Propaganda

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"Pacification was easy. I want to see domination."

The title of this post is a play on words, perhaps, because the portuguese word “propaganda” is used how we might use the word advertisement, but indeed, the English word propaganda comes into play here, too. I saw this image on Facebook, with a great commentary in Portuguese, so I will try to give some English-language context and some of my comments. I mean, first, let’s agree that this ad has plenty wrong with it, before we really dive in. With me? Cool.

So, we have a woman here, full name given, and it says she lives in Rocinha and is a professional waxer. For those who don’t know, Rocinha is the biggest favela in Rio de Janeiro, pacification is a very loaded word, and in November, Rocinha and the favela Vidigal were formally pacified, which entailed bringing in troops and setting up a special police station within the favela. Goals are to eliminate drug and arms trafficking, and to make these South-Zone favelas look nice and pretty for the World Cup/Olympic Games. We also have in this ad the cultural significance of the BOPE, the special operations police force made famous by the Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) movies. They’re a real police force, with the logo of a skull on top of two guns and a sword:

The knife stuck into the skull from the top down signifies victory over death. The red lightning bolt expresses speed and surprise. The guns represent the military police of our country.

Anyway, there are about a million things to say about the symbolism here, about the entire idea of pacification, about the city’s commitment to favela residents at all, but those are words for another day (and that have been said by so many others).  Let’s just look at this advertisement here. Ana Paula, a favela resident, has left this policeman passed out, shirt unbuttoned; clearly she is in control- his special military tactics were no match for her control-top lingerie. Yes, this is a lingerie ad, it should be pointed out.

But this ad is in such poor taste. Naturally, the woman is black and the policeman is white; the fact that she is a woman and her biggest achievement is seducing this man in power is also insulting, as if the only power of a female favela-resident is to use her sexuality over perhaps corrupt law enforcement. The mixing of military images and an all-too recent and controversial pacification campaign with the selling of lingerie just rubs me the wrong way, is all. This ad is meant to grab your attention, and it does aim to be a little humorous, but it just plays into the same repeated tropes we always see.

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