What you see is what you get

Not really.

I’m an immigrant, but you probably realized that by now. Every time I say I’m from Brazil, a cloud of stereotypes rain down on me. My country is mainly known for soccer, Carnaval and the Amazon jungle. You assume you know my culture by the only three things that most of us don’t care about, or don’t associate with. The only time I had ever put my foot in a stadium was for a concert, for sure I love Carnaval, but I never travelled to the Amazon, because its expensive, even for us. My question is, do you know who Xuxa, Gretchen or Nazare are? You probably do, from memes around the internet, but you don’t know where they come from. The same type of perception towards other cultures also happen to us, Brazilians.

For instance, if you say Amsterdam, we say weed. If you say Russia, we say vodka. If you say USA, we have a few different ideas. First of all, Disney. Second, New York City (Sex and the City, Friends, Seinfeld, Gossip Girl). Third, burgers and hot dogs. Based on this idea that we create in our minds, or of how America is sold to us, foreigners, is what we expect when we move over here. I have been thinking about this topic for far too long that I made a list of what we see in the movies and tv, that makes no sense or its completely different once you move everything you own to this country.

  Prom

The very first Item of my list is something which always had me intrigued. We don’t have a prom in my country, we are actually lucky if we have a graduation party. In my school, we didn’t even have enough teachers.  My geography teacher got sick on my second year of high school, we never got a replacement, or heard from the teacher ever again. I passed that subject with flying colors. I was jealous of my other friends who were going to private school and got all the rites of passage, I heard that they actually had a graduation party.

The only idea I had of prom is from tv and movies. The first scene on my mind is Laney, from “She is all that” when she finds out it was all a lie “Am I bet? Am I a F*ckin bet?” or “Never Been Kissed” when Josie got egged in front of her house, while waiting to be picked up for prom. Even though it was all real mean, it also looks cool and branded. Almost like you belong in the group. I’m actually glad I didn’t have that in my school, it would have only added to my stress.   By the way, I still don’t understand the corsage.

This scene was the very idea I have ever had of what prom was.

 Small Towns that have an Efficient Transit System.

I blame Gilmore Girls for that one. Rory was always at the Square town, waiting for the bus to go to school, from Stars Hallow to Hartford. In my mind, everywhere here in America had an efficient public transportation system. No. Everyone in America has a car, from a very early age. Especially if you live in the countryside, rural areas. When I turned 16, I got a recharge of my bus pass, not a car. Every time I go to a small town I look to see if there is a bus or a train, when it does, it doesn’t go anywhere; or it has a bunch of psychotic people with loose knives riding on it, like Austin.  

Wrong. They should show her mom dropping her off and she getting a car right on her 16 birthday.

  The medicine Ads on tv.

If you ever watch tv in the mornings, during those morning show commercial breaks, you will see at least 20 different types of medication. I’ve seen commercial for dry eyes, for skin disease, for short legs and earlobe enlargement.  Its outrageous, the capacity of selling stuff for people that don’t actually need. It got me questioning if I have a droopy eyebrow and if there is a medicine for that. Another impressive thing is, how happy the actors are in those ads, even though the side effects look pretty horrible. Some like suicidal thoughts, diarrhea, dizziness, sleep walking and imaginary friends. All that because of dry eyes? I pass.

  Mean Girls and the Captain of the football team Trope.

Do you guys have this in every single school and that’s why it’s portrayed like a trope in all teenage movies? I remember in my school some kids were really mean to me and others, but they didn’t have a trope, they didn’t have to play sports either. We didn’t have the hunk boy or the prettiest girl everyone wants to be friends with, date and take to prom. No one had money to be pretty, it was a public school in Brazil for god’s sake. My trope was the one on from the back, laughing and being silly with my friends, until I was the one who got held back to retake the sophomore year, while my friends moved on. I made new friends anyway. In my country, we love soccer, but we don’t have this competition at school, we don’t care about who succeeds, we like to talk about the ones that didn’t.

  The Go getter mentality

We tend to believe that all you have to do to succeed in America is work hard, with no boundaries, while pushing people out of the way, like Andy, from Devil wears Prada. Then once again, we move here, gasoline running in the veins, full of energy, ready to take off, and we start to get passed by people because of innumerous reasons. Once again, whoever sold us the American dream was wrong. Like the people who used to sell you computers virus protection online, who didn’t protect anything. In some tv shows, there is always someone struggling, try to make ends meet and working 3 jobs to support the family, like the dad, played by Terrel Crews in “Everybody hates Chris”. There are characters that Hussle, work like a mad house, to the point he succeeds and get the white fenced house, or the Penthouse with the Central Park view. They just don’t tell you what cost of all this work.  

 For us, life in America is lived like in a sitcom “Reba was recorded in front of a live audience” type of life, so when we get here, we can’t find anything that was sold to us. Politics are a mess, there is an inexistent universal health system, student loans and some people really don’t like immigrants and are not afraid to tell you, pretty much in your face.

That’s all I have to say for this week. Actually I have been working like crazy on a Spec Script and a Comedy Pilot, for eventually get an agent, so I can try to be a tv writer.

Be safe out there!

J.G. Snelly

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  1. I’m from Malaysia, and I’ve always found proms as a wonder too. There’s also the San Francisco hills where all car chases seem to take place that I’ve grown to associate with American action movies. Thanks for sharing this!

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