Author begins from the premise that, in the Spain of the turn of the 20th century, theatre and cinema are places of convergence between what they regard as competing sentiments between the national and the cosmopolitan, the traditional (regional) and the modern (European).

From as early as the Golden era, Spanish theatre has had a strong element of lyrical, popular stagings. In the latter 19th century, the zarzuela congeals as a genre and becomes instantly popular. The zarzuela is a hybrid genre: it was made popular by the “dissident” classes—the aristocracy and mercantile classes, antihegemonic insofar as they opposed the monarchic social order, and thus the author ascribes their uses of and interventions in the theatre as being marginal to the mainstream.

From the start, this becomes a theater of satire, caricature, and of social critique. Often, authors play with stereotypes of both regional and modern customs to create their characters, plots, and aesthetics. This is where the Andalusian element gains prominence, for even then, it was an easy stereotype, a token through which to exploit the satiric and humoristic potential of regional stereotypes.

(I wonder: is the question of “why the andalusians” so obvious it doesn’t need asking?)

Therefore, this theatre, while popular in spirit and unafraid to somewhat question the naturalized dynamics of monarchic rule, this theater was far from revolutionary. Author’s words to describe the social impact of this theatre: “authorized transgressions, tolerated rather than subversive.”

One way to answer why Andalusians may be that they had been stereotyped to the point of epitomizing some of the castismo (casta = purely spanish, espanoladas, exaggerated Spanishness, equivalent may be the Texas Ranger TV show/character in the U.S.) traits: the myth of Don Juan, the myth of Carmen, much of it having to do with transgressive sexual behavior and eroticism.

The 20s witnessed a boom of transatlantic aesthetic exchanges. What was called “ritmos negros” (namely, the one step, two step, foxtrot, charleston, among others) become quickly (and suspiciously seamlessly) integrated into popular theater in Spain. These American influences help paint a new culture of the body, by being often associated with the erotic, the unruly, and the festive in ways that once again are often used to parody the modern.

Film mediates transition to modernity

The transition to modernism (that was in the interest of whom?) necessitated the training of the masses to absorb modernist sensibilities. This was partially attempted via strategic utilization of the constitutive elements of familiar genres: the public is, so to speak, initiated into the novel technology of film (symbolizing modernism) by showing films with predictable storylines, familiar lyrics, myths, and rhythmic patterns of plot and speech and musicality that matched those of theatre plays. (See p. 58.)

This study is somewhat useful as a surface level overview of how the introduction of cinema into Spain’s popular culture occurred partially as a continuation of the theatre tradition of the previous century. But the author relies on neat antagonisms between tradition/conservatism and innovation/cosmopolitanism to build his analyses. A more useful approach would ask questions such as: how does the influx of cosmopolitan influences, with the genre/technology of film exemplifying its materiality, help define or unsettle what gets categorized as traditional or modern? This question was at the center of cultural production at the turn of the century, which is precisely why the figure of the Gypsy, of the flamenco, was so seemingly ubiquotous: it was the site of negotiation for defining the terms of modernism—not, as the author I think assumes, a battlefield where two neatly defined and mutually exclusive forces fought for survival. What I personally am curious about is how this negotiation was represented—what are the movements that symbolize, catalyze, or otherwise make reference to modernity? Do these movements—these bodies in movement—belie a porosity between tradition and modernity against what may be otherwise attempted to symbolize a fixed notion of either?

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