This week’s viewing of Gabriela showed gender conflicts affecting twentieth century Brazil. On the surface, the film shows the regularity of wives cheating on their husbands and the husbands’ reactions to it. The deeper struggle within the film showed Brazil’s struggle with gender relations.
Gabriela shows a young runaway girl selling her domesticity to a wealthy man in return for a roof. The wealthy man, Nacib, finds Gabriela extremely attractive and soon finds himself in a romantic partnership with her. He showers her with affection, love and gifts and finally decides to marry her. Sadly, Nacib’s undying love for Gabriela fades after time, and the two realize all they ever had was love, not lust. Gabriela sleeps with Nacib’s best friend and is caught in the act. Nacib allows them to leave instead of killing them, and finds a way to have the marriage annulled due to a technicality in paperwork. The final scene shows Gabriela sneaking back to Nacib and sleeping with him one last time.
A second plotline in the film shows a poor teacher sleeping with a wealthy trophy wife of a Colonel. She is not willing to leave her rich husband to stay with the teacher, thus opting for wealth over happiness.
This week’s readings support the claims made in the film by showing multiple occurrences of this in the past. During the years 1910 – 1930, husbands were legally allowed to kill their wife and suitor if the two were caught in the act of adultery. Also, fathers and brothers were allowed to kill suitors of their daughters and sisters if they felt they had been raped. These crimes of passion were said to take place to show a husband’s undying love to his wife, and to show consequences of adultery. However, Susan Beese says that “concurred that crimes of passion were never committed out of love; they were, rather, violent outbursts of egoism, vanity, or self-love.” The film shows Nacib being merciful and allowing both to live, but it is unclear why he does so.
Men justified their right to kill cheating wives by saying women were the backbone of morality in Brazilian culture. Suanne Caulfield says, “women, in their natural roles as mothers, were held to be responsible for instilling moral values in society; by failing in this function, they were responsible for its demoralization and degeneracy.” If women were sleeping around and practicing promiscuity, they had no place in Brazilian culture. Men believed they would poison society and influence young children.
These crimes of passion were a way for men to exert their dominance over women while they still could. The days of the aristocracy was quickly fleeing Brazilian culture while women attempted to gain power. Women tried seduction to get what they wanted, however, if caught in a bad situation they could be killed by their husbands.