Here’s Why Most Shows Should Have a Lesbian Couple

Clarina, 2014 (“Em Familia,” primetime telenovela in Brazil)

In Brazil, two things are king: soccer and telenovelas. Telenovelas, which are not to be mistaken for soap operas, can average over 40 million viewers a night, and some of the most popular telenovela episodes have been watched by fully half the Brazilian population at the time of airing.

Clara (Giovanna Antonelli) and Marina (Tainá Müller), who together form “Clarina,” are unique among these case studies because their survival as a couple was entirely dependent on their popularity; Brazilian telenovela scripts are written only a week before shooting and are highly responsive to viewer response, so if the Brazilian public had rejected Clarina, their lesbian storyline would have been nipped in the bud. Instead, Clarina gradually won the hearts and minds of viewers and ended up becoming (reportedly) one of the most popular couples in telenovela history. Here’s how Clarina proves the astounding power of lesbian TV couples:

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What, you haven’t shown off lingerie to the woman you know has feelings for you with your husband appearing at the wrong time in the background?

  • Its YouTube viewership is mind-boggling: On YouTube, the top two Clarina videos have 11 million and 8.2 million views. In comparison, the two most popular videos for Laerte and Luiza, the star straight couple on the show, have only 3.8 million and 622,000 views. Moreover, the most viewed clip of Clara and her husband Cadu has only 20,000 views. To put these viewing numbers into a different context, the most watched YouTube videos for some of the “greatest” heterosexual couples (per E! Online) are: Carrie and Mr. Big from “Sex and the City”—7.7 million, Jamie and Claire from “Outlander”—3.7 million, Derek and Meredith from “Gray’s Anatomy”—2 million, Luke and Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls”—1.2 million. In another context, 11 million is the population of Greece or Bolivia.
  • Viewers preferred the gay to straight pairing: When a poll was conducted on the “Em Familia” website asking viewers to vote for either Cadu or Marina to end up with Clara, Marina took the poll with almost 80% of the vote despite Brazil’s surprisingly homophobic culture.
  • It trended globally a lot on Twitter: Hashtags associated with Clarina trended regularly on Twitter during Clarina’s run. Within Brazil, this included 21 different hashtags either demanding Clarina scenes or asking for equal treatment for Clarina with the show’s heterosexual couples. Globally, 10 hashtags—mostly demanding more equality for Clarina—trended. For context, one of these hashtags trended just below “Kim and Kanye” by number.

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As all lesbians know, food and hair brushing are just foreplay.

  • Its fandom spanned continents: Although it’s not possible to estimate the size of the international fandom, Asian, American, Italian, and Portuguese Clarina fan groups are also known to exist, while both Antonelli and Müller remarked on the energetic participation of fans in Russia.
  • Its actresses won accolades: Antonelli and Müller were both nominated for their roles in the Best Supporting Actress category for Brazil’s Emmy equivalent, the Prêmio Contigo! de TV, although neither won.

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I mean just look at that. How cute is that?

Conclusion: In a culture in which telenovelas are an integral part of television viewing habits, for Clarina to be considered “one of the most popular couples” of all time is huge and speaks to how the couple ended up taking on an outsized role on the show. Moreover, 11 million YouTube views of a single Clarina video suggests the unbelievable magnitude of the couple’s international reach (it is also eight times the average viewership of a single episode of “The 100”). Of all the couples in this article, none come close to the social video platform popularity of Clarina.

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