Class C at Globo

Image: Elyeser Szturm

the telenovela Brazil Avenue , generally associated with Lulism, is based, at its crucial moment, on the ideological bases of a kind of conservative or restorative reaction

By Caio Vasconcellos*

Brazil Avenue is considered a milestone in national teledramaturgy. Aired by Rede Globo in 2012, the electronic serial broke audience and advertising revenue records, reversing an important downward trend in the public's interest in this type of cultural merchandise manifested, at least, since the mid-1990s.

Notable for exploring in its plot burning themes of the Brazilian socioeconomic context of that period, the telenovela gave the impression of paying homage to “Lulismo” which, at the time, was constituted as a political-ideological force with almost no competitive opponents.

Although Brazil Avenue ventured to present representations of everyday life and forms of sociability of characters that would make up the so-called “class C”, The purpose of this brief essay is to discuss the ideological bases of a kind of conservative – or rather, restorative – reaction that structures the main plot of the electronic serial.

Announced in the first week of exhibition of Brazil Avenue, Rita/Nina's (Débora Falabella) revenge on her arch-rival Carminha (Adriana Esteves) was the telenovela's peak moment. After being abandoned in a dump by her stepmother and her lover Max (Marcelo Novaes), the girl Rita promises to take revenge on these characters for the death of her father Genésio (Tony Ramos) and for stealing the money from the sale of the house where they lived. .

Adopted by a wealthy Argentinean family, Rita becomes Nina – educated in a high-class environment, she becomes a prestigious chef and owner of an exquisite restaurant in Buenos Aires. With the death of her adoptive father, the protagonist of the soap opera decides to return to Brazil more than a decade after her departure, and finds in an open vacancy as a cook at Tufão's house (Murilo Benício), Carminha's current husband, the opportunity to, finally, to carry out the revenge planned all his life.

Shown only between chapters 103 and 132 of the telenovela, Nina's revenge seems, at first glance, to be structured as a simple inversion of their respective roles. In possession of photos that prove the extramarital relationship that Carminha had with Max, the protagonist of the plot forces her mistress to take on the tasks assigned to the housekeepers at the mansion, and she does so with cruelty equivalent to that of her archrival.

In that first moment, the young lady in the plot orders Carminha to prepare and serve her dinner, clean the floor under curses and other humiliations, disinfect the toilet in the main suite and, in an almost pedagogical way, orders a raid into her maid’s room – emphasizing the lack of ventilation and lighting in the tiny room, the lack of hot water in the shower, the bad smell of the room, among other precarious conditions. In the dialogues between the characters, there was even room for Nina to extract from Carminha the promise of a substantial increase in the wages of her colleagues, to respect limits on their working hours and, finally, to pay her overtime.

However, in addition to a low-intensity social critique and the suggestion that the degrading working conditions to which a significant portion of the Brazilian population is subjected could correspond to a deserved punishment for some past villainy, Nina's revenge mobilizes other themes and important ideological constructs.

If, in a certain Brazilian critical tradition, there is a recurring utopian expectation that popular sectors can finally civilize the bad habits and vices of the national elites, the character Nina plays a completely different role. By dressing up as a cook in a mansion in the peripheral neighborhood of Divino, the heiress of a wealthy Argentine family also assumes the mission of restoring order to social positions and values ​​that, supposedly, would be in ruins.

Since the beginning of revenge, the very unequal possession of cultural conventions of class distinction has been an instrument used to punish and discipline the mistress. Although they share the same popular origin, the character Carminha is portrayed as uneducated, futile and tacky, as someone concerned only with appearances, while Nina seems to have an innate elegance, whether due to her restrained manners and gestures, due to a certain bookish culture and for the correct pronunciation of foreign expressions and terms – fruits of the merit of its adoption by a wealthy family still in its infancy.

In Nina's eyes and words, Carminha's years of wealth did not translate into any improvement in her tastes, her wardrobe would be made up of garments from the peripheral neighborhood of Divino, the character was unaware of basic rules of etiquette, keeping her if the same “tacky” who, before marrying the former soccer player Tufão, dressed in “pochetinha and jeans sets”.

In the scene in which she is forced to serve dinner for Nina, Carminha is scolded to straighten up and correct her posture, her hands should be in front of her body – rested – and that, at the very least, she would need to pretend to be a capable servant. to serve the meal in the correct way, that is, the French way.

In a dialogue between the characters, Nina addresses her boss in the following terms and at an increasing level of aggressiveness: – Nina: Exactly, I'm sitting at the head of the bed because today you're going to serve me, cow! From now on, I'm the Mrs. and you are my maid. Go, come on, serve me because I'm hungry, can't you see? Serve me, I'm ordering, serve me! Come on, serve me! I'm sending it, can't you see? What are you waiting for, huh? Serve me, bitch, serve me!

At the same time that he announced that he was seeking to restore the possession of class privileges to their supposedly legitimate bearer, this passage also allows us to perceive another very active element in Nina's revenge. Aspect present in the different stages of Brazil Avenue and uttered by so many other of her characters, the misogyny component in the dialogues between Nina and Carminha is appalling.

In one of the first scenes between the two, the protagonist orders her rival to heat her dinner and, armed with a wooden spoon in her hands, strikes her in the buttocks, with the following speech: – Nina: Heat this food up properly, horse. You don't even know how to stir a pan, bitch. But that ass of yours, you know how to move your man, don't you?

Taking into account only the scenes between the characters during the revenge, Nina offends her arch-rival with terms such as “bitch” – on twelve more occasions –, “vaca” – on five occasions –, “slut” – on four occasions –, “whore” – three times – and “bitch” – once –, not to mention other insults such as stupid, beast, imbecile, useless, useless, etc. Even threatened by the possible revelation to her husband of her extramarital relationship, the character of Carminha was still able to retort Nina's offenses on a few occasions, also calling her a “bitch” – three times –, a “slut” – on two occasions – and “piranha” – once.

Furthermore, in addition to this manifestation of misogyny in the dialogues between the characters, Nina's revenge also mobilized other rather violent and conservative expedients in terms of gender. In the chapters of the first week of the rematch, the absence of the other employees and members of Carminha's family at the house in Divino, who had traveled to the municipality of Cabo Frio, made it possible for the plan to be carried out without any disguise.

However, with the return to the mansion of these other characters, the protagonist of the plot was forced to also return to her old role as a cook, and redirect her punishment strategies. This second phase of revenge is announced by Nina: – “I could hand this bomb over to Typhoon right now, along with the photos of your betrayal. But instead, I'm going to add one more requirement to our pact. You're going to treat Ágata [Carminha's youngest daughter] well, you're going to learn to be a good mother. By the way, you will learn to be a good housewife and family woman. And not some crazy bitch who goes shopping, cuckolding her husband, pretending she's working for an NGO. (...). Oh, and you're also going to cook for your son, you're going to cook dinner today. Don't you say you love Jorginho so much?”

However, this new and final moment of Nina's revenge was not restricted to trying to readjust the character of Carminha to the costume of a traditional housewife. In fact, the plan exploited even more sordid stereotypes – making believe that the villain of the plot had become crazy and hysterical. After forcing Carminha to prepare dinner for her family, Nina mixes garbage with the meal prepared by her former stepmother and served to the other residents of the mansion, raising the first suspicions about her employer's sanity.

The diagnosis of her madness would be attested by the men of the house – first her father-in-law Leleco (Marcos Caruso) and, a few chapters later, the suspicion was transformed into certainty by her husband Tufão. As if she also subscribed to this old and persistent prejudice against women, Carminha herself manifested nervous tics and other uncontrolled movements day after day until, in a somewhat forced scene, she jumped out of her bedroom window – located on the second floor of her house. mansion. Helped by her family, Carminha is violently picked up by a medical team, and the effects of revenge trigger compulsory hospitalization in a mental institution. Carminha's madness finds its scientific certification.

Thus, mobilizing all sorts of stereotypes and prejudices, Nina's revenge is based on a set of expedients that seem to want to restore the places and positions of those who inverted the order of things. Despite the individual reasons that motivated the protagonist's revenge, the meaning of Carminha's punishment is amplified in social terms – those who rose economically, but do not master the codes and formalisms of the dominant classes, must return to their origins; those who subvert the bourgeois patriarchal family model either return to their traditional role or assume their madness.

It is interesting to observe a certain parallel between this structure of Nina's revenge and an ideological disposition described by Adorno in Authoritarian personality. In a world in which the indomitable strength of the economy is revealed in any everyday experience, individuals are forced to adapt to the distribution of power that, in fact, organizes societies.

Even if the illegitimacy and injustice of such a situation are visible to all, resentment towards privileges tends to be repressed on the level of consciousness, triggering a kind of emotional and ambivalent compromise between forced acceptance of the rules of the game and resistance to they. So, hatred can be displaced from the mechanisms of oppression and domination themselves to those who, as if usurping these commanding positions, identify with them, but at the same time violate certain codes and conventions of existing power relations – and life follows the drama.

*Caio Vasconcellos is a post-doctoral researcher at Unicamp's sociology department.

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