maker. So what happened? Well, it’s pretty simple and rather common in Brazil. Rodolffo, who I’d refer to as “socially white”, made a comment about the hair of another participant, the teacher João, who is a clearly black man and rocks a medium afro, which Brazilians refer to as a “black power” or simply “black”, both in English, in reference to the 1970s era in the United States when many African-Americans and leaders of the Black Power movement wore this hairstyle.
With that said, let’s get into this incident which will probably become a multi-post topic.
BBB21: João Luiz cries after Rodolffo makes a joke about his hair
The geology professor and participant João Luiz Pedrosa was disappointed with a joke he heard made by another participant, the sertanejo singer Rodolffo, on BBB21 last week. While the sertanejo singer was wearing the costume of a caveman monster, he said that the costume’s wig “was almost the same as João’s”. The professor was at the side when the comment was made. A few hours later, he sought out another participant, a black woman, Camilla de Lucas, and cried when he confessed that he was saddened by the joke.
“He was dressed as a caveman and associated a caveman wig to my hair. It was very irritating. He said: ‘Ah, my hair is the same as João’s'”, admitted the professor, who was with his best friend in the pantry area.
“I didn’t have that kind of situation in here at any time, so when that happened I went to a place in my head that I didn’t think I would need to access. At the same time, it’s that conversation I had there in the room with you, I don’t want to be in that place of correcting all the time,” pointed out João Luiz. In his comment he references the point that black Brazilians are constantly having to explain why this or that comment that people often downplay as jokes are, in fact, racist.
At that emotional moment, he was hugged by Camilla. “I think I don’t need to be correcting people, I think people need to realize that this is wrong, I don’t have to be speaking. How annoying, understand? I didn’t want to go through this here,” he lamented, while rubbing his eyes.
João Luiz heard Rodolffo’s joke while he was with participants Juliette Freire and Caio Afiune. Upon hearing the comparison made by the sertanejo, the Paraíba native tried to correct the comment, but it didn’t work.
“Yeah, that hair is a black power,” she pointed out. “It’s not, it’s different”, diverged João. “It’s not a black power, but if it was short, well done and trimmed…”, added Juliette.
Viewers of the program weren’t amused with the singer’s comments and took to social networks to express their disapproval.
João venting to Camilla, because Rodolffo said that the caveman’s costume hair was similar to his. SUCH HATE, THIS RODOLFFO 😡 – – Denis O Pimentinha 🌶 (@eu_denissilva) April 3, 2021
Another stupid joke by Rodolffo, now comparing João’s hair to the monster’s costume. The guy goes from homophobia to racism in his comments smiling and whoever criticizes that he is wrong. What an abomination this guy bbb21pic.twitter.com/Kp0G9XUHhi – saullete | draglicious.com.br (@saullete) April 3, 2021
João said he was uncomfortable with Rodolfo’s comment comparing his hair and that of the monster’s wig: – bbb.21 (@ manu_kate29) April 3, 2021
João explaining the discomfort in relation to the comparison that Rodolffo made of his hair with the monster’s wig, also said that Juliette tried to alleviate the situation but it was still super uncomfortable .. # BBB21pic.twitter.com / OLkXqWhqfM – hiʌn (@hwrror) April 3, 2021
Juliette calling this caveman hair a black power and João delicately “It’s not right”. I honestly don’t know how he can handle it. pic.twitter.com/aDndt9pIlt – Florentina Ariza (@laurelismo) April 3, 2021
Note from BBT: Over this past decade, black Brazilians have managed to make the issue of black hair, jokes and racist comments to the forefront of public consciousness. With all sorts of marches, articles, debates, seminars and an explosion of black women and men wearing their hair in its natural texture, the movement has successfully inspired a sort of pride in kinks, curls, naps and waves that simply didn’t exist just a few decades ago.
Throughout Brazilian history, it was pretty much an accepted standard that hair that wasn’t straight was something no one should be proud of. Over this period, black women used all sorts of methods to straighten their hair while black men simply shaved their heads nearly bald to avoid the negative stigmas associated with cabelo crespo or kinky/curly hair. As a source of shame, the issue wasn’t even up for debate. Well, as we have seen, this has and continues to change.
This latest episode on BBB21 is simply another example of the profound changes that black Brazil has demanded from society….and in some ways, achieved.
To be continued…
Source: Notícias da TV