Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | March 5, 2010

BRAZIL: ON CENSORSHIP, HYPOCRISY AND… BEER


by Ernest Barteldes

A few weeks after Carnaval, Brazilian micro-brewery Devassa launched a commercial of that featured a voyeur peeking on Paris Hilton as she did a fully clothed striptease-like routine with a can of beer in one of her hands. The clip did not air for long, for Brazil’s Council for Advertisement (CONAR) Brazil’s non-government ad regulatory institute pulled the 30-second ad from the airwaves because it was deemed ‘too sensual’ and thus inappropriate for network TV. The same thing happened a few years ago with a commercial for Havaianas sandals in which an elderly woman gives her granddaughter sexual advice.

Unlike the US, Brazil has no government agency like the FCC (It’s intriguing why conservatives haven’t gone after that one – aren’t they the ones who want less government regulation?). The country’s 1988 Constitution did away with official censorship after the excesses of the military government, who controlled all media for more than twenty years (films like A Clockwork Orange and Jean-Luc Godard’s controversial Je Vous Salue, Marie were banned from screens for years). Instead, the media there has developed a form of self-censorship that has been quite successful in spite of a few hiccups along the way.

The hypocrisy in this case is that sex is everywhere in Brazil’s TV. Stuff like Janet Jackson’s infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the Super Bowl a few years back wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye there. After all, that is the country where Globo TV features a the “Mulata Globeleza,” a topless, semi-nude dancer that appears during the entire Carnaval season in vignettes that precede the network’s coverage of the holiday. Not to mention the Carnaval parade itself, when photo models show their surgically enhanced bodies for everyone to see, with no blurring whatsoever. And over there no one has to worry about some watchdog calling in to complain — there is no one to complain to.

In the United States, it’s quite different. While premium cable shows like Sex And The City and The Sopranos are free to show nudity and language, networks here have to be very careful, as there are watchdog organizations that scour TV channels looking for anything they consider offensive. That is why so many feature films are re-cut for television, and why so many characters say ‘fudge’ a lot. Profanity and nudity can cause severe fines from the FCC – and that is one of the reasons why live programs are shown with a five-second delay. A simple ‘fuck’ from a celebrity can cost millions – even though we use that word all the time.

But in Brazil, pulling a commercial that is a little edgy is a bit too much. If organizations like CONAR really cared about viewers’ welfare, they would have taken much more off the air. But I guess that trying to go after Globo TV would be a losing battle. Now if we could only just get rid of the FCC…

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