Revolutionary New TV Series ‘Mister Brau’ Is Like Brazil’s Version of ‘Empire’

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While Latin America may revel in the fact that it’s a comparatively colorblind society where race is a fluid and open concept, one glance at Latin American television is enough to flip that all on its head. Granted, over the years there have been important milestones in racial visibility for the region, like Brazil’s Xica da Silva telenovela back in 1996 or the forthcoming Celia Cruz bio-novela on Telemundo, but Latin American media is still very much in the Stone Age when it comes to racial representation. Well, with the recent premiere of Mister Brau in Brazil, maybe we can officially call it the Bronze Age.

An upstart comedy series starring the real life husband and wife power duo of Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo, Mister Brau follows the trials and tribulations of a similarly powerful music industry couple wrestling with wealth, fame, and nosy neighbors. Ramos plays a cherished pop star who proudly incorporates an Afro-Brazilian aesthetic into his work, while Araújo takes care of managerial duties and choreographs his shows.

“So what’s the big deal?” you may ask, “Brazil has already had numerous black actors in starring roles in its novelas.” And you would be absolutely right, but until this year, Brazil had never actually seen an Afro-Brazilian couple holding down a series’ principal dramatic duties. And it’s 2015. Go figure.

Of course, for audiences more accustomed to American media culture, nothing could possibly make less sense. To this day, interracial couples in mainstream U.S. media continue to be an unspoken taboo, even at a time when top reality shows can star transgender ex-athletes. While this is clearly a reflection of this country’s history of stark racial divisions, in Brazil the tendency has been quite the opposite.

A recent analysis published on Indiewire‘s Shadow and Act blog pointed out that successful Afro-Brazilians consistently and unquestioningly marry white Brazilians in what’s seen as an exchange of wealth for racial privilege. For that reason, Ramos and Araújo are actually a revolutionary couple in their own right, and their fictional counterparts in Mister Brau are no less groundbreaking for reaffirming Afro-Brazilian bonds.

But before we celebrate, the article is quick to point out that stereotypes of Afro-Brazilians still abound in Mister Brau, with Araújo’s character being treated as a sex object by the couple’s white neighbors, and Ramos’ musician portrayed as a unrefined nouveau riche popular entertainer. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad though, and frankly the show looks as good as anything on American TV right now, so kudos to the team behind Mister Brau for keeping it quality.

For the Portuguese speakers amongst us, Mister Brau’s first episode is available in its entirety on YouTube. Check it out and see what all the buzz is about.