It was a moment that many fans of Globo’s Amor à Vida novela had been urging producers to write for weeks, but whether scriptwriters bowed to public pressure or whether they’d planned it all along, Friday’s finale finally brought viewers a small piece of TV history in Brazil.
Two of the soap opera’s main characters, Félix and Niko – played by Mateus Solano and Thiago Fragoso – finally shared a much-anticipated kiss in the dying minutes of the novela’s grand finale.
With rumours rife and then apparently confirmed by an anonymous Globo source that said the kiss had been filmed, some Brazilians gathered specially to watch the episode.
Despite much “will they, won’t they” in the lead-up to the moment, Twitter suddenly erupted at the news, with #beijogay #feliko and #amoravida trending within seconds.
It wasn’t Brazil’s first gay kiss ever, but it was the first on primetime mainstream TV and on Rede Globo – Brazil’s biggest producer of novelas. On air since May 2013, Amor à Vida was the channel’s most-watched novela of the season. (Incidentally, the next novela das nove – 9pm soap, Em Família, will also have a central gay storyline.)
Fans praised the network, while rival media groups said the channel had bowed to pressure from viewers, who had been waging a #beijalogo (“kiss soon”) Twitter campaign in favour of the kiss for weeks prior to the event. Some even promised to protest the channel if the final episode did not feature the couple embracing.
LGBT campaigners, including Deputy Jean Wyllys, hailed the moment as ‘historic’, a step in the right direction for ‘equality’, and a victory for a country where homophobic crimes appear to be on the increase.
That said, acceptance for members of the LGBT community in Brazil has grown steadily in recent years, unsurprisingly particularly among younger generations, and the country does have legal provisions allowing both same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.
Indeed, São Paulo has even hosted the world’s biggest gay parade.
But the presence of hardline religious leaders in senior political positions has seen waves of anti-gay rhetoric splashed across the media, particularly from televangelist Silas Malafaia and the now-infamous Marco Feliciano.
Attempts to bring in laws to criminalise homophobia have also so far proved unsuccessful due to pressure from conservative parliamentarians.
However, many said last night’s kiss was socially important, given the novela’s primetime 9pm slot. The last time viewers were promised such an event on the channel – back in 2005 in a novela called América – the scene eventually ended up on the cutting room floor, although it was leaked online.
Novelas have long proved vital to greater awareness of a range of social issues in Brazil, as in many other countries. But it’s fair to say that in Brazil they are particularly powerful, as many people’s lives revolve around the country’s bewildering array of novelas (you can sit down late in the afternoon and easily watch four or five of the addictive programmes).
The number of LGBT characters in mainstream programming has increased significantly in recent years – but producers have often been criticised for producing characters which are too “stereotypical” or “not normal enough”. And indeed, while other characters are often shown in passionate embraces, if not sizzling love-making, gay characters were often restricted to bland kisses on the cheek or flaccid hugs.
One novela, which featured a gay wedding, left viewers in a state of anticlimax when the big moment came: after pronouncing their vows, all the two men did was hug. It was even more stilted if you consider the many other characters who are allowed to flaunt their bodies and sex lives openly, even when it seemed completely desnecessário and irrelevant to the plot.
This was different though. The “Feliko” kiss hit the right note, and despite the hype online, didn’t feel forced or out of place. It was subtle, romantic, and gave a fitting end to the couple’s storyline.
But what was even more touching, in many ways, was the final scene – where Félix’s homophobic elderly father, César, played by Antonio Fagundes, seemingly finally comes round to the idea that love trumps hate.
The halting final frames show father and son holding hands on a beach at sunset, affirming how much they care for each other:
“Eu amo você” (I love you), says Félix.
César responds: “Eu também te amo, meu filho” (I love you too, my son).