The under-representation of Afro-Brazilians on television

The cast of the You Tube program 'Tá Bom Pra Você?'
The cast of the You Tube program ‘Tá Bom Pra Você?’

Note from BW of Brazil: Throughout the history of television in Brazil, persons of visible African ancestry have been largely invisible, under-represented or presented in tried and true stereotypes that anyone who has studied the media could recognize. Representation of Afro-Brazilians in the media is yet another avenue that begs the question as well as points out the contradiction in what most Brazilians believe about their country: If Brazil is truly proud of its mixed ancestry and variety of phenotypes, why do the majority of faces and bodies on television only represent the European side of this mixture?

Actress Camila Pitanga in a commercial for Caixa Econômica Federal
Actress Camila Pitanga in a commercial for Caixa Econômica Federal

Afro-Brazilians are rarely even featured in TV commercials. It’s as if black people don’t use soap (another stereotype?), shampoo or drive cars. Noting this invisibility, back in January we featured actor Érico Brás and his family who addressed this issue with their own series of self-produced You Tube product commercial parodies. The series became such a hit online that, in March, Brás announced a second season of the series ahead of its April release. “This time we’ll have, besides comedy, a framework chat. The idea is that, every 15 days, four black women gather to discuss any issue,” added Érico. Brás also hinted that the second season would discuss the then coming Brazil-hosted 2014 World Cup and discussions of controversial issues. 

As the old saying goes, “if you want something done, you gotta do it yourself.” And in terms of television representation, this obviously still applies in Brazil. 

Blacks on television

by Nathali Lima

Scene from the TV series 'Cidade dos Homens'
Scene from the TV series ‘Cidade dos Homens’

The importance of television in the lives of Brazilian citizens is undeniable. Present in most homes eventually becoming a fundamental instrument in the cultural formation of the country. Among the various forms proposed by the context of entertaining television are the telenovelas. The novelas (soap operas) displayed on television are, by far, the construction of television fiction that arouses the most interest in the viewer. Faced with a society that systematically excludes blacks from spaces of power, television could not be different. This type of artistic production is widely distributed throughout the country and is consumed by a large portion of the population.

For its relevance, it is important to raise the issue of racial inequality, and its false inclusion: where blacks take the place of second-class citizen exercising roles rejected by whites and that ends up, within the racist logic, legitimizing the structural exclusion of blacks in these spaces. Understanding it as a tool to maintain the hegemony imposed by racism (precisely for being accessible and present in the everyday of Brazilians) it’s notable the low black representation on television and, in most cases, when inserted it is to make a caricatured representation.

Actress Isaura Bruno
Actress Isaura Bruno

In novelas, blacks enact, almost always, subordinate roles or characters that don’t have prominence in the plot. Knowing of the limitations of opportunities present in this business, we can imagine the labor shortage for black artists. In 1964, Isaura Bruno, a black woman, gained notoriety for her role in the television hit O Direito de Nascer (The Right to be Born). The success didn’t guarantee a stable career. She died poor, working as a street vendor. It’s necessary, beyond the requirements that intend to ensure the presence of blacks in spaces like these, mostly white and racist at its root, to formulate spaces that are inclusive, in its essence, to this type of posture.

Tá Bom Pra Você? – Cereal Black

Fortunately, the internet provides the black actors, writers and visual artists the possibility to create beyond the mainstream and large television corporations. Initiatives such as the channel Tá bom pra você? (Is it good for you?), illustrate alternative gifts for working with blacks and the creative process in parallel with the insertion of blacks in the television landscape and mainstream media.

Scene from the You Tube series 'Tá bom pra você?'
Scene from the You Tube series ‘Tá bom pra você?’

It is important that this process aimed at inserting blacks in television be accompanied by a critical vision and intention in proposing a debate on the exclusion of blacks in these spaces. To make this discussion possible is to pave the way for it to become possible in other spheres of society.

Source: Meninas Black Power, Correio 24 Horas

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Actually, if blacks in Brazil were not racists themselves, this would all already be gone.

    Really, 21 century, who stills sees Globo or normal TV?

    OK… I understand Brazil is still behind, but at some point they will be in sinc with the rest of the world.

    • Hey Dude…

      I agree, black people have been tainted by white supremacy, but the question is, where did they learn that from? One population beats the other, strips it of all its dignity and then blames the victim for their situation.

      • I agree with you. Well, the answer is that blacks need desperately to learn how to be violent like whites. And I’m not talking about armed robbery violence, that’s just desperate and stupid. The only thing whites respect is power. We can whine all we want, so that they will send us nice white Canadian girls to scream for the rights of blacks, secretly laughing how ridiculous it is.

        What I meant with Globo is that either you control it, ot you demean it. Globo is racist, if it were 30 years ago this would be a lost fight, but now there is the internet, We need to instruct blacks they should NOT watch Globo crap to begin with, that’s all.

  2. @gatasnegrasbrasileiras
    I really love your blog. It’s one of my favorites in the blogosphere. I’ve been following you for awhile now. You have such great posts. You do great research. I always learn something new when coming to your blog. I have a few questions if you don’t mind. Just a bit curious.
    1. Do you live in Brazil? If so,how long?
    2.What inspired you do to this blog?
    3. Any nice spots in Brazil I should visit? I plan on going there in the future.
    4.Why do you think so many people in Brazil are in denial about colorism?
    Thanks. I hope I wasn’t asking too many Just thought I’d lighten up the mood a bit. 🙂

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