6 topics for an HBO TV series on Brazil more original than “high end (white) sex workers”

Three white women pose in lingerie against a white background,

Translation: “El Negocio: The oldest profession in the world needs new strategies.” Image Credit

Earlier this month, HBO Latino announced an upcoming new series titled “El Negocio,” about three white women looking to revolutionize the sex work industry in Brazil, and the concept made me yawn. 

For one thing, the premise relies on same tired old trope of the hypersexual Latina. Did you know that there are so few media representations of Latinas in a position other than that of “sex object” that they are more likely than women in any other ethnic group to appear naked in movies? Unbeknownst to HBO, many Brazilian women actually spend much of their day working in non-sexual occupations, and wearing plenty of clothing. Just take a look at Brazil’s current president, Dilma Roussef.

Not only is the show’s premise unoriginal, it misrepresents sex workers in Brazil. In a country where a poor educational system forces over half of the population to work within the informal economy, sex work – which is legal in Brazil – is a crucial industry for many marginalized populations. This means that most sex workers are more often low-income women of color. In Brazil, trans women also play an visible role in the sex work industry, as it is too often one of their only viable sources of income. These are the women who have shaped the profession in reality, but of course on HBO, it’s three white women who are “revolutionizing” the industry.

For these reasons, Brazilian feminists are calling HBO Latino out for its unoriginal and unproductive take on what makes Brazilian women interesting. In the following list, Brazilian feminist bloggers and activists came up with plots that represent the women they know and respect.

1. The Right to Abortion 

How about a series based on the real experiences of women who need abortions in a country where the procedure is criminalized? Feminista Cansada is a feminist blogger in Brazil, and she suggested this story.

“Ana Maria is 20 years old, living in São Paulo, preparing to start college in a few months. One day, after weeks of feeling strange, she realizes that she is pregnant. Knowing that she cannot afford to put off school and raise a child, she and her boyfriend begin asking friends where they can obtain an illegal abortion. When they do find a clinic, the cost of the procedure is more money than either of them make after months of working. Will Ana Maria be able to make a choice about her own body and future, or will Brazilian law stop her and her boyfriend from pursuing their education?

2. Women Working for Environmental Justice

Especially in wake of the World Cup and upcoming Olympics, Brazil is developing a very fast rate, often at the expense of the environment and indigenous peoples. This story was inspired by some of those struggles.

“Naiara is a young indigenous girl attending high school in Manaus, Brazil. On the weekends she goes to visit her extended family who all live in a community an hour’s bus ride into the Amazon jungle. One day, she finds out that a company that produces soy is looking to destroy her family’s village to make room for cattle grazing. Now it’s up to Naiara to use her education to defend her community.”

3. Women Street Artists

A blonde woman wearing pink clothing poses in front of a painted wall. Her hands are crossed, and in them are two spray cans, spraying paint. Her face is serious, almost with a "don't fuck with me" message on it.

Many people in Brazil use street art as a form of political protest or awareness raising. Juliana da Faria is the founder of Think Olga, a think tank dedicated to elevating feminist ideas within mainstream conversations, and she wants to see this important work reflected in TV representations of Brazilian women:

“Gloria always wanted to be a classical artist. But without the money to study it formally, to visit international museums or buy easels and paints, she realized that she could pursue her passion elsewhere: through street art. Soon she saw that street art was more accessible than classical art for people in her community. In spite of the discrimination she suffered trying to enter the genre – as street art is seen as a very masculine space – Gloria breaks gender and class barriers by following her dreams and talent.”

4. Women in Soccer

Nadja Marin of the Guerreiras Project, an initiative that uses soccer to analyze gender justice for young girls in Brazil, is looking for a story about a diverse group of women in girls who all have one thing in common: their passion for soccer.

“Alana, Rita, and Luana are best friends living in the interior of Brazil. Every day after school, they gather with the boys in their class to play a game of soccer. Alana plays to avoid going home to an abusive father, Rita, who has a stutter, plays to prove that she is more than the way she talks. Luana is a “filha de criação” who is forced to do domestic work for a family that has informally adopted her. She stays after school whenever she can, to avoid the housework and boredom she faces at home. For each girl, soccer is an escape, and they begin to get so good that they beat the boys every time. Can their talent eventually help them escape their respective cages for good and pursue professional soccer outside of their small town?”

5. Any Show Where a Black Woman is Not a Maid, a Slave, or a Drug Lord’s Girlfriend

Too often in films about Latinxs, Afro-Latinas are present only as objects for sex, service, or violence. When they do have dialogue, it often reinforces stereotypes that black women are always poor, unintelligent, or shallow. Luckily, Blogueiras Negras (Black Women Bloggers) is pushing back against these stereotypes with their Youtube series #AsNegasReal. In honor of this kind of work, Juliana da Faria suggested this story.

“Lúcia, Sílvia and Helena, are three young Afro-Brazilian black girls living on the margins of the city. After school, they practice as a rap group, hoping to break into the male-dominated genre. But when Helena starts falling in love with Lúcia, the girls realize that success comes with confidence and acceptance. This musical tale of love, sexuality, and art will take you on a journey through some of the most real expressions of what it is to be Brazilian today.”


Image Credit: Carol Rossetti

6. Women’s Sexuality

Carol Rossetti, the inspiring designer behind these popular images, spends most of her day writing short stories. She expanded one of my favorites for this list:

“By the time Maite turned 16, all of her friends had already had boyfriends or hook-ups. But she still hadn’t had any romance in her life, either because she was only interested in girls, or because she had never felt that someone liked her back. When she started dating Myrcella, she was so happy that her feet barely seemed to touch the ground. But her parents never took their relationship seriously, saying that it was just a phase, that she was very young to understand her sexuality. They of course, had not said the same thing to her sister when she started dating her boyfriend, Pedro. This coming-of-age story will leave you crying and cheering for Maite as she comes to own her sexuality, in spite of the doubt around her.”


Juliana doesn’t need television when she has feminist stories like these to entertain her.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

Read more about Juliana

Join the Conversation