You may hate soap operas – but you cannot deny they are a great representation of the Brazilian people’s creativity and state of mind at a given moment in history. Here are 10 stories that glued the country to the sofa, launched fashion trends and new slangs.
1968 – Beto Rockfeller
Created by now extinct Tupi TV, this soap began a small revolution in Brazilian television, that so far was producing only stories based in Mexican tearful melodramas. It created a national soap opera language, introducing slang, naturalistic interpretation and the use of Brazilian songs as scores. It obliged Tupi’s main rival, Rede Globo, to change its approach.
1973 – O Bem Amado/ Beloved
Odorico Paraguaçu is a corrupt mayor in a small town in Bahia, followed around by three adoring maidens. He wants to inaugurate the new cemetery – but has no corpse to bury. Written by play writer Dias Gomes, it was the first soap opera produced in colors. He hires Zeca Diabo, to kill somebody to enable the opening ceremony. Ironically, the gunman kills the mayor. Two major actors interpreted these characters: Paulo Gracindo (Odorico) and Lima Duarte (Zeca Diabo).
1976 – Escrava Isaura
Emblematic of a time blacks had so little space in Brazilian TV that even slaves had to be white to have the leading part. Based in the novel by Bernardo Guimarães, it tells the story of the milky skinned slave that finds freedom and love in the arms of an abolitionist. It was a worldwide success and astonishingly popular in China, where actress Lucélia Santos became a national muse. The main song “Lê lê lê lê, vida de negro é difícil” (life of blacks is tough) is still these days invoqued when one is overloaded with work.
1976 – Saramandaia
A surreal classic – another story by Dias Gomes depicting life in a small town of the Northeast.
Its most famous scene, the explosion of Dona Redonda (Round Lady):
1983 – Guerra dos Sexos/War of the Sexes
The confront of two giants of Brazilian theatre/TV/movies, Fernanda Montenegro and Paulo Autran, in a slapstick comedy.
1985 – Roque Santeiro
My all-time favorite is another Dias Gomes soap opera. It was produced after 15 years waiting for censorship relief. The love story of the flamboyant fake widow of a mythical hero – that never really existed – and a powerful coronel (a rich landowner).
1988 – Vale Tudo/ Anything is Allowed
Here where snobbish bad girl Odete Roitman has a cat fight with her daughter, drunkard Heleninha. For months the country tried to discover who killed the hated Odete.
One more scene of Odete, kissing an equally bad guy and exposing herself to the worst of all blackmailers, Maria de Fátima!
1990 – Pantanal
Now defunct TV Manchete produced this unconventional love story of an urban boy and a mysterious girl that sometimes morphs into a jaguar in the idyllic landscape of Pantanal, the main watershed of the continent. Lots of naked girls bathing in the rivers made it wildly successful.
1996 – Xica da Silva
Another soap produced by Manchete. This period piece also used abundant waterfall baths scenes to tell the story of the slave who seduced a powerful Portuguese official. It revealed several future stars, such as Taís Araújo (the first black leading character in Brazilian TV), Drica Moraes and Giovana Antonelli.
Lots of chapter can be partially seen on Youtube dubbed in Spanish.
2001 – O Clone/The Clone
This unexpected mix of Islam and genetic experiment had a Moroccan beauty falling for a Brazilian man and, years later, for his own clone. So bizarre it was a blast.