Brazil, home to the biggest LGBT Pride celebration in the world and the infamously over-the-top Carnaval, is the last place on earth that one would expect to hear of a big to-do over a kiss, right? Not quite.
Brazilians are debating whether it is appropriate for stations to broadcast a gay couple kiss on primetime TV. It all began with the launch of a new telenovela entitled Insensato Coração (Foolish Heart) back in January, which includes six gay characters — a record number in Brazil’s soap-opera world.
Written by acclaimed writers Gilberto Braga and Ricardo Linhares, Insensato Coração was set to break the taboo that still exists in Brazil related to showing two people of the same sex kissing on a scripted show. But the event has been postponed by order of top executives at powerhouse Globo, Brazil’s leading television broadcaster. According to Ricardo Feltrin, an editor of entertainment at Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, writers at Globo have been “verbally warned” not to create plots with gay content.
The decision came after news of a hot scene between two male characters of Insensato Coração leaked to the media, causing a stir among conservative viewers. The scene was later aborted. It’s at least the fifth time that Globo has bowed down to conservative pressures and back-paddled on decisions to air homosexual content. At one point Globo went so far as to censor a scene from an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer Simpson kisses his long-time friend Moe. Globo’s main competitor, Record, took the same track. Its owner, Edir Macedo, belongs to the Neo-Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and is one of Brazil’s biggest anti-gay activists.
“Television is a mass medium and, as such, should contemplate all its publics. It is our mission to respect a non-targeted audience, multiple in their expectations and preferences,” Manoel Martins, Globo’s director of entertainment, explained in a press release.
But aren’t homosexuals part of that wider audience? That’s what Toni Reis, the president of gay-rights association ABGLT, believes. “Telenovelas should engage on subjects related to the society of which they are part of, and that includes gays,” Reis countered in a statement.
Although Latin American soap operas (“telenovelas”) are often viewed as cheesy in the northern hemisphere, they’ve earned a more serious status in Brazil, where producers have approached controversial topics such as mental illness, drug abuse and alcoholism. Homosexuality, though, has been continually seen as a beyond the pale topic by the country’s top three television networks, especially by the market leader Globo, which often pulls in close to 50 million viewers with its primetime sagas.
Founded in 1965, Globo rose to prominence in the early 1970s. Since then, the network and its so-called “quality standards” have set the tone in Brazil’s TV realm. Globo’s market base is 47%, more than all its major competitors combined, with the network accounting for 75.6% of Brazil’s TV advertising market, estimated at R$ 10,5 billions ($6.7 billion) in 2010. Still, Globo obviously fears alienating its audience.
Despite the fact that homophobia is still an issue in Brazil, the country is slowly becoming more accepting — so much so that Rio de Janeiro’s tourist board reportedly aims to transform the city into the capital of gay tourism, even publishing a glossy, rainbow-colored brochure packed with pictures of muscle-bound men and slogans urging tourists to “come and live the Rio sensation.” It seems to be working — last year, 25% of Rio’s tourists, or around 800,000 people, were gay. Not to mention that according to the last census, Brazil has already 60,000 households with gay couples, a number that will likely continue to grow, since the country’s Supreme Court ruled in May that same-sex civil unions must be recognized by the state (Gilberto Braga, the writer of Insensato Coração, is openly gay and has lived with his partner for several years).
“Rio is a city without prejudice,” Eduardo Paes, the city’s mayor once said. “It is an open city that accepts everything with an open heart.”
Ironically, Globo’s headquarters are located in Rio.
Full article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andersonantunes/2011/07/22/a-kiss-is-just-a-kiss-not-if-its-a-gay-kiss-on-brazilian-tv/#722c0ee3463f
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