A recent supplement called "Jovens," published by the Brazilian weekly magazine
Veja (August 2003, Veja 1813), this week features a highly slanted view of Brazilian youth. The supplement strives to convey the contemporary portrait of
Brazilian young culture, with aspects ranging from music, drugs, education and sex, however, the tone is painted with rosy colors.
It is alleged that hundreds of youngsters from "all over of Brazil", from 15 to 22 years of age, were interviewed to
represent the 28 millions of Brazilian "teens", interestingly called, in this supplement, by the English term: "teens" and not
by the Portuguese term adolescentes. This
Veja supplement reveals more about the subversive Brazilian ethnic and
social subconscious, lamentably slanted, and a virtual photocopy of the North American model, than it did about any actual
Brazilian youth culture.
A reader might think that this Veja supplement,
"Jovens," is mistakenly portraying typical middle-class suburban
North American youth culture. It is hardly believable that this selected group of youngsters, which the editor claims to "typify
a generation", represents the vast complexities of the rest of the 28 million 15 to 22 year-olds in Brazil.
In a nation where homicide rates resemble war statistics (approximately 45,000 homicides per year, according to
Amnesty International figures), the portrayal of a group that looks like it just came from a dress-rehearsal for one of MTV's
reality TV shows, hardly represents the reality that is not so photogenic or digestible to the largely white, urban, and
middle-class Veja magazine readers.
The editor claims the selection of the teens photographed, was the result of forty interviews. The photos, according
to the editor, represent the "ethnic and visual style diversity" of their own generation. These interviewees came from both
private and public schools in São Paulo, however; they too represented the pathological denial and that diverts Brazilians facing
more serious and threatening social and "racial" issues, which these groups pale in comparison.
From body piercing and tattoos, to ACDC and Avril Lavigne, the supplement illustrates more about the brainwashed
editorial staff and their selection of a US model of Brazilian bourgeoisie mentality, or what they really wished Brazil was like,
than about the realistic portrayal of a larger Brazilian youth.
Take, for example, the photo selection of teens, on page 12. The photos attempt to show the "ethnic and visual style
diversity" the editor wished to encompass in the supplement. They feature two blacks, two blondes, and two brunettes. It is
interesting and remarkable to note that by this "ethnic and visual style diversity", the editor actually accomplishes the clichéd
portrayal from pop media in the US, and the diversity range that comes straight out from the North American paradigm, and
certainly not from a Brazilian paradigm of ethnicity and race (which is too complex and extensive to examine here).
Within the US "race" model there is a distinct racial divide (i.e.; black and white), but, to determine who is black
and who is white in Brazil is hard, if not impossible, since Brazil is a nation of its own "racial" paradigms, perceived with
cor (color) and spans across a variety of "colors". This means that Brazilian ethnic varieties are far more complex than mere
"black" and "white" portrayals shown in the supplement, furthermore, the social issues are just as complex.
For example, on page 45, the feature was about the food that Brazilian "teens" like to eat. The photo selected, was a
photo of a boy holding a hamburger. The boy resembled more a portrait of a young Swedish boy in Oslo, than a boy from
Capão Redondo (a resident from the South end of São Paulo).
Perhaps this Veja supplement is what the editor, Daniel Hessel Teich, would wish Brazilian youth looked like,
however, it exists only in his middle-class paradigm. Mr. Teich and his sub-editors perhaps wished that Brazil too, would be more
like a clear-cut and middle-class USA, but it is not.
Many of the 28 million Brazilian youths, are a far stretch from the non-threatening, suburban, and "palatable"
portrayal, most middle-class readers would like to see. The supplement does not show the more "un-picturesque" portrait of
Brazilian youngsters that does not even exist within the North American cultural or "ethnic and racial" paradigm. By featuring the
"other" Brazilian youth, that does not fit into the US paradigm of middle-class suburban youth, and that was not shown in this
supplement, the editor, perhaps, also risked alienating a readership that is severely permeated with clichéd US popular
imagery, as seen on TV, films, photos, and magazines.
Going back to page 54 in the supplement, the five featured "famous" Brazilians talk about their most embarrassing
moments as "teens". All the successful women featured are blondes: Ana Hickman, Didi Wagner, and Wanessa Camargo. The
Anglo-Germanic notion and model of beauty is overwhelmingly present in Brazilian pop-culture as seen here in the
supplement, as with other Brazilian "success" stories, such as Xuxa, Angelica, and Giselle Bündchen. The majority of Brazilians are
non-blue-eyed-non-blondes, and the fact that those rare women who achieve professional success are blue-eyed-blondes,
reveals the magnitude and the deeply embedded notions of gender, "race" and ethnicity in Brazilian popular culture.
The desire of the Veja supplement editor, Daniel Hessel Teich, to maintain the Anglo-Germanic notion of US
beauty, of cultural, and of "racial" clichés, is a classic example of Brazil's subconscious "racial" and cultural self-doubt that
inundates Brazilian popular culture. The imagery painted is an example why Brazil has an "ostrich-complex" by sticking its
head in the sand and averting facing a problem, denying the larger issue of Brazilian youth, that is not similar to middle-class
USA, but perhaps Mr. Teich wished it were.
Other articles written by this author on Brazilian ethnicity in
"Brazil: Northeasterners Get No Respect":
"Out of Africa: Race in Brazil and in the USA":
"Brazil? Which Brazil?":
Alan P. Marcus (Master's of Science in Geography, in progress) is a Brazilian living in the USA. He has also
written other articles on Brazilian identity, "race" and ethnicity for
Brazzil magazine. E-mail contact: