Monday, 06 Apr, 2009 Offbeat

More Divorces and Less Children in Brazil Due to Racy Soap Operas


According to a report, the popular Brazilian soap operas led to a reduction of birthrate by 3 million. They also caused an increase in the number divorces.

Today the soap operas filmed in Brazil are the main feature of the TV Globo network, which extended telenovelas throughout the country. The report was developed for the Inter-American Development Bank. It states that Brazilian soap operas increased the number of marriage break-ups. Besides the rate of childbirth registered a significant fall, especially in areas where people for the first time are receiving the signal coming from TV Globo.

Researchers carried out their study of the population data stretching back to 1971 to find that the number of babies born in Brazil decreased by about 3 million and 800,000 couples decided to get divorced.

"We find that exposure to modern lifestyles as portrayed on television, to emancipated women's roles, and to a critique of traditional values, was associated with increases in the share of separated and divorced woman across Brazil's municipal areas," outlined that author of the report. The report also says that women living in the areas that receive the Globo signal have a considerably lower level of fertility.

It is worth mentioning that TV Globo has a serious influence on the Brazilian population. The network decides when certain soccer matches should take place and its costumes have a powerful influence of design and fashion in the country. In addition, soap operas' plot lines were the main weapon that influenced the result of elections. However, recent results of the study that proves the influence of telenovelas on the intimate way of life will shock Brazilians.

According to Maria Immacolata Lopes, who works as the coordinator of the Telenovela Centre at USP, which is one of the country's leading universities, the study is the first to have been carried out on such a wide scale. One of its led researchers, Alberto Chong, mentioned that the reason why soap operas had such an effect on the population was the "aspirational ethos" of the telenovelas, which mainly represent Brasilia's upper levels.

In Brazilian soap operas actors are whiter, richer and have a better education than the biggest part of the country's 190 million population. In case one of the female characters in a soap opera got divorced, the rate of divorces in Brazil increased by about 0,1 percent. Areas that receive the signal from Globo registered a reduction of childbirths by 0,6 percent, which means millions of babies in two decades.

It is no doubt that the reaction of TV Globo to the study was rather aggressive. The network said that it undervalued the intelligence of its viewers. Globo's spokesman stated that the soaps' portrayal of divorce and smaller families was not the cause of a decrease in divorces and the number of childbirth; it represents the trends of the time.

"Our dramas are attuned to the questions being asked in society. While we don't doubt the novelas make people think, we don't believe they influence their opinions or choices," said Luis Erlanger, who holds the position of the network's communications director.

In response to Mr. Erlanger's statement, Mr. Chong focused on the fact that the chances of a family naming their new-born baby after one of the characters in a soap opera were much higher in regions where the telenovelas were broadcast.

"Novelas in Brazil take on a greater importance than a simple drama because they move people. But the novela is above all a reflection of society. It feeds off what is exposed in day to day life and recreates a fictional version," outlined Mauro Alencar, who wrote several books about the genre.

Television also had its negative impact on a number of other countries like India. According to international studies, the pregnancy rates in the country registered a significant fall after people got acknowledged with cable television. In addition, television led a fall in enrollment in education. Less social activities were recorded in Indonesia, after viewers got a clearer television signal.

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