- In September, the ultra-conservative evangelical mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, attempted to ban a Marvel comic featuring a same-sex kiss.
- Felipe Neto, a YouTuber with more than 34 million followers thwarted his plan by purchasing every copy of the comic and giving them away
- Neto spoke to Insider about how he now believes he’s become a target of Brazil’s far-right government.
- Visit Insider’s home page for more stories.
At a book fair in Brazil in September, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro – ultra-conservative evangelical Marcelo Crivella –unleashed a team of law enforcement agents on the space to hunt for dangerous material.
His target? A Marvel comic book featuring a same-sex kiss between two superheroes.
In response, 31-year-old YouTuber Felipe Neto – a popular vlogger with more than 34 million followers – purchased all of the available copies of the comic and gave them away.
“Guys, we need to protect our children,” the mayor wrote in a tweet alongside a video message. “As a result, we have determined that the Biennial organisers collect books with content that is unsuitable for minors. It is not right for them to have early access to subjects that are not appropriate for their ages.”
A few hours later, Neto had purchased every copy of the offending Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. But he didn’t stop there. He also bought all the gay, transsexual, bisexual, and intersex-themed books that were sold on newsstands and gave those away to attendees of the fair.
Since then, Neto – whose videos typically humorously cover pop culture and lighter subjects – has become a central figure in Brazil’s culture wars, fighting against the conservative populism that has spread across the country in recent months.
A crackdown on LGBTQ rights, despite a history of liberal policy
Brazil has historically been one of the more LGBTQ-friendly countries in South America, and the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade is one of the biggest in the world. Brazil legalised same-sex marriage in 2013, though activists fear the new government will attempt to repeal the law.
Since Jair Bolsonaro assumed power in September 2018, his ultra-conservative ideas have echoed among lesser-known Brazilian politicians, Mayor Crivella included. Bolsonaro is openly anti-gay, and in 2011, he told Playboy magazine that he’d rather his son “die in an accident show up with a mustachioed guy. He’d be dead to me anyway.”
On his visit to the book fair in early September, Crivella recorded images of what he considered were books with inappropriate scenes for children. “This can’t be induced, be it in schools, in a book, or wherever,” the mayor told the New York Times of the LGBTQ materials. “We will always continue to defend the family.”
Crivella’s order generated a scandal throughout Brazil, and the country’s high court later issued an injunction against the mayor, forbidding him from banning the book.
The incident sparked an outcry from the public. At the book fair that weekend, attendees shouted “down with censorship!” and the publisher Faro set up a table selling “Books That Are Forbidden By Crivella,” featuring LGBTQ titles.
“There is a plan in action that links ultra-conservative right-wing politicians with religious leaders. This power play aims to compel society to live up to their rules of what they consider moral and ethical, oppressing and silencing those who fight for freedom and acceptance of what is ‘different from the norm’,” Neto told Insider. “Opposing it is the duty of every citizen who possesses basics nations of history. Oppression and control can never win.”
Neto gave away more than 14,000 books, wrapping them in black plastic with the note “unfit for backward, retrograde and prejudiced people.”
But the action was not without consequences. Neto says he’s received death threats and has been the target of a “coordinated attack by government officials to kill my reputation.”
“It has been very difficult to fight against this, but the number of people on my side is much larger than the number of opposing people,” he continued. In response to the death threats against him, Neto received an invitation from Brazilian author Paul0 Coelho to stay with him in Switzerland.
This isn’t the first time Neto has come under fire from politicians from Bolsonaro’s party, PSL. In April, Deputy Carlos Jordy accused Neto of inciting the Suzano school massacre in which two former students of the school brutally killed eight students and two workers before dying by suicide. The deputy claimed the killers were motivated to kill by a video in which Neto showed his audience how to access the dark web. Jordy was later forced to apologise for his comments.
Neto insists the move wasn’t meant to jump start a political career.
“With 34 million followers, I have much more to do outside politics than inside,” he said. “I don’t find power attractive, all I want is to fight for a fairer and more equal world.”
- Read more:
- Rio de Janeiro’s mayor tried to ban an ‘Avengers’ comic book for showing 2 men kissing
- Brazil has angrily attacked offers to help it put out the huge fires in the Amazon – here’s why it is pushing back against global outrage
- The president of Brazil slams Carnival and tweets an explicit video after South America’s biggest street party made him a laughing stock
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