Letter From San Francisco

Nossa! Brazilian Soap Opera Invades Silicon Valley

Geração Brasil revolves around a Brazilian Larry Ellison type named Jonas Marra who, after building a multi billion dollar tech company in Silicon Valley, returns home to spread the love via a televised hackathon that features an array of Brazilian nerds. There’s favela nerds, mauricinho nerds, nerdettes, and basic poindexter nerds; tem nerd pra cacete. Marra even employs a sycophantic spiritual advisor, just like HBO’s Silicon Valley / the actual Silicon Valley.

 

It’s not that farfetched. Facebook has a Brazilian founder. Brazilians adoram American brands and culture. Silicon Valley is the center of the known digital universe, and Brazil is a country enamored of its gadgetry. At night, San Francisco’s twinkling hills and shoreline sort of resemble Rio de Janeiro – especially after five or six caipiroskas.

According to Geração Brasil’s director Denise Saraceni, the novella’s main goals (novelas are mission driven in Brazil, of course) are: 1. make people laugh and 2. bridge the digital divide between tech-savvy Brazilian youngsters and their tech-phobic parents. Brazil is a powerful economic and cultural force, and “Geracao Brasil” is now the most widely watched Silicon Valley-themed TV show in the game with well over 4 million Brazilians tuning into the action packed premiere. Silicon Valley, by comparison, garnered 2.5 million total viewers for its premiere episode.

That the plot alternates between San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro isn’t arbitrary. Countries around the world want Brazilian tourism dollars (Brazilian tourists are already the biggest per capita spenders in the US) and novelas are a direct route into their hearts, pants and wallets.  Thus Globo’s novelas are increasingly being co-branded with tourist destinations as a way to sell tourism packages. My friend Henri Castelli played a dashing slave in a show designed to hype tourism to the country’s spectacular northern beaches. There was another recent hit called Salve Jorge, set in Rio and Turkey, that dealt with human trafficking between the two countries and served as a lushly shot tourism promo for Istanbul.

Rede Gobo, the monster media group behind the madness, likes to remind viewers that “Onde tem Globo tem Brasil” (Where there’s Globo, there’s Brazil). Does that mean the Bay Area is about to get slammed with hordes of turistas brasileiros looking for the homes of Jonas Marra, Épou, Feice and Instagram? If so, this guy should learn Portuguese.