Brazilian Telenovelas: Challenging the Discourse on Race and Class Inequality
Telenovelas have long been the most popular and widely consumed television product in Brazil. However, their role in society stretches far beyond that of popular entertainment. Brazilian telenovelas are often referred to as the narrative of the nation as they promote a specific vision of national identity in which Brazilians often recognize themselves. This thesis looks at how telenovelas of recent years have attempted to challenge the discourse of silence surrounding racism and the myth of racial democracy that has been maintained by the state for decades. It also examines how this new discourse has been interpreted by middle class, white Brazilians. I argue that telenovelas’ appeal to emotion can help generate discussion and mobilize society around an important social issue. Yet, their strong reliance on (positive) emotional response from the viewer can limit their impact and lead to a reproduction of the very discourse and stereotypes that telenovelas are striving to challenge.
Keywords: telenovelas; race relations; race and class inequality; emotion; Brazil