The Brazilian cultural industry yesterday and today

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Caio Vasconcellos*

In October 2012, a report by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo claimed that the coordination of Fernando Haddad’s campaign had convinced President Dilma Rousseff – at the time, holder of a 55% approval rating in the city of São Paulo – to postpone the date of the rally in which she would appear alongside the then candidate for mayor of São Paulo. The reason was unusual: the political-electoral event would compete with the exhibition of the final chapter of Brazil Avenue, telenovela aired by Rede Globo. In the city of Salvador, consideration was given to installing large screens to broadcast the rerun of the last episode of the soap opera, so that another rally with the president would not run the risk of being empty; across the country, the National Electric System Operator he feared the possibility of a blackout due to the exuberant audience of the electronic serial.

Much celebrated by television critics and by sectors of the academy, Brazil Avenue it was the most elaborate attempt of the recent national teledramaturgy to portray what would be the daily life and the typical forms of sociability of an urban universe formed mostly by characters of popular origin. If, until then, these strata of the population were either marginalized or portrayed by an almost exclusively comic bias in electronic serials, characters belonging to the popular strata assumed greater centrality and protagonism in Brazil Avenue.

The craze of advertising agencies at the time, the group made up of the so-called “class C” assumed in those years the leading position in terms of consumption power among the various income strata. In addition to achieving the highest advertising revenue in the history of television in Latin America, the massive audience and great repercussion of the electronic serial seemed to crown the consolidation of a country project under the auspices of Lulism.

In the eyes of some, the expectations of that recent past seem, today, almost a utopia. The promise of a consumer market broad enough to cover all strata of the population is contrasted with consecutive years of lowering purchasing power, especially of the popular layers. The colorful and exuberant aesthetic by which the C class was usually represented was, after the coup, replaced by the return of a sparkling olive green.

In addition to the vigorous regression in terms of customs, Bolsonaro's election legitimized an accelerated project of liberalization and deregulation of the economy, with a strong concentration of income and virulent attacks on rights and social achievements. Prodigal in reducing complex social processes in synthetic terms, Brazilian research agencies document the appearance of a new social stratum formed by variations, now negative, in income levels – the “despondents”.

The proposal for articles scheduled to be published in The Earth is Round consists of presenting analyzes on recent trends in the industrial exploitation of culture in the country, especially on the national television market and on the cultural commodity with the greatest circulation in Brazil – telenovelas. In addition to the political orientation of its companies and conglomerates, the sector stands out not only for its strength or for its high degree of economic concentration, but also for putting into circulation worldviews and lifestyles, sets of norms and values, objects of desire, affections and libidinal dynamics.

Although the manipulation of the news is also the target of criticism, it is through the mobilization of these objective ideological fragments that the cultural industry truly captivates its audience, at the same time that it uses its expertise to naturalize the injustice of economic relations and the violence of society. social domination.

Furthermore, along with these strictly national themes, the Brazilian Cultural Industry also serves as a transmission belt for global trends. Already in strong competition with traditional media companies for public attention and advertising investments, giants such as Google, Facebook, Youtube, etc. they put into circulation new forms of production and consumption of cultural goods and promote peculiar mechanisms of seduction.

Faced with a public that is no longer restricted to a merely passive role in the conception, elaboration and distribution of cultural goods, it is convenient to scrutinize the role played by the subjects in these productions, and the meaning of hegemonic forms of online sociability that are structured in these Domains.

*Caio Vasconcellos is a postdoctoral researcher at the sociology department at Unicamp

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