Mass culture: Football & Telenovelas

Posted by: | March 16, 2009 | Comments Off on Mass culture: Football & Telenovelas

Even though it’s half expected, it is amazing how much you can learn about Brazilian culture through futebol. Bellos’ “Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life” does it quite well. He tells Brazil’s story through events like the 1950 World Cup and athletes like Garrincha. I never knew that the 1950 World Cup was so important to Brazil and it was a little surprising to read just how important is was, and is. I think it’s too bad the Brazilian people let the loss plague them, and especially plague those who were sometimes “blamed.” It seems to me that the fact that they broke free of dictatorship, hosted the championship, and built the huge stadium to show for it is much, much more significant than winning or losing against Uruguay. I can see how it could be a let down, but for it to be a bitter memory for so long and to have it so negatively affect the lives of the players who were there, like Barbosa, makes me think that a lot of people need to get their priorities straightened out. Football is important to Brazil – fine. But Brazil must always win? I don’t know. I think that a popular disheartened response is appropriate for a while, but at some point becomes almost selfish, especially toward Uruguay who must have played hard to win. At the end of that chapter, when Gigghia says “In Uruguay we lived the moment. Now it’s over,” despite all previous explanation I still fail to see why the losers can’t feel the same way. I guess that has little to do with the topic of our class, but it’s by far the strongest feeling I got out of the text.

Nelson Hippolyte Ortega’s little overview of telenovelas, how and why they came to be was pretty interesting. The cultural processes at work really become illuminated, even if the best examples of this are when he cites Rowe and Schelling. I have a problem with a statement in his introduction, though. When contrasting soap operas and telenovelas, he says “The soap opera’s intention is to entertain; the telenovela’s mission is to show “reality” and to teach about the affective, social, and political problems of contemporary society.” I think that this distinction is irrelevant because it’s quite obvious that telenovelas also intend to entertain, just as soap operas also try to underline certain themes in life. It seems like he is trying to say that soap operas, as in the U.S., are purely commercial products whereas telenovelas have some cultural value. I would say that when analyzed as Ortega does here, either can be understood culturally, although both are generally hollow dollar-sign forms of media.


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