A favourite pastime of mine when I head to Brazil is to make sure I watch a couple of episodes of the current telenovela. They tend to capture the mood of the country somehow and this time I came to a conclusion: Brazil is gayer than ever.
What a social achievement that is. Previously, authors would make sure to include gay characters just to fulfil a quota, trying to be politically correct. The characters did not even touch each other – it was all very superficial. OK, I’m being a bit too harsh here: kudos to the iconic authors who started including those characters in soaps much earlier than the Brazilian government was even thinking about a gay-marriage law.
But this time it’s different and in a very innovative way. The current main character in soap Amor à Vida is gay – and he’s also a reformed villain who used to dump babies in skips. The character, Felix, interpreted with irreverence and ironic tirades by Mateus Solano, was such a success with the public that the author decided to turn him into the protagonist of the story. He is currently trying to save his father from a psychopathic girlfriend and has also helped to get back his potential new lover’s baby, which had been kidnapped by its surrogate mother.
I had a big grin on my face when I saw that kidnapping scene – it was a proper action scene that evolved fast yachts and the beautiful location of Angra dos Reis, where the surrogate was hiding the baby. They got the baby back and now the public hopes Felix will end the soap with Niko, who has recently separated from Eron, his former boyfriend.
Author Walcyr Carrasco said that the public’s reception of the romantic gay triangle was immensely positive. Some even say that Niko, the innocent one who is split between Felix and Eron, is playing a character that would traditionally be played by a suffering female. Carrasco even said that the traditional and conservative fan base of the soap is hoping for a happy ending.
This is really big news in a country that, even though it has advanced its stance on gay rights, still has quite a high rate of homophobic crime. And in a vast country like Brazil, the 21.00 soap is still one of the few shows that most people watch – and discuss at length in the bar afterwards.
Gay marriage is allowed in Brazil; gay adoption, too. São Paulo hosts the biggest gay pride in the world. But maybe one of the big steps in terms of social acceptance is the fact that we have a pre-eminent gay character on primetime TV who is open with his sexuality – and, most importantly, loved by the public.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.