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Brazil’s Soap America, a Story About America the Ugly

Brazilian soap opera America from Globo TV Brazilian soap opera America from Globo TV

Brazilian soap opera America from Globo TVSince the very beginning, I’ve been a big fan of the Brazilian telenovela, America. I was attracted to it because of its main theme, the desire of Sol (Deborah Secco), the young Brazilian woman, to immigrate to my country, the United States of America.

As an American living in Brazil, I was intrigued by Brazilians who want to do the reverse, to "go north, young man/woman." I was also curious as to how Glória Peres, the author of this telenovela, would portray America and Americans.

In my previous article about this particular telenovela called "Brazil Is in Love With Sol, the Illegal Pretty Girl from America,  I wrote about my sympathy for the plight of Brazilians who want to live and work in the USA, but are denied legal entry by my government. However, I must now take issue with how this telenovela portrays my fellow-Americans.

In a recent episode, Sol, after miraculously arriving on a deserted beach near Miami (after spending several days on a raft drifting between the Dominican Republic and Florida – how did she bypass the Bahamas?), runs through its streets on her way to find her infant son. She trips and falls. A nearby police officer helps her to her feet. Sol says "thank you" with her heavy Brazilian accent.

Hearing her poor English, the cop looks at her suspiciously and asks Sol where she’s from. She responds "from America" causing him to demand identification, which of course, she doesn’t have. Actually, Sol had previously been deported from the USA because of a drug charge, in spite of her marriage to an American.

The above encounter with a cop represents a distortion of the facts. The cop had no legal reason to ask Sol for identification. She was not doing anything suspicious. Someone running and tripping on the street or speaking poor English is not a valid reason to demand identification. Even Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito would agree.

Half the people in Miami are immigrants or tourists from Latin America who speak English with an accent (if they speak English at all). Furthermore, illegal immigration is not the responsibility of the local police. Instead, it is the purview of Federal immigration authorities. Why would Glória Peres include this distortion? Was it ignorance or was it something else?

However, to me, the character of May, the villain of the story, epitomizes this telenovela’s view of Americans. After losing her boyfriend, Eddie, to Sol, instead of moving on with her life, May plots to win him back.

First, she convinces Eddie that she is still his friend. When she discovers that Sol is wanted by the police, she turns her in (May visits Sol in jail and sadistically laughs in her face).

She looks upon all Brazilians with obvious contempt. When May is seduced by a Brazilian, she refers to him as a caveman. After Sol returns to the USA to see her son, May again turns her in to the police. This time, Eddie discovers her betrayal and rejects her permanently.

In the finale, when Eddie decides to go with Sol and their son to start a new life in Brazil, May is completely distraught. With tears in her eyes and her head banging against the wall of the airline terminal, Eddie’s airplane rises into the sky heading away from America. May got what she deserved.

Is it significant that a story that starts with Sol wanting to emigrate to America ends with Sol and her family returning to Brazil? Is there a message here? And why would Glória Peres include such negative images of America and Americans? Or am I just being paranoid?

Blair A. Lasky was born in Syracuse, New York and educated at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a retired accountant who has been living in São Paulo since September, 2003, giving English classes and writing novels. You can contact Blair at blairlasky@hotmail.com.

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  • Show Comments (10)

  • flori

    can anyone tell mw where to purchase the novela “AMERICA” I wood really appriciate it thanks

  • Guest

    Irish point of view
    I have been watching the Novella in Ireland – on satellite. My wife is Portuguese so I’m forced to watch 😉 This drama has all the ingredients of a successful novella: beautiful teeth, short skirts, tight jeans and chart breaking romantic music. Good v Evil, comic relief and the pursuit of happiness is ever present. Some days I cant get the tunes out of my head – does that ever happen ya? Anyway, my knowledge of Portuguese is not great and whilst the subtitles are a help one doesn’t need to understand the language to follow the plot which is not that important. This is not a complex thriller. Would you agree that the distribution of wealth in Brazil suggests that most of the viewers in Brazil are earning only minimum wages or less.This novella is escapism for many – no different from any drama or movie. Forget your troubles; switch off for an hour or two in front of the box – great. The Irish are often portrayed as drunken idiots, the English as toffee nosed and Americans as..whatever! So what. No harm done. “America” is not a social commentary its a piece of fiction.By the way, did ye know that GOD created alcohol to stop the Irish from taking over the world. Fact. God bless ye and Peace to all this Christmas. Feliz Natal

  • Guest

    reactions
    “crack for the masses” That’s such a stupid thing to say. I mean, what’s wrong with people wanting to be entertained? What’s wrong with a little escapism? It’s hardly equal to someone being addicted to crack…and it makes you sound so snobby and elitist–I mean really so condescending…

    I agree with the last poster who said that the representation of Americans in the novela America were just a reflection of how Brazilians see Americans. Of course it was stereotypical but how else could it be when it’s a show written by a Brazilian and with Brazilian actors to play the roles of Americans–since they’re not actually from the US I think it would be hard for them not to rely on stereotypes for their portrayal of us North Americans. Imagine how a show about Brazilians would be portrayed here. I think the results would be equally as stereotypical. Besides, I think maybe what Gloria Peres wanted to do was ask the question, why are so many Brazilians leaving–running away from their homeland? And, perhaps she believes that Brazilians are better off staying in Brazil…and that’s not necessarily a bad message. I personally thought the novela was quite entertaining and well done…

    And what’s the big deal about all the catholic imagery in the novela? I mean, aren’t like 80 percent or more of all Brazilians Catholic? It only makes sense that such imagery would be in a novela that’s designed to appeal to the average Brazilian–it’s something most Brazilians can identify with–even if they’re not Catholic, I think it would make sense to most people since the Church has always been so ubiquitous there most people know something about it. At least they can talk about religion and present positive representations of it in the media in Brazil, unlike here in the US where most repsrentations of religion–particularly christianity–have become so negative it’s insulting.

    and to the poster who said, “it’s not real.” Isn’t that the whole point of a novela?

  • Guest

    I think it is a very good point being ma
    As a Canadian who has lived in the US and also travelled through SA, I think this portrayal of an immigrant finding that they were happier in their homeland than in the US is very common.

    Due to US television and media, people from other countries have an unrealistic view of America. Yes, you have better opportunity to earn money, but American is not the great country most of its citizens like to think it is.

    The arrogance, racial conflicts and general attitude of money matters most is common amoug Americans…not all, but the majority that I met during my three years.

    People find that other than the financial oppurtunities, life in their own countries is much better and lifestyle is more healthy.

    I could not wait to get back to Canada after my three years in the US and now am planning to move to Brazil as the culture there is even more appealing.

    Family, love and enjoying life is most important to Brazilians and they are generally much more down to earth and less pretentious than North Americans.

    To put it simply, while North Americans are killing themselves with their drive to make money and gain material posessions as their lives fly by, Brazilians are LIVING.

  • Guest

    American Portrayals
    I think that the Americans on the show were never intended to portray Americans as they really are. They are portrayed as Brazilians already perceived them to be and that imagery is simply reinforced.

    I never consciously watched it but you know Brazil… it’s on EVERYWHERE in EVERYBODY’s house so after being exposed to the whole novela I have to say I didn’t like it at all. I thought Eddie was altogether too “Latino” (really moody ALL the time), that May too was altogether too “Latina” (revengeful “demais”) and that the authorities in Miami were portrayed as sort of neo-facist instead of the way they really are which is 99% of the time on the upbeat, helpful yet very official and business-like.

    And what about this gay agenda down here? I guess they figure they won North America and it’s time to start exporting this stuff to South America. What was that all about? Whatever it was, it didn’t fly in this show.

    Tiao and his Catholic coma was another wild point in the America ride. They packed every piece of Catholic ideology, history and mythology they could find into this sub-plot. For a poor little Protestant, it was quite the sight to see.

    And finally Sol, who was “Born Under A Bad Sign” because “If it wasn’t for bad luck, she wouldn’t have no luck at all”. Of course except the mind-boggling and death defying raft ride straight to Miami. When she landed I was at the “Cunhadas” house and I couldn’t help but pipe up and say “Look, she landed in Cuba!” to which my Gringo sense of humour was met with blank stares from the addicted.

    Well that about sums it up. No American bashing as far as I could see, just good old Brailian typecasts of Amercans here.

  • Guest

    watch cops
    hmmm … don’t know how to tell you this .. but if you ever watch cops .. you will see the cops demanding id from people and some of them simply don’t carry id with them .. so then those people are hauled off to jail and questioned further … perhaps you need a reailty check? It is called profiling and it happens …

    (caps are overrated)

  • Guest

    Carlos Barbosa (Portuga)
    The Coward Wrote:

    Comments
    Written by Guest on 2005-11-07 12:04:50
    ——————————————————————————–
    Who cares about the stupid brazilian novelas. Novelas are “crack” for the masses. Those that watch them are just crackheads getting their dose of un-reality.
    Written by Guest on 2005-11-07 14:20:44

    Carlos Barbosa (Portuga) Wrote:
    You a fuckin coward an an asshole American.
    Americans are rubbish! Why is your president gone to Brasilia to meet Lula? To beg him to sign the FTAA proposal. Fuck off!

  • Guest

    It\’s not real
    Soap operas are not real, It’s just alot of old junk, yet people get hooked on them, they even talk about the characters as though they are real people. It’s obvious programe makers try to create something which they think will appeal to popular opinion in Brazil.

  • Guest

    Pop culture (novelas in this instance) is simply pandering to common stereotypes. The truthfulness or the validity of the content does not enter into the process. In fact, feeding existing misconceptions probably adds to the appeal, since it does not require the viewer to examine his point of view.

  • Guest

    Who cares about the stupid brazilian novelas. Novelas are “crack” for the masses. Those that watch them are just crackheads getting their dose of un-reality.

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