Telenovelas Present… and Past

Meet the Brazilian actress and TV presenter Tatá Werneck:

Now let’s look at her from another relevant angle:

Prominently featured there, of course, is the part of her that’s going to be soundly spanked!

She plays Fedora, Fefê for short, one of the leading characters in the 2016 telenovela Haja Coração (Let There Be Heart). Her father, businessman Aparício Varela (Alexandre Borges), many years ago gave up the love of his life to marry Teodora, a domineering but wealthy shrew, who has since brought up their daughter to be the same: rich, spoiled and spankable. Now Aparício is the company president, a position Fedora covets for herself – though her true level of business acumen will eventually become apparent from the fact that the man she marries, Leonardo (Gabriel Godoy), is actually a fortune-hunting confidence trickster.

In the course of the story, Teodora is murdered in a helicopter explosion, and leaves her property to Fedora. The daughter decides to be dutiful to her mother, and orders her father to pack up and leave the house. This leads to a physical confrontation, with Fedora slung over her father’s shoulders and kicking vigorously. ‘I should have done this when you were a child,’ he tells her. ‘A good spanking wouldn’t have done you any harm. From now on, things are going to be different.’ But on this occasion he stops short of actually spanking her. Afterwards she tells Leonardo, ‘Daddy yelled at me, he was violent. He never treated me like that. He said I deserved a spanking.’ Leonardo replies, ‘Let him dare! He’ll have me to deal with.’ And that puts down a marker for the future.

The father-daughter power struggle comes to a head when she proposes that he should take a holiday, and shows him a glossy vacation brochure for an island paradise off the coast of Thailand. But then she makes the mistake of telling him that this is no resort but a retirement home where he will be able to live out the rest of his days in comfort – and what’s more, she has already booked his place there. Aparício pretends to treat it as a joke, and father and daughter seem to be laughing it off together.

But in the very next shot, after a jump cut, Fedora isn’t laughing – she’s across his knee!

‘This is to teach you not to be so greedy,’ he says.

Fedora appeals to her husband for help; after all, didn’t he say Daddy would have him to deal with if he ever tried to spank her? But in the event, Leonardo just says, ineffectually, ‘She meant well; why are you so angry?’ Also present is the butler, Ariovaldo (Duda Mamberti), who has a different opinion: it’s what Fedora has needed for a long, long time.

It’s a spectacular and extended spanking, and it helped Tatá Werneck to two Best Actress nominations in separate Brazilian awards programs. And it would have gone on even longer if Fedora’s Aunt Safira hadn’t walked in and put a stop to it:

It is more than a piece of random trivia to note that Aunt Safira is played by Cristina Pereira. She had a history with these characters, for in the 1980s, she too played Fedora Varela…

Fedora and her father had previously been seen on Brazilian television in the 1987-88 telenovela Sassaricando. Haja Coração was described as a reboot rather than a straight remake: it takes the same characters, relationships and back-story, but uses them to tell a different story with different events. So it’s good news that Daniel Ortiz, the writer of the 2016 version, saw fit to include that terrific spanking scene. But the even better news is that the original, written by Silvio de Abreu, also included a spanking scene, also with Fedora and Aparício (Paulo Autran), but completely different circumstances. And it too is wonderful, in a quite different way…

In the 1988 version, Fedora catches her father kissing a woman who is not her mother and, outraged, tries to turn the lady out of the house. This in turn outrages Aparício, who turns Fedora over his knee.

And after a very sound spanking, she retreats to her room, obviously nursing a very sore bottom:

There she locks herself in and takes her revenge by selling a compromising picture of him to a gossip column.

Comparisons are odious but irresistible, though when you are dealing with two spanking scenes that are not only related but also both superlative, the point of the comparison ought not to be to assess which is the better of the two, but the ways in which they are different.

Both are uncommonly long, as spanking scenes and also as fictional spankings: the 2016 scene lasts for 35 seconds and 28 smacks, and the 1988 one for 39 seconds and 38 smacks. (If you need to get your bearings, one of the more familiar of the really good Hollywood spanking scenes of the classic era, in Flying Down to Rio, is 3 seconds and 7 smacks.) The actual spankings (as sustained by the characters rather than the actresses) are even longer, because in neither case do we see the whole thing: in 2016, the scene starts with the spanking already underway, and in 1988 we cut away to other scenes, and then cut back to find the spanking still going on – meaning the program time elapsed from the start of the spanking to the end is an astonishing 8 minutes and 16 seconds! Well, I did say she ends up with a very sore bottom; and, as we shall see, that’s not the only reason…

The most significant difference between the two scenes will emerge if we think about a subject unexpectedly rich with implication, the position of Tatá Werneck’s left arm in this shot:

In all the other shots where the spanking is in vision, her arms are in front of her, like this:

And (this is the point) so is the camera: the angle favors, however slightly, the upper end of her. But when the camera’s shooting from a position further down, her arm is by her side in order to keep her hemline under control.

That was not an issue for Cristina Pereira in 1988, for a very simple and straightforward reason:

Her skirt is raised, and she gets spanked on the seat of her panties!

This does not mean that Tatá Werneck was being excessively modest when she was spanked 28 years later. Here the comparison turns to the two soundtracks. Neither involves any Foley work: when Brazilian television substitutes hard sound effects smacks for the actual ones administered to the actress, the results are crude and obvious and sometimes even out of synch. (There are some spectacularly ineffective examples in otherwise good spanking scenes, both from 2007, in Sete Pecados and Bicho do Mato.) But in Haja Coração and Sassaricando, what you hear is what the actresses actually got. In 2016, that’s a somewhat dull, thudding sound, which tells you exactly what it was that Tatá Werneck wanted to avoid being revealed by a rising hemline: not her panties, but a hefty wad of padding!

Now, there’s no shame in that: just because Fedora is spanked, at length and evidently painfully, doesn’t mean the actress playing her has to be spanked with corresponding soundness. But there is honor for an actress who doesn’t resort to padding, or even, when that isn’t feasible, accept a lighter performance gingered up in the post-production sound dub. So kudos to Cristina Pereira, for on the 1988 soundtrack the smacks are crisp and authentic. And should anyone harbor any lurking skepticism, take a good look at Paulo Autran’s palm making contact with her panties here:

There’s an actress who was genuinely spanked for the scene, and spanked hard!

Tatá Werneck’s inconsistently positioned left arm tells us one other thing: the 2016 scene wasn’t shot all in one go. When assessing the true scale of any spanking scene, the duration and number of smacks don’t contain the whole story. One other consideration is how many smacks are landed onscreen, as opposed to heard and not seen; the figures are 26 in 2016 and 30 in 1988, but since there was no Foley, there’s no question that the sound-only minority were also real. But the thing that really does make a difference, as I have explained at length elsewhere, is the number of different camera setups.

Movies, and nowadays most television shows too, are not filmed continuously but as a series of individual shots that are assembled in post-production to create the complete sequence. This means that every different camera position is set up and lit individually, so that when a spanking is done across more than one shot, from different angles, for the actress it’s like getting a series of shorter spankings in succession, rather than one big one.

Having established that, here’s a compendium of the whole 2016 spanking scene, shot by shot:

Because there’s a lot of dialog during the spanking, each of the characters has their own separate shot for when they are talking, including a close-up of Fedora’s face in her prone position and an upper body shot of Aparício, during which he does some spanking as well as some speaking – and it’s clear that Tatá is still across his knee there and not out of harm’s way. There are also three distinct master shots of the spanking, each with a different camera position, one of which, with the inconsistently placed arm, is used twice. The upshot is that, to make the sequence, Tatá Werneck had to be spanked five times (including twice in close-up), not including rehearsals and any retakes.

There are some of the same visual conventions apparent in the 1988 scene, as you can see here:

But there are also some big differences. For one thing, there’s not nearly so much going on between the characters during the spanking, because here the spanking is itself the primary thing that’s happening between them. So although Aparício and his lady friend Leonora (Irene Ravache) get individual face shots, Fedora is less well served by the camerawork: her part only amounts to a lot of screaming and protest, so she only needs to be seen in the master shots, and the nearest thing she gets to a close-up is the seat of her white panties projecting up into frame in Aparício’s shot.

Talking of the master shots, you may find them a little disappointing.

But there’s a reason why they have to be that way.

In the 1980s, and for some decades before that, television was made much more quickly than film, with multiple cameras shooting the action simultaneously and most of the cutting done by a technician while the scene was actually being performed. They would stop when something went wrong, and there might also be planned breaks to change camera positions, but more of the performance would be captured in real time than was the case with the fragmented production of film and modern TV.

The trade-off against time and efficiency was that there was much less choice in the way individual shots were set up. The Sassaricando spanking scene, for example, was made for the most part with three cameras each looking at a different element of the action, and each one had its angle of vision restricted by the presence of the other two: one thing a television camera shouldn’t show the audience was another camera!

With that information, we can deduce exactly how the scene was made. It begins with a wide shot of the whole set, taken by a fourth camera on a crane, as Aparício puts his daughter across his knee, administers a first smack and then starts to move her skirt and petticoats out of the way.

After that, and apparently without a break in the action, the director cuts to the three main cameras at ground level, just out of frame in the crane shot. Left to right as you look into the set, they are ranged to the left of the coffee table (shooting Aparício’s face), then on the near side behind it (shooting the master of the spanking) and then at the end of the sofa (shooting Leonora’s face). That’s why the master shot is angled ‘head on’, looking down Fedora’s body lengthwise rather than showing her laterally across the frame: the only camera that could see that is concentrating on Aparício’s close-up, with a bit of bottom thrown in from time to time in the lower part of the frame.

But it seems they ran into trouble partway through this sequence. If you look at the middle three shots in the second row of the compendium, you’ll notice that the first camera tightens on Aparício’s face, taking Fedora’s panties out of shot (though the sound tells us she’s still getting thoroughly spanked, no half-measures). That can’t have been done in real time, because the intervening shot of Leonora lasts for only half a second. They must have broken off, zoomed the camera in and started again. And that means Cristina Pereira is getting, in effect, her second spanking of the session.

After the close-up comes the cutaway to other scenes, and then we come back to the night-time shot of the house and its lighted window, with the sound of the spanking still going on more than seven minutes later. But when we go back inside, two things have moved:

The camera taking the master shot has edged a little further to the right, making the shot even more ‘head on’, which means this is a new setup rather than a continuation of the previous one. So Cristina is now getting her third spanking, and she has adjusted the position of her left arm. The reason for that is to facilitate what follows:

Reminded by Leonora that they are going to be late, Aparício pitches Fedora off his lap without even bothering to set her dress to rights, and her well-spanked bottom makes direct contact with the floor. The change of arm position helps to give Cristina more control over the fall.

And once she’s off, the reason for the change of camera position also becomes clear: it was to give the cameraman a better angle of turn for when he has to follow her as she backs away, rubbing her bottom,

while the third camera (previously taking Leonora’s close-up) widens out to a two-shot of the women.

And although most of our attention is bound to be on Fedora’s tender bumbum, as the Brazilians call it, let’s also spare a thought for her father’s hand – because, as the aftermath shows us, that’s sore too!

So there you have it: two telenovelas, two actresses, two very different spankings. In 2016, a scene produced with the loving eye for detail that gives us some superior shot composition,

and in 1988, that never-to-be-sniffed-at rarity, a long, hard and completely mainstream white panty spanking!

You may be able to view the 2016 scene here. And for a little more of Tatá Werneck, in her brunette days, go here.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Will for his help with this article.

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