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« The Wall Street Journal on Brazil | Main | Guest Post: The Lost Gringo Trick »

March 31, 2010

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Tritone

First and foremost, it should be noted that any mention of Brazil on TV, or any kind of media, is extremely rare in the U.S. I practically grew up with TV and movies, and I don't recall ever hearing anything about the country. You can count the number of TV shows/movies that prominently feature Brazil, or anything related to the country, in the last 20 some-odd years, on one hand. This is tantamount to asking about media images/stereotypes of Bulgaria in the U.S; THERE ARE NONE. By and large, Brazil is almost completely absent from American television.

I notice, from my exchanges with Brazilian language partners on the internet, that they have the perception that there is a very negative image of Brazil in the U.S, perpetrated by "Hollywood" and the news Media, which is simply not the case. There is no "image" of Brazil, good or bad. Ask the average American what they think of Brazil, and their mind will go completely blank - people are not even familiar with the "stereotypes" of Brazil. Most people that know anything about the country, are just now learning about it, since Brazil is currently undergoing a submergence in popularity in the U.S not seen since the days of Carmen Miranda.

Secondly, most of TV and Movies is FICTION; its entertainment that does not have the presumption of accurately representing the real world. Not even a 2 hour documentary on Brazil would be able to present a "complete view" of a country that is of continental proportions with seemingly infinite cultural diversity. Even the best academic books on the subject, only manage to approximate the complexity of Brazilian history/culture in several volumes. Why does anybody expect that from TV sitcoms/dramas?

...and what exactly would this "realistic" depiction of Brazil be? Ideally whats the "image" of Brazil that everyone would like to be portrayed? I ask because, brazilians seem to never be satisfied with anything. Everything is a negative "stereotype" to them: carnival is just a stereotype, the Amazon is just a stereotype, football is a stereotype, beaches, women, samba, caipirinhas etc..all stereotypes. Whats the real Brazil then?

Jolly

Tritone,

Brazilians have a huge chip on their shoulders/inferiority complex when it comes to wealthy white nations (USA being the most hated). However this is not exclusive to Brazilians. It is true for latin americans, south europeans, arabs and indians (from India) that i know of.

I once read an article on the reasons a person from a poor country might hate the west or the US. there were 3 reasons - 1. culture clash - 3rd worlder is disgusted/enraged by how americans/westerners think and act, lifestyle, etc they see via media, 2. humiliation/envy - the americans/westerners are materially better off (which makes 3rd worlders question if its a race thing or if they simply have the wrong system), 3 - fear/mistrust of different people - 3rd world societies are very intolerant towards different ideas and people (way more compared to rich societies) and they fear/distrust what is different and thus hostile to them (powerful foreign society = powerful army = danger)

Go to website imdb and read comments on foreign films boards. The natives of the 3rd world countries that the movies were made go nuts on the messageboards saying how they hate americans, they are not all poor, history stuff like vietnam/iraq, etc etc. the usual crap. They have very low tolerance of different views and are very sensitive to what a person from a powerful country might think or write. Totally different from the US as you know, we couldnt care less and we get flamed more than al countries combined but know how to deal with different opinions.

As far as what Brazilians would like the americans to think of Brazil? easy - that they are all white (fair complexion like northern europeans), they are all extremely rich with servants and high tech gadgets (like some modern day landowner). Actually if you want to see what Brazilians wish Brazil would be go to an Arab place full of money like Dubai or Abu Dabhi - white prostitutes, imported 1st world high tech workers and products/ infrastructure to mask a hierarchical theocratic socities built on the back of modern day slaves.

Adriana

''As far as what Brazilians would like the americans to think of Brazil? easy - that they are all white (fair complexion like northern europeans), they are all extremely rich with servants and high tech gadgets (like some modern day landowner). Actually if you want to see what Brazilians wish Brazil would be go to an Arab place full of money like Dubai or Abu Dabhi - white prostitutes, imported 1st world high tech workers and products/ infrastructure to mask a hierarchical theocratic socities built on the back of modern day slaves''

Opiniões diversas são sempre importantes para que seja possível avaliar idéias pré-concebidas sobre nossa cultura e que são sistematicamente reproduzidas em nosso cotidiano, além de ser uma ótima oportunidade de analisarmos melhor certas situações, no entanto, o comentário acima não poderia ser mais ridículo e sem noção, além de ser um ótimo exemplo de alguém que não tem a menor idéia do que se passa na cabeça dos brasileiros....credo!!!

Marcio E. Goncalves

Jolly, amigao, it doesn't make any sense to say that brazilians hate the "western world" simply because WE ARE PART OF THE WESTERN WORLD!!!

If there's something that really bothers me in the way that americans (and British too) think about Brazil is this weird (and very ignorant, by the way) idea that we're not part of the western (or "occidental" - as we use in all romance languages) world.

Everytime I read some stupid article (even in great magazines, like The Economist) saying that brazil is not western or just "Westernized" (that's like saying a carioca eh apenas "brasileirado") I have to cringe.

What defines the western world? Lets see: Geographic Location in the West? Check. Greek-Roman culture, institutions and language? Check. Judeo-Christian tradition? Check.

Well, in all those aspects we're actually MORE western than the USA - Rio was actually the capital of a European Empire for two decades, for god's sake.

But for some crazy reason nowadays people tend to use "western" world as synonymous of rich countries and we, surprise, are denied of our traditions and origin. All of a sudden we're not more western!

I'd be fine with this new definition if we were talking only about how rich a country is, but every time someone uses the term "western world" they're also implying the western values.

Well, we do have those values too.

To pretend that Brazil (and the rest of Latin America) are not "Western" is a very convenient way for the "Western world" to ignore a whole continent where those values didn't work out that well.

(The idea that Brazil is not a western country is so alien for a Brazilian that basically almost brazilian is shocked when they discover that americans don't consider them western
- "ocidentais" como falamos).

P.S. But you you're totally right in saying that there is not really a fixed stereotype about Brazil here in the USA. Most americans tend to either think Brazil is just Mexico with other name or (the ones with a little bit more culture) Brazil is just Rio de Janeiro.

Junior

"Everything is a negative "stereotype" to them: carnival is just a stereotype, the Amazon is just a stereotype, football is a stereotype, beaches, women, samba, caipirinhas etc..all stereotypes. Whats the real Brazil then?"

Tritone, nem em 50 anos de estudos em "Harvard" você conseguiria obter uma resposta para essa pergunta... Acredite, cara.

"As far as what Brazilians would like the americans to think of Brazil? easy - that they are all white (fair complexion like northern europeans), they are all extremely rich with servants and high tech gadgets (like some modern day landowner). Actually if you want to see what Brazilians wish Brazil would be go to an Arab place full of money like Dubai or Abu Dabhi - white prostitutes, imported 1st world high tech workers and products/ infrastructure to mask a hierarchical theocratic socities built on the back of modern day slaves."

Jolly, relexa; não é nada disso. Pra ser sincero, eu teria um pouco de vergonha de dizer que sou um branco ricaço com um monte de empregados. Além disso, ninguém por aqui odeia os EUA baseado em algum "complexo de inferioridade" -- até mesmo porque, no final das contas, nós sabemos muito bem que não somos "inferiores".

O Brasil, com todos os indiscutíveis defeitos, é um país muito rico culturalmente. Mesmo com o sistema de educação deficiente, desde cedo nós tomamos consciência de quão importante é a nossa literatura, nossa música e nosso teatro -- para citar o mínimo. Isso faz com que a maioria de nós, cientes de certas questões políticas contemporâneas, nos sintamos um pouco incomodados quando pessoas relativamente leigas em certos assuntos reduzem toda a nossa cultura ao samba, ao carnaval e à caipirinha. Isso não é excesso de sensibilidade.

Os EUA, por outro lado, são odiados por todo o mundo -- e não somente por países de terceiro mundo. Juro que não quero devolver a ofensa, mas essa é a realidade. A maioria das pessoas se incomodam com um povo que, baseado em um capitalismo exagerado, alastra a miséria e a fome por todo o mundo -- isso sem falar nas guerras, que já é assunto pra lá de batido.

No final, quase ninguém inveja vocês. Nem os brasileiros. O mundo inteiro não está correndo atrás do sonho americano. Te dou palavra.

Junior.

Jolly

Marco E Goncalves,

Nice to see you here again. Yes i dont consider Brazil or Latin

America to be a part of the western world. I consider the western

world to be NorthWestern Europe, North America, Australia and New

zealand. Those of you who know geography will notice i left the

latin/mediterranean countries out (pay your debt Greece!).

Brazilians (the majority regardless of social class) DO hate (or

atleast despise) the western world. I define western world as a number

of societies that share the same cultural, ideological and moral

framework. So no racism cries because it is NOT linked to genetics.

Do Brazilians think rule of law is oppressive to their freedom to

behave like maniacs in public (chaotic traffic and lines, trashing

streets, no concept of public place, etc)? Yes.

Do they think free market capitalism is horrible because it leads to

violence like gang turf war and you cant trust individual freedom of

fellow citizens because people are "bandidos" and so the government

must control everything since society is worthless? yes.

Do they have a collectivist/absolutist behavior (like watching soap

opera or soccer everyday) linked to the identity of the country and

anything else outside of it (interest in other sports, languages,

history, religions, ideologies, etc of the world) is considered

traitor/laughable/potential subversive? yes.

concepts such as individual action/responsibility (as in you are

responsible for your destiny) free market capitalism, liberalism and

grass roots democracy/ngos are almost insults in brazil. they value

strong government control of economy and society, group think, punish

of the different because cant deal with different views, etc. Not to

mention phrases/words such as rule of law, accountability, dissent,

and others that describe a culture of equals with high degree of

respect for individualism DONT EVEN EXIST in their language.

If your definition of western is "similar to mediterranean/southern

europe" then by all means latin america and brazil are western. But

they have NOTHING in common with the regions i mentioned that i

consider to be western. And its not only British and Americans who

dont consider Brazil to be westerners. Scandinavians, Dutch, Germans

and Swiss also dont. Brazilians have way more in common with other

latin Americans, southern europeans or say middle easterners in

behavior and mentality than with the western world.

You read the Economist? Same here, pretty good articles. They posted

last week an article on why the biggest division in Europe is Northern

europe (individual responsibility, sound economics, savings and

investment, efficiency, high level of organizational behavior that

lead to low level of corruption in corporations and government) vs

Southern europe (almost no individual responsability, its all

government, concept of socialism of economics which doesnt understand

productivity, generation of prosperity, debt, inflation, low level of

group organization which leads to corruption, nepotism and predator

mentality). I think its still free to read since its recent.

i also have previous posts on similar topics:

http://riogringa.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/09/top-ten-reasons-you-kno

w-youre-in-the-brazilian-middle-class.html

http://riogringa.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/09/guest-post-racial-confl

ict-in-brazil-or-rather-the-lack-thereof.html

Marcio E. Goncalves

Jolly, I don't necessarily disagree with all that you said - I mean, I've decided to live in the USA, not in Brazil, basically for the reasons you mention (even though you exaggerate some of them. C'mon, no word for "Rule of the Law"? Try "Estado de Direito").

Yeah, I've read the article about the South/North division in Europe. But even though the north thinks the south is lazy, no one would dare to say that Italy , for example, is not western (that would be pretty ridiculous, as they are probably the most "Western" of all "Western countries")

But the point is, even though Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are almost as disorganized, corrupt, bureaucratic, state-lovers as Brazil, no one question the fact that they are "Western". For example, Italy levels of corruption and government interference on the media are very brazilian-like, even bigger in the case of media interference.

So your definition of "western" is arbitrary - "western world" means what I said earlier: Greek-Roman inspired culture/language with Judeo/Christian traditions. That's it.

What you're using as synonymous of "western" is actually traits of anglo-saxon and germanic culture mixed with the western tradition.

So, going back to the original post from Rachel, it is not just a double standard to not call us "Western" but it is offensive, because denies us of our own History and tradition.

That bothers me way more than any silly stereotype about amazon, Rio, samba, etc...

Yes, we are poor, we are disorganized, we are corrupt - but we are 100% western (I'm considering the cultural and institutional aspect, of course, not race).

Look, all those traits are not some thing that we got from some obscure tribe in the amazon or hard-working african slaves. They are pretty much traits that we got from Portugal and them from other european immigrants. And all the bad left-leanings, pro-big government, anti-capitalism, anti-individual come from European writers and philosophers too, like Comte, Marx and others as well from the strong catholicism in the country (last time I checked, Catholicism still counts as a western tradition....)

Our culture is western as well as our problems.

Brazil wasn't a state invaded by Europeans and transformed in a colony, like India.

We were founded by Europeans (like the USA), part of a European country (before the independence Brazil it wasn't a colony anymore, but a United Kingdom with Portugal) and our monarchs were considered as such by other European monarchs (yeah, we were treated as the poor little kingdom, but still as one of them.). I'm not saying that this makes us great or not (It doesn't. It's a known fact that a lot of our problematic traits come from Portugal) - but that's our history.

Thus, to read "The Economist" (that I like very much, one of the only true international magazines that I know of) saying that we are "Westernized" like India or China it is really ridiculous and offensive.

We are not "westernized". We are Western. Poor, but western.

Jolly

Marcio E. Goncalves,

Always a joy reading your responses. Although we disagree sometimes its good to read a well thought and clear explanation for a change. I honestly did not know rule of law means "estado de direito". But Estado means State, so in portuguese rule of law means power of the state? In my view rule of law is a common code of conduct among people in a society regardless of diferences (race, social class, etc).

I have not found a portuguese equivalent to the other words i mentioned tho: acountability and dissent.

I would also like to mention i believe common law is a way better system than roman law. It is more flexible, less centralized, people are free and not guilty by default with higher burden of proof, and doesnt give as much power to the state as roman law (people are free to do what they want by default instead of the government legislating all aspects of life beforehand). Not to mention the concept of rights in America where people are "free to act" instead of "free to demand". You are correct in that i consider the west to be much more about northwestern european traits than mediterranean.

I also have a hard time undestanding why Brazilians accept their cultural shortcomings as unchangeable and defend it even tho they themselves dont like many of it. They are passive aggresive instead of being pro-active and thinking "well this is a problem lets change it". So they just lash out at foreigners who point the problems in the first place (kill the messenger).

Marcio E. Goncalves

Your posts are nice to read too, Jolly, even though sometimes you seem too angry towards brazilians. But I can kind relate to that - I mean, I'm brazilian but my country baffles me a lot too.

"But Estado means State, so in portuguese rule of law means power of the state? "

Yeah, it does. Unfortunately. As you noticed, Brazil is a civil law country, not a common law country, so the law exist only with the state there.

And yeah, I totally agree with you - I too think common law is better system than civil law (Roman law). It doesn't help at all that the civil law systems that we have today (Brazil's included) are pretty much a variation of Napoleon's code - a code done by a dictator.

"I have not found a portuguese equivalent to the other words i mentioned tho: acountability and dissent."

It's always complicated to get a exact translation of certain words. Try to translate "wishful thinking" or "hindsight" to portuguese - impossible.

But in the two cases that you cited, there's some close related words.

Dissent: "Discordancia" would be the closest I can think of. But is not used exactly the same way we use dissent in English and not as often - not surprisingly, because as you said, brazilians don't like dissent, don't like discussions.

Accountability: That's a tricky one. We do have "responsabilidade", but accountability would be the quality of accepting "responsabilidade" for something, not "responsabilidade" itself.

So, yeah, you're right on this one. No translation for that.

And that explains a lot about the chaotic state of my country...

Ernesto

The Law and Order episode was such a joke. I guess it makes for compelling television for someone who didn't read about the Goldman case and the balloon boy case.

For the rest of us, informed and well-read, the episode was pure garbage. Which is disappointing because they recently had a good episode on Africa. The "Brazilian episode", on the other hand, sucked.

Ernest Barteldes

Honestly I only see these stereotypes in comedy. Shows like CSI Miami are (sort of) faithful to the Latin heritage of Miami (one scene in Calle 8 was all in Spanish), and one episode of Law And Order:CI actually had some dialogue in Portuguese. But at the same time there are the European stereotypes, like the Russian mafia that appears frequently in procedural dramas like L&O and CSI....

ana luisa

The law & order episode was so good!! One of the best this season. :)

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