Camargo talks Brazilian culture

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Photo by William Freedberg.

At a Tuesday Master’s Tea, Brazilian journalist Zeca Camargo spoke about Brazilian culture and his role as a television personality.

As a journalist and newscaster who has worked on some of Brazil’s most popular TV networks, Camargo has interviewed celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, travelled to approximately 94 countries and published six books. The most popular show he has worked on is “Fantástico,” a weekly news entertainment show he hosted until 2013 that airs on Globo, the second largest international television network in the world. During his talk, Camargo talked about his country’s amplified international presence and distinct culture.

Camargo said he does not consider himself an official journalist — in school, he studied business and advertising.

“For me, the way to news was intuitive,” he said. “I liked to write and started writing from home.”

Originally, Camargo said he specialized in cultural issues, which are still his main interest. In 1980, he started to work for MTV Brazil, and joined Globo in the 1990s.

Referencing American culture, Camargo said he would describe the show “Fantástico,” which he hosted until 2013, as something between “Ellen” and “Jimmy Fallon.”

Though Camargo said it sometimes seems paradoxical to ask viewers to think while watching TV, he said getting the viewers to interact with important issues was one of his goals as host of “Fantástico.”

While hosting “Fantástico,” Camargo said he often interviewed actors, writers and directors who worked on telenovelas — serial dramas that are popular in Latin America. Camarga said these figures are the most powerful people in Brazilian television and allow for insight into Brazilian culture.

“The whole way Brazilians live and think relates to telenovela storytelling,” he said. “[I wanted to] show people how these stories dominate the imaginary collective in Brazil.”

Through cultural journalism, Camargo said he has realized how strange Brazilian culture is. He said he finds Brazilians’ ability to mix high and low culture so easily particularly fascinating.

“There are no guilty pleasures,” he said. “Just pleasures.”

To demonstrate, Camargo talked about two musicals that were popular last summer. The first is a reenactment of the life of Elis Regina, one of Brazil’s most celebrated singers, while the second is called “Valesca Popozuda” and features what Camargo described as something “twerking doesn’t even begin to cover — think Miley Cyrus combined with Nicki Minaj upside-down.” Camargo marveled at the fact that his culture can appreciate both ends of the spectrum.

Camargo said that before giving his talk, he feared that he would be too cliché in describing his culture. He added that he wants the audience to remember that when it comes to Brazilian culture, “you don’t question anything, and you try to appreciate everything.”

Through journalism, Camargo said he tries to portray Brazil’s creativity and diversity.

“We are known because we have a good life, even though Brazil is far from paradise,” he said. “We are a very troubled country, [but] the idea of Brazil is very attractive … people go and they think ‘I could be any person here.’”

Students interviewed who attended the talk said that they enjoyed hearing Camargo’s perspective on Brazilian culture.

Paulo Costa ’14, who is also Brazilian, said he liked how Camargo presented a strong overview of Brazilian culture and compared it to American culture.

Melody Song ARC ’15 said she found the talk interesting because her father is involved with journalism in Korea. She added that she attended the event because she is applying to study architecture in Brazil this summer and wanted to learn more about the culture.

Camargo’s most recent book — entitled “50, Eu?” — was published in January.

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