Brazilian Telenovelas part 1

Ok, folks, let’s get started here!

So, today I decided to talk about an important part of Brazilian culture: soap-operas!

Here, they are called Novelas, which is short for Telenovelas (I think it’d be “telenovels”, the name origin for this type of program in English “Soap Operas” is different). Nowadays, they follow some characteristics: they stay, in average, seven months on air and each episode usually has a duration of seventy minutes. Common subjects are: romantic relationships, family and social conflicts. And they are the most watched TV shows in Brazil.

Note: I am not saying 100% of Brazil’s population love (or have to love) soap-operas. There are many people who do not watch/like them and I deeply respect that.

However, one has to admit that they have been extremely popular for a long time, since the first one aired. This happened on December 21, 1951, on Rede Tupi (now extinct) and the show, called Sua Vida me Pertence (Your life belongs to me, in free translation), was transmitted live twice a week.

After that one, many other Tupi’s soap operas made success in the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as O Direito de Nascer (1964, The Right to Be Born, in free translation), Beto Rockfeller (1968), Mulheres de Areia (1973, Sand Women in free translation) and O Profeta (1977, The Prophet).

(video from Beto Rockfeller)

At this time, other TV channels were also producing soap operas: Rede Excelsior (produced 2-5499 Ocupado (1963, 2-5499 Occupied, in free translation), the first novela to air everyday except Sunday), TV Cultura, TV Paulista, Rede Record, Rede Globo, TV Rio, TVE Brasil, Rede Bandeirantes and TV Itacolomi.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, CNT, Rede Manchete and SBT entered the list.

So, you can imagine the tons and tons of soap operas that were made since then and how much they influenced people’s lives, from baby names (many babies have been named after novelas’ characters) to important society issues (for instance, O Clone (The Clone, Rede Globo, 2001) had in its plot a discussion about ethics in science, which I’ll talk about later).

I made up a list of some soap operas that were very successful at their time and had a huge impact on society.

O Bem Amado (The Beloved, 1973, Rede Globo)

Written by Dias Gomes, the show told the story of Odorico Paraguaçu, a corrupt mayor of a small town named Sucupira, placed in northeast Brazil. His main administration goal is to open (“inaugurate”) a cemetary.

O Bem Amado criticizes a late form of Coronelismo, a political structure (dominant mainly during the Old Republic (1889 – 1930)) in which power (especially in small cities, but present in other spheres of government) was concentraded in the hands of oligarchs (the Coronels), who would trade favors for loyalty (close to a modern day feudalism), and the military dictatorship.

Many of the soundtrack’s songs were written and sung by Vinícius de Moraes, an important Brazilian poet, composer and singer.

(Odorico speaking in front of the people during campaign)

Escrava Isaura (Slave Isaura, 1976, Rede Globo)

Written by Gilberto Braga and based on the novel created by Bernardo Guimarães, Escrava Isaura, set in the 1860’s, portrays slavery, miscegenation and the struggles of the Abolicionist movement in imperial Brazil, twenty years before abolition. It tells Isaura’s story, a slave who fights against the power of Leoncio, her owner’s son.

This Novela aired in more than 80 countries and received many prizes.

(Leoncio losing everything he has to Alvaro, a young abolicionist)

Dancin’ Days (1978, Rede Globo)

Also written by Gilberto Braga, Dancin’ Days debates the morals of urban middle-class people through the rivalry of two sisters: former convict Júlia Matos and socialite Yolanda Pratini. The effect the show had on society is interesting, since it influenced fashion a lot and made disco clubs really popular.

Dancin’ Days Opening (I love this song)

(to be continued next post…)


  • Wikipedia in Portuguese
  • Memória Globo (a website made by TV Globo dedicated to reunite information about their shows)
  • Youtube (none of the videos were made by me, I just got their links there)

No infringiment intended.

i leave you with O Bem Amado‘s opening theme (Beautiful)


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