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The irresistible outside: Innocence, desire and transgression in a Brazilian urban utopia

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Brazilian film Mate-Me Por Favor (Kill Me Please) centres on the lives of four rebellious teenage girls against the backdrop of a series of brutal murders in the wealthy suburb where they live. I argue that the neighbourhood of Barra da Tijuca in the west of Rio de Janeiro provides both the necessary socio-spatial conditions for the drama, as well as a rich symbolic canvas for exploring key themes like innocence, transgression and violence. Barra emerged in the 1970s as a ‘solution’ to Rio’s urban crisis, providing a large, unexploited space for the middle classes to insulate themselves from the growing disorder and violence of the inner city. Designed using rational modernist principles, it grew into a landscape of gated condominiums and shopping malls connected by car-strewn expressways. The area thus embodies a tension between innocence and desire that is shared by Mate-Me Por Favor’s four protagonists. In recent years, meanwhile, the hosting of the Olympic Games and other mega-events has brought a massive wave of speculative development to the area, producing new liminal spaces and intensified flows of people that have jeopardized residents’ sense of control. The film suggests that Barra’s alienated youth are determined to venture beyond the walls that were designed to protect them, thus exposing them to new, unknown threats.
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Keywords: Brazil; gender; inequality; segregation; urbanization; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centro de Estudos da MetrĂ³pole (CEM)

Publication date: 01 July 2017

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  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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