The movie Gabriela depicts the struggles of women and the hierarchy of the sexes in that time period. Gabriela, the main character, is depicted as a childish woman that lived as a nomad before she met Nacib, who hired her as his cook and rescued her from poverty. Later, her and Nacib eventually became lovers, and then became married. However, Gabriela is uneducated and childish and does not understand the ways of the upper class. While the love story unfolds in the movie, there are also social and political uprisings in the town, portraying the changing mindset of politics in South America. During the time this movie was set, liberalism was on the rise in South America. With the rise of liberalism, the political, social and economic atmosphere of South America began to change. Although progress was being made, women still lived on the margins of male-oriented societies. Chasten says, “In the long run, liberalism led in positive directions for women, expanding their education and life opportunities During the mid 1900s, however, many Latin American women benefited from these changes.”
The movie also shows traditional gender roles and the Law of Cain were changing in Brazil. Caulfield explains that in Brazil culture that family honor was of upmost importance. He says “The concept of family honor was the primary mechanism for preserving this gendered social order.” This explains why the Law of Cain was enacted in Brazil. Men saw adultery as hurting their honor. However, Stearns explains that things began to get out of hand and more and more women were getting murdered because there were no repercussions for the murderer’s actions. Stearns states that, “the popular perception was that the situation was out of control.” Then later the Law of Cain was repealed because societal times were changing. This sequence of historical events regarding the Law of Cain is depicted in the different scenes that deal with adultery in Gabriela. In the very beginning of the movie, there is a scene where a man and a woman are shown naked in bed, both shot to death. Later the movie reveals that the two lovers were shot to death by the woman’s husband. However, the husband is the one that everyone feels sorry for. No one attends the funeral of the woman and her dead lover. However, as more acts of adultery occur, the social reaction begins to change. When Nacib catches Gabriela in bed with his best friend, he beats her for a minute, but does not kill her. However, he is worried that the town will make fun of him for not being a man. In the very end of the movie, when Gloria is caught in bed with the professor by her husband, they all walk away from the situation instead of acting violently.
Although the movie does show how women benefited slightly from the shift from conservatism to liberalism, it also shows how women were still marginalized. In the movie, women were portrayed as ignorant and sex crazed. Gloria would get dressed in seductive clothes and sit outside her window waiting for a man to notice her even though she was married. Gabriela is essentially seen as a sex object and she actually likes that people see her this way. Every other scene in the movie is sexual. In one scene, Nacib comes home and wants to have sex and although Gabriela is tired she told him that she will always be ready when he wants it. In the end of the movie, Gabriela continues to lust over Nacib, even though he got their marriage declared as wrongful since Gabriela’s papers were forged. The last scene of the movie was them having sex in the garden. All of this only proves that although society was changing, women were still only seen as sex objects.