Black Women On TV: The Case Of ‘Scandal’ And ‘Sexo E As Negas’

Black Women On TV: The Case Of ‘Scandal’ And ‘Sexo E As Negas’
White supremacy and their Black collaborators are decimating our image in the media

AFRICANGLOBE – The ongoing debate over Black representation on Brazilian airwaves has only intensified since mid-September with the debut, and two month run of the current Globo TV series Sexo e as negas. The debate has been featured on various posts on this blog and offers an interesting dynamic of comparison and contrast with two current running American TV series featuring Black women, Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder. These two series, besides starring Black women in lead roles (Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, respectively), are also created and written by a Black woman, Shonda Rhimes. The article below touches upon the question of persons of African descent having power and control over as well as influence on the images of persons from this population in each country. Although the article touches upon important issues, as we will show later on, it also misses a few very important key points.

 

And The Black Side Of The Story?

Absence of Black authors reflects the low diversity of Brazilian TV and explains controversy as Sexo e as negas.

A few months ago, filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo, like many of us, added a stranger on Facebook. It was an American who had lived in Brazil and liked the posts about racial diversity of the filmmaker responsible for the book and the documentary A Negação do Brasil (Denying Brazil) the greatest study on Black representation on Brazilian TV. The two agreed to meet when Araújo was the US, which took place last Thursday in Los Angeles.

“To my surprise, he is director of a Disney program of recruiting and developing talent among minorities such as Blacks, Latinos and Asians, to ensure diversity of writers, directors and producers in the studio,” says the filmmaker. The shock came not only from his friend working in this, but that in a country where Blacks are not more than 14% of the population, this concern exists.

The results of affirmative action are so undeniable. The writer and creator of the most successful series in the US today is the Black woman Shonda Rhimes. Since September on ABC (Disney), Thursday nights – in which commercials are more expensive and, therefore, is the principal of the week – are dominated by three serials produced by her. Two, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, star two Black actresses, Kerry Washington and Viola Davis. The other, Grey’s Anatomy, has been recognized for years as the most diverse cast of American TV, with Asian, Black and Latino actors. Grey’s is the most watched drama in the US. How to Get Away With Murder is the most watched new series of the year. The second is the comedy Black-ish about a Black family.

Meanwhile, Brazilian television has not one Black writer of novelas (soap operas). Much has been said about the near absence of non-White actors and actresses in novelas, or the low diversity of casts. But little is discussed about the root of this bleaching: the absence of Black writers and directors in positions of real creative control of these productions. “Blacks are still more represented than they speak for themselves on TV. What you see is the story of Blacks told by Whites,” says researcher and professor of communication at the Federal University of Pampa (Unipampa) Wesley Grijó.

The most recent example is the controversy surrounding the show Sexo e as negas, created by Miguel Falabella. For Joel Zito Araújo, it’s even positive that a White man is interested in the universe of Black women. The problem is much more underneath. “Where is the concern of Brazil’s largest broadcaster (Globo) in incorporating Black directors, authors or consultants in production as well? The fact that they didn’t even think about it is proof of the evil of this false idea of racial democracy, that there is no racism here,” he criticizes.

According to the filmmaker, even the recent miniseries Subúrbia, written by Paulo Lins (author of Cidade de Deus – City of God) is another symptom of this lack of consciousness. “The invitation was from director Luiz Fernando Carvalho, and not the broadcaster,” he adds. The researcher Mariza Fernandes dos Santos, who studies the lack of academic material written by Blacks available for cotistas (quota students) on their dissertations at Instituto Federal de Goiás (IFG), also doesn’t think that it’s obligatory to be Black to create complex, multi-dimensional Black characters. “But since the White man has lived an experience of otherness, opens himself up to what it is in fact to be a Black woman from the periphery, not the stereotype. And yet, I don’t think this is desirable, when we have many qualified Black women to do this,” she argues.

Wesley Grijó, who expanded on the research of the book of Joel Zito for novelas of the 2000s in a recent article, the necessity is to seek greater diversity of discourses and versions. “What percentage of the population are descendants of Italians? And how many novelas (are there) about Italian immigrants have ever been made? On the other hand, how does the White man that doesn’t know what prejudice is going to talk about it?” asks the professor. The authenticity of someone speaking from their own point of view is unquestionable. Hundreds of movies have been made about slavery. When one was written and directed by Blacks, 12 Anos de Escravidão (12 Years a Slave), it was something so unique that it won the Oscar.

For researchers, however, telling stories with the most authentic and complex Black characters also imply disassociating the characters from traumas of racism, prejudice, criminality and social backwardness. Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating, protagonists of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, are successful, complex and full of women’s problems, whose fact of being Black women is just one of the many facets of their personalities. “The novelas today have ‘Black families’. They’re not rich, poor, happy or dysfunctional families. They’re ‘Black’ families. It’s a type,” reflects Joel.

Grijó adds another example with the recent novela Lado a Lado. For him, despite bringing Black protagonists and antagonists, “it was very didactic and didn’t operate as a serial.” For the professor, a breakthrough that the production brought, however, was characters with names and surnames. “In my research, I discovered that Blacks in the novela are not associated with a family name. Who remembers the surname of Taís Araújo’s Helena (character) on Viver a Vida? Her husband had one and hers was never mentioned,” he reveals. In the US, the Pope of Olivia in Scandal has become a verb/slang for “resolving difficult problems”. Little details that make all the difference.

“I’ve got major problems with Scandal. It comes dressed up and masqueraded as something new, but Scandal is basically a continuing perpetuation of the stereotype of a Black woman whose libido and sexual urges are so pronounced that even with an education and a great job, and all these other things, she can’t control herself. So, she’s basically a reincarnation of Bess from Porgy and Bess; she’s the female in Monster’s Ball; she’s the sexual predator and aggressor. It basically plays into the whole sexual stereotype of Black women that’s been around from the very beginning, and that basically gives permission for them to be sexually exploited….The intelligence and professionalism let us go in under this pretext. But the message that is really being delivered is that no matter how much education you get and how much power you get, you’ve still got that “around the way girl” in you. It’s basically saying that Black women are innately, inherently, hot to trot. He doesn’t seduce her. She seduces him.”

 

By: Daniel Oliveira

 

Black Men Stop Whining About The Media & Build Your OWN – – Here’s How