The collective whole…Taking a hit for the team…The nation that is

Posted by: | March 17, 2009 | Comments Off on The collective whole…Taking a hit for the team…The nation that is

Despite the length of this weeks readings, they were absolutely more enjoyable than normal. Perhaps it was because of the fact that for once we were reading about something that is undeniably considered (despite the seemingly elusive nature of the term) “Latin American popular culture,” and is considered as such by most people from Latin America. As we read, if you are Brazilian, you know about futebal/soccer. Alex Bellos’ writing was engaging, and narrative. Through the different vignettes he writes, a few things become apparent. Bellos develops symbolism through his understanding of the game. (loss of 1950 World Cup was an affirmation, correct or not, or Brazil’s collective understanding that they were fractured nationally;Pelé and Garrincha symbolize Brazil’s greatness and racial make-up) Whether he is merely elaborating or elucidating what he sees occurring in Brazil, I’m not sure. But it’s clear that certain things become metonyms for Brazil and their collective character. This idea of the collective also permeates much of what Bellos writes. In fact it seems that futebal/soccer has the ability to contibute to the creation of “imagined communities.” If not imagined communities, than the concept of nationalism, collective memory, and collective guilt. Futebal/soccer also becomes a conduit for discussions of race, gender, nationalism, and memory. The chapters selected for our reading also demonstrate the way that futebal/soccer has permeated so many parts of Brazilian everyday life. Not only does the jersey’s signature yellow color come to denote Brazil globally, but people around Brazil see visual indicators of the game’s importance to their country in the titling and construction of many buildings and “monuments” named after Brazilian futebal/soccer stars. The chapter, “The Fateful Final” was especially helpful in understanding the mentality of futebal/soccer fans, and the reason why the game may matter so much to them. The collective sense of failure and dejection Brazilians associated with the 1950 World Cup loss followed such a strong sense of collective hope, and renewal following their military dictatorship. In a country divided by race, and with huge economic disparity, diversion like futebal/soccer can come to mean a lot of lost happiness if your team loses.
Latin American telenovela as Ortega writes comes to be a representative of the changes in Latin America through its ability or tendency to remain culturally and socially relevant to its viewers. These shows become arenas to discuss issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, machismo, and the quotidian. Interestingly, as Ortega denotes the difference between telenovelas and soap operas it almost becomes a distinction between values or ideology. The soap opera focuses on money and sex. Whereas telenovelas focus on the continuation of family. Could these shows come to stand in for nationalist values transnationally? What role do they play in shaping relationships between countries? I loved seeing the reference to telenovelas and their descent from the folletíns we read about in Rowe and Schelling. The other idea that struck me from Ortega’s piece was the idea of telenovelas as cathartic. Perhaps this is a modernist perspective of Latin America, but my understanding is that a number of countries from the region have been made poor, and as such have large numbers of people living below the poverty line. This indicates to me that the idea of catharsis, or escapism may play a role in the popularity of the telenovela. People who struggle to provide the everyday necessities are able to vicariously live through the stories of their country’s telenovelas. In the same way that Brazilian futebal/soccer can be collectively shared by people from all walks of life, the telenovela can do the same in other places.


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