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A Brazilian animation about drag queens is singled out, criticized on moral grounds

The animation Super Drags recounts the story of three youths who transform into drag queens by night. | Image: Netflix/ Public

In late May 2018, Netflix announced plans to launch Super Drags, the first animation produced in Brazil. The story features three youths who work in a department store during the day and by night transform into drag queen superheroes.

Fans expressed excitement, but various conservative groups targeted the series with fake news about its content. According to a report by O Estado de São Paulo, one social media user accused the cartoon of “provoking homosexuality (sic) in children” and “making apologies for lesbianism (sic) and other sexual practices.”

Netflix produces other animated series for adults such as BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty, but Super Drags was the first to spark controversy.

The Brazilian Paediatrics Society (Sociedade Brasileira de Pediatria–SBP) published an official statement condemning the animation, saying that it “regards with concern” that Super Drags’ will be available to children on Netflix:

A SBP respeita a diversidade e defende a liberdade de expressão e artística no País, no entanto, alerta para os riscos de se utilizar uma linguagem iminentemente infantil para discutir tópicos próprios do mundo adulto, o que exige maior capacidade cognitiva e de elaboração por parte dos espectadores.

SBP respects diversity and defends freedom of expression and art in the country, however, it warns of the risks of using clearly childlike language to discuss topics which belong to the adult world, which requires greater cognitive capacity and processing on the part of spectators.

The Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF) also asked Netflix not to list the series in the children’s category, citing its duty to “the protection of individual inalienable rights, broad or collective,” of children and adolescents.

However, Netflix never said the animation would be made available to children on its platform. O Estado do São Paulo published a piece to clear up the rumors to which Netflix reiterated:

Super Drags é uma série de animação para uma audiência adulta e não estará disponível na plataforma infantil. A seção dedicada às crianças combinada com o recurso de controlar o acesso aos nossos títulos faz com que pais confiem em nosso serviço como um espaço seguro e apropriado para os seus filhos. As crianças podem acessar apenas o nosso catálogo infantil e colocamos o controle nas mãos dos pais sobre quando e a que tipo de conteúdo seus filhos podem assistir.

Super Drags is an animated series for an adult audience and will not be available on the children’s platform. The section dedicated to children comes with the ability to control access to our programs which allows parents to trust our service to be a safe and appropriate space for their children. Children can only access our children’s category and we put the control in the hands of the parents over when and what type of content their children can watch.

Netflix emphasized that “questions of inclusion and diversity are extremely important” to the company, and it will launch the series later in 2018.

Brazilian netizens defend the new series

Brazillian netizens claim Super Drags had been singled out:

If Super Drags is a cartoon for adults why is the Brazilian Paediatrics Society worrying itself?

Funny, the Brazilian Paediatrics Society should, then, try to block all the cartoons for adults that are on Netflix, right? But they chose only the super drags because?

Twitter user Não Me Kahlo recalled older cartoons that were never targeted for censorship:

The Brazilian Paediatrics Society (SBP) “regards with concern the announcement of the debut of an animated cartoon whose plot revolves around youths who transform into drag queen super heroines”. The cartoon is “Super Drags”, from @NetflixBrasil, an animation for ADULTS.
Also:?

Prejudices against the LGBTI community

Prejudices against the series may be linked to deeply ingrained attitudes about gender expression within Brazilian society.

While some critics recognize the difference between drag culture as performance versus deeper debates about gender identity, the series touches a nerve regarding the nation's attitude toward lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).

Brazil has one of the highest rates of reported violence against LGBTI people. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals of Brazil, 179 transgender and cross-dressing people were murdered in Brazil in 2017.

In an interview with Nexo Journal, psychologist Desirèe Monteiro Cordeiro, who works with the Transdisciplinary Clinic for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, said she agrees with the need to protect children from sexually explicit and violent content but that criticism of the series has more to do with taboos:

Os rapazes se transformam em drags e ganham superpoderes. O Super-Homem também põe uma fantasia para combater o crime e isso não é uma questão (…) Se ainda não se sabe nada sobre a série, por que essa retaliação? Isso é censura. Se a criança não dormir às 20h e assistir à novela, ela também vai estar exposta a sexo e violência. É um conteúdo que não é pensado para a criança.

The boys transform into drags and get superpowers. Superman also puts on a costume to combat crime and this is not in question (…) If you still do not know anything about the series, why this reaction? This is censorship. If a child does not go to sleep at 20:00 and watches a soap opera, they will also be exposed to sex and violence. It is content which is not aimed at children.

Cordeiro also highlighted the importance of discussing gender and sexuality with children in a relaxed way:

Falar de identidade de gênero e sexualidade, homossexuais, travestis, transexuais, nas escolas ou onde quer que seja, não significa que tem alguém ali tentando incutir na cabeça das crianças que a diversidade sexual é linda e todo mundo tem que ser também.

(…)

Não é comum, mas existem crianças transexuais. Nesse caso, os outros pais devem conversar porque, no caso de uma escola, as crianças vão questionar. E geralmente elas lidam de um modo muito mais simples. Elas olham e perguntam se é menino ou menina. Dada a resposta, a vida segue e elas vão brincar.

Discussing gender identity and sexuality, homosexuality, crossdressing, transgenders, in schools or wherever you want it to be, does not mean that there is somebody there trying to instill in the children’s heads that sexual diversity is beautiful and that everybody also has to be like that.
(…)
It is not common, but there are transgender children. In this case, the parents must talk because in the school context, children will ask questions. And generally they deal with it in a much simpler way. They look and ask if they are a boy or a girl. Given the response, life continues and they go to play.

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