How is beauty portrayed through TV in Brazil?

I am told that one of the ways to improve my portuguese is to watch brazilian TV programmes, but I have to admit, I am struggling to find anything I want to watch over here.

Last Sunday, my father-in-law switched over to a programme called Silvio Santos which he joked (I hope!) was as much a part of  Brazilian TV culture as the famous novelas. I watched in dismay as a group of scantily-clad young women danced about on the stage with their boobs pushed up and their bums hanging out. If this wasn’t weird enough, a cartoon character appeared singing in front of them and I burst out laughing. How is this kind of programme even made in this day and age, never mind popular?!

programa silvio santos dancers

You can see the dancers in the background

I can’t remember seeing such an embarrassingly sexist display since the days when a female model would smile and point at the prize on a game show decades ago. And this isn’t the only prime time TV programme in brazil to feature them. (There is also Domingão do Faustão). Whilst I’m sure that the dancers on this show are actually proud to be there, I felt very sorry for them to be portrayed in this way, and the feminist in me was annoyed.

Then the show’s host, Mr Silvio Santos himself, appeared in all his plastic fantastic glory. I think I would put my guess at his age at around 70. If Wikipedia is to be believed, he’s actually 82, so perhaps his surgery wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, depending on how you perceive beauty. However, his entire audience is female with an average age of 25 at most. I found it extremely uncomfortable watching him licking his lips as he threw money in the air and watched the young girls scramble around on the floor for it, butt’s in the air.

Now, he is probably a perfectly innocent old man who doesn’t want to accept his age and loves his job, pressured to look younger by the shallow media industry in order to continue his career. It is no secret that the media industry discriminates against people who are not perceived as beautiful or young enough right around the world. Still, I couldn’t help thinking it was all rather sad and strange.

Ana Maria Braga

Ana Maria Braga

Following on from the sad plastic face of Silvio Santos and the singing cartoon, there is the popular breakfast show Mais Você, presented by Ana Maria Braga and the random cartoon parrot. (For any British readers, it would be like replacing one of the ‘This Morning’ presenters with a cartoon parrot). This lady can hardly move her face. Again, she seems to be a long-standing TV presenter, probably successful and beautiful long before she went under the knife, and at least her programme seems mildly interesting in parts. Just don’t get me started on what the parrot is doing there…

Lastly, I began watching Flor do Caribe, a new Brazilian soap opera. The very first thing I noticed was how none of the lead characters have brown eyes. I am living in Belo Horizonte, the novela is set in the North East of Brazil: in both places, brown eyes are by far the most common. Why then do they only choose lead characters with bright blue or green eyes? I think it sends a completely unfair and untrue message about what is beautiful.

flor do caribe

flor do caribe

I am going to come back to the topic of plastic surgery in Brazil at a later date. For the time being, I will continue to scour the brazilian TV networks in search of something worth watching!


19 responses to “How is beauty portrayed through TV in Brazil?

  1. Yes, I quite agree with you! TV shows may help a lot to improve your Portuguese speaking capability, but who can stand them?
    I have an enormous difficulty in watching a TV programme, only films with original sound track, which in your case is not very helpful.
    Portuguese spoken on TV is also very bad, full of grammatical errors.
    And a Brazilian film? That can be quite good and you can go over and over again. Have you tried to rent a Brazilian film?
    You should also make an effort to read a bit of the paper everyday. Also going to a theatre?
    Any way, I enjoyed your article very much!
    Don’t give up. You will learn this difficult language.

  2. Hiya

    Just to balance this, there is ultra violence on US channels like Warner and I hate that! But yeah, a lot of tv can be too full on, especially all the shouting!

    There are some good programmes on Canal Brazil and also they have some good documentaries on some of the cultural channels too. Fantastico is quite interesting on a Sunday night, and I find that the news is much more watchable here as they are not obsessed with breaking news but give time to debate issues quite deeply at times which is different.

    But yeah, a lot is impossible to watch. There is good stuff there, you just have to take time to find it. There are some really great documentaries based around their culture, and musical history for example, and quite a few others I have enjoyed too.

    • You are right, there are plenty of other awful TV channels/programmes besides the brazilian ones. I haven’t heard of Fantastico but I will have a look for it. I think the news is also watchable, except on Globo where every 10-15mins between the novelas they have an update which seems to have some kind of circus music in the background!

  3. Also, Faustão is quite an interesting chap and you can get distracted by the women. He was successful in the 80s with a real cult show with low budget, but he criticised the government a lot. He still does this, and for example gave a passionate speech after the tragedy with the night club fire, saying how many people should be ashamed. So Brazil is pretty mixed up and crazy, but there are little nuggets in there that you may miss. I was the same with Faustão until my wife started to show me his old programmes on Youtube and I was able to pick up a little more what he was saying.

    • It’s a shame then that someone who should be a respected character on TV has a show like that. I does completely distract you from anything he’s saying. It’s hard enough trying to understand a portuguese TV host, never mind with all that going on hahaha.

      • This is a great comment from Fabiana. There was an amazing documentary with Chico Buarke last night. Keep looking out there. Globo News has a 24 hour channel on 40/ 540 if you are on Net as we are.

  4. What IS it about that parrot?! I try to catch a little of the news program Bom Dia Brasil a couple of times a week for the same reasons you’re channel surfing…improve my Portuguese and watch something a little serious.

  5. Pingback: Ana Maria Braga – Eu quero ser seu papagaio! « blog espirito bird·

  6. I also have laughed in mild disbelief at television in Brazil! Some of the late night comedy show skits are cringeworthy from my western perspective.

    I am also watching television to help improve my portuguese. I recently discovered this website ( which broadcasts the closed caption feed for all the major brazilian tv channels. This means you can have live subtitles on your smartphone/tablet/laptop while watching tv. It uses google translate so they can be presented in any language. However, the translation requirements do make it a bit slower and I prefer to have it in portuguese – all the better for improving reading as well as listening skills!

    • That’s an interesting website, I will try it out! I was saying recently how it would help if I could read Portuguese subtitles at the same time as listening to the programme, but they are always too far behind the sound to be of any real use. Good luck with your Portuguese learning!

  7. I think Jo Soares and Encontro com Fatima Bernardes tend to have some interesting interviews and discussions, and are not as cringeworthy as other shows. I cannot sit through more than 5 seconds of Silvio Santos, so I’m amazed you could.

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