All in a lather - Monocolumn | Monocle


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24 May 2013

Brazilians love a good soap opera. No surprise there but it’s interesting to analyse the business of telenovelas in Brazil. I can tell you it is certainly big business – something I noticed even more after quite a sad event in recent days.

Three elderly tourists from Rio died earlier in the week in the region of Cappadocia in Turkey, after a balloon accident. I’m not sure if they were fans of Salve Jorge but it is a soap that ended last Friday and was partly recorded in Turkey. (And for the curious ones among you, no, it was not a co-production between the two countries, just a case of Brazilians playing Turks.)

The soap opera was heavily criticised for its script – because sometimes it didn’t make any sense. Especially after the previous soap, the critically acclaimed Avenida Brasil, which was such a social phenomena that it even caused our president Dilma Rousseff to change the timing of one of her speeches so as to not clash with its last episode.

But still, even if many were not convinced about Salve Jorge, which had a strange mix of human trafficking and not very charismatic leads, it is fascinating to see the effect it had on Turkish/Brazilian relations. The number of Brazilians tourists to Turkey rose by 46 per cent last December comparing to December 2011. By way of comparison, the rise between 2010 and 2011 was only about 1.5 per cent. The same spike happened when we had a soap that was filmed in India. You could even spot a sari here and there in Brazil while the soap was on air.

The latest telenovela started last Monday. Of course, I’ve watched it and wow, it started with a bang. in the first episode there was a wedding, two births, a heart attack, two deaths, someone being imprisoned and released straight after, an abduction followed by an attempted murder and a sudden change of personality from one of the main characters. Wow. And of course, the token foreign location; this time it was Machu Picchu.

Some Brazilians are a bit sniffy when it comes to soap operas. Maybe it’s the fear of enjoying something that is closely associated with popular culture. I’m not saying that Brazilian soaps set a standard for great scripts and acting but they are very influential in everything from fashion trends to the tourism industry.

And how could anyone not see the brilliance of a genre that gave us Laurinha Figueroa, a snob villain played by iconic actress Gloria Menezes on the soap Rainha da Sucata in 1989? I will never forget the scene in which, dressed in white, she suddenly jumped from a building with a backing track provided by Cabaret. The following day, the cover of O Globo newspaper was "Laurinha Figueiroa is dead".

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.


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