What is Gérson's law?

Be careful what you say as it might stick with you forever. That’s the advice former Brazilian footballer Gérson should have been given before he did a TV commercial for the cigarette brand Vila Rica in the 70s. In it, he uttered the now immortal words:

I like to get an advantage in everything. Get an advantage too, get Vila Rica.

Given his fame and stature in Brazil, this phrase found its way into Brazilian culture, and became known as Lei de Gérson, or Gérson’s Law. The law dictates that ‘one should take unfair advantage out of every possible situation, having no concern for ethics.’

Gérson was unhappy with the association and said this of the aftermath:

“Houve um erro de interpretação. O pessoal começou a entender como ser malandro. No segundo anúncio dizíamos: “levar vantagem não é passar ninguém para trás. É chegar na frente”, mas essa frase não ficou. A sabedoria popular usa o que lhe interessa. Nos anos 80 começaram a surgir sujeiras, escândalos e as pessoas começaram a usar a Lei de Gerson.”


And the English translation, courtesy of DeepL:

“There was a misinterpretation. People started to understand it as being naughty/deceitful. In the second ad we said: ‘taking advantage is not passing anyone behind. It is to get ahead”, but this sentence didn’t stay. Popular wisdom uses what interests it. In the 80s dirt and scandals started to appear and people started using Gerson’s Law”.

Some thought the law was justified, such as this from the editor of Super Interessante:

The enunciation of Gérson’s law lays bare the essence of our unashamed character: we are a people who like to take advantage. So what? Would anyone here be proud to be part of a nation of fools and suckers?

See also: Jeitinho Brasileiro [PT] and malandragem

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