Thursday, January 19, 2012

Explaining the "Luiza está no Canadá" meme to your gringo friends...

Been hearing alot about Luiza (who's in Canada), from your Brazilian netacquaintences lately? My pal Regina at Deep Brazil can explain the meme to you:
"Instant Youtube success: Gerardo Rabello, a social columnist from João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba, announces a new construction project and says it is so great that all the family will attend the launching ceremony, apart from his daughter “Luiza, who is in Canada”. The phrase, mysteriously, became viral. In only two days, dozens of “comments” and mockumentaries about it were published on Youtube."

The reason this meme went viral has little to do with the fact that Gerardo Rabello is bragging in an off-handed fashion about his daughter's international travels. It has to do with Brazilian cordiality and family values and also with Brazilian sarcasm when cordiality is taken too far.

Rabello is basically telling us that "Look, I'm putting my family's good name behind this project". This is a traditionalist, kitchy and smarmy sort of thing to do. Maybe it goes over well with the folks from Paraíba, but to the large number of Brazilians living in São Paulo and Rio (the dominant force on the lusophone internet), it sounds like a corny homily to 19th century values. The ad is thus irksome to begin with.

But then Rabello upped the already high smarm factor by explaining to us all why one of his daughters won't be attending this mighty social event of the Paraiban summer. As if we knew his children by name. As if we would wonder why we wouldn't see Luiza at the event. As if we all lived in the same tiny little backlands village or even knew who the hell Gerardo Rabello and his spawn were.

As if, in short, we gave a tremendous fuck.

Urbane, networked Brazil thus responded in false cordial style, dripping with fake bonhomie and neighborly concern.

Suddenly, we all needed to know where Luiza was. What she was doing? Was she eating well? Did she have a boyfriend yet? Was he Canadian...? We demanded that the government investigate why Luiza was still in Canada and worried whether the heartless gringos would deport her. (Certainly not Luiza! Such a nice moça de família!)

And, of course, we're all breathing a hearty sigh of relieved satisfaction now that she's come home to the pátria amada.

People who didn't get this meme or are taken it at face value as a form of instant celebrity manufacture don't understand the depths of Brazilian sarcasm when it combines with false cordiality. There's a reason why "cair na boca do povo" is understood to be a bad thing in Brazil.
The meme is also a good example of why memes become old quickly and how they warp (rather than evolve) into news.

The first folks reporting on Luiza's whereabouts were net nerds who had seen the original comme
rcial first-hand on You-Tube and found it corny beyond belief. They were making arch comments to their friends, who had also seen it. This is precisely the same sort of crowd who loves to wax enthusiastic about the Trololo Guy*. (You know, folks like this...)

Thus was the original iteration of the meme born and it was funny, if not hilarious.

Then legions of script-kiddies and Brazilian adolescents who fancy themselves to be Anonymous got ahold of the meme and started spamming it into everything, making old meme very old, very quickly.

Following this, the Brazilian NORPS** saw the script-kiddies' net graffiti, wondered what was up and had to have everything explained to them. This effectively killed any remaining humor that the meme once had.

Finally, the Old Media got ahold of the Luiza story. The Old Media speaks to people who hardly use the internet at all and whose understanding of memes is on the level of a flatworm's understanding of brain surgery. The only framework the Old Media has for dealing with this sort of thing is to treat Luiza as some sort of minor instant celebrity. And that, friends, is precisely how Globo is dealing with this little bit of internet arcana right at this very moment.

*If you don't know who the Trololo Guy is, remember: there is no such thing as brain bleach.

**NORP = Normal, Ordinary, Responsible Person. The vast majority of internet users who go on-lin
e simply to check e-mail and send each other pictures of their cats - see expanded definition here.


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