Chacrinha and Sílvio Santos: Two Key Names to Understand Brazilians’ Psyche

Discoteca do ChacrinhaA huge percentage of the Brazilian population spends Sundays in front of the TV (at least 60% watch the evening programs). So, Sunday shows are extremely important in terms of ad sales and the war to gain audience can be ferocious.

Three TV hosts are essential to understand what Brazilians see, learn and feel on their free time.

First the delirious, surreal Chacrinha. Abelardo Barbosa (his real name) was a huge success between the fifties and the eighties, till his death, in 1988.

He will be remembered for a long time, thanks to a mix of his glittery outfits, catch phrases repeated over and over, double entendre songs,  pineapples and codfish thrown to the audience and close ups of girls with large bottoms, shinny beachwear and white boots – the chacretes.

Named as porn stars – Rita Cadillac, Fernanda Terremoto (Earthquake), Lia Hollywood -, they were huge sex symbols.  Also known as Velho Guerreiro (Old Warrior) – thanks to Gilberto Gil, who paid homage to Chacrinha in his song Aquele Abraço – Chacrinha brought to the telly the spirit of the counterculture and the unconventional seventies. Lots of fun, anarchy and nonsense.

Then, Silvio Santos, the billionaire communicator that began his career as a street vendor in Rio. Today he owns SBT, one of the main TV networks of the country.

He is capable of selling absolutely anything to anybody – I can testify. I attended one of his programs, Topa Tudo por Dinheiro (Money is worth anything, in a very free translation)  in the mid-nineties.

His domain over the audience – that was invited to do demeaning things to earn some extra cash – is almost supernatural (in this video, a guy offers to eat a blade, a battery and a whole egg).

Silvio’s trademark is a huge smile and the ability to talk to his all-female audience as if he was an old family friend. He also tends to praise enthusiastically whoever governs the country (he is an apple polisher to the left and the right, no distinctions). 

His shows have been aired non-stop since the early sixties and used to be extremely long – he could be on the stage for 12 hours at a time when he was younger.

Finally, Fausto Silva, that leads the Sunday show aired by TV Globo, the main Brazilian communications network, since the late 80s. Known as Faustão, due to his huge dimensions, he developed a style that includes half naked dancers, insults towards the audience and his cameramen, lots of candy camera shots and live bands.

He probably shouldn’t be here, in the company of two of the main communicators that ever landed Brazilian TV. But, if you visit somebody in Brazil next Sunday, there is a good chance the TV will be on – most likely, tuned on Faustão.

So, next Sunday, where are we meeting to watch the afternoon show? My house or yours?

Brazilian born, French citizen, married to an American, Regina Scharf is the ultimate globetrotter. She graduated in Biology and Journalism from USP (Universidade de São Paulo) and has worked for Folha de S. Paulo, Gazeta Mercantil and Veja magazine as well as Radio France Internationale. Since 2004 she has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the US. She authored or co-authored several books in Portuguese on environmental issues and was honored by the 2002 Reuters-IUCN Press award for Latin America and by the 2004 Prêmio Ethos. You can read more by her at Deep Brazil – www.deepbrazil.com.

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