It began as a news report on how some government workers got paid for doing nothing in the legislature of Goias, a state in Brazil’s interior. But the clips of an employee running away from a TV reporter have sparked a national uproar — going viral and inspiring a cellphone game that has been downloaded more than 600,000 times.
In the TV Globo exposé, a reporter attempted to interview a woman who had punched in for work at the state legislature two days running and then headed home via a bakery. On the third day, the program revealed, the woman punched in, then went out for coffee and spent a few hours lazing in a nearby park.
As she left the park, the woman, later identified as Edinair dos Santos Moraes, was approached by a reporter. The interview went like this.
Reporter: “Where do you work?”
Moraes: “Where do I work? At the moment I am unemployed.”
Reporter: “But we have already seen you coming here twice and for the third time this week, Senhora, you go to the assembly, punch in and leave.”
Moraes: “No. I never did this.”
Moraes began hurrying away from the reporter, who followed.
Reporter: “Senhora, you did. We filmed it. Senhora, you were filmed.”
Moraes broke into a run, followed by the reporter.
Reporter: “Senhora, excuse me! Senhora! Are you an assembly employee?”
Reporter: “Senhora, if you don’t have a problem, why are you running?”
The reporter pursued Moraes down the street — but she escaped. And when the anchors in the studio frowned in disapproval, Brazilians howled with laughter. The scene quickly became an Internet phenomenon. (Here's the full report; the fun with Senhora starts at the two-minute mark).
Moraes worked in the offices of Goias state deputy Marlúcio Pereira. She and one of the two other employees featured in the report have subsequently been dismissed.
More than 600,000 people have downloaded the free Android game, in which Moraes attempts to flee the reporter and cameraman, its developers said.
But there is a more serious undercurrent to the “Senhora Come Back Here” hilarity. Brazil is having a broad conversation about morality in reaction to a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, that has dominated headlines for 18 months.
Politicians and high-ranking executives have been jailed in the corruption investigation, called Operation Car Wash. The scandal has hit Brazil’s economy, currently in recession, and even threatens President Dilma Rousseff as she battles the attempts to impeach her.
The success of the “Senhora Come Back Here” game is directly related to reaction to the scandal, said one of its developers.
“People no longer accept the government as it is today. There is a movement to expose corruption more,” said Waldir Rodrigues Jr., 21, who helped create the game for the blog Nerdeek.
The scandal has forced Brazilians to ask themselves difficult questions about their attitudes toward corruption. Some have posted questions on social media such as: “Who never paid a bribe?” Many citizens believe that everyone around them is cheating somehow and that they are suckers if they don’t join in.
Swerving around the rules is called "the little Brazilian way" and considered acceptable because attempting to follow the country's convoluted and Kafkaesque bureaucratic procedures can be impossible.
These bad habits start young. On a TV Globo show last week, studio guests discussed a new survey that showed 69 percent of high school and higher-education students had cheated. Amid laughter, the guests acknowledged that they, too, had cheated or helped others cheat.