The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, April 18, 2002  


The Brazilians are up in arms over The Simpsons.

So much so that the president's spokesman has denounced the family as troublemakers and the secretary of tourism in Rio de Janeiro is talking about lawsuits and boycotts.

Why are Brazilians -- and particularly Cariocas (residents of Rio) -- so angry?

Well, the episode of The Simpsons that aired on March 31 had the famously dysfunctional family traveling to Rio. And what with the show being politically incorrect and all, the action quickly slides into some familiar stereotypes.

The Washington Post's Anthony Faiola summarizes: "Homer gets kidnapped by a taxi driver while Lisa goes searching for a poor child she sponsored at 'the Orphanage of the Filthy Angels.' Family members are mauled by monkeys on Copacabana Beach. Bart is hooked on a racy children's show called Teleboobies. The Simpsons also learn a new Brazilian dance, a successor to the steamy lambada: the penetrada."

The show wasn't seen in Brazil, but word filtered back from Brazilians living overseas. "The cartoon was deemed a national insult of the highest order," Faiola writes. "For Brazilians, however, the March 31 episode was the latest example of what many consider annoying U.S. cluelessness about their country," he adds.

"Yet the most self-critical Cariocas admit the strong reaction came, in part, because the show hit awfully close to home," Faiola says. "Crime, unabashed sexuality and harsh poverty are, in fact, part of life here. Brazil still smarts from a quip, laid to Charles de Gaulle, that Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be."

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