‘Most Beautiful Thing’ shows gender inequality in late ‘50s

Netflix looks into sexism in the late ‘50s with a new Brazilian show that mixes social issues and the country’s popular culture.

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This article contains spoilers for “Most Beautiful Thing.”

“Most Beautiful Thing” is the newest Brazilian Netflix addition, exploring a brand new take on intersectionality. The show debuted on March 22 and it follows the lives of four Brazilian women with different stories but one thing in common: a desire to challenge society’s view of women in the ‘50s.

The plot develops around the life of Maria Luiza (Maria Casadevall), or simply Malu. Daughter of a wealthy family of coffee farmers in São Paulo, she moves to Rio de Janeiro to meet her husband, who is opening a new restaurant, only to find out that he left with all her money. He left no explanations and no letters. All she was left with was a vague phone call of a quick and out-of-context apology, an old and messy apartment and the empty space where the restaurant should be.

From this moment on, Malu decides to fight and open the business her way: a music club, with live music and without the help of a man. As she says during the trailer for the show, “Never let your husbands control your money. Let alone your lives.”

In the process of creating her music club from scratch, she gets the help of three women. Adélia (Pathy Dejesus), a black woman, granddaughter of slaves, single mother and Malu’s main partner on the business, with whom she shares half of the profits; the feminist Thereza (Mel Lisboa), who is the only woman writing for a magazine which focuses on the female public; and finally Malu’s childhood friend Lígia (Fernanda Vasconcellos), who has the dream of becoming a singer but can’t pursue her passion because her husband wouldn’t let her.

“Most Beautiful Thing” comes down to four women fighting for their right to work in four very different ways. While they do so, the show approaches themes such as the racism towards Adélia, Thereza’s bisexuality and Lígia’s abusive relationship, creating a sense of intersectional feminism.

As a March release, the show falls in time with Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 worldwide, and “Most Beautiful Thing” is getting national recognition in its home country for its female empowerment.

“It’s very rare to see this many female protagonists,” Maria Casadevall said during a press conference. The actress plays Malu in the show. “To be able to talk about [women] with this spotlight is great.”

The show is also provides a look into one of Brazil’s most popular music genres: bossa nova. The mix of American jazz and Brazilian samba was born in the ‘50s and is the main genre played in Malu’s and Adélia’s bar, named “Most Beautiful Thing.” Throughout the show, other references to Brazilian culture at the time are made, such as politics and the change of the national capital from Rio to Brasilia.

The seven episodes of “Most Beautiful Thing” create the fourth original Brazilian work on Netflix. The drama is already having an impact on its home country, especially with its cast speaking out on social issues.

“I believe I’m an empowered woman and playing a woman with no voice at her time was very hard for me, it really hurt,” Dejesus, who plays Adélia, said in a press conference. “But my character’s transformation really comforted me.”

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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