The ability for a state to project influence by attraction rather than coercion, often referred to as soft power, is an interesting phenomenon to read about but even more interesting to observe. If you are from the United States, it is inevitable that you will see this manifest in a number of ways and mostly with the prevalence of English in restaurants, shops, t-shirts, etc. However, sometimes just how far American influence reaches, and in what ways, will surprise you.
I arrived in Brazil just before the last episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones was set to air. The picture above is from a party at a local UFSC student bar where the big attraction for the night was that the bar would be streaming the final Game of Thrones episode. In Brazil, the show is called A Guerra dos Tronos which literally translates from Portuguese to “the war of the thrones”. I can only speculate that the common word for game, jogo, is not used because it does not convey the same sort of gravity or seriousness needed. Typically a jogo is particularly a non-violent situation.
The party itself was hotly anticipated by the Brazilian UFSC students. It was very apparent that they were fully informed on the backgrounds of all the characters, the various houses depicted in the show, and the detailed lore of the story itself. In fact, Game of Thrones is so popular here that one of the yearly UFSC costume parties is dedicated to the theme and many of the students are looking forward to dressing up as their favorite GoT characters. Here is a flyer from the party itself:
FantasiArq is a play on words in Portuguese. Fantasia means “costume” and Arq refers to the department at the university that is throwing the party which is arquitetura, “architecture”, or arq for short. All together, FantasiaArq is pronounced as “fanta-see-ar-key”. Fraternities, sororities, and their associated large parties do not exist here in Brazil. However, the various majors that students belong to function very similarly to the fraternity and sorority system in the US when it comes to throwing parties, student identification, hazing, and etc. I will write about this interesting comparison in a later post.
One final note on language learning and popular culture is how the episode was streamed at the bar. Many of the US students were worried about the episode being dubbed in Portuguese, as many do not speak Portuguese well enough to follow along that way. The Brazilians assured us that here people actually prefer to watch GoT in English audio with Portuguese sub-titles and this was in fact the case. In the bar setting however, this turned about to be both a positive and a negative. Imagine watching Game of Thrones, at a intense moment where the dialogue and forthcoming revelation is of the utmost importance. Then imagine that half way through the most important sentence, the entire bar erupts in groans and cheers so loud that you can’t hear the sentence being spoken. Well of course, the Brazilians just read the reveal in Portuguese faster than it was spoken in English, and you just missed it. Thus are the limits of soft power. They can be pervasive, but they are not all encompassing. So if you’re interested in travelling abroad, be sure to learn the language. :o)