While half of Netflix’s subscriber base lives in the United States, Brazil provides its second biggest audience and the global streaming platform’s audience in Brazil is rapidly increasing. Thus, it is challenging privately owned TV Globo, the main producer of content in Brazil and one of the world’s largest networks. Since 2017, Netflix has been developing series in Brazil, which it markets both inside and outside of the country. Its original speculative fiction series, 3%, for example, is set in an all-too recognizable dystopia with increased inequality, racial supremacism, and a turn towards the political right across Brazil, the United States, and Europe. Netflix describes the series as an international success.
Netflix mediates Brazilian racial and class discourses and circulates transnational racial ideologies. The transformative shifts in global circulation, formats, and production of media texts replicate hegemonic racial hierarchies while also offering potential for disruption. Brazilian audiences have until quite recently largely consumed domestic television and have a strong tradition of national telenovela (serial melodrama) viewership. However, an increase in television consumption via the internet also opened the gateways to global streaming platforms such as Netflix. TV Globo is largely a media monopoly and whiteness dominates television screens even though Brazil is a majority non-white nation. Globo has exported its telenovela products across the globe, but breaks new ground by reaching English-speaking audiences, who seem to be tolerating the use of subtitles.
Unlike traditional Globo telenovelas, 3% features multiple Afro-Brazilian actors in major roles. Thus its transnational circulation presents a view of Brazil that challenges the myth of a racial paradise of harmonious mixing. The global reach of the series and its success potentially challenges pervasive white normativity. Furthermore, Netflix, as a competitor to TV Globo, potentially ruptures racial hierarchies of hegemonic whiteness.