Bahia is Brazil's blackest state â" but you'd never guess it from latest TV soap
Brazil Bahia is Brazil's blackest state â" but you'd never guess it from latest TV soap
The telenovela Segundo Sol has an almost entirely white cast despite being set in a place where 80% are black or mixed race
Brazilâs latest hit TV show includes many of the elements you might expect in a telenovela: family feuds, romance, betrayal and beach side locations.
But critics say something is still missing.Sign up for the Guardian's US daily email Read more
Despite being set in Brazilâs blackest state, Segundo Sol, or Second Sun, has a cast which is almost entirely white. The show has reignited a longstanding debate about race and representation on Brazilian television and prompted action from the countryâs Labour Prosecution Service.
Segundo Sol, which premiered this week on Brazilâs dominant Globo TV network, tells the fictional tale of a decadent musician who â" when mistakenly thought dead in a plane crash â" goes into hiding so his indebted family can cash in on his posthumous success.
The story takes place in in Bahia state, where nearly 80% of the population identifies as black or mixed race according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
Yet just three of the showâs 27 actors are black; none of them play a main character and none app eared in the first episode.
âWhat persists very strongly in the minds of the producers and directors is the idea that the black and Afro-descendant population is the minority: the whitening ideology continues,â said Joel Zito AraÃºjo, author of the book and documentary The Denial of Brazil â" Blacks in the history of Brazilian Telenovelas.
Last Sunda y marked 130 years since the official end of slavery in Brazil, the country that imported the highest number of slaves from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade period.
As many as 54% of Brazilians identify as black or mixed race. But critics have long maintained that black and mixed-raced people are underrepresented on Brazilian television â" and in real-life institutions such as business and government.
Ahead of the launch of Segundo Sol, Brazilâs Labour Prosecution Service issued a recommendation document to Globo, urging that the cast of Segundo Sol be reviewed. âWhen television programs do not mirror society, it generates increased exclusion and reaffirms limited stereotypes for the black population,â the body said.
Segundo Sol first stirred controversy when a two-minute trailer was released in April, prompting sharp criticisms over the lack of black representation.
âWhen I was in Africa and said that the population here was majority black, people didnât believe me because they watch O Globo novelas. Globo must think that there are not many black people here, right?â posted one Facebook user.
In a statement, Globo said: âWe are attentive, listening and following these comments,â and âwe still have less representativeness than we would like and we will work to evolve with this issue.â
The row over Segundo Sol comes three years after Globo won praise for broadcasting the countryâs first show to feature wealthy black characters. Mister Brau was a musical sitcom about the culture clash between a black nouveau-riche pop star duo and their snobbish white neighbours.
- Race issues
- Soap opera
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