From the Brazilian Infotainment Wars: “How Lô Can the Jô Xô Gô?”

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“Speaking and writing properly”: Veja (Brazil) No. 2025 (September 12, 2007). At the top of the social-climber’s ladder, there seems to be nothing but a steep, Wile E. Coyote-style plunge back into the abyss.

If you cannot mount persuasive arguments, then make sure that your opponent is not able to make her own argument. Shift the focus of the debate: change the subject, preferably to a subject in which you are in the right; dwell on how much you know, on how hard you have worked to get where you are, on how your work is unjustly devalued and despised. Or simply lead the debate into a blind alley from which it cannot escape. In that case, both parties lose, but this is a better outcome for the party who was going to lose in any event.–InfomediaTV (a Porto Alegre-based Microsoft stealth-marketing contractor)

Writing in the Observatório da Imprensa (Brazil), Valério Cruz Brittos, Diego Garcia Goulart and Paola Madeira Nazário review the “Brazilian Letterman,” Globo’s Jô Soares.

Their verdict might be gisted as follows, in memory of fictional New York film critic Jay Sherman: It stinks!

I tend to agree, I should admit.

I base this, I should fairly disclose, on trying to watch the show, then finding myself no longer wanting to. See also

The program has tended to track a trend in U.S. infotainment that you might call “the politicization of political humor” — exemplified by the likes of Al Franken and Dennis Miller.

Where politicial humor once traditionally emphasized commonality over “wedge-issue” controversy and pilloried the high and mighty more or less even-handedly — “Everyone hates taxes, am I right? Everyone knows that all politicians regularly utter nonsense, am I right?” “Dogs are stupid, am I right?” — it has tended to polarize along partisan political lines to the point where comedians are regarded as more influential commentators than people who actually know what the hell they are talking about (but are boring).

I call this “the Brozo effect,” after the Televisa TV news clown there in Mexico, though Jon Stewart may be (undeservedly, I think) the poster child for this infotainment trend for American readers. See also

What is also interesting here is the tenor of the comment thread that has attached itself to the negative review, where an extensive (and irrelevant) debate breaks out over the alleged grammatical shortcomings of other writers to the thread.

Language is another issue that has been highly politicized of late as well, and heavily promoted in the mainstream commercial media as a coded marker for the inherent superiority of Brazilian “elites.”

Jô, for example, back when I bothered tuning him in, often based his opening monologue on student bloopers — a common enough genre of “most frequently e-mailed” humor — from the essay portion of standardized tests, using them to draw a contrast between the deep and intractable ignorance of the average Brazilian and his own audience.

The message, which the show pretty much bludgeons you with: Globo is the network for a select audience of smart, educated, sophisticated people.

(The university graduation rate in Brazil, according to a recent study I saw, is <5%, as compared with around 40% in the U.S. and Canada. It ranks consistently near the bottom in OECD measures of educational quality. Not sure what how the quality of higher education here is rated. I do sort of get the impression that some of the governors are meeting heavy resistance to their plans to reform higher education along more results-oriented, “best practice” lines. Looking around …)

As the Folha de S. Paulo ombudsman noted recently, this talking point figured prominently in this year’s national convention of a leading opposition party — whose leading light, former President Cardoso, took to commenting disdainfully once more on the incumbent president’s peculiar accent, intonation and syntax, as well as his lack of formal schooling.

But Mr. Magalhães also pointed out (the Sorbonne-educated) Cardoso’s own characteristic lapses in pronunciation.

Na cobertura de sábado sobre as declarações de FHC a respeito da educação de Lula, a Folha deixou de citar uma limitação do ex-presidente: ele não consegue dizer “próprio” “apropriado” e palavras aparentadas. Fernando Henrique pronuncia “própio”, “apropiado”.

In Saturday’s coverage of Cardoso’s statements about Lula’s level of education, this newspaper omitted mention of a limitation of the former President’s: He cannot manage to say appropriate and similar words. He pronounces it approp’iate.

Go figger. Cardoso used to be a good buddy of Bubba Clinton, who parlayed his retro-Jimmy Carter “aw shucks” diction into two terms in office — with the help of the Ragin’ Cajun, Carville, who talks like a zydeco singer who grew up next door to Wally Gator.

Then he started hanging out with Jothé Athnar.

See also


Diogo Mainardi (Veja magazine) plugs a book on Globo’s Jô: “Freedom of expression is a tautology.”

Personally, even though I have completed doctoral coursework in comparative literature at a fairly high-falutin institution of higher thinkology, I still find myself lapsing into, like, total Southern California Valley Dude dialect, bra.

And despite college radio experience, my elocution is still far from the golden tones of a Don Pardo or the crisp intonation of some old-school BBC newsreader — back when the BBC used to model the English language rather than merely torturing it. Which is why I went into print media.

Talkin’ real purty-like over the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone takes more talent and practice than you might think, cuz.

On which more in a minute.

Prof. Cruz Brittos I know as one of the organizers of a collection of academic studies on the Globo network that I recently read. I do not think I have reviewed it yet. On a related topic, however, see:

Há quem diga que Jô Soares é uma fonte de pura intelectualidade, credenciada a debater múltiplos assuntos com a máxima competência. De humorista, ele passou a apresentador de um espaço de entrevistas com grande visibilidade na televisão brasileira, formato copiado do talk show norte-americano The tonight show, originalmente comandado por Johnny Carson, pai do gênero. O desempenho do multifacetado Jô já foi dos melhores, mas o que se percebe em seus programas, atualmente, são muitas piadas sem humor, ausência de criatividade, carência de inovação e, o que é pior, unilateralidade. Será que ele cansou?

There are those who would say Jô Soares is a fountain of pure intellectuality, qualified to debate any number of topics with the utmost competence. From his origins as a comedian, he became the host of a prominent TV interview show that copied its format from the American Tonight Show, originally hosted by Johnny Carson, the father of the genre.

Carson was preceded by Steve Allen and Jack Paar, of course — from the days when TV talk show hosts chain-smoked like mad on camera — and might fairly be said to represent a (relative) dumbing down of the genre.

The multitalented Jô once gave excellent performances, but what one notes in his recent shows are the many, many unfunny jokes, the absence of creativity, a lack of innovation and, what is worst, a marked one-dimensionality. Is Jô perhaps getting “tired”?

A reference there to the Globo-promoted “astroturf” campaign, Cansei — “I am sick and tired …” — which was widely ridiculed last year, and not just by supporters of its principal target. See

The most succinct dismissal, I thought, came from former São Paulo governor Claudio Lembo

If you are going to sell SUVs or George Foreman grills to Texans, you cannot come in dressed like Tom Mix and talking like George Will or Ted Kennedy.

Which is why I find this whole elitist political marketing campaign so obtuse from a marketing point of view.

Rather than learning to speak your customer’s language, in order to produce identification with your product, you insist the customer learn to speak yours in order to qualify for the privilege of getting your jokes.

Where did these people get their MBAs?

The University of Alpha Centauri?

Suggested exercise: Get a focus group of British people together, screen Monty Python’s famous “Upper-Class Twit of the Year” skit for them, and ask them why they find it so funny.

Once their ribs stop hurting from laughing so hard and they have wiped their faces clean from the milk that has shot out of their noses.

Ainda que Jô se arvore em realizar entrevistas com personagens desconhecidas, o que mais se vê, depois da mudança do SBT para a Globo, é o uso da atração como ferramenta promocional de artistas, celebridades e personalidades em geral. Os poucos anônimos chamados para o sofá – minoritários, em meio aos famosos de plantão – não possuem, em regra, o humor e a originalidade daqueles que passavam pelo velho Jô Soares onze e meia, do SBT.

Although Jô does branch out to do interviews with unknown persons, what you mostly see, after his move from the rival SBT to Globo, is the use of the show as a self-promotional venue for performing artists, celebrities, and personalities in general. The few unknowns who make it to the interview couch — a small minority among the usual stars — no longer exhibit the humor and originality of those featured on Jô’s old 11:30 show on SBT.

O atual Programa do Jô, exibido diariamente pela Globo (com áudio retransmitido pela rádio CBN), prima pela falta de senso de diálogo, comprovado pelo domínio exercido sobre a fala dos entrevistados. Nesse sentido, não faz comunicação. Jô Soares parece esquecer que todos os conceitos podem ter mais de uma ótica e é de estranhar que uma pessoa dotada de considerável acúmulo de conhecimento tenha um posicionamento tão fechado em uma só visão, desvalorizando questionamentos.

The current Jô show, aired daily on Globo (with audio rebroadcast on CBN Radio), lacks a sense of dialogue, as shown by the fact that the interview subjects tend to dominate the conversation. In this sense, the show fails to communicate. Jô seems to forget that all issues can be viewed from multiple angles, and it is odd to see a person with such a considerable store of accumulated knowledge taking such a closed-minded stance, focused on a single viewpoint, and diminishing the role of critical questioning.

This was especially evident, I thought, when Soares was interviewing Diogo Mainardi about the quality and ethical issues raised by Veja’s brand of “journalism”:

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Jô’s feeble, mumbling raising of the “How can you call yourself a journalist if you merely repeat rumors?” demurrer.

O caso da classificação indicativa dos produtos culturais, proposta pelo Ministério da Cultura, é emblemática. Na ocasião, foram colocadas argumentações incisivas por Jô num único rumo, sendo convidados essencialmente artistas convencidos da liberdade descompromissada pós-moderna (na verdade, a serviço do mercado). Tornou-se repetitivo, ao colocar toda e qualquer forma de regulamentação pública como censura e cerceamento da liberdade de expressão. As opiniões do apresentador, sem embasamento, não condizem com um homem poliglota, de sofisticado gosto cultural, intelectualizado e viajado, até porque deveria estar ciente de que a noção de uma classificação indicativa se faz presente em países desenvolvidos, como Canadá, Estados Unidos, Reino Unido e Alemanha.

The issue of the indicative ratings system for cultural products proposed by the Ministry of Justice is emblematic. At the time, Jô made incisive arguments for only one side of the issue, inviting mainly those performers who are already convinced of post-modern freedom without responsibility (that is to say, the free market.) It became repetitive, characterizing any form of public regulation as censorship and constraining freedom of expression. The host’s opinions, stated without providing evidence to back them, were not worthy of a polyglot with sophisticated cultural tastes, well-read and well-traveled, who ought to know that the notion of an indicative rating is in place in various developed nations, such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

No entanto, a unilateralidade tem sido uma constante, sejam os temas banais ou sérios. Quando debatia a agenda da semana com as denominadas meninas do Jô, toda quarta-feira, a voz única e a observação rápida, sem embasamento, também imperavam, com particular contundência. Não faziam jornalismo, nem um bom show de conversa. Faziam o que fazem melhor: o jogo do sistema, o interesse primeiro da reprodução hegemônica.

But this sort of one-sideness has become a constant, on issues both serious and trivial. When he debates the news agenda of the week with the so-called “Jô girls” every Wednesday, the slanted viewpoint and the empty quip rule the day with particular vehemence. They do not practice journalism, or even put on a good panel discussion. They do what they do best: Play the game in the interests, primarily, of hegemonic reproduction.

To the comments, pro and con, more or less clipped at random:

Ricardo Pereira, a chemist from Campinas-SP, writes

Assistir um programa que passa no limiar da madrugada exige que este seja algo que valha a pena. O jô-show é lamentavel e uma enorme perda de tempo de sono. Boicotem este egocentrico que nao deixa os entrevistados falarem. Sua mediocridade intelectual, a falta de familiaridade com o assunto da entrevista e principalmente a babaçao de ovo com seus colegas televisivos é mais que suficiente pra recomendar que a tv seja desligada para o bem geral da naçao. Vai pra casa, Gordo! e qto as “meninas de meia-idade” do Jô, francamente! Como diria o Luis Fernando Verissimo: pior que porre de licor-de-ovos, uma das poucos situaçoes que dá direito a eutanasia. E nao se fala mais nisso!

[tktktktktk]

Fernando Tavares, a historian from Caxias-RS, critiques the grammar of other commenters in the thread without addressing their substance (filibustering while changing the subject):

Os erros grosseiros do texto sobre Jô foram indicados de forma subjetiva: mal escrito e sem sujeito (excelente análise). Especificar esses erros seria bom, mas vocês não o fizeram, pois não o conseguiriam. Querem apenas picuinha. Talvez você e o [ ] não saibam análise sintática. Desse ponto de vista, qualquer produção textual seria mal escrita mesmo. O texto dos autores é inteligível, para quem consiga ler e interpretar dentro de um contexto acima do comum, fora da comunicação do grotesco. A palavra unilateralidade, que é a chave para a compreensão do tema proposto, foi deixada de lado e não mereceu peso na leitura. Dessa forma, é claro que o último parágrafo fica incompreensível. Até garoto de 14 anos entendeu o texto, não foi testemunhado? Melhor ser vesgo, a ser ignorante! O badalado professor, que se retirou dos comentários ou trocou de nome, por não ter aguentado o tranco, rotulou um doutor em Comunicação de vesgo, sem apresentar qualquer comentário que embasasse essa afirmação. Ainda bem que os textos do Mainardi sumiram deste Observatório, apesar de seus fãs permanecerem por tanto tempo. Tentar desqualificar alguém, é um comportamento desses nossos dias de concorrência e mania de auto-afirmação. A formação do ser humano, hoje, é alienada. Desejo melhor sorte para você, Édio, em sua próxima encarnação! Vai fugir também?

[tktktktktk]

Boris Capone a Rio-RJ engineer, writes that the grammatical debate is a red herring.

É ótimo ler um texto, finalmente destronando Jôzinho Reaça. Agora, por favor, parem com a guerrinha gramatical e lingüística. A nível de afetação está altíssimo nos comentários.

[tktktktktk]

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