Where Have All the Indios Gone? A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Brazilian Telenovela "A Muralha" and Its Indigenous Representation

Master's Thesis, 2014

119 Pages, Grade: 1,0


List of Content


1 Motivation for the Study

2 The Telenovela: A National Obsession
2.1 The Origin and Development of Brazilian Telenovelas
2.2 The Context of Analysis: The Setup of Telenovela’s Plots and Storylines
2.3 The Socio-Cultural Impact of Telenovelas in Brazil
2.3.1 White Ethnocentrism in the Telenovelas
2.3.2 Indigenous Representation in the Telenovelas

3 Description of the Telenovela A Muralha
3.1 Production, Setup and Media Impact of A Muralha
3.2 The Plot
3.2.1 Summary of Episode 1
3.2.2 Summary of Episode 2
3.2.3 Summary of Episode 46
3.2.4 Summary of Episode 47
3.2.5 Summary of Episode 48
3.2.6 Summary of Episode 49
3.2.7 Summary of Episode 50

4 Critical Discourse Analysis about the Indigenous Content in A Muralha
4.1 Design and Procedure of the Analysis
4.2 Representing People: Language and Identity
4.2.1 Personalization and Impersonalization
4.2.2 Individualization versus Collectivization
4.2.3 Specification and Genericization
4.2.4 Nomination and Functionalization
4.2.5 Foreigner Talk
4.3 Analyzing Semiotic Choices: Words and Images
4.3.1 Word Connotations
4.3.2 Lexical Choices
4.3.3 Visual Semiotic Choices: Settings and Salience

5 Depiction of Indigenous Cultures in A Muralha: A Discussion

6 Indigeneity in Brazilian Television: An Outlook

7 Conclusion




Telenovelas, which are also known as novelas, are an integral part of Brazil’s culture. Especially the productions of Brazil’s biggest and most influential television network, Rede Globo (Globo network), are nationally and internationally broadcasted. Thus, novelas have become one of the major sources of worldwide impressions of Brazil (Page 1995: 455). Novelas tend also to have a great impact on their Brazilian audience. Interestingly, Indigenous people are rarely depicted in those programs, or in any other types of television programs for that matter. The subject of this master thesis is in what manner Indigenous people and languages are presented in Brazilian telenovelas. Several authors were source of inspiration to create this Critical Discourse Analysis, but it must be said that the most important influence was Teun van Dijk’s discourse on racism in Latin America.

The first chapter of this master thesis introduces the motivations for this study and gives some general information about the Indigenous peoples and languages of Brazil. The second chapter deals with the Brazilian telenovela as a whole. Not only are its origins and plots explained, but also its socio-cultural impact. The third chapter describes the telenovela A Muralha, which was the subject of the empirical study, in its setup, production and reception by the viewers and critics. In the aforesaid chapter, there is the novela’s plot given as well as a summary of all episodes that were included in the discourse analysis and a short summary about its production and media impact.

The fourth chapter focuses on the Critical Discourse Analysis. It is further divided into four subchapters. Design and Procedure of the analysis are explained in the first subchapter. The second subchapter is about how people are represented in the aforesaid telenovela. Thus, it deals with language and identity. The third subchapter issues semiotic choices and issues strategies that are used in the visual communication method of the telenovela. Results of the Critical Discourse Analysis are also included in that chapter. The fifth chapter discusses the depiction of Indigenous peoples and their cultures in Brazilian television by taking the example of A Muralha (The Great Wall). The sixth chapter gives an outlook on how the Indigenous depiction in Brazilian television will probably develop in the next few years in comparison to how it should develop. The conclusion of this thesis is given in the seventh chapter. It is followed by the list of references and appendices.

Chapter 1 Motivation for the Study

Plurilingualism has been reality in Brazil for a very long time. Around 1,200 Indigenous languages were still spoken by millions of speakers in that territory 500 years ago (Rodrigues 2005: 35).1 Over the past centuries, this number has been reduced to about 150 Indigenous languages, because its speakers have been brutally murdered, expelled or forced to use solely the Portuguese language for communication purposes. What has amounted to a genocidal process of attrition dates back to the arrival of the first white people, and the abuse and killing of Indigenous peoples has gained fresh impetus in recent decades as Brazil has opened up its frontiers in an effort to tap the vast resources of the Amazon basin (Page 1995: 85).2 Among this diversity, there are only 9 Indigenous peoples left that have more than 5,000 members.3 In total, there are still 230 Indigenous peoples living in Brazil.4 Some peoples speak the same language. That is the reason why there are not as many indigenous languages spoken as there are peoples in Brazil. About 324,834 people live in cities and about 572,083 people live in rural areas. This means that 0, 47 percent of the Brazilian population has Indigenous origins.5 However, not all of those 896,917 people speak an Indigenous language or consider themselves to be indigenous. This is so because increasingly more Indigenous are lusitanized.

The number of Indigenous speakers in Brazil is considered to be much lower and is steadily decreasing.6 The precise number, however, is not known. Nevertheless, Indigenous peoples and their cultures have had a significant impact on the development of the Brazilian culture and society. The native contribution to Brazilianness may be somewhat less pronounced than that of the Portuguese and Africans, but it is not insignificant. Indigenous characteristics and customs have penetrated deeply into Brazilian behavior (Page 1995: 86).

Although the Indigenous importance cannot be brushed aside regarding the Brazilian culture, it is almost non-existing in the reality depicted by the Brazilian television (Eloi de Almeida 2012: 186). In the rare occasions when Indigenous people are depicted in television programs, it is predominantly in a stereotyping, ridiculing or simply incorrect way. This, in turn, leads to a reinforcement of misconceptions and discrimination towards Indigenous peoples.

Teun van Dijk explains in his book Racism and Discourse in Latin America:

Most studies of racism, including of racism in Latin America, focus on forms of socioeconomic inequality and exclusion, on the one hand, or on ethnic prejudices and attitudes, on the other. Although they are fundamental, these studies do not tell us much about the very roots of racism, nor about the process of its daily reproduction. (…) Since racism is not innate but learnt, there must be sources for this process of ideological and practical acquisition. People learn to be racist from their parents, their peers (who also learn it from their parents), at school, from the mass media as well as from everyday observation and interaction in multiethnic societies. (Van Dijk 2009: 4).

Therefore, it is vital to analyze, among other things, how racism is created through television programs, because television is one of the most influential media that is used consciously and unconsciously by many people. Television is especially important for Brazil’s cultural scene. Brazil was the first South American country to launch a television network and air television shows (Ribeiro 2010: 3). In the present thesis, I hypothesize that television programming was designed to develop national capitalism and to foster a national identity. Almost ninety-four percent of all Brazilian households have at least one television set. Through communication satellites, reception dishes and retransmitting ground stations, television reaches people even in the most remote villages of the country. They are also to be found in bars, restaurants and offices (Machado-Borges 2006: 1-2). Over the past decades, watching television, especially the Globo channel, has definitely become a part of the naturalized mass media practices spread throughout the country. Within this context, Brazilian telenovelas play a central role, because they attract on average a daily audience of over 40,000,000 viewers (Allen 1995: 256-257). It can be said that telenovelas are a common point of reference among Brazilians.

This master thesis examines the racist depiction of Indigenous peoples and their languages in the telenovela A Muralha by applying tools of the Critical Discourse Analysis. I hypothesize that by using these tools it can be shown that racism is not only found in oral language but also in visual language and on the level, in which the oral and visual language interact with one another. Furthermore, I intend to find techniques regarding the telenovela’s dialogues and settings that have been used to depict the historical racism. However, there are also several techniques that have been applied in this telenovela to disguise the contemporary racism, which I also intend to find. In other words, in my thesis I investigate what happens when a telenovela attempts to portray issues of race relations and tensions in a historical context. This thesis intends to point out that, from an ideological point of view, telenovelas play a vital role in the reproduction of contemporary racism in Brazil and that the depiction of Indigenous people in Brazilian television needs to change to an unprejudiced and stereotypefree format before this minority has vanished for good as a result of racist perceptions that have yet not left the Brazilian consciousness. On a theoretical level, this thesis examines which unconsciously passing semiotic, verbal and cinematographic mechanisms are used to create a racist ideology. Through its methods, the Critical Discourse Analysis is able to show how the aforesaid mechanisms act and what cannot be depicted, eventually. Since this is a thesis that focuses rather on language-related issues, some cinematographic aspects, namely mise-en-scène, sound, montage, lighting techniques and syntax, are left out.

Chapter 2 The Telenovela: A National Obsession

2.1 The Origins of Brazilian Telenovelas

The telenovela is the result of an evolutionary process. Its roots date back to the French feuilleton, which was highly popular in Europe in the nineteenth century. Technical advances in printing as well as increases in levels of literacy contributed to the success of these tales of adventure and romance, which were published in pamphlets and newspapers (La Pastina et al. 2007: 5). The feuilleton also crossed the Atlantic and found a very enthusiastic readership in Brazil and other Latin American countries. An unrelated yet parallel phenomenon was the appearance of radio in the United States, when the need to attract daytime audiences triggered the development of what later came to be known as the soap opera. Because that audience consisted mainly of housewives, corporations sought to market detergents and similar household products through that audio format. Unlike the feuilleton, the soap opera continued indefinitely and did not tell one principal story. Interestingly, the same companies which were responsible for inventing the soap opera in the United States transplanted successfully this type of radio programming to Latin America and called it radionovela (Page 1995: 449).

The first radionovela went out over the Cuban airwaves in 1935 and captivated a large number of listeners. In the following years, the radionovela expanded into all Latin American countries. The success of this new radio programming can be explained by the fact that the radionovela blended the structure of the soap opera with the already successful traditions of the feuilleton. The plots tended to be more romantic and melodramatic than the North American soap operas (La Pastina et al. 2007: 6-7). Before long the emergence of a “Latin formula” could be detected. In Brazil the first radionovela arrived in São Paulo in 1941. It was an Argentine production, sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive. Soon these radio programs became vital consumer staples of Brazilian broadcasting (Page 1995: 450).

When television began to replace radio as the dominant medium of mass communication, the radionovela evolved into a visual format. The same corporate advertisers that underwrote radio soaps in Latin America were also responsible for the development of telenovelas. Since the same set and cast were used repeatedly over an extended period of time, telenovelas were a relatively cheap type of programming. They were supposed to fill the same daytime hours as the radionovelas as well as to attract the same kind of audience. In 1951 a Brazilian television station based in São Paulo broadcast the first telenovela to Brazilian viewers. In the following decade, most telenovelas televised in Brazil were purchased from Argentina or Mexico and dubbed into Portuguese (Nogueira Joyce 2010: 16-17). These programs aired solely twice a week, and each chapter lasted about twenty minutes. The Brazilian productions were low budget and telecast live. Most of the actors came from radio, so they were much better in conveying emotion verbally than with the physicality that a visual medium demands. Nevertheless, the popularity of that new television program grew quickly (Page 1995: 451).

After Brazil had passed the one million mark of television sets in use, the telenovela shifted to a daily format. Producers decided to lengthen telenovelas from four to six weeks to eight to ten months. Additionally to that, each episode was expanded, eventually stabilizing at about fifty minutes. These changes led to enormous profits for the producers of telenovelas (Nogueira Joyce 2010: 18). Roberto Marinho, founder of Rede Globo, also understood the advantages of these changes and included them for his own television program. Eventually, this was Marinho’s key decision, which led to Globo’s international popularity that it has cultivated since 1965. Like no other Brazilian television channel and network, Globo developed and perfected the art of producing telenovelas. In pursuit of as large and wide an audience as possible, the Globo network knew that it was important to create themes and develop approaches with which a Brazilian mass audience could identify (Page 1995: 452).

The Globo network had the financial means to hire the best writers, directors and actors. They constructed a state-of-the-art facility in the Jardim Botánico neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Globo network’s focus was on providing a superior quality and professionalism which the other networks were unable to achieve. In order to keep viewers watching new telenovelas, the Globo network created the padrões Globo de qualidade (Globo’s standards of quality) in the 1980’s allowing them to become the leader in the television industry (Mattelart 1990: 60). Globo bases its standards of entertainment quality on two particular aspects: research techniques to find out what Brazilians expect from novela episodes and the constant renewal of social issues and themes in their shows to reflect those of the Brazilian people.7

Rede Globo has since then set new standards for telenovelas. In 1972 Globo created even its own research department to study the habits, opinions and expectations of Globo spectators. This aforesaid department researches about the popularity of telenovela characters and molds the telenovela’s plot in consideration of those results. Their novelas have been internationally watched and they have won national as well as international television prizes. At the same time they have had to deal with the fact that most of their viewers are illiterate and unsophisticated. A novela writer explained these circumstances as follows: “The artistic roots of us Brazilians don’t come from the Greek theater, they come from circus. We are a people of the Third World, a poor and ignorant people. I want to talk to my people in a language they understand.” (Author unknown, apud Page 1995: 453).

2.2 The Context of Analysis: The Setup of Telenovela’s Plots and Storylines

Telenovelas are stories for huge audiences, and there are different types of novelas that also address different target groups. The first telenovela starts at 6 P.M. For this time slot, the public is smaller and it tries to address mainly young people and housewives (Page 1995: 458). The novela of 6 P. M. is by far the most romantic of all telenovelas. A very popular theme for this format is the struggle of young lovers who need to overcome obstacles to their love before getting married. Usually, these telenovela come to an end with the marriage ceremony of the couple. At 7 P.M. many viewers are just coming home from work and may be under stress, so humorous stories are more appropriate. At 8 and 9 P.M. the novelas tend to be more dramatic, often including a dose of humor but mainly focusing on relationships among people after their marriage, as well as currently debated social problems in Brazil, such as drama, violence, nudity and sex (Kist 2004: 69-70).

To keep the audience interested and entertained telenovelas need to deal with suspense. Usually, novelas are built with three kinds of segments: the weekly group of chapters, the daily chapter and the four blocks given in one daily chapter. Each block of chapter must prepare for the next one, each chapter must attract interest in the next chapter and each weekly block must attach itself to the next weekly block. At the end of a week’s block, on Saturday night, the strongest cliffhanger must be provided to guarantee the audience for the following week. Suspense can be created through introducing anticipation (what will happen?) and unresolved questions (who has done it?). The cliffhanger can vary in importance and intensity (Kist 2004: 70-72). Telenovelas must not only maintain certain melodramatic conventions that are known and cherished by the spectators, but also need to introduce new topics that might interest the audience. In the past ten years, popular themes have been, among others, divorce, homosexuality, drugs and lost children (Kist 2004: 70-71). Those, however, are narrative techniques which are not exclusively applied to telenovelas. They can be found in several other media, as in novels for instance.

The Brazilian novela does not have a rigid or immutable storyline. The author begins with a rough idea of a plot, a cast of characters and the conflicts among them. But in the course of writing and filming the actual novela real- life exigencies8 as well as audience reactions9 may dictate changes of the storylines and even of the complete plot (Page 1995: 458-459). Novelas are meant to involve the public. Thus, in every telenovela there must be given different kinds of characters which are strategically chosen to make identification easier. Among the forty to fifty characters on average, there are five to six main characters who dominate the plot. These characters are expected to appear sixty percent of the entire time, because they absorb the public’s main interest. However, the secondary characters have many functions too, one of them being to provide identification to all segments of the audience. Another function they have is to comment and abridge the storylines in order to allow people who do not watch the novela regularly to understand what is going on (Kist 2004: 69).

The audience of telenovelas is a diverse mix of women and men of all ages and social classes (Costa 2000: 2). It is the writer’s and the director’s goal to interweave the narratives of the characters with the everyday life of the telenovela’s spectators. The genre exploits personalization as an epistemology (Nogueira Joyce 2010: 21). Thus, it continuously offers viewers recognizable plots by locating political and social issues in personal and familiar terms and therefore making sense of an increasingly complex world (Lopez 1995: 258). This television genre is actually accepted as a “discursive practice” and as a “producer of cultural meanings it has been a major force in the production of images congruent with the complex processes of Latin American modernization, nation-building, and increasing transnationalization” (Lopez 1995: 257).

Like in the melodrama, telenovelas must be thought within a traditional convention. It is a sum of tragedy, comedy and terror tales all in the same spectacle. The main characters are the hero, the traitor, the victim and the fool, who are maintained in today’s telenovelas through numerous variations. Like in the melodramatic tradition, spectacles are more important in novelas than verbal aspects (Barbero 1992: 49-55). There are multiple storylines, strong and controversial feelings, all put together to a coherent and entertaining plot. In order to handle such multiplicity, verisimilitude is often sacrificed. Therefore, novelas introduce schematic solutions that invariably lead to the punishment of evil acts and characters and reward virtuous acts as well as benevolent people. Summarizing, it can be said that telenovelas must be considered to be a substantial part of the contemporary reality of Brazilian mass media (Kist 2004: 68) and their plots embody a relevant category of pragmalinguistic analysis.

2.3 The Socio-Cultural Impact of Telenovelas in Brazil

As far as television networks like Rede Globo are concerned, telenovelas are supposed to be in the mind of viewers all day long. The purpose is to create such a strong emotional connection that the spectators cannot forget the novela’s plot even while not watching it. To obtain this goal, it is vital that telenovelas can fuel daily conversations, provoke polemics and debates as well as encourage gossip (Kist 2004: 69). As Graziela Gomes states, the telenovela introduces an emotional speech in a sort of collective dramatization. This phenomenon can be compared to other Brazilian events that proceed similarly, such as soccer events, carnival and religious processions (Gomes 1998: 16-17). As indicated in chapter 2.2 telenovelas usually convey the aspirations and concerns of large segments of the population or create them actively by introducing certain issues in the plot (Page 1995: 448).

Some of the main criticisms that have been associated with this genre are its inevitable associations with consumerism. But despite the dependence of Brazilian television on sponsorship, some scholars have argued that telenovelas have created the space for critical dramas whose narratives and controversial issues, such as political corruption, women’s liberation and homosexuality have called the attention to actual conflicts and mobilized public opinion for social change (Nogueira Joyce 2010: 20-21). The popularity of telenovelas has helped Brazil broaden its education processes, as well as develop areas that are less industrialized, such as transportation systems, disposal collection and most importantly the spread of the internet. Especially the Globo network has successfully merged entertaining shows with education, creating educative entertainment for the masses by weaving social issues into the most popular novelas (Codoner 2010: 27-32). Antonio C. La Pastina believes that, within certain limits, the Brazilian telenovela is even a tool of innovative, educational but also provocative and politically emancipatory popular culture rather than just a mere instrument for the reproduction of capitalist ideology and consumer desires. The undeniable truth is that in Brazil telenovelas have become central to the discussion of the nation (La Pastina 2003: 3-4).

Nevertheless, it is also true that telenovelas promote consumerism in numerous ways, from the luxurious São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro lifestyles that often depict to the not very subliminal product advertising that is woven ceaselessly into their storylines (Page 1995: 449). Strategies employed to increase the audience’s interest are, for instance, to provide newspapers and magazines with information about the telenovelas, as well as about their cast, author, etc. Telenovelas are even promoted in other television programs with the same intention as described earlier. Product placement, besides being a method for making more money, can be an instrument to extend the importance of novelas to many fields of real life, making the spectators dream about, and hopefully, buy the same furniture, decorations, food and clothes that appear in the production. Last but not least, the telenovela’s soundtrack can have a great impact on its viewers. The promotion of the telenovela sound track functions as a strategy to make the public sing the same songs that appear in the telenovela, and obviously buy the CDs (Kist 2004: 70).

The Globo network has been very successful by using these promotion strategies. Consequently, they have also had a major impact on the viewer’s perceptions and especially on their expectations of the network’s productions. Telenovela viewers have become so dependent on them that they feel deprived and upset, and even complain whenever one of the novelas does not live up to the standards that they have come to expect (Kist 2004: 68-69). As Joseph A. Page explains, (…) the addictive appeal of the telenovelas has become a kind of glue that binds together the disparate elements of Brazilian society. Residents of shacks in frontier towns in Amazônia and high-rise apartments in São Paulo, wealthy matrons and humble maids, children and their grandparents, attorneys and janitors (and even many intellectuals who insist that they despise television) all share a common fascination with the characters and the plot convolutions of hit novelas (…). Telenovelas are the great aspirin of Brazil. (Page 1995: 447).

This means that telenovelas are much more than just entertainment for the Brazilian viewers. As some researches have stated, audiences are active and derive a variety of meanings from telenovelas (McAnany et al. 1994: 828-832). They make their spectators forget their own problems for each episode. On the other hand, they help shaping the world their viewers live in, and they help their spectators relate to social situations (De la Luz Casas Pèrez 2005: 407).

2.3.1 White Ethnocentrism in the Telenovelas

Brazil is a country of many ethnicities. Over forty-six percent of the Brazilian population consists of blacks and mestiços, who are also called Pardos. This means that Brazil can be considered to be the country with the second largest black population in the world (Van Dijk 2009: 133-134). And, although it is a minority, the Indigenous population is also significant for shaping Brazil’s society and culture. The white population is not the racial majority in Brazil.10 Nevertheless, in the media, and especially in the telenovelas, white people continue being treated as the natural representatives of Brazil. Corporal characteristics of Caucasians are considered to be the norm and define Brazilian beauty standards (Sovik 2004: 315). Novelas, engrained as they are in Brazilian culture, promote and reinforce the same policy of whitening that was instituted in the nineteenth century in the wake of abolition of slavery (Ribeiro 2010: 2).

The fact that the telenovelas, as already indicated, articulate not only emotional engagement but also social movement is known and has led to the interpretation that telenovelas are a channel for hegemonic forces to impose a particular ideological line upon the audiences (Tufte 2003: 2). Hegemony can be understood as the cultural, ideological, social and economic influence exerted by a dominant group (Williams 1977: 108). As in most societies, in Brazil this group is the white elite. Therefore, the influences exerted are their ideal of what Brazil should look like and how its citizens should behave. Through hegemony, the dominant group exerts its power over the Indigenous people and Afro-Brazilian people, the subaltern group, by imposing their norms. One of the ways in which this is done is through the mass media (Ribeiro 2010: 10). Thus, I hypothesize that racial hegemony is also reproduced through Brazilian novelas like A Muralha (see chapter 5). The white elite in Brazil owns the most influential television networks in the country, including the Globo network (Ribeiro 2010: 11). Since there are no Indigenous scriptwriters working for the Globo network, I conjecture that telenovela productions of that network actually reflect the Caucasian notion of indigeneity rather than reflecting indigeneity from an Indigenous point of view.

Because Caucasians appear in disproportionately high numbers as figures of authority as well as examples of beauty in the Brazilian mass media, the spectators are bombarded with images and values of whiteness (Sovik 2004: 315). Indigenous viewers consequently do not have a diverse set of images to which they can relate. Besides, all non-Indigenous viewers receive incorrect messages about Brazilian indigeneity. This control over the images seen in the telenovelas gives the Caucasian dominant group the power to circulate its ideologies, as for instance, the idea of racial democracy in Brazil, to socially subordinate groups (Ribeiro 2010: 11). However, to completely grasp the impact of that form of power, Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence must also be taken into consideration.

Bourdieu’s concept refers to the unspoken and almost unconscious method of economic, social or cultural domination. The violence’s nature is so subtle that many individuals are unaware of the fact that it takes place in everyday life (Bourdieu 1991: 23-24). It becomes clear that due to its subtle nature, symbolic violence is closely linked to hegemony (Ribeiro 2010: 12). The telenovelas provide a way for symbolic violence to enter the homes and minds of millions of people every night when men, women and children of all ethnic groups sit in front of their television sets to consume the messages which are encoded in the novelas. Thus, telenovelas have the power to influence people on how they think of themselves and about others. The longer this process of symbolic violence is veiled from the public and left unchallenged, the more powerful it is in maintaining class dominance and delaying the process of liberation (Bourdieu 1991: 50-52). However, symbolic violence is complex and therefore difficult to challenge precisely because it is not openly talked about. It is important to understand that mass media sources like the telenovelas are powerful in regard of the dissemination of ideologies, such as racial democracy, to the public. Novelas have the power to shape racial common sense in profound and pervasive ways (Ribeiro 2010: 13-17). Thus, in a certain way contemporary telenovelas also contribute to the ongoing genocide and ethnocide of Indigenous people.

2.3.2 Indigenous Representation in the Telenovelas

As previously indicated, the representation of Indigenous people in the Brazilian mass media, and especially in telenovelas, is based on stereotypes (Nogueira Joyce 2010: 73). Telenovelas repeat the stereotypes about Indigenous people, almost exclusively associating them to wilderness and the colonial era. Thus, Indigenous characters are most of the times depicted as slaves or are linked to their past in such a way that “it is possible to understand that there is (…) a perpetuation that (…) strengthens the historical nature of the past of slavery, and that ends up making it eternal” (Bazilli 1999: 103-104). There is an emphasis on the depiction of Indigenous slaves, linked to the transition from this condition to that of contemporary marginality. Caucasians, on the other hand, are incorrectly associated with the country’s progress (Van Dijk 2009: 83). Cíntia Corrales, a Brazilian journalist, states in her blog that when Indigenous people are shown in contemporaneous storylines, they usually play minor roles or function as background artists. Thus, beyond the infrequency of their appearance in the telenovelas and their restriction to subaltern positions, Indigenous characters are mostly not important to the plot.11

Importantly, almost all stereotypes that are used for black characters are also applied to Indigenous characters. There is for instance this stereotype of the “Indigenous/black person with a white soul” (Van Dijk 2009: 77). That character is portrayed as a good natured person, who is submissive and faithful to the white master, and who has “whitened” values. There is also the stereotype of the “rebellious and wild Indigenous/black person”. That character serves as a counterpart to the previously described stereotype. It is used to portray an individual who is corrupt, has no scruples and wants to take advantage of others at any price (Van Dijk 2009: 77-79). There are many other stereotypes, which are actually secessions of the previously described stereotypes.

For women, significantly, there is an additional set of stereotypes. Like black women, Indigenous women are often not only depicted in an inferior way but also in a sexualized one (Page 1995: 80). This means that instead of showing a diverse and complex image of Indigenous women, Brazilian telenovelas rather depict those women as accessible and willing for sexual intercourse. This is problematic because it does not only indicate a decisive narrowing of mass media representations of Indigenous women, but it also shows that the telenovelas depict them as passive objects for the sexual pleasure of white men (Van Dijk 2009: 68).

There have been only a few telenovela productions in Brazil that actually included Indigenous characters (see the listing below). One can see that there have been telenovela productions involving Indigenous characters, especially in the past fourteen years. Before that, Indigenous characters were only presented in two telenovelas, of which one, Irmãos Coragem, was reproduced twenty-five years after its first release. This means that although the Indigenous representation in the telenovelas is problematic, because it is overwhelmingly done in a stereotyping manner, an even bigger problem constitutes the complete absence of these characters.

Irmãos Coragem (1970 and 1995)12

Aritana (1978)

A Muralha (2000)

Uga Uga (2000)

A Invenção do Brasil (2000)

Alma Gêmea (2005)

Amazônia - de Galvez a Chico Mendes (2007)

Desejo Proibido (2007)

Araguaia (2010)13

Brazilian telenovelas help maintain the myth of racial democracy by consistently stereotyping but also silencing Indigenous characters in their plots, without considering the social context of Indigenous people in Brazil at the present time. This constant silencing of racial inequality by Brazilian telenovela productions communicates false messages to their viewers. To begin with, it denies the processes of racial discrimination, hiding the racialization of social relations. On the other hand, it depicts what is “Brazilian” as culturally homogenous. This might explain why there has never been a novela production that has accurately examined the living conditions of Brazil’s Indigenous population. Over the past three decades research projects have found some changes in the discourse on Indigenous people. However, these have been subtle modifications that imply quite limited progress in the treatment of race (Van Dijk 2009: 65).

“Racial democracy” has become a catchphrase for democratic governments as well as authoritarian regimes. It serves as a convenient way to dismiss racial issues and to avoid confronting the country’s failure to deal with the undeniable fact that centuries of slavery and racial genocide have deprived Indigenous Brazilians of the ability to compete on an equal footing for social and juridical status. That phrase implies that since Brazil is truly a land of equal opportunities, nonwhites have the responsibility to take advantage of what the country has to offer them and improve their own lives, and if they fail to do so, it is their own fault. Those who dare to question that view of race relations run the risk of being branded as antiBrazilian (Page 1995: 72).

According to Muniz Sodré, one should not expect the Brazilian mass media to introduce “a truly anti-racist policy” at the discursive level (Sodrp 1999: 247). Does this statement imply that one should simply accept the fact that the Brazilian mass media will continue depicting incorrect images about Indigenous people? In a certain way it does. However, many other scientists, including Van Dijk, have stated that it is not only important but essential to address this issue of racist depiction of indigeneity and to redefine it. Racial discrimination has been a major problem in Brazil over the past five centuries. Thus, it is not a conflict that can be solved immediately. Developments in the humanities and social sciences have allowed an increasingly sophisticated analysis of the structures and strategies of racist talk and text within the framework of cross-disciplinary discourse studies (Van Dijk 2009: 6). The process of acknowledging that the telenovelas promote racism and are therefore part of the problem is important in order to combat contemporary racism in Brazil. The way Brazilian telenovelas are produced and the messages they convey must change in order to become part of the solution.

Chapter 3 Description of the Telenovela A Muralha

3.1 Production, Setup and Media Impact of A Muralha

A Muralha is a historical fiction telenovela that first aired on Rede Globo on 4th January, 2000. Interestingly, it is a telenovela that had already been produced twice in Brazil. It was first broadcast on TV Cultura in 1961 and once again on TV Excelsior in 1968. In 2007 the Rede Globo production was released in DVD format. It was supposed to be the first of several historical productions by Rede Globo. However, while producing A Muralha the network decided not to proceed with the production series. A Muralha was written by Maria Adelaide Amaral, João Emanuel Carneiro and Vincent Villari, and it was directed by Denise Saraceni, Luíz Henrique Rios and Carlos Araújo. A Muralha is based on the homonymous novel written by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz that was published in 1954. Broadly speaking, that Globo production is about the journey of Portuguese-Brazilian slave owners, fortune hunters and adventurers from the São Paulo region that were known as Bandeirantes (Followers of the banner). The plot is set in the seventeenth century and tells the story of how the Bandeirantes took expeditions called Bandeiras (flags) penetrated the interior of Brazil (Goes 1991: 47-50).

A Muralha was broadcast to commemorate Brazil's 500th anniversary.14 By portraying the adventures and struggles of the Bandeirantes, that telenovela deals with an aspect of Brazil’s history, which has rarely been depicted on television (Eloi de Almeida 2012: 120). Rede Globo was keen to create an authentic picture of that era, so the production team worked closely with the Brazilian Indian Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Índio), known by its Portuguese acronym of FUNAI. The aforesaid organization provided the production team with Indigenous items, knowledge about Indigenous peoples and managed the communication between the production team and Indigenous communities.15 The Rede Globo production team collaborated with 51 Xavantes of Alto Xingu, 20 Kamaiurás, 20 Waurás and a few Guaranis, as well as with a few Indigenous of the villages Bracuí and Parati.16 Furthermore, the production team worked with an Indigenous children’s choir of Paratirimim (Eloi de Almeida 2012: 118). In order to create an authentic picture, Rede Globo even hired Eduardo de Almeida Navarro, who is a renowned specialist for Old Tupi and Língua Geral (General Language), to translate sections of the script which were supposed to be in indigenous languages that were spoken at the described period.17

The production team, as well as the cast underwent a vigorous process of preparation for creating that telenovela.18 Besides being advised by FUNAI, the production team and the cast were counseled by Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA: the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), while shooting scenes with wild animals (Eloi de Almeida 2012:118). Before starting to shoot the telenovela, the crew took part on several preparatory workshops about social, religious as well as cultural aspects of the seventeenth century and indigeneity in Brazil. Although workshops are not unusual in the pre-shooting phase, the Rede Globo network insisted on more external advice for that project than usually (Eloi de Almeida 2012: 118-119). After all, A Muralha was intended to be a more authentic and historically accurate production than all foregone productions.19

Regarding the settings, props and customs, Rede Globo tried to expand the boundaries of cinematographic aesthetics by creating a rather raw and dirty picture of that era.19 With a budget of 220.000 Reais per episode, the production team was able to create an astonishing set that was rich in colors and textures.20 Most of the scenes were shot in Parati and Goiás. All in all, this was an untypical approach for Rede Globo, because its viewers were and continue to be used to telenovelas that depict luxury, but also clean and flawless pictures of Brazil’s society and history (see chapter 2.3). The viewers are able to identify with given characters, and creating a plot to which the viewers can relate has obviously been a higher priority to Globo network than the historical correctness of the production. With what techniques A Muralha tries to create a mood of authenticity will be analyzed in the fourth chapter.

Nevertheless, the network’s risk taking paid off, because A Muralha was very well received by viewers as well as critics.22 The first aired episode reached an average of forty-four points at IBOPE21 and at one point it even reached forty-seven points. Although the ratings declined to thirty-four points on the second day, the telenovela’s ratings were predominantly above average.22 In other words, A Muralha was a very successful telenovela.

3.2 The Plot

A Muralha consists of fifty episodes that are all approximately forty minutes long.

This production can be classified as a Novela das Nove (telenovela broadcast at 9 P.M.), since it aired at 10:30 P. M., and it shows many scenes containing nudity, sex, explicit acts of violence and torture. It is divided into four theme blocks: Velhos pecados em um novo mundo (Old sins in a new world), A febre de ouro e os apelos da carne (The fever for gold and the appeal of the flesh), De Lagoa Serena ao Riberão Dourado (From Lagoa Serena to Riberão Dourado) and O nascimento de uma nação (Birth of a new nation). The first block focuses on the first contact between Europeans and Indigenous people and introduces the main characters, their interests, as well as their conflicts. The journey of the Bandeirantes, who travel through the country to enslave Indigenous people, is also shown. The second block deals with the difficulties of the Bandeirantes to continue slave trading. Gold quests are introduced. Meanwhile, that block also focuses on the missionary work of the Roman Catholic Church and its effect on the Indigenous population. The third block focuses on the Bandeirantes’ journey to find gold. The last block shows how the journey of the Bandeirantes contributed to Brazil becoming an independent nation (Eloi de Almeida 2012: 115-144).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Diagram 1: Olinto Braz Family Tree.

A Muralha constructs a very particular point of view about the reality of Brazilian Bandeirantes in the 17th century using the fictional example of the Olinto Braz family (see Diagram 1). Dom Braz (Mauro Mendonça), who is the head of the family, has four legitimate children with his wife, who is known as Mother Cândida (Vera Holtz). Dom Braz’s oldest daughter is Basília Olinto Góis (Deborah Evelyn), who is married to Afonso Góis (Celso Frateschi). They have a son named Pedro. At the beginning of the story, when the Bandeirantes return from one of their expeditions, Afonso Góis, as well as other family members, inform Basília that her beloved son has disappeared. Although everybody believes that Pedro was killed by Indigenous people, Basília continues believing that Pedro is alive and just unable to return for a long time. Finally, at the end of the story she loses hope and acknowledges that her son might be dead.

In another expedition, where the Bandeirantes are going to Ribeirão Dourado looking for gold, Afonso becomes a victim of a set up planned by Bento Coutinho (Caco Ciocler) and Dom Jerônimo Taveira (Tarcísio Meira). After being abducted and tortured by a group of Indigenous people, Afonso is also rescued and accepted by the same group. He does not define himself as a Bandeirante anymore, because he considers himself to have been reborn with an Indigenous soul. He lives the life of an Indigenous individual and marries an Indigenous woman of the aforesaid group. In the meantime, Basília as well as the rest of his former family believe that Afonso has been killed. Afonso does not contact his former wife and family, although he observes them occasionally. Nevertheless, at the final gold battle against Dom Jerônimo Taveira he helps them win and is killed by Bento Coutinho.

Dom Braz’s oldest son is Leonel Olinto (Leonardo Medeiros). He is also a Bandeirante and joins his father when he does expeditions to the Sertão (Brazilian backlands). Like his brother, Tiago Olinto (Leonardo Brício), he does not want to enslave Indigenous people anymore and focus on finding gold. Leonel finds a region called Sabaraboçu which is allegedly rich in gold. At the end of the story he convinces Tiago to make an expedition to this region. Leonel is married to Margarida (Maria Luísa Mendonça), who wishes to have children. Unfortunately, her wishes of becoming a mother remain unrealized, because she cannot become pregnant. Margarida is portrayed as a kind and gentle woman who does not only respect the Indigenous people, but she also asks them for advice when needed. In the middle of the plot she dies, but comes back as a spirit. From the beginning, Leonel and Margarida are portrayed as the most content couple of the family. Her death leaves Leonel in bitter grief.

Tiago Olinto is Dom Braz’s youngest son and, although he helps his father capture and sell Indigenous people as slaves, he would rather be searching for gold. He sees great potential in doing so, but does neither receive his father’s sympathy nor support. This leads to several discussions between the two of them. His friend, Apingorá (André Gonçalves), assists him in finding gold, but also warns him not to anger Dom Braz. Apingorá is a tribe leader and portrayed as a wise, educated and loyal companion of the Olinto Braz family. Tiago, on the other hand, is portrayed as an impulsive and passionate person, who occasionally takes risky or even reckless decisions. On one of the first expeditions he has sexual intercourse with Isabel Olinto (Alessandra Negrini), who he believes to be his cousin at that time. Later on it is clarified that Isabel is actually Tiago’s half-sister and Dom Braz’s illegitimate daughter. Isabel becomes pregnant and Apingorá is accused of having impregnated her. Those accusations lead eventually to Apingorá’s death.

Tiago does not want to marry and becomes very upset when his father informs him that he has contacted his relatives in Portugal to send a wife for him. Beatriz Ataíde (Leandra Leal) travels to Brazil to marry there her cousin, Tiago. She has never seen Tiago before and dreams about him being prince charming. Her royal dreams and aspirations are crushed when she arrives in Brazil and there is nobody to pick her up. Beatriz is shocked by the wilderness of the land and the people. Eventually, she is picked up by Aimbé (Enrique Diaz), who like Isabel is also an illegitimate son of Dom Braz’s, Tui~ (Patrick de Oliveira) and some other servants of the Olinto Braz family. Although a little disconcerted, Beatriz treats her new Indigenous servants with respect and has compassion for them. When she arrives at her new home in São Paulo de Piratininga, she is welcomed by her Brazilian family but completely ignored by Tiago. Beatriz tries to approach Tiago several times but in the beginning he is quite rude and disrespectful to her. They marry nevertheless, but Tiago continues upsetting Beatriz.

Beatriz, who loses hope to ever be loved by Tiago, decides to leave the country. But since she does not have much money, she cannot leave. When Tiago is severely injured in a fight, Beatriz eventually decides to tend him until he feels better. With his convalescence and Beatriz’s dedication, Tiago learns to appreciate Beatriz’s company and falls in love with her. In the meantime, Isabel gives birth to her son, who Mother Cândida calls Pedro. Isabel has no emotional connection to that child. After trying to abandon her son and being stopped at the last minute, Isabel decides to hand the baby to Beatriz and Tiago. After seeing her father, Dom Braz, die in her arms, she decides to leave the family and continue her life as a wild animal in the forest. But before doing so, she informs Tiago that they are half siblings. Beatriz and Tiago raise Pedro as their son. At the end of the story Beatriz has Tiago’s baby and together, as a family, they start their first expedition to Sabaraboçu.

Dom Braz’s youngest child is Rosália Olinto (Regiane Alves). She falls madly in love with Bento Countinho, who is a merchant, an adventurer and one of the story’s villains. At the beginning of the story, Bento collaborates with Dom Braz just to defraud him. After realizing that, Dom Braz becomes furious and dismisses Bento. He also falls in love with Rosália and wants to marry her. However, Dom Braz does not want anybody of his family to be involved with Bento. Thus, he forbids his daughter to marry him. Rosália and Bento marry anyway and she is banished from her family. Rosália is not happy in the marriage with Bento and misses her beloved family. At one point, she realizes that her husband has plotted several times against her family and wants to stop him. After Bento murders Rosália’s father, she kills him by shooting a bullet into his heart. She regrets her decision to have married Bento and begs her family to take her back.

The plot of A Muralha starts with an Indigenous woman named Moatira (Maria Maya). She and her son are enslaved by Dom Braz’s troop. Her partner is killed in front of her, she is raped by one of the Bandeirantes and her son is also taken from her. Her son ends up staying with the Olinto Braz family, where Basília takes care of him. Moatira is sold to Dom Jerônimo Taveira, who tortures her and uses her for his perverse fantasies. Dom Jerônimo Taveira is the main villain of the plot. He is involved in the Portuguese Inquisition and likes to punish heretics as well as infidels. He represents the sadistic, hypocritical and corrupt side of the Roman Catholic Church. Through the missionary work of the Roman Catholic Church, Moatira meets also a well-intentioned priest named Priest Miguel (Matheus Nachtergaele). She falls in love with him, and through Moatira the aforesaid priest creates a deeper emotional connection to the Indigenous people. At the end of the story Moatira dies in consequence of an undescribed disease and Priest Miguel does no longer work for the Roman Catholic Church. He stays with an Indigenous spiritual leader called Caraíba (Stênio Garcia) and is taught to become a Caraíba himself.

Moatira is not the only victim of Dom Jerônimo’s tortures. Ana Cardoso (Letícia Sabatella) is a persecuted Jew, who is forced to convert to Christianity and to marry Dom Jerônimo in order to save her father’s life. This is a deal she makes with her Portuguese persecutor, who is a relative of Dom Jerônimo’s. Petrified with horror and conflicted, Ana leaves Portugal for Brazil. Arriving in Brazil, she meets a merchant named Guilherme Schetz (Alexandre Borges). He is supposed to bring her to Dom Jerônimo. Both fall in love, but since Ana has to marry her persecutor’s relative, she first tries to ignore her feelings for Guilherme. Similar to Moatira’s case, Ana is tortured, raped and held captive by Dom Jerônimo and his loyal servant, Leonor (Ada Chaseliov). All those crimes are allegedly done in the name of God. Ana despises her husband and decides to flee after he tells her that her father has already died. Moatira, Guilherme as well as her friends Antonia Brites (Cláudia Ohana), who is a former prostitute from Portugal, and her future husband, Master Davidão (Pedro Paulo Rangel), who is like Ana a Jewish New Christian, help her achieve that goal.

While fleeing, Ana informs Guilherme that she is expecting his baby. However, the continual exertions Ana has to deal with lead to an abortion. When Dom Jerônimo realizes that his wife has fled, he hires some soldiers to bring her back. His intentions are to punish her severely, as well as her lover. This is also the moment in which Dom Jerônimo’s madness takes its toll. He decides to start his own Inquisition, in which Ana, Guilherme as well as all their sympathizers are supposed to burn to death. Dom Jerônimo starts to hallucinate and sees his already deceased father, who signals to him that he has to burn himself. He complies with his father’s decision and sets himself on fire. Only his loyal servant, Leonor, wants to stop him. Besides Dom Jerônimo, nobody falls victim to the fires of the Inquisition. After Dom Jerônimo’s death, Ana and Guilherme marry. Once again, she announces that she is expecting Guilherme’s baby.


1 Figures vary depending on the sources.

2 http://www.greenpeace.org/brasil/pt/Noticias/Chega-a-53-numero-de-indios-assassinados-em-2013-/ (20.07.2014) https://www.facebook.com/GreenpeaceBrasil/photos/a.174182977542.122535.159103797542/101522410158 32543/?type=1 (20.07.2014)

3 http://www.labeurb.unicamp.br/elb/indigenas/l_indigenas.html (18.03.2014)

4 http://cimi.org.br/site/pt-br/ (07.07.2014)

5 http://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/c/faq#1 (18.03.2014)

6 http://www.labjor.unicamp.br/patrimonio/materia.php?id=213 (18.03.2014)

7 http://memoriaglobo.globo.com/institucional/cronologia.htm (26.03.2014)

8 For example, actors become sick, etc.

9 For instance, the vast majority of the audience starts to dislike one of the main characters.

10 http://en.mercopress.com/2009/04/25/black-population-becomes-the-majority-in-brazil (03.04.2014)

11 http://wp.clicrbs.com.br/noveleiros/2010/09/27/os-personagens-indigenas- dasnovelas/?topo=52,1,1,,186,e186 (19.04.2014) http://folhas-de-almanaque.blogspot.de/2010/02/personagens-indigenas-nas-novelas.html (19.04.2014)

12 Year of first release in Brazil.

13 http://folhas-de-almanaque.blogspot.de/2010/02/personagens-indigenas-nas-novelas.html (25.04.2014) http://wp.clicrbs.com.br/noveleiros/2010/09/27/os-personagens-indigenas-dasnovelas/?topo=52,1,1,,186,e186 (25.04.2014) http://caras.uol.com.br/galeria/dia-do-indio-confira-atores-que-ja-viveram-personagens-indios-na-telinhacleo- pires-priscila-fantin (14.12.2014)

14 It is counted from the time the Portuguese arrived in Brazil.

15 http://memoriaglobo.globo.com/programas/entretenimento/minisseries/a-muralha/producao.htm (27.04.2014)

16 The exact number of collaborators is not given.

17 https://uspdigital.usp.br/tycho/CurriculoLattesMostrar?codpub=E7A0B8A10BEE (25.06.2014)

18 Interviews with the cast and producers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCDSnCmggvc (26.04.2014)19 http://www.tv-pesquisa.com.puc-rio.br/mostraregistro.asp?CodRegistro=139436&PageNo=7 (26.04.2014) http://www.usp.br/revistausp/61/09-annamaria.pdf (26.04.2014)

19 Interviews with the cast and producers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCDSnCmggvc (26.04.2014)

20 http://www.tv-pesquisa.com.puc-rio.br/mostraregistro.asp?CodRegistro=139436&PageNo=7 (27.04.2014)22 http://veja.abril.com.br/050100/p_126.html (27.04.2014)

21 IBOPE stands for “Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística” (Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics)

22 http://www.dgabc.com.br/Noticia/112134/estreia-de-a-muralha-bate-recorde-de-audiencia (27.04.2014)

Excerpt out of 119 pages


Where Have All the Indios Gone? A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Brazilian Telenovela "A Muralha" and Its Indigenous Representation
University of Bremen
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Critical Discourse Analysis, CDA, Indigenous, Brazil, Telenovela, Indio, A Muralha, Discrimination, Racism
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Yasmin Barrachini-Haß (Author), 2014, Where Have All the Indios Gone? A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Brazilian Telenovela "A Muralha" and Its Indigenous Representation, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/316780


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