Wild Tales movie and Argentinean society -by Juan M.S

So, if you want an Argentinean to be humble, dont’ ask him general questions about his country. Ask him rather about the country’s economy or the last worldcup final. What do people who know us say about us? Other South American countries, for instance, think we’re arrogant, but, in our defense, we really try to be humble, to put ourselves in the shoes of common people. Let me tell you a couple of jokes about Argentineans. What’s the first thing an Argentinean does on his birthday? He calls his mother to congratulate her. And this one was told by the Pope himself. In one of his conferences he said I surprised everyone by choosing to call myself ‘Francis.’ Being Argentine, they expected I would call myself ‘Jesus II.’” That’s our Argentinean Pope. Proud of him.

And it’s not the first international example of Argentinean humor. If you remember Maradona, in 1986, after scoring a goal with his hand against England said to the press that it was God’s hand.

But we know about tragedy too, just look at how some of our heroes ended up: Maradona for instance, and The Che Guevara. Because a nation that doesn’t know of tragedy is less of a nation. We need tragedy to humble us, to remind us we’re human. A famous Argentinean writer, Borges, once criticized the Swiss national hero: William Tell, or Wilhelm Tell in Polish, who shot an apple off the head of his son with an arrow. And Borges said „They lost a very good opportunity for a national tragedy”. And knowing about Polish history, Argentina is not left with much to compare, so I think that’s why we focus on these domestic tragedies, like in this film, to live up to all the tragedies in the world.

So I’m glad and proud that many people are interested in this film, which I think represents the Argentinean character. I’ve lived here for three years and I’d dare to say that Polish people are calmer in their reactions. I would compare Argentinians to Russians when it comes to character; we admire the passion we read in their books, but I think it would be more accurate to compare us to Italians. Argentina was built by immigrants, many of them Italians. So we inherited the gesticulation while we speak and the habit of overreacting everything. We like melodrama: we have very good soap operas. Even myself, I’ll tell you something intimate about me. Whenever I broke up with girls, I always tried to be as nice as possible and to avoid getting them upset. But when someone broke up with me, I never made it easy for them. I always made a scene and created all this melodrama just so I could let out the frustration all at once and have closure, which I believe is a very healthy thing to do. Flipping out at the right moment is a sweet wisdom. Also swearing is a common Argentinean habit. You have your own swearwords. The K word is good; I won’t pronounce in front of ladies, but I think you all know. It’s good, it reverberates and sounds strong and expressive, but you overuse that one and it has practically no meaning now. I think you should invent more. I personally like: cholera jasna ; it’s very imaginative.

So I think this Italo-Argentinean temperament is seen in the movie. And I think there’s also an intention to wake people up from passivity and resignation. But I would go further than a movie, I would personally promote a campaign in Poland where whenever someone listens to someone else complaining about the weather or saying that other countries are better, they must shout as loud as they can: Grumpy grandpa here! That would be my contribution to your society. I really like it here; here you have what I call uncalled-for honesty; people will just tell you stuff they could’ve said in a thousand nicer ways, but they’ll find the most brutally honest way to tell you, and I admire this commitment to the truth. And I think the film also shows that: instinctive reactions to certain situations; when we forget we’re civilized people and we go back to our animalistic roots, which is also very healthy sometimes.

But to be honest, people here behave way more gentlemanly in the streets than Argentinians, not so much as English people, but more than us. There’s no Pani/ Pan there, unless you’re addressing an older person. But be careful with women, because if you say Pani to a woman who’s not much older than you, she’ll get upset because you implied she’s old.

Hard to talk about a film without giving away its ending, so I’ll try not to say that everyone dies in the end, but you probably saw it in the trailer already. And that’s the magic of this film, we know it ends in tragedy, or tragedies, but we want to know how we get from point A, an insult or a fine, to a murderous situation. I need to say that Polish people are an example of stoicism for me; the way they take unpleasant situations maintaining their calm and in a civil manner. Totally opposite to us; we just flip out for no reason and start behaving like cornered animals. Just to give you one example, years ago my mother didn’t have the papers of her motorbike on her and the police stopped her and wanted to take away the bike. So she wouldn’t get off the bike and she told them: “You want the bike, you’ll have to take me with it.” And that’s just my mother, other than shouting at home, she’s a calm person.

But another perfect example is the transport ticket system here, where you can just enter a bus or tram and pay if you want. I can’t avoid thinking that that system wouldn’t work in Argentina. No one would pay for it and then the ticket controller would have a hard time fining all the people in the tram. We’re like the Spanish people in the running of the bulls, where they run away from these dangerous animals that can gorge you with their horns, and when you ask them, why d’you do that? It’s very dangerous, they answer: Look behind, there are thousands of people; the bull won’t catch “me”. So we think like that, the ticket controller won’t catch “me”; we’re by no means good citizens over there, but we’re good accomplices; when we recognize a ticket controller on a tram or bus, we start coughing and whispering: kanary, just out of solidarity with other people who don’t have a ticket either. We don’t have a word for ticket controller in Argentina yet, so I took the liberty of borrowing yours.


I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.

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