Since joining Pages and watching the Brazil exhibition develop at the Wexner, I have been thinking a lot about the influence and impact the Crusamentos exhibition will have on Columbus. This new exhibition that features young, emerging, Brazilian artists will shape, transform, educate, and alter many American’s perspective of Brazil. I am sure even my own. It is a pretty incredible opportunity for the Wexner and I am excited to see the exhibition finally commence for the opening on January 31st after hearing the initial announcement back in 2011. The past few days I’ve been thinking about the many misconceptions and perspectives many of us have of Brazil. It’s hard not to when the majority of mass culture and media portrays the country through such a narrow lens. I remember my first trip prior to going to Rio and movies like City of God being thrown into the conversation. Isn’t that place super dangerous? Aren’t you worried about being kidnapped? Luckily I hadn’t seen City of God nor felt it was appropriate to watch it prior to my departure. What was that going to do to my perspective of Rio. Wouldn’t it make me more fearful during what would be my first experience outside of the United States?
Today while looking through some sites and trying to wrap my head around these stereotypes, I wanted to share one that I was utterly shocked by. I had never seen the Simpson episode called Blame on Lisa that aired back in 2002. Wow! I can’t believe this even aired. The stereotypes that were portrayed throughout the short segment are many of the common misconceptions people have of Brazil, even still today. It caused so much controversy that the president at the time in 2002, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, claimed that the cartoon “brought a distorted vision of Brazilian reality” one that could impact tourism to the country. It was banned in Brazil. Mentioned and discussed in article below:
Now looking at the present, how has the image of Brazil changed in the last ten years? In American cinema the first film that comes to mind is the Dreamworks animation, Rio. A fun, playful portrayal of the Cidade Maravilhosa that tells the story of a shy, timid scientist who travels to Rio and falls in love with another research scientist, participates in the School of Samba parade at the spectacular Sambadrome, explores the beautiful beaches of Rio, and rides a motorcycle through the alleys of Rios infamous favelas. Even with it’s whole heartedness it shows Rio as this city of fantasy and love, this mystical portrayal. I don’t think it would be too far off by saying, many tourist have a similar experience during their stay in Rio.
Fast and Furious 5 . While subbing last year, when I mentioned having spent time in Rio de Janeiro to high school students on more than one occasion, students brought up the film. Another I have yet to see. Another film focusing on the slums, favelas throughout the city where apparently poverty, crime and drugs become the center point.
So what does this mean? How can this be changed? Altered? Transformed?
In what ways will Wasteland change the way your students view Brazil? It’s inevitable right? Of course! Will it reinforce some of these common stereotypes? Possibly. It’s important that it is made aware, even within Wasteland, we are looking at one perspective of Brazil, through a successful Brazilian artist who has somewhat become Americanized, reconnected with his country but with people in some of the poorest areas known in Rio, not even in Brazil, just Rio. That doesn’t make it less authentic or valuable, just important to note when thinking about how and who is telling the story.
On a final note, a great film I saw a the Wexner last year that I think really shows a side of Brazil that isn’t commonly shown in Brazilian cinema called Neighboring Sounds. It invites the view to experience more of typical life of middle class Brazil. I highly recommend it.
And just a little bit more to think about. Brazilian’s response to these stereotypes…
Also a page on the Adventures of a Gringa blog, her list of the biggest misconceptions of Brazil.
and another resource that is a blog featuring a woman who is traveling the world, sharing her observations of each place she visits.