This is a post I’ve wanted to write since I started this site. I never quite knew how to approach it, but if I don’t try, I’ll probably never get around to it. How’s that for overhyping it? There are a lot of nostalgia blogs out there, but luckily we aren’t all into the same things. That’s cool – I’m used to be weird and different. Still, I’m amazed that no one has really delved into what we’re going to look at today. I mean, it’s ripe for today’s era of internet ridicule! Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about childhood crushes in my Twitter circle, yet no one mentioned this person. Anyway, today we’re talking about Xuxa.
Xuxa (pronounced SHOO-shuh) is a name that means a LOT in South America, but sounds like baby gibberish to anyone in North America. Xuxa, AKA Maria da Graca Meneghel, DOMINATED the Brazilian children’s television scene for almost twenty years. She also banged Pele. Even people who don’t know a thing about soccer still know the name “Pele”. Yup, he hit it. A LOT.
Anyway, Xuxa started her career as a teen magazine model, and the brilliant South American marketing machine decided “This chick would probably be good with kids.” And there was no turning back. There are even rumors that Michael Jackson’s people had sought her out to marry Michael and bear his children. After all, they both loved children, and it would also strengthen their brands. She politely declined, saying that she could only do that for love. So, that’s the story of how Pele beat Michael Jackson. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about any of this. Well, what most of Generation Y seems to have forgotten is that Xuxa had a brief yet memorable run on American television. Back in 1993, as the world was winding down on Turtles, but revving up on Rangers, Xuxa had a syndicated daily show for kids. And it was FILLED with glorious mindfuckery (I’m gonna try to get through this with as few YouTube clips as possible, ’cause I want this to stand the test of time; nothing’s sadder than an old post full of dead links)!
The marketing tagline for Xuxa’s US show was “It’s FUNbelievable!” Ya know, ’cause it was fun AND unbelievable. God bless ’em! Anyway, Xuxa was a cavalcade of bullshit. Honestly, it introduced kids to a lot of things they’d never experienced, and didn’t possess the vocabulary to define. Imagine if Lisa Frank was a flamboyant stripper, and was given her own TV show. It was like a rave sponsored by the United Colors of Benetton, with people in panda suits and beautiful women with a poor grasp on the English language. At the same time, you knew something was up with Xuxa. You didn’t know what, but you knew you were tingling in an area that hadn’t tingled before, and you didn’t know what to do about it. It wouldn’t be until a few years later, when fellow middle school classmates would say, “Oh, yeah. Xuxa’s totally a porn star.”
And where was she from? She was the blondest of blondes, so it seemed like she hailed from Sweden. I mean, just listen to how cutely she butchered the English language in that video clip! Schoolyard chums even said, “Oh yeah, she totally did porn in Sweden.” Clearly, they had more intel than I did – after all, this was pre-Internet. So, imagine my surprise when I later found out she was Brazilian! They had blonde people in Brazil? I never saw that on Telefutura! Yeah, there are two things wrong with that sentence: 1) Telefutura is FULL of blonde people and 2) Brazilians speak Portuguese and not Spanish. I had a lot to learn back then. Anyway, what they were probably talking about was Love Love Estranho – an erotic movie Xuxa filmed in 1982, in which she’s naked as she kisses a 13 yr old boy. In fact, she had even sued to prevent widespread release of the film.
So, why don’t you remember this show? Well, it was only on for a season. In MD, it came on in the morning on WDCA Channel 20. I remembered watching it before school, but even I was too old for it by that point. Still, the tingling. I mean, look at those toy soldier cheerleaders and the knee socks! Plus, Xuxa herself wasn’t without controversy. Some of her outfits put the Slave Leia getup to shame, and she ended each episode by kissing a young, prepubescent boy on the cheek (just couldn’t get that out of her system, I guess). It was as sensual as it could be without her being employed by a local school system. The most jarring aspect to me, however, was that whole Hitler Youth intro. They’re shouting her name. They don’t even really know who she is, yet they chant for their sexy, foreign leader to arrive with her panda minions.
I’ve often wondered what Xuxa meant to accomplish. I mean, she had already conquered South America, but apparently you haven’t “made it” until you succeed in America. Still, it was such a confusing show. She was WAY too sexual, even in a coy, covert way, to be surrounded by children. Today’s kids shows commonly have two layers: the juvenile humor for kids and something somewhat sophisticated for parents. Was that happening here? The animals and zany shit were for kids, but were Xuxa and the dancers for dads? If so, that could be why the show died so quickly. Dad ain’t watching as many shows with the kids as mom, and Xuxa was PRIME hater bait. I’m sure there were very few moms who walked away from that show with nice things to say about its host. Belie’ dat.
In a lot of ways, Xuxa’s appeal was similar to Michael Jackson’s: she was just a big kid, who never wanted to grow up. The problem they shared, however, was that you just can’t continue to hang around kids like that after a certain point. There’s an age when dressing up like a toy soldier should only be done in the confines of your own home. It was only a matter of time before some uptight parent group came after her.
Unlike Michael, Xuxa’s not dead AND the years have been very, very kind to her. I’d really love for her to take another shot at American stardom. Apparently, her popularity is waning back home, but she could reinvent herself here (Hey, it worked for Trisha Goddard!). A mom herself now, Xuxa has started targeting her brand to kids ages 0-10. They could give her a show on E!, which seems to be the current home of reality shows based on performers unfamiliar to Americans (seriously, how many Americans listen to The Saturdays?). Or they could add her to The View, as I here some chairs are opening up over there. I don’t really care what they do, but she should know that one of her American fans misses her. I’m sure she’d like to know that.