The consumption of Brazilian television dramaturgy

When a telenovela is successful from the audience’s point of view, it means that the advertisers’ interest will be higher, and the company will profit from the product. Almeida (2001, 2002) states that by portraying various lifestyles, the telenovela educates a consumer society. Livia Barbosa (2004) points out that every society consumes, but that “consumer society” is not the same as the “culture of consumption,” one of the definitions for Western society today. The critical approach to consumption stands out, but there is also the perception that consumption can be an act of freedom, of choice. These are parameters by which identity is expressed. To accompany this reasoning, Rocha (2005) observes that consumption is central in daily life; it is a structure of values and practices that regulates social relationships, builds identities and defines cultural maps. Consumption, for him, is the exercise of a world classification system. Colin Campbell (2006), mentioning authors who research consumption and identity, argues that identity is the reaction of consumers to the products they want, not the products themselves. In a telenovela chapter, over commercial breaks, millions of viewers are exposed to brands, practices and styles. The narrative provokes, expands and amplifies the desire for consumption, building identities and stimulating longings and desires through their plots, conflicts and characters. On the other hand, if we assume that the audience is not passive and that the final reading of a text is the viewer’s, each person will understand and choose what to identify with in a unique way. Even if the narrative is absorbed massively, the reception is necessarily singular, which corroborates the theories that associate consumption with identification, applied here to the telenovela.

According to Campbell (2001, 2006), there is a romantic ingredient in culture that plays a crucial role in modern consumerism. Unlike traditional hedonism, related to the consumption of pleasures, modem hedonism brings a shift from the primary concern of sensations to emotions. A telenovela survives precisely on emotion, conflict and the identification of the audience with the characters, the plot and the universe portrayed. According to Almeida, the association between women, consumption and emotion is partly responsible for the commercial success of telenovelas, “a program thought equally as feminine, and that creates emotional identifications with its viewers” (Almeida, 2002); and, according to Campbell (2001), it is the imagery that characterizes the search for this emotion and this pleasure. The consumer imagines his satisfaction through reverie; thus, the telenovela becomes a kind of conductor or inspiration for daydreams. If the modem consumer expresses in reality what he or she already enjoys in the imagination, television and its unique relationship with the viewer only heighten this experience.

In Totalmente Demais/Total Dreamer (2016), for example, the character portrayed by actress Juliana Paes is Carolina Castilho, a woman of humble origins who becomes the editor of one of the chief women’s magazines in the country. Clothes or accessories that the character used on television immediately became objects of desire. The actress is also one of the main stars of the station and represents several brands, ranging from beauty products to banks. The affection and admiration for the actress and her character, with strong aspirational characteristics and the public’s identification, are ingredients that contribute to transforming everything that Carolina wears into a fashion trend, which promises satisfaction of the imaginary. Morin (1989) researches the relationship between movie stars and the complexity of the subjective dimension that fans build around their idols. He discusses how a star is born, that is, what system transforms a person into an idol and how the cinematic aesthetic of classic narrative cinema works towards this purpose. Telenovelas have a more naturalistic aesthetic than classic narrative cinema. However, the phenomenon studied by Morin is that of love and projection-identification with the character, the imitation of hairstyles and costumes. When searching on Twitter, in Portuguese, for “Juliana Paes,” “Carolina Castilho,” “telenovela,” “bracelet,” “clothing” or “costume,” we may find some of these reactions. Here, I have reproduced and translated some of these tweets during 2016 and 2020 - the telenovela was rerun during the 2020 pandemic, with higher audience ratings than the first exhibition.

@machadoomari 31 May 2016: “For me, the best thing in Total Dreamer was Carol Castilho’s style.”

@carol_arj 12 April 2016: “I only wanted Carolina’s wardrobe in Total Dreamer.”

@guesdriRoMilena 30 May 2016: “I only wanted Carolina Castilhos’s clothes.”

@karollink 10 May 2016: “Everyone look at this bracelet-ring that Juliana Paes wore in the telenovela! A new trend ...”

@nalicetuita 30 May 2020: “This bracelet that Carol wears is VERY BEAUTIFUL #TotalmenteDemais”

@TyhSantos 25 May 2020: “I drool all over Carol’s clothes #Totalmente Demais”

@AndreaRocha36 4 June 2020: “Guys, Ju Paes looks beautiful with that hair! I am very inspired by the style of the character Carol, from Total Dreamer! A delight to see this telenovela again!”

According to Campbell (2001), reality can never provide absolute fulfilment of daydreams, because wearing the bracelet or the character’s clothing will never transform the viewer into Carolina Castilho or the actress playing her; each purchase leads to disappointment and the need is extinguished. What is not extinguished is the fundamental longing that the reverie generates. The tension between illusion and reality creates longing as a permanent habit. As observed, the telenovela, besides being a conduit for fantasy, can amplify existing daydreams. Juliana Paes’ character’s bracelet will give way to another product.

TV Globo did not sell directly any of the characters’ clothes or jewellery, though the viewer could easily find them on the internet and in the many shops advertising the products. Nevertheless, publicity through merchandising is possible. Lopes and Gomes (2019) investigate the unprecedented merchandising in Segundo Sol/A Second Chance (2018). Through a partnership between the station and a retail network of furniture and appliances, the telenovela offered the possibility of buying furniture and utensils that appeared in the show. The merchandizing project also had actions that involved the morning show Mais Voce, the exhibition of the scenarios in subway and train stations in Sao Paulo, the use of the telenovela brand on digital platforms and outlets, as well as a television campaign.

Merchandising actions of products are common in a telenovela. Actions are generally not discreet; on the contrary, television has a pleonastic style, and merchandising actions follow this nature. The viewer does not reject an action like this, even when the narrative ceases to flow naturally to meet the demands of advertising action. There is no drop in the minute-by-minute ratings during a merchandising action. The viewer is already used to this.

In the case of Totalmente Demais/Total Dreamer, TV Globo’s 7pm telenovela, the cosmetics company Avon had merchandising actions. Many actresses who participated in the plot had contracts with competing beauty product companies, preventing their participation. Therefore, one of the merchandising actions ended up being performed by actor Humberto Martins, who played Germano, the owner of a fictional brand of cosmetics. The scene was proposed by the commercial team, approved by the client and adapted to the plot by the authors. It involved the character putting on Avon mascara. An employee of the factory where Germano worked entered his office when he applied the product to his eyes. Germano explained that, as president of fictitious Bastille, a cosmetic company, it was his duty to try the competitor’s product to see if it was any good. The action was highly successful, and the company asked for similar actions with the character with another product - lipstick.

The pact between the consumer audience of television and the work includes the understanding that the business model of television contains

Merchandizing scene

Figure 5.1 Merchandizing scene: Germano, played by Humberto Martins, tries mascara.

Source: Globo.

the viewing of commercials inside and outside the plot. This model does not distance the viewer from the main product he or she consumes and desires when he or she watches a telenovela: a good story stimulates the imagination and desires of the active television audience. At the same time, there is an expectation that part of this audience fulfils the implicit conditions of the pact between open television, advertisers and viewers, consuming not only narratives but also products.

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