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Brazilian TV Comes Out of the Closet With Highly Anticipated Gay Kiss

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Cena do beijo entre Felix e Niko.

Kissing scene between Felix and Niko in the last episode of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life)

Millions of Brazilians stayed home to watch the end of the soap opera “Amor à Vida” (Love of Life) from the major media outlet Rede Globo on Friday night, 31 January 2014. Even many who usually don't watch soap operas ended up waiting, anxious, for its last chapter. The reason? The so-called first gay kiss of the Brazilian television drama.

The kiss was the result of a massive campaign on social networks asking the author of the soap opera, Walcyr Carrasco, for the gay couple Felix (Mateus Solano) and Niko (Thiago Fragoso) to finally lock lips on camera. Tension [en] was palpable in the streets and on social networks, and despite the surreal scenes, the unrealistic plot and abrupt changes in script, the whole country waited with bated breath for the scene.

Undoubtedly, the kissing scene will not change the reality of Brazil, an openly homophobic country that has been considered number one in LGBT killings in the world, but it is a breakthrough in the struggle, a small victory after all the pressure exerted by the LGBT movement and its supporters. It is necessary to get us out of our comfort zone and face reality, show the world that gay people exist, and not only that, but that they are normal people who love like any other and have the same rights.

Every kiss is a political act, and as Professor Tulio Vianna commented:

Estou feliz por meus amigos e amigas LGBTs, mas estou feliz sobretudo por nós heterossexuais que nos tornamos um pouquinho menos opressores, com a violência simbólica que exercemos a todo dia para obrigar a todos a terem a mesma orientação sexual que a nossa. Este é um avanço não só para os LGBTs, mas para a laicidade e para toda a democracia.

I'm happy for my LGBT friends, but I'm especially happy for us heterosexuals who have become a little less oppressive, with the symbolic violence that we exercise every day to force everyone to have the same sexual orientation as ours. This is a breakthrough, not only for LGBT people, but for secularism and for all democracy.

The only openly gay congressman in the Brazilian parliament, Jean Wyllys, was one of the instigators of the campaign #BeijaFelix (#KissFelix). He commented:

Foi um passo adiante e positivo na representação dos modos de vida homossexuais e da homoafetividade. Tem um efeito pedagógico para as próximas gerações e obriga as atuais a ao menos repensarem seus preconceitos. Foi um acréscimo de autoestima na vida dos gays e lésbicas, na medida quem valorizou nossa forma de amar e nossos arranjos familiares

It was a positive step forward in the representation of the homosexual way of life and homo-affectivity. It will have an educational effect for generations to come and forces the current one to at least rethink their prejudices. It was an increase of self-esteem in the lives of gays and lesbians, in so far as who appreciated our love and our family arrangements.
An Argentine activist living in Brazil, Bruno Bimbi, wrote on his blog [es] about the meaning of the kiss to the Brazilian public:

Es difícil entender el peso simbólico de ese beso sin ser brasileño. Inclusive para quien, como el autor de esta columna, vive hace varios años en Río de Janeiro y nunca antes se había sentido tan extranjero, en el sentido más alienígena de la palabra, tratando de comprender la polémica y todas las emociones, presiones, miedos y esperanzas que corrían atrás del final feliz que finalmente ocurrió hace unas horas. La novela de las nueve de la TV Globo es un poderoso productor de sentidos y formador de subjetividades que, cada noche, reúne a viejos y jóvenes, hombres y mujeres, negros y blancos, héteros y gays de todas las clases sociales. Es la compañía de millones de hogares durante la cena. Es de lo que hablarán mañana el portero de mi edificio, mis profesoras del doctorado, mis compañeros de trabajo y militancia, la vecina de al lado y el mozo del bar de la esquina [...] En sus cuentas de Twitter, aún sin palabras, mientras tantos festejaban, los pastores del odio se llamaron a silencio.

It is difficult to understand the symbolic meaning of that kiss without being Brazilian. Even for those who, like the author of this column, have lived for several years in Rio de Janeiro and never before had felt so strange in the most alien sense of the word, trying to understand the controversy and all the emotions, pressures, fears and hopes chasing a happy ending that finally happened a few hours ago. The nine o'clock soap opera of TV Globo is a powerful producer of personal meaning and reality that every night brings together young and old, men and women, blacks and whites, gays and heterosexuals of all social classes. It is the company of millions of homes during dinner. It's what the doorman of my building will talk about tomorrow, of what my doctoral professors, my colleagues and fellow militants, the neighbour and the barman on the corner [will talk about] [...] On their Twitter accounts, even without words, while many celebrated, the shepherds of hate kept silent.

More discrete kisses in the past

This was not the first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, but no doubt it was the most important because of the popularity of Rede Globo's soap operas and the fact that this network is the largest in the country. The first gay kiss on Brazilian TV, according to economist Renata Lins writing on Facebook, was seen 24 years ago in 1990 in the miniseries “Mãe de Santo” [the title, literally Mother of Saint, refers to the priestesses of some Afro-Brazilian religions] on the defunct Manchete TV i between a white man and a black man.

On May 12, 2011 occurred what many considered the first lesbian gay kiss on Brazilian TV, on channel SBT during the soap opera “Amor e Revolução” (Love and Revolution) written by Tiago Santiago. There, Marcela (Luciana Vendramini) and Marina (Giselle Tigre) kissed passionately, but because it is a smaller TV network which only has recent tradition in the production of national soap operas, the fact was considered of minor importance at the time.

Cena de beijo na novela "Amor e Revolução"

Kissing scene in the soap opera “Amor e Revolução”

In 2010, though, the PSOL – Socialism and Freedom Party – aired a gay kiss during the election campaign, widely reported at the time.

It's a goal!

“The expectation at the gay kiss in the soap opera was much higher than the cheer for any football team,” reported Professor Eduardo Sterzi. Many netizens commented about the celebrations that were heard across the country, with people screaming at their windows as if their team had scored a goal.

Cries of “Chupa Feliciano” (Suck it Feliciano) could be heard in reference to the evangelical minister and notoriously homophobic congressman Marco Feliciano, on which Global Voices reported [en] in March 2013 when he was elected deputy chairman of Human and Minority Rights Commission of the House of Representatives. On Twitter, there were several humorous reactions to the gay kiss and in repudiation of Marco Feliciano.

Tuíte do ator Thiago Fragoso agradecendo aos fãs

“Very happy! Thank you for the messages thank you for everything…” Tweet by actor Thiago Fragoso thanking his fans

On Facebook, academic Fabio Malini warned politicians of the dangers of posturing against minority rights and reminded them of the demands of mass protests that took place in the country in June 2013, whose effects are still very visible:

Há várias interpretações possíveis para o que ocorre na sociedade brasileira. Mas eu queria salientar que a afirmação dos direitos das minorias foi amplamente reivindicada nos protestos de junho. Foi algo radical nas ruas. E a Globo se viu pressionada por um lado pelo fãs do casal da novela; e, por outro, pelo imaginário do “O Povo Não é Bobo” recuperado pelos “vândalos” de junho. Não havia outra solução para a emissora, senão Liberar. Que o fato vire um recado político das urnas em 2014: no lugar de ceder à base religiosa conservadora, as forças políticas de esquerda (se elas ainda existirem) afirmem todos os direitos possíveis das minorias. Do contrário, virarão ainda mais reféns de uma minoria política que só anda para atrás.

There are several possible interpretations for what occurs in Brazilian society. But I wanted to point out that the assertion of minority rights was widely claimed in the June protests. It was something radical in the streets. And Globo TV found itself pressed on one hand by the fans of the soap opera couple, and secondly by the imagination of “The People Are No Fool” [chant sung during the protests] recovered by the “thugs” [derogatory way that the media called the protesters] in June. There was no other solution for the broadcaster but equality. The fact becomes a political message of the polls in 2014: instead of yielding to the conservative religious base, the political forces of the left (if they still exist) must assert all possible rights of minorities. Otherwise, they will become even more hostage to the political minority which only walks backwards.

Journalist Leonardo Sakamoto celebrated the kiss, but noted that “Globo has its million of defects, but it is not stupid”, and that “ended up creating a historical fact that makes one forget their own unwillingness to address the issue.”

In other words, the kiss “could have appeared in any of the episodes of the last month,” but Globo chose to create anticipation, attract audiences and even measure the popularity of a gay kiss with the public at a time when the TV station is trying to reach the evangelical conservative public. It also faces conservative positions even from the federal government, whose top representative, President Dilma Rousseff, had already declared in previous years it would not make “sexual option propaganda” when asked about pro-LGBT policies in her government and the cancellation of a program to combat homophobia in schools.

Imagem do instagram de @ane_molina com a notificação de que sua foto foi deletada por infringir regras da rede social

Image from Instragram by @ane_molina of a notification that her photo is being analysed due to a violation of the rules of the social network (nudity or pornography)

Others, such as the diplomat Hugo Neto Lorenzetti, criticized the delay for the kiss to happen and warned of an important fact: There is still much to fight. A gay kiss on TV is not the end of the fight, but only a small victory.

Actor Matthew Solano, who plays Felix, one half of the gay couple, commented in an interview about the kiss:

É um pequeno passo na dramaturgia, mas um grande passo na sociedade

It is a small step for dramaturgy, but a big step for society
On the other hand, some activists and journalists have not joined the celebrations. Felipe Chagas on his Facebook commented:
A realidade, gente, é que nós estamos aqui, e o que vimos ontem nas telinhas (sic) foi apenas uma realidade retratada de forma mais que atrasada a partir do ponto de vista da burguesia (com seu núcleo familiar patriarcal, heterossexual e com prole) sobre a nossa existência. É tão vergonhoso as LGBTs se arrastarem por várias novelas para conseguirem um único beijo gay no principal canal de televisão no “horário nobre”, que me sinto revoltado. Sinto-me revoltado porque é humilhante saber que depois de tantos anos, com uma audiência exorbitante causado pelo principal personagem dessa obra ficcional (que é um ex-vilão gay que virou mocinho), que o tão esperado beijo foi um selinho que durou 4 segundos (ou menos que isso), na penúltima cena da novela depois das 23h duma sexta-feira. Patético, apenas.

The reality, folks, is that we're here, and what we saw yesterday on the small screens was just a reality portrayed in a more than overdue way from the point of view of the bourgeoisie (with its patriarchal, heterosexual, nuclear family with a child) about our existence. It's so embarrassing that the LGBT are creeping ahead by several soap operas to get a single gay kiss on the main TV channel in “primetime”, that I feel disgusted. I feel angry because it is humiliating to know that after so many years, with an exorbitant audience due to the main character of this fictional work (who is a gay ex-villain turned good guy), that the long-awaited kiss was a peck that lasted 4 sec (or less than that), in the penultimate scene of the soap after 23:00 of a Friday. Just pathetic.

Fernando Pardal added that Globo would present “a gay couple who behaves exactly like a bourgeois heterosexual couple” with the “purpose [of] trying to make this historical moment of acceptance of different sexualities [...] done as ‘quietly’ as possible (for the bourgeoisie and the family)”:

E quem comemora acriticamente este beijo como um “progresso” da Globo está ajudando nesta falsificação.

And those who uncritically celebrate this kiss as “progress” by Globo is helping this forgery.

There was enough room left for that homophobia to be preached freely through social networks by users like Nathanael Martins (@Dc_Natanael) who held that the Globo's “advocacy of homosexuality” was “a slap in the face of Christians”, or Coxa® (@Marcio1914) who said that “people are applauding two gays kissing, it will not take long for being a faggot to be a mandatory requirement, I wanna die first.”
 
With humor, activist Karla Joyce responded to the homophobia:
Ninguém morreu. Não doeu. Ninguém virou gay. Nenhuma autoridade não veio em pronunciamento à nação falar que agora haverá uma cartilha gay ou que entramos no regime da “”"Ditadura Gay”"”. Ninguém foi obrigado a consumar um casamento homoafeitvo. Não foi um “agora vão se comer no meio da rua”. Os cavaleiros do apocalipse não chegaram. A meteorologia não indica que esteja chovendo enxofre ou meteoros no Brasil.
Nobody died. It did not hurt. Nobody turned gay. No authority came in with a speech to the nation saying that there will now be a gay booklet or that we enter the regime of the “Gay Dictatorship”. Nobody was forced to consummate a gay marriage. It wasn't a “now go fuck each other on the street.” The knights of apocalypse did not arrive. The weather does not indicate it's raining sulfur or meteors in Brazil.
 
Activist Jarid Arraes wrote movingly on her Facebook:
Um amigo viu meu último post, falando da importância política do beijo na novela, e ligou chorando, muito feliz, dizendo que graças a cena final entre Félix e o Pai, o seu próprio pai bateu na porta do quarto dele as 4 da manhã.O pai, que chorava de soluçar, pediu perdão ao filho por toda discriminação e palavras de ódio. Disse que a partir daquele dia ele se arrependia e o aceitava. E que podia inclusive levar o namorado para almoçar no domingo com a família inteira.Só quem já passou por isso sabe…
A friend saw my last post, talking about the political significance of the kiss in the soap opera, and called me crying, very happy, saying that because of the final scene between Felix and his Father, his own father knocked on the door of his room at 4 a.m. His father, who sobbed, apologized to his son for all discrimination and hate speech. He said that from that day on he repented and accepted him. And he could even take his boyfriend to lunch on Sunday with the whole family. Only someone who has been there knows…
Finally, a blogger specializing in TV, Gustavo Baena, expressed the feelings of many:

Imagine o que significou o gesto dos personagens de Solano e Thiago para que milhares de jovens homossexuais possam elevar sua autoestima e conquistar espaço para o diálogo, a aceitação e o respeito dentro das próprias famílias, inclusive.

Imagine what the gesture of the characters of Solano and Thiago meant for the thousands of young gay people who can raise their self-esteem and gain space for dialogue, acceptance and respect including within their own families.

This post was written in collaboration with Marcela Canavarro and Luis Henrique

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