The white media : politics of representation, race, gender, and symbolic violence in Brazilian telenovelas
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Brazil was the first country in South America to launch a television network and air television shows. Television programming was designed to develop national capitalism and to foster a national identity. Although Brazil is composed of an overwhelmingly large population of African descent, they are usually underrepresented in mainstream media, chiefly in telenovelas (soap operas). This research examines what happens when a telenovela attempts to portray issues of race relations and tensions in contemporary Brazil. Duas Caras (“Two Faces”), a TV Globo telenovela aired October 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008. The show was a turning point in Brazilian programming because it was the first prime time soap opera to present audiences with an Afro-Brazilian as the main hero. It was also the first novela das oito (“eight o’clock” or “primetime soap opera”) to openly address racial issues through its plot and dialogue. However, in depth critical and theoretical analysis of different episodes demonstrates that instead of debunking the myth of racial democracy, this soap opera in fact helps to further reproduce it through the portrayal of interracial relationships amongst the characters. As shown here, interracial relationships between white and Black Brazilians was used as a strategy of erasing African ancestry traits from the population through a process of whitening. This report combines a traditional textual analysis of Duas Caras with theoretical frameworks about race relations, gender and anti-Black racism in Brazil. The investigation revealed how telenovelas contribute to social ideology and hegemonic discourses in a way that has not been properly recorded. This discussion contributes to Latin American media studies generally, and the scholarship on interracial relationships in Brazilian media particularly.