Telenovelas: a Brazilian passion

Article  by  Erika THOMAS  •  Published 18.05.2011  •  Updated 20.05.2011
Symbol of Brazilian and Latin America audiovisual entertainment, telenovelas are exported to over a hundred countries around the world. What are the reasons behind this infatuation?

Summary

The first broadcast of a telenovela in Brazil coincided with the very beginnings of the television[+] NoteTV Tupi broadcast the first telenovela Sua Vida me Pertence, by Walter Forster on the 18th September 1950.X [1]. Initially recognisable by the influence of the radio and the melodramatic style of Latin-American series, telenovelas have been continuously evolving since the sixties and fast became an audiovisual symbol of Brazilian identity. The telenovelas stories take place in Brazil and adopt  the language of everyday Brazilian speech. TV Globo started up in the seventies and rapidly made a name for itself with three big successes at the beginning of the decade: Pigmalião 70, Veù de Noiva and Verão Vermelho;other successful programmes, such as Irmãos coragem, Selva de Pedra, or Pecado awaited them in the following years[+] NoteThomas, Erika (2003), Les Telenovelas entre fiction et réalité, L'Harmattan.X [2]. These television success stories enabled the station to prove its potential and to ensure that investments would be made in their telenovelas[+] NoteIn 1972, telenovelas took up thirty percent of Globo’s budget, in 1975 this increased to fifty-three percent and by the end of the seventies it had increased to around sixty percent of the station’s budget. Ibid. p. 9-13.X    [3] and also that their Brazilian competition would be wiped out[+] NoteTV Excelsior shut down, TV Record invested in musical programmes instead and TV Tupi found itself in difficulty despite the fact that it created and broadcast several of its own relatively successful telenovelas such as Mulheres de Areia (1973) and A viagem (1975), series that were furthermore remade by TV Globo in the nineties.X [4]. Today, TV Globo[+] NoteThis article is intentionally excluding Rede Record’s productions – one of TV Globo’s recent competitors – due in part to the fact that its viewer ratings are still minimal in comparison to those of TV Globo and also to the fact that it appears to be struggling to create its own identity and style.X [5] still dominates the national market and exports its telenovelas to over a hundred countries around the world. The channel broadcasts three telenovelas daily from 18:00 to 22:00, Monday to Saturday[+] NoteAt 18:00, 19:00 and 21:00. Since 1980, an old telenovela can also be watched at 14:30 each day.X [6]. Another regular feature to appear alongside the three daily programmes, which each run for around 200 episodes, are shorter telenovelas, or mini-series[+] NoteThis short format has existed on TV Globo since 1982. Lampião e Maria Bonita (A Silva and D Comparato) was the first mini-series to be broadcast at 22:00. It was only 8 episodes long. There have been several mini-series that are not quite so short, lasting up to 60 episodes. A catalogue of all the telenovelas and mini-series can be found listed by year and title on the TV Globo archive site: X [7], which are broadcast at around 23:00. Since the nineties, there have been many significant research studies carried out in Brazil on the phenomenon that is the telenovela[+] NoteSee the research study Nucleo de pesquisa de telenovelas carried out by the University of São Paulo in 1992.X[8]. In order to fully understand their success – a success still in existence today despite the undeniable loss of viewer ratings – it is necessary to consider the way that telenovelas are able to reintroduce reality, reinvent daily life and create a link with the collective memory of some forty million Brazilians[+] NoteBittencourt Oguri, Lúcia Maria, Marie Agnes Chauvel and MaribelCarvalho Suarez “O processo de criação das telenovelas”, Rev. adm. empres. vol.49 no.1 São Paulo Jan/Mar 2009.X [9] who, night after night, following the lead of the Sultan from A Thousand and One Nights, let themselves be swept away by the stories.

The challenges of running a "dream factory": the constant evolution of content and public interest

In 2010, TV Globo celebrated fifty-five years of telenovela success. Between 1965 and 2010, two hundred and fifty-three telenovelas and sixty-six mini-series were produced[+] Note“45 anos de teledramaturgia brasileira”, TV Globo, 25 November 2010.X [10].
 
Watch this clip made to celebrate 45 years of telenovelas.
 
For almost 15 years now, all of these productions have been created in one impressive studio site. In 1995, thirty years after the network began, the Central Globo de Produçoes, or Projac[+] NoteA contraction of “Projeto Jacarepaguá”.X [11], was constructed in Jacarepaguá in Western Rio de Janeiro. The site covers a 1.65 million m² area, 70% of which is Atlantic forest with the rest made up of 137 000 m² of buildings that house ten television studios and a variety of sets. Every year, around 2500 hours of Globo programmes are created and filmed there. Every stage of a telenovela’s production is carried out in this one place. The network has in-house actors on yearly contracts and production teams who work at this “dream factory” for five or six months of the year.
 
Projac: an introduction by Globo.
 
Once a telenovela is being broadcast, the network organises discussion and market research groups in order to gauge the public’s reception of it with their writers, directors and creative team. For each telenovela, two or three discussion groups will be organised around episodes 18, 36 and 54[+] NoteBittencourt Oguri, Lúcia Maria, Marie Agnes Chauvel and MaribelCarvalho Suarez op.cit.X [12]. Although viewer ratings largely determine when these need to be done and the timings can therefore vary. Often, these can lead to the story developing in a certain direction in order to correspond to the tastes of its viewers[+] NoteSometimes, the scriptwriter may resist the viewers’ wishes. One example of this, although there are many, is when Manoel Carlos, writer of Mulheres Apaixonadas, killed off one of its main characters despite viewers’ strong attachment to them. The more popular a telenovela, the more room for manoeuvre its writer will have, as in the above example.X [13]. Any changes made in reaction to the discussion groups don’t however necessarily guarantee that viewer ratings will increase or even be maintained. To the contrary, sometimes a telenovela’s structure can fall apart due to excessive changes and the public will lose interest in the story[+] NoteThis was the case for As filhas da mãe (Silvio de Abreu, 2001): it started out with low viewer ratings and then the innumerable changes made only resulted in the story losing its thread completely and the show was finally reduced to 130 episodes, far from the original 180 originally intended.X [14]. Aside from the process of constructing and bringing a storyline to life, which determines a large part of the success of these productions, an analysis of the narrative content of telenovelas highlights that there are certain characteristic themes present in the melodrama. The uncertain identity is one such theme, based partly on a confusion and/or usurpation of one’s identity and partly on a character’s uncertain origin and their quest to find their mother or father. Another recurrent theme is that of the crystallisation of time and space, which finds the characters trapped by an obsession with the past and/or an obsession with originary space cut across by the idea of eternal recurrence. Finally, the consolidation and weakening of family ties is another regular telenovela theme, with storylines often centred around revenge[+] NoteFor a detailed analysis of these different themes, see Erika THOMAS op.cit. p. 27-42. For more information on the relationship between melodrama and the telenovela, see Braga, Claudia Maria and Cristiane Valéria da Silva, “Melodrama e Telenovela: o estatuto das emoções” from IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa e III Painel Brasileiro/Alemão de Pesquisa (IQ 2005), 2005, Juiz de Fora. Anais IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa. Juiz de Fora: Feme Edições, 2005. v.1. Also see Porto e Silva, Flavio Luiz, “Melodrama, folhetim e telenovela”, FACOM n°15, São Paulo, 2005 p. 46-54, and Braga, Claudia Maria: “Melodrama : aspectos gerais do genero matriz da telenovela”, Intercom XXVIII Congresso Brasileiro de Ciencias da Comunicação, UERJ, 5 to 9 September 2005.X [15].



 

These distributions represented above stay the same even as thematic content evolves to reflect the real or supposed evolution of social mentalities. This becomes particularly evident in relation to themes of a sexual nature: the telenovela As filhas da mãe, by Silvio de Abreu[+] NoteOn the subject of telenovela writers, see Thomas, Erika (2006): “L'auteur de telenovelas, un porte parole” from Maigret, Eric and Guillaume Soulez (ed.) Les raisons d'aimer....les séries télé, Médiamorphoses, INA- Armand Colin (ed.), 54-57.X [16], which was on every day at 19:00 from 27 August until 19 January 2002, explored themes of homosexuality and transexuality, inciting discussion on these subjects in Brazil. It was not however the big hit it was expected to be[+] NoteThe show had less than 30% viewer ratings.X [17], despite having several renowned actors in it[+] NoteIt is important to remember here that telenovela actors aren’t seen as sub-standard in Brazil, such as is the case elsewhere. They are often actors who also enjoy successful careers on the stage and in internationally recognised films.X     [18] (such as Fernanda Montenegro who was nominated for an Oscar in 1989 for her role in the Walter Salles film Central do Brasil). However, a detailed analysis of the representation of homosexuality and transexuality in this series clearly reveals that the theme was not often treated in conjunction with normative speech. However, this minor progression for a 7 o’clock programme deserves to be noted as it was representative of the new way in which sexuality was starting to be presented in several telenovelas at the time, such as Manoel Carlos’ Mulheres Apaixonadas in 2002 and Aguinaldo Silva’s  Senhora do Destino which ran between 2004 and 2005, both of which featured a homosexual couple and the latter even explored the themes of adoption and homosexual parenting.
 
Besides the constant thematic challenges, the other challenge that telenovelas are facing today is the struggle to maintain viewer ratings. Up until the end of the seventies, telenovela viewer ratings oscillated between 60 and 80%.  Today, however, it is rare for a show to be able to maintain an average viewer rating of 40% for its entire duration. Since the eighties, viewer ratings have dropped by 20 points. They are less reliable and are generally at their highest at the beginning and end of a telenovela. There are numerous explanations for this steady and continuing decrease: more choice of visual activities with the Internet, video games and a wide selection of television programmes thanks to satellite and cable television; modern Brazilian society is highly changed from that of the eighties and has a much more globalised mentality, generating new forms of audiovisual consumption and new tastes. These are both viable reasons for this relative - and it is relative as although viewer ratings are significantly lower than before, they still remain impressive – public disaffection. 
 
 
 
  The evolution of average 20:00/21:00 telenovela viewer ratings
(Viewer ratings taken from the last week of show broadcasting).

 
 
Back to summary

The reasons behind the infatuation: the social functions of the telenovela

Even if telenovela viewer ratings are in decline, they remain much higher than any of the other TV offerings’ that air at the same time. Telenovelas perform precise social functions that it is necessary to explore in order to fully understand the extreme public infatuation they incite, and this understanding can’t come from an interpretation that focuses purely on the alienating and homogenising ideological aspect of these productions.
 
There are three particularly notable social functions: the pedagogical function, the collective memory function, and the consolidation of identity function[+] NoteThomas, Erika 2003, op.cit. p.85-87X [19]. The first of these relies partly on the appropriation of cultural literary heritage for the production of numerous TV adaptations, as well as on the “social merchandising” of telenovelas. The second social function, closely linked to the first, manifests itself in historical reconstructions and the insertion of real-life happenings into a telenovela (through archive images, political personalities or current events) to evoke and consider contemporary socio-political Brazilian issues. The third social function is based on the imaginary being relative to a collective Brazilian identity, with all its stereotypes and racial issues.

 
 

Illiteracy affects 14.1 million people over the age of 15 in Brazil, that’s 10.5% of the population[+] NoteSource: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), figures from 2010.X [20] who, along with the other obstacles they face, have no access to Brazilian cultural heritage, in particular the big literary names such as Jorge Amado, Graciliano Ramos and Bernardo Guimaraes. Telenovela literary adaptations can’t combat this kind of educational failure but are nonetheless helping to make a certain collective knowledge accessible to the masses. Two years after the television was introduced to Brazil, the novel Senhora by José de Alencar was adapted for television by TV Tupi. The success of these adaptations[+] NoteWe’re leaving to one side the debate on the limitations of TV adaptations or how they can often be seen to be hijacking literary works for, although this deserves to be considered, it isn’t relevant here.X [21] hasn’t diminished since. In fact, this very same novel was adapted again by Gilberto Braga for TV Globo in 1975. Out of the collection of telenovelas and mini-series made between 1965 and 2010, more than a third are literary adaptations[+] NoteSee Guimarães, Hélio: “O romance do século XIX na televisão” from Pelligrini, Tania et al. Literatura, cinema e televisão, Senac, São Paulo, Instituto Itau Cultural, 2003.X [22], with the mini-series accounting for the largest part of these: in fact, of the sixty-six mini-series filmed between 1982 – the year of the very first mini-series – and 2010, thirty one are literary adaptations and one is a theatrical adaptation. Such literary works as O tempo e o Vento by Erico Verissimo, O Primo Basilio by Eça de Queiroz, Riacho Doce by José Lins do Rego, Dona Flor e seus dois maridos by Jorge Amado, Agosto by Rubem Fonseca, amongst countless others, have thus been transferred onto the screen and thereby acquired a much larger audience. In turn these adaptations promote books and reading, which is important in a country that has such a low reading rate.
 
The other aspect of telenovelas that we consider as a pedagogical function is their approach to social issues. They present a “social merchandising” that brings to the forefront a certain conduct, position and behavioural response to such societal questions as Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism, kleptomania, Down’s syndrome, homosexuality, teenage pregnancy, and many others. This use of fiction to educate and confront such issues became particularly prolific in the nineties but was first seen in 1988 with the alcoholic character of Helena Roitman in the telenovela Vale Tudo (Gilberto Braga) who decides, in the final episodes, to start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A recent University research study that concentrated on the period 1990 to 1995 counted 764 acts of “social merchandising” with an average of 127 per year. For the period 1996 to 2005, this study counted 10,865 acts of “social merchandising”, present in 6,900 episodes of the 46 telenovelas from that period. The impact of this “social merchandising”, which represents the social stance of telenovelas, is evident in the new behavioural patterns noted and studied in numerous University studies[+] NoteSee for example, Schiavo, Marcio Ruiz: “Merchandising Social: Uma Estratégia de Sócio-Educação para Grandes Audiências.” PhD Thesis, University of Gama Filho Rio de Janeiro, 1995 and Trindade, Eneus: “Merchandising em telenovela: a estrutura de um discurso para o consumo. Comunicação, marketing, cultura.” São Paulo: ECA/USP, p. 154-166, Feb, 1999. Vozes, 2005.X [23]. One example of this is Manoel Carlos’ representation of a Leukaemia sufferer in his telenovela Laços de familia, which won Globo a BitC Award for excellence 2001 and saw a huge increase in the number of bone marrow donations: in the week following the final episode, the National Cancer Institute (l’Instituto Nacional do Câncer) recorded 149 new donors[+] NoteBefore, the average was 10 new donors per month. Source: Memoria Globo.X [24]. Whilst certain aspects of this “social merchandising”could be accused of a certain political correctness and social control, it is undeniable that it does promote discussion of otherwise rarely addressed aspects of Brazilian society.

 
 
There was more than a 1000% increase in bone marrow donors after Laços de familia was broadcast
 
The collective memory function of telenovelas is evident in the presence of historical reconstructions that recall important historical moments in Brazil such as in Carlos Lombardi’s O quinto dos Inferno in 2002[+] NoteFor further information on this satirical version of Brazilian Independence see Thomas, Erika (2010), “L’indépendance du Brésil : irrévérences cinématographiques et télévisuelles contemporaines” from Regards sur deux siècles d’indépendance : significations du Bicentenaire en Amérique Latine, Actes du Colloque, Les Cahiers ALHIM, Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire n°20, 2010, Université Paris8.X [25], Republica in 1989 and even Wilson Aguiar Filho’s Abolição in 1988. Other telenovelas depict the lives of historical political personalities, such as in Maria Adelaide Amaral’s JK broadcast in 2006 which retraced the career of President Juscelino Kubitschek, or of artists like Chiquinha Gonzaga.Many others look back at the history of Brazil’s dictatorship: Anos Rebeldes, 1992, had a huge impact on the political scene of the time[+] NoteOn the impact of Anos Rebeldes in Brazil, see Thomas, Erika (2003) op. cit. p. 52-54. On the representation of politics in telenovelas, see Porto, Mauro: “Telenovelas e política : o cr-p da eleição presidencial de 1994,” Comunicação & Política, Nova Série, Vol. 1, n. 3, abril-julho 1995, pp. 55-76X [26] and Queridos amigos deserves to be mentioned here for the type of issues it tackled in order to represent this complex period.
 

The consolidation of identity function is more complex, as discussed earlier[+] NoteThomas, Erika op.cit. p. 61-83.X [27], and it mainly bases itself on what we have chosen to term the debarment of Indian people and the repression of black people. According to telenovelas’ representations, the majority of Brazilian society is white. If the representation of Indian people in telenovelas relies on pure stereotyping[+] NoteCarlos Lombardi’s telenovela Uga uga e, broadcast in 2000, is a clear example of this with its stereotypical characters: the lazy Indian, the nymphomaniac Indian. These representations incited much outrage amongst Indian communities. See Klein, Cristian: “Índios protestam contra estereótipos de Uga uga”, Folha de S. Paulo, 19/11/2000.X [28], that of black people is a lot more complex and has incited much discussion in Brazilian society.


 
In 1976, in Escrava Isaura, an adaptation of the book by Bernardo Guimaraes, which depicts the experiences of a slave, it was a white actress, Lucelia Santos, who was chosen to play the part of the slave, who is black in the novel. This is emblematic of the place, or lack thereof, awarded to black people within the Brazilian telenovela. In 2000, the researcher and film-maker Joel Zito de Araujo set a cat amongst the pigeons with his excellent documentary A negaçao do Brasil o negro nas telenovelas[+] NoteAvailable to watch in its entirety in 6 parts on the Internet.X [29] and his book of the same name[+] NoteAraújo, Joel Zito: A negação do Brasil, o negro na telenovela brasileira, pub. SENAC São Paulo, 2000.X [30]. The author examines in minute detail the presence of black people in Brazilian telenovelas in order to reveal the stereotypes and prejudices present in Brazilian society.
 
 
Watch an extract from the documentary:

 
Usually represented in secondary or minor roles – slaves, domestic staff or social outcasts – black people are still fighting to gain equal air-time despite some minor progress. The first middle class black person to be represented in a telenovela was in 1976 in Janete Clair’s Pecado Capital, in which the actor Milton Gonçalves played a psychiatrist. However, his character was isolated from the main community and it was only a minor role with limited appearances. In 1985, a middle class black family featured in Gilberto Braga’s telenovela Corpo a corpo and, ten years later, another featured in Sergio Abreu’s A proxima vitima. It wasn’t until 2004 that a telenovela featured a main character who was black, with the actress Tais Araujo playing the lead role in João Emanuel Carneiro’s A cor do pecado. Other attempts to break free from the stereotypes followed with Cobra e lagartos by the same author and broadcast in 2006 and Manuel Carlos’ Viver a Vida in 2008. However, these telenovelas are still a minority in comparison to the whole body of production within which black actors remain prisoners of their ethnic identity[+] NoteSee Brandão de Faria, Maria Cristina and Fernandes Danubia De Andrade: “Representação da identidade negra na telenovela brasileira”, Revista da Associação Nacional dos programas de Pós-Graduação em Comunicação, 2007 X [31].

 
Back to summary

Consolidation of the national market and conquest of the international one

Viewer ratings as well as the research and discussion groups formed for each telenovela are very important financially. Telenovelas are the main source of advertising income for the network and not simply thanks to the money brought in from adverts aired around them but they also generate a very lucrative economic “merchandising”.
 
The advertising device, of advertisements being more or less subtly integrated into the fictional framework, has existed in Brazilian telenovelas ever since TV Globo began broadcasting them. In 1969, one of the characters from the telenovela Beto Rockeffer began to advocate the use of Alka-Seltzer to get rid of headaches. In the eighties, the sale of Staroup jeans increased thanks to one of the characters of Dancing Days who wore them[+] NoteC.P. ANTUNES, Merchandising na telenovela Paginas da Vida de Manoel Carlos, CEU, 2006X [32]. Hidden in this way, the promotion of a product – through viewers’ attachment and identification with the telenovela characters and situations – aims to create and/or influence public consumption behavioural patterns.


 
The character played by actress Fernanda Montenegro uses Risqué nail varnish. What about you?
 
From the moment that the first telenovela hit Brazilian screens, TV Globo’s “merchandising” department started contacting advertisers to offer them advertising slots. Actors involved receive a special rate of payment for this kind of hidden advertisement. A recent research[+] NoteDanda Coelho Medeiros, Analuce and Cristiane do Rocio Cardoso Ebert: “Telecolonização: novela e merchandising na colonização do imaginário popular”, Eletras, v. 12, p. 5-8, 2006X [33], which revisited Serge Gruzinski’s concept of colonisation of the imagination, examines the inner-workings of these economic processes using precise examples: one such example being the character Sandra in Celebridades (Gilberto Braga, 2004), whose grandmother comes to visit and, upon kissing her hello, enthuses about how lovely she smells. Sandra replies that she’s wearing the perfume Breu Branco by Natura and goes into her bedroom to find the bottle, which she then shows to her grandmother and, consequently, the Brazilian public. As well as this explicitly commercial example, many more subtle examples of integrated advertising are found throughout the show. This formula is perhaps at its most successful when it’s done in silence: for example, if advertising a car it’s not necessary to accentuate the brand or to have the characters discuss it in order for the car to be recognisable and, through its simple presence on the screen as an element of the fictional telenovela world, to become a desirable object. The financial return on these campaigns is significant, even if it is difficult to obtain exact figures[+] NoteAccording to the UOL site Natelinha in the recent telenovela Passione, an integrated advert cost around 950 000 reais (around 414 000 Euros), with 15 % of this total cost going to the actor and the writer. Passione accepted contracts for eleven different integrated adverts. The viewer ratings of a telenovela determine how much an integrated advert will cost, with the price ranging from 950 000 reais to more than one million.X [34]. The group’s 2009 financial report stated an income of 8.3 billion reais (3.6 billion Euros) from advertising alone. 7 billion of this was generated by TV Globo. This amount equals 73.5% of the total invested in television by advertisers[+] NoteIt’s worth noting that in 2009, 60.9 % of money invested in advertising, which would have been 13.5 billion reais (around 5.9 billion Euros), in Brazil was in television advertising (See Midia Dados 2010).X [35]. This means that telenovelas represent almost 75% of the TV advertising market.

 
In 1975, O Bem Amado (Dias Gomes, 1973) was the first Brazilian telenovela to be exported[+] NoteSee Dicionario da TV Globo, vol. 1, Jorge Zahar Editor, Rio de Janeiro, 2003X [36]. Broadcast first in Mexico, followed by the other Latin American countries, the show then went on to be broadcast in Portugal in 1984. Since 1977, Portugal has represented a significant portion of the international market thanks to the broadcast of a telenovela based on the novel by Jorge Amado, Grabriela (Walter G. Durst, 1975), on the channel RTP[+] NoteSee Thomas, Erika: “Voyage au pays des ancêtres, les telenovelas brésiliennes au Portugal” (2009), Les médias en Europe, influences interculturelles, Temps des Médias, Revue d’Histoire n°11, published by SPHM X [37]. The immense success of this telenovela was a determining factor for the following years, with an average of two Brazilian telenovelas being broadcast each year on the channel. In 1981, Escrava Isaura (Gilberto Braga, 1976), a television adaptation of the novel by Bernardo Guimarães, helped to considerably broaden the international market as it became – and continued to be for a very long time – the most widely sold Brazilian telenovela, sold to 79 countries. The arrival of privately owned TV networks and the development of media partnerships, which characterised the market of the eighties and nineties, paved the way for further exportation. Today, Brazil regularly exports its telenovelas to more than one hundred countries[+] NoteBrazil has sold its telenovelas to approximately 180 countries in total (according to Raphael Correa Neto, Globo’s International Sales Manager, in a statement to Agence France-Presse, the French News Agency, in 2007) but there are one hundred countries that make up the main international sales market, buying and broadcasting at least one Brazilian telenovela each year.X [38]. In order to appeal to the international market, telenovelas must undergo a transformation that doesn’t simply consist of dubbing the sound but can involve completely changing the format. In 1980, Globo TV Network of Brasil was created, responsible for adapting and distributing telenovelas to the international market[+] NoteSee Valentim, Aldo Luiz: Internacionalização da rede Globo: estudo de caso da exportação de telenovelas CUFMU, 2007X [39]. These exportations[+] NoteIt’s difficult to obtain up-to-date, accurate sales figures. The following pie-chart has thus been constructed through consideration of both Globo’s 2006 figures and also the figures given by J. Pereira de Pina in Influência da telenovela brasileira no cotidiano de Cabo Verde, Juiz de Fora 2007, available online.X [40] are always a source of consternation for TV Globo who is in constant battle with other Latin-American Media groups for the international market[+] NoteSuch as the successful Mexican network Televisa as well as Venevisión and RCTV in Venezuela, Telefe and Artear in Argentina, and Caracol and RCN in ColombiaX [41] as well as with local productions and, in particular, with its main competitor Rede Record Internacional which, unlike TV Globo Internacional, is part of a Satellite and cable channel package and is therefore always assured a large audience base[+] NoteFor more information on the strategies used on the international market by these two networks, read the enlightening article by Fábio Rodrigues de Moura and César Ricardo Siquera Bolano “A internacionalização da TV brasileira nos anos 90 e 2000 : Globo et Record”, Intercom – Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Interdisciplinares da Comunicação IX Congresso Brasileiro de Ciências da Comunicação da Região Nordeste – Salvador – BA. Available online. X [42].
 
The ten most widely sold Brazilian telenovelas[+] NoteAll of which belong to TV Globo.Extra, 13/04/2009.X [43]

 
Source: Globo datas, 2006, completed by J.Pereira de Pina datas, 2007.
 
Europe represents the biggest consumer base for telenovelas. Portugal is the largest single market in the world, and it is the only country for which the shows require no changes or dubbing. Russia and Romania are the largest buyers of telenovelas in Eastern Europe. Poland, Serbia and the Czech Republic are also large markets[+] NoteMartel, Frédéric: Mainstream, Flammarion, Paris 2010. p. 289 X [44]. Africa is another substantial area for telenovela exportation, notably Angola and Cape Verde, both Portuguese-speaking countries, as well as Cameroon and Senegal. In Latin America it’s Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Nicaragua that represent the largest portion of the market whilst in Asia it’s Macao, another Portuguese-speaking country, and in the Middle East and Maghreb it’s Turkey. The huge presence of telenovelas in these countries, which have distinctly different cultures to Brazil, can be explained by the sheer fact that they are much less expensive than American productions[+] NoteIdem p. 289.X [45].  
Back to summary

An ideological influence?

Since the seventies, telenovelas have claimed a certain “Brazilian-ness” that it is necessary to question in order to understand their impact on Brazilian society. The Brazil represented in these shows is, as previously stated[+] NoteThomas, Erika, 2003 op. cit.X [46], a fictitious one where the majority of society is rich and white whilst the poor and illiterate don’t exist. This representation isn’t too worrying when it is clear that we are firmly in fiction. However, the integration of certain elements from reality – public debates, recognisable events from daily life in Brazil, the appearance of public personalities – seriously blurs the boundary between fiction and reality and allows for the emergence of ideological concepts that it is important to recognise and deconstruct. It is easy to be critical of the way in which telenovelas exploit a certain Brazilian collective memory through a use of images and music that evoke a precise era, thus acting as temporal markers. However, even if they do promote a dominant and globalised ideology, it is difficult not to recognise both the important artistic value of certain amongst them and also the form of cultural resistance that they represent in the face of American series that are otherwise taking over the world and are largely influencing our tastes and judgements, thrusting a certain “made in the USA” view of the world upon us.

--
Translated from the French by Leah Williams
Back to summary

References

Mauro ALENCAR, A Hollywood brasileira: panorama da telenovela no Brasil Rio de Janeiro, Senac, 2002.
 
Mauro ALENCAR, “Eternas emoçoes : a questão do remake na televisão brasileira“ in UniRevista, vol. 1, n°3, July 2006.
 
Joel Zito ARAÚJO, A negação do Brasil, o negro na telenovela brasileira, edition SENAC São Paulo, 2000.
 
Analuce BARBOSA COELHO MEDEIROS, Merchandizing em telenovela, Master Thesis's, University of Curitiba, 2006.
 
Lúcia Maria BITTENCOURT OGURI, Marie Agnes CHAUVEL, Maribel CARVALHO SUAREZ “O processo de criação das telenovelas” in Revista de administração de empresas. vol.49 no.1 São Paulo Jan./Mar. 2009.
 
Claudia Maria BRAGA, Melodrama : aspectos gerais do genero matriz da telenovela in Intercom XXVIII Congresso Brasileiro de Ciencias da Comunicação, UERJ, 2005, 5-9 september.
 
Claudia Maria BRAGA, Cristiane Valéria da SILVA Melodrama e Telenovela: o estatuto das emoções in IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa e III Painel Brasileiro/Alemão de Pesquisa (IQ 2005), 2005, Juiz de Fora. Anais IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa. Juiz de Fora: Feme Edições, 2005. v.1.
 
Maria Cristina BRANDÃO DE FARIA et Danubia DE ANDRADE FERNANDES , “Representação da identidade negra na telenovela brasileira in Revista da Associação Nacional dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Comunicação, 2007.
 
Analuce DANDA COELHO MEDEIROS et Cristiane do ROCIO CARDOSO EBERT  “Telecolonização: novela e merchandising na colonização do imaginário popular”. Eletras, v. 12, p. 05-08, 2006.
 
Leandro COLLING et Júlio César SANCHES, Quebrando o complexo de Gabriela Uma análise da transexualidade na telenovela As filhas da mãe” in I Ebecult, UFBA, 2008, 11 and 12 december.
 
Fábio Rodrigues DE MOURA, et César Ricardo SIQUEIRA BOLAÑO, « A internacionalização da TV brasileira nos anos 90 e 2000 : Globo et Record » in Intercom – Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Interdisciplinares da Comunicação IX Congresso Brasileiro de Ciências da Comunicação da Região Nordeste – Salvador – BA.
 
Helio GUIMARÃES, “O romance do século XIX na televisão” in Tania PELLIGRINI et al. Literatura, cinema e televisão, Senac, São Paulo, Instituto Itau Cultural, 2003.
 
Frédéric MARTEL, Mainstream, Flammarion, Paris 2010.
 
 
Jacqueline PEREIRA DE PINA, Influência da telenovela brasileira no cotidiano de Cabo Verde, Juiz de Fora 2007.
 
Mauro PORTO, “Telenovelas e política : o cr-p da eleição presidencial de 1994”, Comunicação & Política, Nova Série, Vol. 1, n. 3, abril-julho 1995, pp. 55-76.
 
Flavio Luiz PORTO e SILVA, Melodrama, folhetim e telenovela in FACOM n°15, São Paulo, 2005 p. 46-54,
 
Marcio Ruiz SCHIAVO, 10 anos de merchandizing social in INTERCOM, UNB, 2006, 6- 9 September.
 
Marcio Ruiz SCHIAVO, Merchandising Social: Uma Estratégia de Sócio-Educação para Grandes Audiências. Thèse de doctorat,Université Gama Filho Rio deJaneiro, 1995
 
Eneus TRINDADE, Merchandising em telenovela: a estrutura de um discurso para o consumo. Comunicação, marketing, cultura. São Paulo: ECA/USP, p. 154-166, fev.,1999. Vozes, 2005.
 
Erika THOMAS Les Telenovelas entre fiction et réalité, L'Harmattan, 2003.
 
Erika THOMAS, L'auteur de telenovelas, un porte parole in Eric MAIGRET et Guillaume SOULEZ (dir) Les raisons d'aimer....les séries télé, Médiamorphoses, Ina, Armand Colin, 54-57. 2006.
 
Erika THOMAS, Voyage au pays des ancêtres, les telenovelas brésiliennes au Portugal” (2009) in Les médias en Europe, influences interculturelles, Temps des Médias, Revue d’Histoire n°11, édition SPHM.
 
Aldo Luiz VALENTIM, Internacionalização da rede Globo: estudo de caso da exportação de telenovelas CUFMU, 2007.

Back to summary
  • 1. TV Tupi broadcast the first telenovela Sua Vida me Pertence, by Walter Forster on the 18th September 1950.
  • 2. Thomas, Erika (2003), Les Telenovelas entre fiction et réalité, L'Harmattan.
  • 3. In 1972, telenovelas took up thirty percent of Globo’s budget, in 1975 this increased to fifty-three percent and by the end of the seventies it had increased to around sixty percent of the station’s budget. Ibid. p. 9-13.
  • 4. TV Excelsior shut down, TV Record invested in musical programmes instead and TV Tupi found itself in difficulty despite the fact that it created and broadcast several of its own relatively successful telenovelas such as Mulheres de Areia (1973) and A viagem (1975), series that were furthermore remade by TV Globo in the nineties.
  • 5. This article is intentionally excluding Rede Record’s productions – one of TV Globo’s recent competitors – due in part to the fact that its viewer ratings are still minimal in comparison to those of TV Globo and also to the fact that it appears to be struggling to create its own identity and style.
  • 6. At 18:00, 19:00 and 21:00. Since 1980, an old telenovela can also be watched at 14:30 each day.
  • 7. This short format has existed on TV Globo since 1982. Lampião e Maria Bonita (A Silva and D Comparato) was the first mini-series to be broadcast at 22:00. It was only 8 episodes long. There have been several mini-series that are not quite so short, lasting up to 60 episodes. A catalogue of all the telenovelas and mini-series can be found listed by year and title on the TV Globo archive site:
  • 8. See the research study Nucleo de pesquisa de telenovelas carried out by the University of São Paulo in 1992.
  • 9. Bittencourt Oguri, Lúcia Maria, Marie Agnes Chauvel and MaribelCarvalho Suarez “O processo de criação das telenovelas”, Rev. adm. empres. vol.49 no.1 São Paulo Jan/Mar 2009.
  • 10. “45 anos de teledramaturgia brasileira”, TV Globo, 25 November 2010.
  • 11. A contraction of “Projeto Jacarepaguá”.
  • 12. Bittencourt Oguri, Lúcia Maria, Marie Agnes Chauvel and MaribelCarvalho Suarez op.cit.
  • 13. Sometimes, the scriptwriter may resist the viewers’ wishes. One example of this, although there are many, is when Manoel Carlos, writer of Mulheres Apaixonadas, killed off one of its main characters despite viewers’ strong attachment to them. The more popular a telenovela, the more room for manoeuvre its writer will have, as in the above example.
  • 14. This was the case for As filhas da mãe (Silvio de Abreu, 2001): it started out with low viewer ratings and then the innumerable changes made only resulted in the story losing its thread completely and the show was finally reduced to 130 episodes, far from the original 180 originally intended.
  • 15. For a detailed analysis of these different themes, see Erika THOMAS op.cit. p. 27-42. For more information on the relationship between melodrama and the telenovela, see Braga, Claudia Maria and Cristiane Valéria da Silva, “Melodrama e Telenovela: o estatuto das emoções” from IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa e III Painel Brasileiro/Alemão de Pesquisa (IQ 2005), 2005, Juiz de Fora. Anais IV Fórum de Investigação Qualitativa. Juiz de Fora: Feme Edições, 2005. v.1. Also see Porto e Silva, Flavio Luiz, “Melodrama, folhetim e telenovela”, FACOM n°15, São Paulo, 2005 p. 46-54, and Braga, Claudia Maria: “Melodrama : aspectos gerais do genero matriz da telenovela”, Intercom XXVIII Congresso Brasileiro de Ciencias da Comunicação, UERJ, 5 to 9 September 2005.
  • 16. On the subject of telenovela writers, see Thomas, Erika (2006): “L'auteur de telenovelas, un porte parole” from Maigret, Eric and Guillaume Soulez (ed.) Les raisons d'aimer....les séries télé, Médiamorphoses, INA- Armand Colin (ed.), 54-57.
  • 17. The show had less than 30% viewer ratings.
  • 18. It is important to remember here that telenovela actors aren’t seen as sub-standard in Brazil, such as is the case elsewhere. They are often actors who also enjoy successful careers on the stage and in internationally recognised films.
  • 19. Thomas, Erika 2003, op.cit. p.85-87
  • 20. Source: Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), figures from 2010.
  • 21. We’re leaving to one side the debate on the limitations of TV adaptations or how they can often be seen to be hijacking literary works for, although this deserves to be considered, it isn’t relevant here.
  • 22. See Guimarães, Hélio: “O romance do século XIX na televisão” from Pelligrini, Tania et al. Literatura, cinema e televisão, Senac, São Paulo, Instituto Itau Cultural, 2003.
  • 23. See for example, Schiavo, Marcio Ruiz: “Merchandising Social: Uma Estratégia de Sócio-Educação para Grandes Audiências.” PhD Thesis, University of Gama Filho Rio de Janeiro, 1995 and Trindade, Eneus: “Merchandising em telenovela: a estrutura de um discurso para o consumo. Comunicação, marketing, cultura.” São Paulo: ECA/USP, p. 154-166, Feb, 1999. Vozes, 2005.
  • 24. Before, the average was 10 new donors per month. Source: Memoria Globo.
  • 25. For further information on this satirical version of Brazilian Independence see Thomas, Erika (2010), “L’indépendance du Brésil : irrévérences cinématographiques et télévisuelles contemporaines” from Regards sur deux siècles d’indépendance : significations du Bicentenaire en Amérique Latine, Actes du Colloque, Les Cahiers ALHIM, Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire n°20, 2010, Université Paris8.
  • 26. On the impact of Anos Rebeldes in Brazil, see Thomas, Erika (2003) op. cit. p. 52-54. On the representation of politics in telenovelas, see Porto, Mauro: “Telenovelas e política : o cr-p da eleição presidencial de 1994,” Comunicação & Política, Nova Série, Vol. 1, n. 3, abril-julho 1995, pp. 55-76
  • 27. Thomas, Erika op.cit. p. 61-83.
  • 28. Carlos Lombardi’s telenovela Uga uga e, broadcast in 2000, is a clear example of this with its stereotypical characters: the lazy Indian, the nymphomaniac Indian. These representations incited much outrage amongst Indian communities. See Klein, Cristian: “Índios protestam contra estereótipos de Uga uga”, Folha de S. Paulo, 19/11/2000.
  • 29. Available to watch in its entirety in 6 parts on the Internet.
  • 30. Araújo, Joel Zito: A negação do Brasil, o negro na telenovela brasileira, pub. SENAC São Paulo, 2000.
  • 31. See Brandão de Faria, Maria Cristina and Fernandes Danubia De Andrade: “Representação da identidade negra na telenovela brasileira”, Revista da Associação Nacional dos programas de Pós-Graduação em Comunicação, 2007
  • 32. C.P. ANTUNES, Merchandising na telenovela Paginas da Vida de Manoel Carlos, CEU, 2006
  • 33. Danda Coelho Medeiros, Analuce and Cristiane do Rocio Cardoso Ebert: “Telecolonização: novela e merchandising na colonização do imaginário popular”, Eletras, v. 12, p. 5-8, 2006
  • 34. According to the UOL site Natelinha in the recent telenovela Passione, an integrated advert cost around 950 000 reais (around 414 000 Euros), with 15 % of this total cost going to the actor and the writer. Passione accepted contracts for eleven different integrated adverts. The viewer ratings of a telenovela determine how much an integrated advert will cost, with the price ranging from 950 000 reais to more than one million.
  • 35. It’s worth noting that in 2009, 60.9 % of money invested in advertising, which would have been 13.5 billion reais (around 5.9 billion Euros), in Brazil was in television advertising (See Midia Dados 2010).
  • 36. See Dicionario da TV Globo, vol. 1, Jorge Zahar Editor, Rio de Janeiro, 2003
  • 37. See Thomas, Erika: “Voyage au pays des ancêtres, les telenovelas brésiliennes au Portugal” (2009), Les médias en Europe, influences interculturelles, Temps des Médias, Revue d’Histoire n°11, published by SPHM
  • 38. Brazil has sold its telenovelas to approximately 180 countries in total (according to Raphael Correa Neto, Globo’s International Sales Manager, in a statement to Agence France-Presse, the French News Agency, in 2007) but there are one hundred countries that make up the main international sales market, buying and broadcasting at least one Brazilian telenovela each year.
  • 39. See Valentim, Aldo Luiz: Internacionalização da rede Globo: estudo de caso da exportação de telenovelas CUFMU, 2007
  • 40. It’s difficult to obtain up-to-date, accurate sales figures. The following pie-chart has thus been constructed through consideration of both Globo’s 2006 figures and also the figures given by J. Pereira de Pina in Influência da telenovela brasileira no cotidiano de Cabo Verde, Juiz de Fora 2007, available online.
  • 41. Such as the successful Mexican network Televisa as well as Venevisión and RCTV in Venezuela, Telefe and Artear in Argentina, and Caracol and RCN in Colombia
  • 42. For more information on the strategies used on the international market by these two networks, read the enlightening article by Fábio Rodrigues de Moura and César Ricardo Siquera Bolano “A internacionalização da TV brasileira nos anos 90 e 2000 : Globo et Record”, Intercom – Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Interdisciplinares da Comunicação IX Congresso Brasileiro de Ciências da Comunicação da Região Nordeste – Salvador – BA. Available online.
  • 43. All of which belong to TV Globo.Extra, 13/04/2009.
  • 44. Martel, Frédéric: Mainstream, Flammarion, Paris 2010. p. 289
  • 45. Idem p. 289.
  • 46. Thomas, Erika, 2003 op. cit.
Would you like to add or correct something? Contact the editorial staff