Comedy — and Life — Through The Back Door

12 Sep

Last week, the media conglomerate spawned by Brazil’s O Globo newspaper – founded in 1925 – issued an unusual, if tardy apology. It said ‘sorry!’ for having supported Brazil’s military dictatorship for more than three decades.

Of course it had always been clear that the Marinho family supported the dictatorship — this wasn’t news to anyone — but the idea of apologizing for one’s past ideology is. And it can’t help but make me wonder if O Globo’s admitting to past mistakes arises from the fact that it, along with most traditional media, is less and less relevant a source of our news, entertainment and ethos.

It is also probably true that, at the time, any news outlet that did not want to be shut down at the time, was obliged to show support for the military government and all it stood for, including its economic plans and the hierarchical system it embodied.  Thus the poor were poor because they were lazy and resentful, not because they lacked rights and resources. The rich were rich because they were naturally superior beings.

This was still very much the view when I first went to work in Brazil in 1987 and my daily read was the Jornal do Brasil, which has since gone bankrupt and been bought out by O Globo. And that is also why I am such a big fan of film-maker Nelson Pereira dos Santos and particularly his incredibly moving film made in 1957, Rio Zona Norte.

Yet that accepted understanding of hierarchies is still very much part of Brazilian culture and one of the reasons the current Workers party government finds itself in such an ideological bind. Here are the people so long excoriated by the powers-that-be, now itself in power, and playing politics completely according to its corrupt and self-serving rules.

And hence the increasing lack of relevance of traditional media that has a hard time evoking what average Brazilians think or feel, and what their lives are really like.

But now, with new media offering all kinds of alternative outlets, we can not only find the British documentary, Beyond Citizen Kane,  about the Globo dynasty the company tried so hard to suppress — but also a comedy program like Porta dos Fundos. Its name means ‘the back door’ and it has been making and running dozens of skits on its own YouTube channel, watched by millions of people.

Here is a sample taken from the New York Times (only because it’s in English, because I highly recommend any Portuguese speakers check out the real thing) featuring a mock response to the recent demonstrations by the President and her cabinet.

There’s nothing particularly new or earth-shattering about the concept or the material. Just a refreshing viewpoint we would not be seeing if the technology of media hadn’t advanced as much as it has — and if a bunch of enterprising young folk hadn’t decided to take advantage of it.


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