segunda-feira, abril 06, 2009

Why foreigners always put their feet on their mouths when it comes to Brazil?

It all started when Neil Gaiman started making jokes about "brazilian werewolves" in twitter. I love him, but the jokes were... well... made from an angle that let it clear he and the others that followed 1 - didn't knew anything about brazilian folklore or 2 - did'nt care a bit about spreading misconceptions. Of course I'm overreacting a little, but this is not the point. The point is that, somehow, every time someone outside the country tries to write about it, usually this will mean mistakes are on their way.

I love Hellblazer. I absolutely adore John Constantine. But I remember a story passed at suposedly the brazilian side of Amazônia where the characters had spanish names and spoke "portuguese" with spanish grammar. Bad? It would become worst when one of the characters tried to make magick using a deck of cards but instead of using the word for a deck of cards, "baralho", he used one that meaned a deck for boats. The spell of the story broke off and I was laughing out really loud and snorting with the ridiculous scene. This was unbelievably stupid. With all the brazilian artists working regularly for D.C. did they not think of spell checking before publishing two pages of involuntary comedy?

But unbelievably stupid seems to be the rule, not the exception. With Internet wide available these days on the whole world I hoped that foreigners would get it right: We not only DO NOT SPEAK SPANISH or have spanish names. Brazilians tend to have a *huuuuge* prejudice against latin americans that speak spanish. Starting with Argentina, going in lesser degrees to other south american countries like Paraguai, Chile and so forth.

I lived enough to know that people are people, and *I* have friends from many different countries, but this is a fact about Brazil. We were colonized by Portugal and we speak portuguese, other countries were colonized by Spain and speak spanish, and Portugal and Spain were at war over the colonies and yes, we kind of imprinted that hate unto our culture. When you think a brazilian speaks spanish, you make that brazilian want to puke. Simple like that.

And so I was reading final volume of the Twilight series of Stephanie Meyer, Breaking Dawn when I discovered the romantic couple were heading to my home town, Rio, for honeymoon. "Uh-oh" - first thing I thought - here it comes. "Please, please, please let it be not that bad." Well, was it BAD. At first it seemed not so bad. The keeper was called Gustavo, a fair common brazilian name and not the usual "José" "DaCosta" we see (someone should say to english speakers that "da" and "Costa" are separated words and only foreigners join them, "da" meaning "of" and never being used in capital letters). And then, Stephanie Meyer puts an indian from the Amazonian tribe Ticunas in the story. An. indian. from. another. state. at. an. island. at. Rio. Bad? The indian knows legends about the "libishomem", a supposed blood-sucking creature drawn to beautiful women. Argh. ARGH. AAAAAARGH. Do you know what "lObishomem" means, Mrs. Meyer? It's used at tv comedy shows and stands for "homossexual werewolf". The correct word, "lobisomem", means WEREWOLF. And worse yet, this is NOT an indian legend. Werewolves in Brazil are an element brought by european culture. It's a portuguese myth. And guess what? Werewolves in Brazil are not vampires. They are... werewolves! The word for vampire in portuguese is... "vampiro". Surprise, surprise. And guess what? Vampire legends in Brazil are ALSO imported from Europe.

Also, to be fair, I searched and was totally unable to find Ticuna legends related to demons that drink blood and father children at pretty girls. Yes, there ARE boto legends at Amazônia, but the boto isn't a demon that drinks blood. It's a kind of river dolphin that can turn to man and seduce a virgin and get her pregnant. So I'm assuming Stephanie Meyer used the "anything sticks" aproach and took this stupid, stuuuuuupid passage right from her ass. The curious thing is that there ARE lots of legends about vampires world-wide. Including indian ones, from other tribes.
But she had to go and google all over the wrong places. A very quick talk with any brazilian would dismiss and clarify the question, isn't like lots of us don't speak english fluently. But nooooooo, guess the mistake was too tempting to make.

This is only the most recent episode. Why is it that every time someone mentions my country or sets a story here we have to cringe and painfully wait for the misconceptions and the "anything goes" spirit that plagues writers that set up an story in Brazil? Worse, it looks like pure laziness to me, because brazilians are very easy-going and proud to correct mistakes and willing to help. Why is it so hard to ask for it?

I'm kind of curious to see how "Breaking Dawn" will be solved by the poor translator that will have to correct this stupid mistake, since the other three books are selling like crazy on every bookstore I can recall and teenagers love her as much as J.K. Howling here.

A part of me thinks about translating brazilian legends and folklore to english, there's SO much that seems little known outside Brazil. On the other side I'm very afraid of the fact that it wouldn't make a difference for the talking-out-of-their-asses aproach when some writer decides that Brazil is the "exotic" setting they need for their story if there WAS a place with right information available. They just don't care.