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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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14

Watching Telenovelas in Brazil

Mediating the Everyday

Antonio C. La Pastina

ABSTRACT

Telenovelas in Brazil are, undisputedly, still the most popular form of entertainment. Even after almost 50 years of daily broadcasting and radical changes in media technologies that challenged the dominant media producers, a Globo network telenovela can still gather over 30% of the audience on a daily basis. Why have telenovelas managed to capture and hold the imagination of so many viewers in that country? On the basis of a range of qualitative reception and ethnographic studies that began to be produced both in Brazil and abroad in the early 1980s, and on the basis of my own ethnographic work, it seems that Brazilians have relied on telenovelas to maintain a sense of connection to the nation, to grasp and understand new urban middle-class trends, and to question normative ideas and structures in their day-to-day lives. On a less optimistic note, this chapter also argues that telenovelas, unintentionally, have reinforced a rural–urban divide in Brazil.

Augusto, a politician in his mid-thirties, liked television and telenovelas a lot. He never saw his desire to watch telenovelas as a threat to his manhood or his status in Macambira, a small rural community in northeast Brazil. Sometimes he watched television at his place, but mostly he would go to the house of a friend or a political supporter, since his wife worked the night shift as a nurse in a neighboring town. For Augusto, The Cattle ...

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