The FCC v. Janet Jackson, South American Edition: Supplementary Notes on The Globo Soap Docket

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Veiled breast nudity, frank buttocks, and metaphorical eroticism: This is the pole-dance scene in question — from Globo’s current 8 pm soap opera, by the way, and not Madeleine Kahn in a scene from
Young Frankenstein (rated R for all those Yiddish penis jokes).

TV GLOBO’s defense, to which O GLOBO had access, argues that “The soap opera is responding to the international fashion for “pole dancing,” a dance in which the women, wearing high heels and sensual clothing, performs gymnastics on a vertical bar (or pole), which is no longer confined to “stripper” ghettos, but has invaded the bars and gyms of the United States, China, Portugal, England and Argentina.”

… In truth, the soap opera depicts the international fashion for pole-dancing … Such themes [current fashions, inserted into works of fiction] are inevitable if one is to depict contemporary society, with the proviso, of course, that they be treated ethically and seriously, exactly as TV GLOBO is doing in its soap opera DUAS CARAS

I was touched the other day by the remarkable solicitude shown by the O Globo daily (Brazil) in granting equal time to its parent corporation, the Organizações Globo, to present its defense in a case involving the content rating assigned to its current prime-time soap opera, Duas Caras.

Which we have watched some of.

Capsule review:

What was just milk-shooting-out-your nose laughable, we thought, was the scene between the rich, aging housewife and the young, studly pool man — who, sensing she is watching him from behind the tropical foliage, strips to his briefest of briefs and dives provocatively into the pool. And so on. I have seen cheap San Fernando Valley porn videos with more creative dramaturgy. –Zebu Cavaco, NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS TV critic, on Duas Caras

Zebu Cavaco, I duly disclose, is just a stupid pseudonym I have given myself — as in Zebu Cavaco and his Cur-Deus Homos, the (fictional) Doc Severinsen (Branford Marsalis, Max Weinberg, Paul Schaeffer) of the (fictional) NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS television network — world famous for Current Content Downloads (“I’m your headless talking head …”) and its running documentary series on the Latin American mass-media Zeitgeist.

Globo’s Revista TV then did its readers the service of reproducing the O Globo newspaper’s exclusive coverage of TV Globo’s briga with the federal government. See

UPDATE ONE: Critical coverage of the latest episode!

UPDATE TWO: Ruling by the humorless breastocrats!

UPDATE THREE: On independent (?) backing for the notion that Globo is treating such issues with moral seriousness, see

What I was left wondering, however, after reading Globo’s trademark narcissistic coverage of itself covering itself, was what the contents of the proceeding against it actually were.

O Globo helpfully supplies us with the docket number of Globo’s response to the MiniJ content ratings bureaucrats, for example, but not the docket number of the official document it is replying to.

Reading that coverage was like listening in on one end of a telephone conversation — or a psychotic homeless person arguing loudly wth their invisible friend on a crowded subway car.

You read at great length about what Globo’s answers are, but you are not fully informed about what the question is.

I managed to find the portion of the Ministry of Justice Web site in which you can read the official documents of these proceedings — or at least a summary of the docket.

It was not that easy to find, despite a recent usability revamp and the awarding of some sort of usability certification or other. The miracle of e-government at work (though Brazil is not much worse at this than us gringos, I hasten to add, and there are actually some signs of intelligent design out there: Agência Brasil, and the redesign of Sâo Paulo’s Official Diary, for example.)

I translate what seem like the more substantial parts pra inglês ver.

Warning: plot spoilers!

Despacho do Diretor de 16/07/2007, publicado no Diário Oficial da União de Classificação da novela. 26/07/2007 – classificar a novela DUAS CARAS, por sinopse, para televisão como Programa não recomendado para menores de 12 anos, por conter: Consumo de drogas lícitas, insinuação sexual, atos criminosos, homicídio.

From the office of the Director on July 16, 2007, published in the Official Diary of the Union, regarding the content rating of the soap opera. July 26, 2007: Classifying the soap opera DUAS CARAS, based on a synopsis, as a television program not recommended for minors under the age of 12, because it contains: Consumption of illegal drugs, sexual innuendo, criminal acts, homicide.

Nota Técnica 031/2007, de 21/11/2007 – “pode-se concluir que os capítulos analisados apresentam nudez nítida de nádegas e nudez velada de seios, linguagem metaforizada, depreciativa e erótica”. “(…) como agravantes: apresentação de fundo musical e enquadramento que reforçam o conteúdo sexual”.

Technical Note 031/2007, dated November 21, 2007: “It can be concluded that the chapters analyzed present frank nudity of the buttocks and veiled nudity of the breasts and language that is metaphorical, derogatory and erotic.” ” … as aggravating factors: a musical background and framing that reinforce the sexual content.”

Not sure what that musical background might be.

“I like big butts and I cannot lie”?

Comunicação do Ministério Público, Of. 1920/2007-P, de 27/11/2007 – encaminha conjunto de denúncias formuladas por do telespectadores e enviadas ao site da Campanha “Quem Financia a Baixaria é Contra a Cidadania” e solicita que seja examinada a necessidade de reclassificação da novela DUAS CARAS e do programa.

Communication from the Public Ministry, No. 1920/2007-P, dated November 27, 2007 — forwarding a set of complaints formulated by the campaign “Those Who Finance Trash TV Are Against Citizenship” and asks that the question of whether the soap opera DUAS CARAS and the program needs to be reclassified be examined.

Googling that group up. On activism in this area, see also

Oh, right, it’s the Ethics in TV group, I know a little bit about them.

Nota Técnica 032/2007, de 29/11/2007 – “pode-se concluir que as cenas da novela analisadas apresentam nudez nítida de nádegas e nudez velada de seios, linguagem metaforizada, depreciativa e erótica; ameaça”. “(…) como agravantes: fundo musical e enquadramento de imagem que reforçam o conteúdo sexual; conteúdo violento com presença de arma branca”.

Technical Note 032/, November 29, 2007 — “It can be concluded that the scenes from the soap opera analyzed present frank nudity of the buttocks and veiled nudity of the breasts, metaphorical, derogatory, and erotic language; threat …” “… as aggravating factors: A musical soundtrack and image-framing that reinforce the sexual content; violent content with the presence of an edged weapon.”

And what about that military-grade shotgun pointed at Juvenal Antena in that first showdown with Marconi Ferraço? (The Antenna-Marconi pairing is an interesting, Pynchonian, bit of character-naming. Marconi emits, Antenna receives. Yada yada.)

Does that capanga have a license for that thing?

Comunicação à emissora. Of. 274/2007, de 29/11/2007 – encaminha Notas Técnicas 031 e 032/2007 e informa sobre as denúncias recebidas por este Departamento e pela Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias, da Câmara dos Deputados. Questiona a emissora sobre a pertinência dos conteúdos exibidos na novela em relação às crianças e adolescentes que a assistem, amparados pela classificação atribuída.

Communication to the broadcaster, Docket No. 274/2007, dated November 29, 2007 — forwards Technical Notes 31 and 32 of 2007 regarding the complaints received by this department and by the Human and Minority Rights Committee of the federal House. Questions the broadcaster as to the fittingness of the content exhibited in relation to children and teens who watch it, based on the rating conferred upon the program.

Resposta da emissora. DIJUR 2175-2007, de 4/12/2007 – Esclarecimentos prestados pela emissora, em atenção ao Of. 274/2007: “Obviamente que a opinião desses poucos telespectadores que apresentaram reclamações deve sim ser respeitada, mas não deveria ensejar a abertura de um procedimento administrativo. Esta emissora, sabedora de seus deveres e obrigações e, pelo fato de estar em contato com centenas de milhões de pessoas, na quase totalidade dos lares brasileiros, assume uma responsabilidade a mais: o compromisso para a educação, além de informar e divertir. (…). Os diálogos retratados no procedimento administrativo deixam perfeitamente claro que o objetivo do autor da obra foi apenas demonstrar a realidade, alertar para o que de fato ocorre no cotidiano das pessoas, não extrapolando o bom senso e os bons costumes. (…). Na verdade, a novela vai ao encontro da moda internacional do pole dancing (…). Tais temáticas [modismos inseridos em obras de ficção] são inevitáveis para retratar a sociedade contemporânea devendo, por óbvio, serem tratadas com seriedade e ética, exatamente como vem fazendo a TV GLOBO na novela Duas Caras”.

Response from the broadcaster. DIJUR No. 2175-2007, dated December 4, 2007 — Clarifications furnished by the braodcaster in response to Docket No. 247/2007: “Obviously the opinion of these few viewers who complained should be respected, but they do not warrant the opening of an administrative proceeding. This broadcaster, which knows its duties and obligations and, because it is in contact with hundreds of millions of persons, in nearly all Brazilian homes, assumes an additional responsibility: A commitment to education, as well as informing and entertaining. … The dialogue depicted in the administrative proceeding make it perfectly clear that the objective of the author of this work is simply to show reality, alerting the viewer to what actually goes on in the daily life of people, without exceeding the limits of good sense and good customs.

The Brazilian population has not yet official reached 200 million, which you would think would be required for the accurate attribution of “hundreds of millions,” plural.

Or are we operating on the Heraclitan theory — “everything flows” — that the same eyeballs never watch the same pole-dance twice?

But I bet that is true, in a sense: Every day, in the San Fernando Valley, someone makes a porn flick for $400 in which the horny older woman watches the pool boy strip down to his Speedo.

Or some variant on this hackneyed porno plot device.

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“Maria Paula calls Marconi Ferraço a liar”; “Israel rejects Hamas truce offer”: Google News Brasil presents fiction — a soap opera plot summary — alongside fact.

Stewardess and pizza delivery boy. Aspiring starlet in a red minidress with a flat tire in the vast desert out beyond Barstow meets a tow-truck driver with a powerful, er, winch.

Bored socialite and the building’s new doorman.

Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson (you never see Ann Bancroft’s breast or buttocks, though.)

Lily von Shtupp and Sheriff Bart (speaking of the talented Mel Brooks family), although you never see Lily von Shtupp’s breasts or buttocks. Madeleine was not that kind of girl.

It is not just a standard Borscht Belt joke, this device.

It is one of those shticks that is, as they say, “as old as Noah’s toes and twice as corny.”

But yes, that, my friends, is the reality behind the glitz and the glamor of show business!

(I actually have an old college buddy who used to an edit a trade magazine for the adult film industry, believe it or not. He now covers industrial chemicals. Which actually makes sense: A business is a business. A commodity is a commodity.)

Regarding Globo’s credibility on the topic of educating the public, see also

… In truth, the soap opera depicts the international fashion for pole-dancing … Such themes [current fashions, inserted into works of fiction] are inevitable if one is to depict contemporary society, with the proviso, of course, that it be treated ethically and seriously, exactly as TV GLOBO is doing in its soap opera DUAS CARAS.

Nota Técnica 033/2007, de 10/12/2007 – “pode-se concluir que as cenas da novela analisadas apresentam linguagem metaforizada, erótica, de conteúdo sexual e insinuação de prostituição.”.

Technical Note 033/2007, dated December 10, 2007 — “It can be concluded that the scenes from the soap opera analyzed contained metaphorical, erotic language of a sexual nature and insinuation of prostitution.”

Of. 283/2007, de 11/12/2007 – Encaminha denúncias enviadas para o Ministério da Justiça e para a Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias, da Câmara dos Deputados. Afirma não vislumbrar, respostas aos questionamentos formulados pela Coordenação de Classificação Indicativa no ofício no 2175-2007, enviado pela emissora, e solicita que esta apresente esclarecimentos no prazo de 5 (cinco) dias.

Docket No. 283/2007 [Communication to the broadcaster], December 11, 2007 — Forwards charges to the Minister of Justice and the House committee. States that it does not find [relevant] responses to the questions formulated by the ratings board in Docket No. 2175-2007, submitted by the broadcaster, and asks that the broadcaster present explanations within 5 days.

Is that five business days or five calendar days, as in Monday, by the way?

I wish I could get a copy of the original questions submitted to Globo, and the whole of those technical reports.

Anyway, that is where things stand, according to official sources. A copy of the official document translated here is in the power of this (semi-fictional) global infotainment empire!

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “The FCC v. Janet Jackson’s Nipple, South American Edition”!

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Lawyerly parsing of infotainment mammary-gland imagery: The Janet Jackson Super Bowl nipple. That looks like that might hurt. Remember that scene in Scorsese’s The Aviator in which Howard Hughes gets a man with calipers to defend the extent to which Jane Russell’s cleavage is displayed in his movies, compared with prevailing standards of cleaveage engineering? There is a chance for a similar exercise here. Janet Jackson, at least, did not claim she was trying to educate the public with this display.

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