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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 13:52 GMT
Brazil 'to stop' for possible TV gay kiss
By Lia Bock
In Sao Paulo

Everybody in Brazil is talking about it - in pubs, in the media and around the dinner table: will there be a gay kiss on television on Friday night? Brazil is expected to come to a standstill at 2100 (2300 GMT) in anticipation.

America characters Junior and Zeca (Picture: Globo TV)
Will they, won't they? The author will not say if Junior and Zeca kiss
If, as expected, Junior and Zeca do kiss passionately in the finale of the soap opera America - it will be a first for Brazilian TV.

Whatever happens, this telenovela - which this week was watched by up to 80% of the country's viewers - has certainly got people discussing the issue of homosexuality and Brazil's not-always liberal attitudes towards it.

Brazilians have seen the young and blue-eyed Junior, son of a powerful ranch owner, struggling to accept his homosexuality and agonising over how to tell his family and friends about it.

Then he meets Zeca, a young man who works for his mother on the farm. Since then, Brazil has witnessed a growing atmosphere of love between the characters - discreet, but not unnoticeable.

It is not the first time that this scenario has cropped up in a telenovela in Brazil, where nightly soap operas are followed almost religiously by tens of millions of viewers.

In 1981, two men ended up as a couple but did not even hug.

It took 14 years for another homosexual couple to make its appearance in soapland. On this occasion, the two men went a bit further and finished living under the same roof, but in terms of physical contact, holding hands was as far as they went.

When Junior's mother found out about her son's sexual orientation, she proposed he undergo treatment... It would have been funny if the situation was not so common in Brazil
By the end of the soap opera, most of the audience was reported to approve of the relationship.

However, in 1998, the stable relationship that two women had in the telenovela Torre de Babel (Tower of Babel) reportedly proved too much for the viewers, and the couple was killed in an explosion.

After that, there were two more lesbian storylines - there was one kiss, but only a chaste one when the two characters played Romeo and Juliet in a school play.

Surprise

All these soaps were extensively discussed in the media, and the America series has been no different.

Gay Pride parade in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo
There is now more awareness of gay issues in Brazil
Its author, Gloria Perez, has given many interviews. She refuses to reveal if Junior and Zeca will finally kiss, but insists that that is what people want.

"I think this strict country is changing. I was expecting lots of protests against this kiss. I am very surprised," she has said.

In real life, Brazil appears to be making slow progress on gay issues.

According to a 2004 study, more and more people are "coming out" before turning 18. But the researchers also found that some international companies that respected gay rights in the US and Europe, are not doing the same in Brazil.

"We don't know why, but I think they are afraid of repercussions in such a Catholic country as Brazil," says Sonia Alves, one of the study's authors.

Changing attitudes

One of the biggest obstacles to greater gay rights in Brazil is the spectacular growth of Christian evangelical groups, which describe homosexuality as a disease.

Their followers in congress are currently blocking a proposed law that would give gay couples more rights.

Other sectors of society appear to be changing their attitudes.

The Federal Council of Psychologists in 1999 banned its members from offering a cure or treatment for homosexuality. This was seen as a big step for gay rights, but the message does not seem to have reached everyone.

In the America series this week, when Junior's mother found out about her son's sexual orientation, she considered it a disease and proposed he undergo treatment. It would have been funny if the situation was not so common in Brazil.

Globo, the country's largest terrestrial channel, may find that it has gone some way toward changing that.




SEE ALSO:
Brazil hosts huge Gay Pride march
30 May 05 |  Americas
Brazil gay denied lover's career
02 Oct 04 |  Americas
In pictures: Brazil gay parade
30 May 05 |  In Pictures
Brazilian go-ahead for gay unions
05 Mar 04 |  Americas


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