Brazilian-U.S. Communication Forum |Television Representations and Symbolic Reproduction of Inequality

Veneza Ronsini


It has been difficult to understand the relationship between mediated images of poverty in telenovelas and the symbolic reproduction of inequalities in Brazil, due in part to two factors: 1) the denial of the structural causation of social classes; and 2) the construction of images in which people are seen as autonomous actors over their personal lives. The objective of this paper is to highlight some telenovela images of poverty and to make some preliminary suggestions about the impact of these images in the lives of young, working class people on the basis of 20 interviews. One assumption made about telenovelas is that they give viewers a window into the lives of characters in various social classes, spurring a desire to trade places with others. In terms of my interviewees, more than half (14) had negotiated readings of poverty and meritocracy, while few (2) saw the political or social causes of inequality. This suggests that preferred and negotiated readings of poverty could be associated with telenovela viewing, an act which, in turn, promotes faith in personal merit and obscures Brazilian inequalities.

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