Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brazil: Did "Autism House" go too far?

Humor is subjective and what may be funny to some can also be offensive to others. It's a lesson that the cast and crew of one Brazilian TV show seem to be learning the hard way.

An episode of "Comedia MTV" that originally aired on March 22nd came under fire for a sketch parodying the reality series "Big Brother." The sketch entitled "Casa dos Autistas” ("Autism House") depicted mentally disabled individuals (as played by the show's cast) punching a piano and scratching the paint off the walls while trapped in a house.

Numerous public reactions regarding "Casa dos Autistas” included an online petition signed by several thousand people calling the sketch "disrespectful and immoral." Legislator Paulo Pimenta called for a government investigation based on his view that the show "reinforced the notion of segregating those who are not 'normal'." "If they knew what it's like (to have an autistic son) they never would've depicted them that way," said the member of a Brazilian disability rights group to the local press.

The uproar led MTV Brasil to issue a formal apology including a mea culpa that aired at the start of last week's episode of "Comedia MTV". "Autism is a serious issue that should be treated respectfully," read part of the apology to "those who were offended" by the sketch in question.

A recent article noted that numerous Brazilian TV comedians disagreed with the uproar over the "Casa dos Autistas” sketch. Several humorists observed that the main problem was the execution of the sketch rather than the joke itself:
(Member of the"Casseta & Planeta" comedian team Marcelo Madureira said) the problem with 'Comedia MTV' was the length of the joke. Overstretched and lacking grace"...

"I think the great fun of an autistic house is that nothing happens. The problem was the interpretation was too real. People would understand if the tone of the sketch was more jocular" (said Gregorio Duvivier, a member of the comedy series Z.É. (Zenas Emprovisadas).)
The controversy over the "Comedia MTV" troupe comes three years after an uproar in Australia over a "Chaser's War on Everything" sketch satirizing the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But did the "Casa dos Autistas” cross the line between humor and insult. Judge for yourself via the following TV Globo report on the controversy that includes clips from the "Casa dos Autistas” sketch:

Video Source - YouTube
Online Source - Terra Brasil, MS Aqui, MTV Brasil,, ABC News

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