Big Brother Brazil and postmodernity

Christiana Carvalho's photo


The visibility that the BBB offers is controlled by Globo to avoid the debate about the structure of our society

We may not like Big Brother Brasil, but it generates repercussions in Brazilian society and, therefore, expresses something relevant to understanding our culture. Popular culture has never been and will never be trivial. For example, Edward Palmer Thompson is a Marxist historian who sees revolutionary potential in popular culture. For him, people in a given class situation come together as conscious class formation through experience. That is, production relations distribute people in a class situation, but the conscious and organized action of the working class depends on how workers experience and apprehend this situation. Experiencing and apprehending depend on categories that are affected by culture, ideology, etc. In other words: the material conditions are objectively given, but the categories that are present in the mediation of this reality impact on the sense in which the experience will or will not lead to consciousness.

Thus, the reactions to a certain television product, such as Big Brother or the soap opera, a mass sport, such as football, or artistic manifestations (banalized or not by the cultural industry), such as cinema or music, always matter. because they tell us something about the elements that impact reflection. It's not about defending the existence of the program, much less encouraging people to watch it. But to understand that the way people elaborate and express themselves about this reality show, the soap opera, or football says a lot about which and how the values ​​and symbolic elements act in the perception of the world. In the same way, the “social being” and the “social conscience” do not exist outside of experience because they are mediated by it, there is no conscience without the being “experientialize” the world that surrounds him and, to understand the meaning of this experience, it is necessary to understand what resonates in popular culture. Ultimately, there is no class consciousness without the reflection that individuals make while producing wealth in the capitalist system and this reflection is influenced by culture, ideology, etc.

That said, I announce here my central points: the defense of class as the fundamental element of convergence of the various existing social identities. Therefore, people have social identities (ethnic-racial, sexual orientation, gender, etc.) and these identities are very important to shape their experiences – being a woman, being black, being LGBTQ+ has a decisive impact on the conditions that people experience. production relations and how they experience, suffer, apprehend and react to events in social life. Therefore, it is not about minimizing the importance, but stating that these social identities superstructure the class situation that is given by the capitalist structure. Capitalism depends on a basic structural difference: there are owners of the means of production and there are those who depend exclusively on their workforce. The other identities are “extraeconomic” or “superstructural” factors. Obviously, subject to oppression that increases exposure to violence, marginalization and/or social vulnerability. However, capitalism can dispense with these identities without the mode of production perishing. Let's move on to what mobilized this text.

1 – Big Brother Brasil is a showcase and what happens in the reality show it serves as a real-life observation, which learning is possible for those who observe without direct interference conditions. Voting on the “walls” is something that allows a false sense of control on the part of the viewer who would be able to punish and reward people based on some meritocratic parameter. But this is only true on a very small and very indirect scale, depending on the convergence of your decision with thousands or even millions of other spectators. When such a convergence occurs, the feeling is that the people's voice promoted justice. But these sensations do not prevent the program from being a mere simulacrum. Since the choice of participants, the editing of what will be aired on open TV and the type of test for selecting roles such as “leaders” and “angels” are under control of the program's production.

2 – The thesis that Globo purposely chose people to boost black and LGBTQ+ militancy is not credible. This point is what we are going to detail.

Grupo Globo is one of the media most engaged in forms of profit on the “black money” and the “pink money”. It has been dealing with the LGBT+ theme in its soap operas and miniseries for some time, creating a narrative of commitment to contributing to black representation and to defending gender equality. She is enthusiastic about the entrepreneurship proposal present in segments of social movements in defense of the feminist, black or LGBT+ cause. Globo handpicked its members to capture stories in pursuit of profit and not destroy them, the proof of which is in the type of advertising used by the broadcaster's major advertisers, notably those who sponsor the reality show – see the campaign Avon is on. It makes little sense to conceive that she and market agents can profit more from the sabotage of the militancy segment that represents millions of consumers and, ultimately, does not contradict the logic of capital accumulation; when it can boost its profits and those of its advertisers by inducing mechanisms of “order” through the narrative of social harmony between different identities. And it does so through the key of neoliberalism: the responsibility for this harmony lies with the market, which is why the segments of social movements that guide black, LGBT+ and female entrepreneurship are useful because, like Globo, they transfer, even if ultimately, to the individual the responsibility of entering this market that they sell as a producer of “meritocratic” justice and harmony. empower the individual this way it is to create the narrative of inclusion without giving due accounts to the historical trajectory of exploitation that is not limited to an outdated past.

Note that, after years of decline in the program's audience, Globo found a way out in the last edition: artists with some degree of popularity, people "not so anonymous" and a conflict between aspiring heartthrobs and empowered women. This direction option found the pandemic and a long period of social isolation to boost the audience. The edition showed the strength of the female unit against the so-called “scrotum males”, revealed the strength of a defender of blackness, as well as the winner was a doctor and black woman. All those chosen could clearly be analyzed by the key of entrepreneurship and meritocracy, even if it was not the key that these people individually use to understand the world. Telma, a woman, black, enlightened, whose meritocratic speech made it possible to say: despite racism and misogyny, she won and is a doctor.

This year the formula was amplified. A black, right-wing comedian who overcame low-paying jobs and gigs to own his own radio show and excel in content via Youtube e WhatsApp; a young black man who became an actor for the station itself and a singer, after standing out in the leadership of the high school student movement and becoming famous in the occupations against the closure of school units in the PSDB government in São Paulo; two black artists from Rap, a man and a woman, with a strong connection with the periphery; a young woman with a master's degree in Psychology, black and LGBTQ+; a black and LGBTQ+ professor; and a doctoral student in Economics who is black and LGBTQ+ (although his blackness was questioned in the program by others brothers). All together with other well-known artists, y and some interesting anonymous ones, according to the program's selection. The logic is the same. The number of pretos and pretas increased, but all could be narrated from the point of view of personal effort, merit in their “walk” and, therefore, the merit of what was conquered. Conflicts that could disqualify black, LGBTQ+ or feminist militancy are accidents along the way that, after some upheavals, boosted the program’s reach, its profits and was limited to fomenting a debate about individual personalities. Again, the systemic totality is diluted in terms of individuals.

Grupo Globo did not act to destroy this militancy. However, the visibility it offers takes place in a controlled manner to avoid debate about the structure of our society and focus on individual decisions and personalities, as well as fostering an idealistic culturalism that repeats the narrative that such oppressions of these social identities can and do must be overcome exclusively through education, enlightenment and coexistence. As if the permanence of these forms of discrimination had no roots in the economic structure.

Now, neoliberalism and its “structural reforms”, so defended by Grupo Globo, potentiate inequality and, therefore, potentiate the social marginalization of those who already find it difficult to overcome structural discrimination. Inequality being widened means the increase of unemployment, of misery affecting mostly blacks, women and LGBTQ+. The world of work reproduces these discriminations because they are extra-economic elements that allow economic exploitation to increase. In the same activity, by paying women less than men and blacks and blacks less than whites, the capacity to extract surplus value is expanded. Denying equal access to LGBTQ+, notably transgender people, in the job market, universities, etc., is using extra-economic grounds to superstructure the so-called reserve army. Such structural debates are replaced by the seductive thesis that individual effort can overcome the barriers of social structure. Coach, motivational speeches, the repetition of the concept of resilience and mindset, represent nothing more than discursive tools and categories that foster individualism, which is central to neoliberal ideas, and act just like the broadcaster.

Within this scenario, the struggles of the black, LGTQ+ and feminist movements are indispensable in a society that unequally distributes opportunities, income and concentrates violence on certain social identities. It is not about denying this, but reaffirming that the particularization of the struggle will not lead to anything different from what the narrative of entrepreneurship connected to the identity element already does. Public impatience in relation to the mistaken, excessive and instrumentalized use of academicism by one of the participants should bring us a questioning that overcomes the attack on reputation, it is not the participant nor the subjective judgment of her character that will teach us how to act. But asking ourselves and organizing ourselves from the realization that it is necessary to make ourselves understandable to society as a whole. The so famous phrase “you are arranging a collective agenda to solve a BO that is yours alone” says less about it and more about how problematic is the permanence of a belief (conscious or not) that it is possible to be “good” and “ winner” for himself in an unequal society, but contradictorily fair and meritocratic. Globo did not destroy bridges, it paves the bridge started by postmodernism. What you see on the screen shows the difficulty of connecting a significant portion of social movements with society as a whole. At the same time, practices that generated revolts among viewers are common practices in our daily lives, such as religious intolerance or xenophobia. Sometimes the mirror is cruel. More than canceling an artist who reproduces such unwanted practices, the challenge is to question how it is possible to approach the people that social movements should represent, especially in the peripheries, and give them some collective meaning that is not diluted, for example , through the narrative of the meritocratic and exclusive “Theology of Prosperity”. Globo did not destroy these bridges because they were never real for society as a whole (and, yes, for very restricted segments), it reinforced the path traced by postmodern ideas and with each appropriation that it makes of social movements, it hinders the possibility of conscious and mass collective organization. With each glamorization of individual recognition, of the “walk of the one who won among a thousand”, the legitimacy of the mechanisms that excluded the other 999 and, worse, blaming them is reaffirmed.

It is not the choice of brothers of that year, but the body of work. O reality show it does not show sabotage by market agents to all social movements, but it is yet another example that demonstrates how the market and its agents can coexist with types of militancy that do not seek to eliminate the ideological and economic needs of oppressing such identities. Globo Comunicações e Participações S/A disseminates what its advertisers want and what is profitable for its investment area. As such, it is not possible to do justice by exalting the market, unequal and exclusive by nature, as the means to produce justice. Treating education, not as one of the tools to know the real and, therefore, useful in its critical perspective about the objective conditions of the world; but, in an idealist perspective, whose good education would be a panacea that would resolve all the incompatibilities of human consciousness and would give everyone the conditions to overcome social ills by providing skills and competences to adapt to the status quo

I return to my central points: we need to develop means to act in the scenario of fragmentation of the world of work, experience and social struggle. The demands of different social identities are indispensable and need to compose a class program, since the class situation is a common element to the most exploited segments of society. This does not mean that misogyny suffered by a woman only matters if she is working class, nor that racial or LGBT phobic discrimination only exists against working class individuals. The foundation is not to ignore oppression and violence or to postpone this fight until after class inequality has been overcome, but concurrently develop a program that, in addition to immediately combating the effects (which demands a specific project for each movement), also targets the causes of segregation (which demands a common class program aimed at human emancipation). As challenging as it may seem, aiming at eliminating the justifications and economic gains under the segregation and discrimination of social identities is more credible than teleologically believing that an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-LGBTphobic education process can build alone and in abstract a level of consciousness superior to economic determinations. As Nancy Fraser argues[I] when defending the feminist movement: it is necessary to reconnect “the struggles against personalized subjection criticizing a capitalist system, which, while promising liberation, in fact substitutes one mode of domination for another”. And this lesson also serves the black movement and the LGBT+, in addition to alerting to the sensitivity that class organizations need to have in relation to these struggles.

*Jefferson Nascimento é professor at the Federal Institute of São Paulo (IFSP). Book author "Ellen Wood - the rescue of class and the struggle for democracy" (Appris).



[I] FRASER, Nancy. “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History”. Mediações Magazine, Londrina, v. 14, no. 2, Jul./Dec. 2009, p. 30.

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