Brazil and the United States

I interviewed three people—Theresa (my older-aged host mother), Igor (a friend in his 20s), and Thiago (a middle-aged Uber driver)—about their attitudes towards the United States.

Theresa explained to me that her attitude towards the United States was a very positive one. She felt that the infrastructure of the nation was much more foundationally sturdy compared to Brazil. She had traveled to many big cities in the United States (such as Vegas, Orlando, and New York City), and considered them some of the most beautiful places in the world. She told me that as a younger woman, her view of the United States was most heavily influenced by classic cinema from Hollywood. Her favorite was Gone With the Wind. This larger-than-life representation of the United States on the big screen shaped her perception of an “average life” in the US.

This was especially interesting to me because of my FTT education. Sean Redmond, a celebrity culture theorist, argues that “Representations are never neutral: they carry the discourses, concerns, inequalities and dreams of the contemporary age.” It was interesting to see how the initial cinematic representations of the United States shown to Theresa influence even her present worldview as if they were the natural condition of the modern world.

Igor had a different set of beliefs. He was incredibly cynical of the United States government, and was highly critical of our current president. He believes Brazil is a nation with just as much potential as the United States, though it will never be actualized because Brazilian citizens cannot help but see everything as better in the US. He also did not like how English was emphasized more as a second-language. Brazil is a country surrounded entirely by primarily Spanish-speaking countries, he told me, so the fact that English is rendered as a language more important than Spanish is simply an example of United States’ imperialism. Igor’s developed views of the United States, he says, come from a good college education which taught him to think on his own. He also hated how people referred to the United States as “America.” “We are all Americans!” he would exclaim. “America is a continent!”

Thiago loved Trump. Though he does not fully agree with everything Trump has said or done, everything potentially wrong about Trump’s past actions are virtually justified in his eyes because of how well the United States continue to operate. While discussing some of the racist things Trump has said in decades past, I noted that this is simply just an example of the present, modern-day racism that exists in the US. “Wait, the United States is racist?” is what Thiago immediately asked me in Portuguese. From there, I began to see more and more of how infallible he thought the US was. His views come mostly from what he sees on the news, and the comparisons he draws from the results and processes of the US government compared to the Brazilian government.