Gabriela, a Latin film about a young working girl and her relationship with her boss, provides a scene for the study of criminology in Latin America during the early 1900’s. Prior to the turn of the century, crime, especially adultery, was explained as the work of demons, witches or otherworldly happenings. Any offender was sentenced to death, similar to Camila in last week’s blog. As medieval criminological theories waned, several theorists found a trend in physical characteristics of criminals. Using measurable data of the human body, criminologists developed a theory of crime called positivism. In Gabriela, the social environment of Brazil is a complete contrast from any other before positivism.
In Gabriela, the filmmaker provides a social setting with a before and after contrast. The before is that of female promiscuity punished by violence and is commonly accepted. This changes as Latin America pushes for modernization and progression as a people. Caulfield writes that Latin societies sought “to resemble those of white, industrialized Europe” (149). Specific emphasis is placed on “racial improvement,” and there was a lack of importance on politics and desires of the population (Caulfield 149). Gabriela depicts the women of the film to be full of lust and passion, seeking the admiration of men all around. Susan Besse says in her article, that women had their eyes open to the hypocrisy of men, and now that they were opened, they resolved to take justice into their own hands. Not in this movie; in Gabriela, Gabriela takes her life into her own hands. She experiences her freedom through sexuality, innocently at first and more serious later.
This push for freedom and progression leads to Latin America’s version of the flapper. In the 1920’s in Latin America, Caulfield writes, “young girls and matrons frolicked shamelessly on public beaches in scandalous attire” (146). These new women portrayed in the movie through Gabriela, as well as others. Gabriela enjoys her beauty and her freedom in the bar, whilst flirting with the patrons. Nacib becomes jealous, and in trying to keep her caged up after a lecture, she flees into the bed of her lover. A response to behavior like this, the Vida Policial argues, is “vigilance over female activities by male authorities”(Caulfield 153). Like all peoples, freedom is highly sought by those under close supervision.
Gabriela is a great sociological movie, offering a parallel to movies such as The Great Gatsby. Frivolous women and over-bearing men, as well as love scenes and their crimes of passion, consume this time in history. Women finding their sexuality and their place apart from the role men prescribe during this time had huge impacts on both American and Latin American culture.