Historically, TV has given us some fantastic teenage same-sex pairings. So many, in fact, that it would be unfair to single out just a handful as examples. There’s something about teenage pairings that’s special. For one thing, teenage characters tend to be well written, maybe because adolescent audiences have shorter attention spans and higher expectations than adults, necessitating a higher level of writing and production. For another, because shows targeting teenagers also generally intend to subtly influence their viewers, gay storylines are almost exclusively sympathetic to gay characters, broadcasting a message of positive encouragement: it’s okay to be gay. Even when the character’s family is initially intolerant, they usually come around, while the character’s friends are mostly supportive. The cumulative effect is to make teen-centric TV shows a great venue for gay and lesbian storylines.
That said, most of the teenage same-sex pairings of which AfterEllen is aware have come from English-speaking countries, probably in part because of persistent homophobia in other parts of the world that make stations skittish about showing lesbian storylines for teenagers. Enter Brazil. AfterEllen readers will know that Clara and Marina from the 2014 Brazilian telenovela “Em Família” are my OTP, so it’s no surprise that when Brazilian television makes an effort on lesbian storylines, it can do things right (I still haven’t watched the webseries “RED” yet, but I’m sure it’s fantastic).
This season on “Malhação – Viva a Diferença” (which has been translated as “Live the Life, Celebrate the Difference,” but in English is titled “Young Hearts: Embrace Diversity”) a soap opera that’s been on air for 22 years, a female same-sex love story was introduced for the first time (as was a male same-sex storyline). For international viewers, “Malhação” (which, like “Em Família,” is produced by Rede Globo) will feel most similar to “Degrassi” and “Skins,” and tells the stories of the lives of high school students.
Lica (Manoela Aliperti), who for the record kind of looks like a young Kate Moennig, and Samantha (Giovanna Grigio) start their shared storyline as fellow students. Lica is a passionate artist with a wild side, while Samantha is a flirtatious, free spirited musician. At a party, the two match on a teenage Tindr-like application and afterwards both girls separately come to the conclusion that having kissed a girl for fun, they liked it.
Word of this budding romance spreads pretty much immediately and the future couple is shipped by literally everyone around them at school before they’re even a couple. Lica is all for trying forrealz dating, but it takes Samantha a little time to come around, at which time the pair is officially christened “Limantha” by their friends. Following an adorable paint fight, the two move into full-on 100% adorable mode, although they refuse to label themselves as being in a relationship.
The biggest complaint one could have about Limantha is that they don’t get much as much screen time as fans would like, probably because of the number of other major characters on the show and how long it took to pair them together. (Many viewers have also complained that like with “Em Familia,” Globo is still holding back on showing same-sex kisses to placate its conservative viewership, a charge that might very well be true.)
“Malhação” is now entering the final stretch of its run, and it’s unclear where Limantha will be at the end. Together and happy? Broken up and each going her separate way? Maybe don’t invest your heart too much into this couple lest it get broken. Ultimately, it’s a pity that such a cute couple took so long to be paired together. Although much of the storyline leading up to Limantha was setting the stage for Lica (Samantha fills all the holes that Lica’s previous male partners couldn’t), it would have been nice to have a long denouement full of cuddles and relationship stuff. Part of providing lesbian visibility for teenagers is showing a couple together over time, demonstrating the potential in a relationship.
Fans claim Limantha is the most popular couple on “Malhação” this season, a claim that appears to be supported by at least some data. According to the social media tracker Talkwalker, during the week of 16 January the hashtag #Limantha was used 9,900 times, representing a reach of 59.8 million Twitter users. None of the other couples on the show came remotely close to those numbers. Furthermore, although it’s not entirely due to Limantha, it’s probably also not a coincidence that this season is the most watched season of “Malhação” since 2009 and it is the first to be exported internationally in 13 years.
All of this should mean good things for the future of lesbian storylines on Brazilian TV. If Globo hasn’t noticed, that’s two female same-sex storylines in a row that have sparked massive fan support (although of course, both storylines also generated opposition from conservative fans, too). Three if we count “Senhora do Destino,” another soap opera Globo aired in 2004, whose lesbian scene became the most watched video on Globo’s website and topped the show’s already record high ratings. For the rest of the world, Limantha’s success should be a sign that audiences are not only receptive to these storylines on teen-focused shows, but hungry for them. Rather than fearing viewer backlash, stations should lean into gay and lesbian storylines, even marketing them to an international audience.