Turnabout

Is “Bunuel-esque” an appropriate adjectival form? Ought it be? Perhaps so.

A past observation confirmed and several recent stirring scenes distributed through social media have converged to tickle my interest in the topic.

For starters, Luis Bunuel (1900-83) was a Spanish film director. He filmed primarily in Mexico and France. He was a comrade of Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca. (A side note, he also impressed erotic writer Anaïs Nin; theirs one of mutual appreciation and likely more. I admire Nin’s writing.)

The Spanish Civil War delivered distinct fates upon the moviemaker, the surrealist, and the poet.

Dali somehow successfully navigated the shoals of fascist Spain. Caught up in Francisco Franco’s insatiable murder maw, Garcia Lorca was summarily executed, his remains piled among countless others in a mass grave.

Bunuel thrived elsewhere, using his good fortune to gradually produce movies which increasingly sought rationales for an absurd mid-20th century. Yes. “Absurd” is a fitting description for his later works.

During his lifetime industrial carnage begat instantaneous slaughter. Looked at soberly, mankind’s greatest advance had been developing more efficient methods of exterminating itself.

What reasonable person couldn’t have asked, “That’s progress!?”

In the same vein, Bunuel’s movies turned this world whose societies prized elimination over creation on its head. Throughout his films, the conventional gradually skewed into what viewers must’ve at first regarded as illogical, or at least inappropriate.

Truth told, even before anonymous social media correspondents jibed on aspects of what will follow, I’d already noted circumstances ripe for startling reversal.

While I’d heard of this practice, vacationing in Argentina confirmed it for me. Despite employment discrimination being expressly outlawed in the United States, who doesn’t know that all but the dimmest prospective employer can evade solid accusations of such? By the way, ours is one of the few countries which give more than lip service against workplace bias. Yet sometimes the charade here is so artless both parties ought to wonder why they fill their respective roles to the end.

The applicant knows he or she won’t land the position; the interviewer has already mentally deposited the application in the circular file.

Nonetheless an applicant has been interviewed. And if denied the job, reasons from a better candidate filling the vacancy to deficient experience can protect against legal trouble.

Perusing the Buenos Aires classifieds confirmed what had been hearsay. Then further surveying help wanted columns throughout Latin America, found the trait unapologetically broad-based.

Prospective employees in Latin American business can be judged on appearances. It is a vital criterion. It’s the sort of “look-ism” that would have North American feminists taking to the streets bearing torches and pitch forks if it occurred here.

The help wanteds inspected held plenty of jobs seeking various office support personnel. Yet what position didn’t require applicants to conform to certain specifics? Barely coded as these were, common knowledge meant females should appear eye-pleasing and their complexions within the fairer shades.

If remembered correctly, the euphemism used insisted the applicant should appear presentable.

These measures didn’t apply to menial tasks or custodial jobs. In fact probably the more shapeless, darker skinned applicants were for those openings, the more likely they’d suit the employer’s notion of who should toil at what. See it like this: a pale, shapely woman could disturb the accepted image thoroughly ingrained of a domestic worker. Yet a thick throughout her middle, deep brown or black woman would fit the customary standards.

No doubt it’s rare seeing the latter types behind any reception desk in even the most middling Latin American business concern, much less manning the bulwark outside any prominent executive’s sanctum.

South of the border there is no ambiguity or ambivalence.

All this circles back to Bunuel and the intriguing scenes.

End of January, a pair of tableaux sloshed across my laptop screen. Each kind of determined whether the viewer broad- or narrow-minded.

In the first, a gaggle of women sat in a nail salon receiving pedicures. Nothing unusual about that activity – except the clientele and techs had been switched. Accustomed to seeing Asians seated before and ministering to white women’s toes, instead sullen Anglos performed this indulgence upon cackling Far Easterners.

The second portrayal featured an adolescent white girl amid a toy store aisle whose shelves were stocked with black dolls.

After initial unbalancing by both pictures, their premises quickly entered the ordinary realm. Why shouldn’t white women cater to their Asian sisters? Can’t black dolls also confer desired and ideal beauty notions to differently complexioned little girls?

Certainly, though, other recipients of each picture never got past or outright resisted swallowing the first’s role reversal and the second’s switched polarity. None should doubt that a sizable number of us will refuse seeing those believed destined as subordinates rise or what’s been historically diminished obtain appreciable comparison.

Aware of general Latin American hiring preferences, I developed a possible “Bunuel-esque” film treatment over a few well-deserved cocktails in the sidewalk seating portion of a bar on Avenida Santa Fe.

In the telling, overnight perspectives switch. The high-castes descend, the lower ones rise into their place. Before fading into present circumstances, tale’s opening would’ve a shown series of vignettes summarizing the previous arrangements in homes and offices.

The next day rather than chaos erupting from widespread befuddlement life proceeds uneventfully. Only viewers will recognize the quotidian’s new alignments.

If presented successfully, seeing the expected figures assuming new patterns will also discomfort much of the audience.

Housekeepers become the ladies of the grand houses they formerly cleaned. They command their mistresses, some in same the high and mighty manner that once scalded their ears.

The bureaus buzz and hum under the management and administration of black and brown characters who’d earlier been seen as porters, back office clerks, messengers, and delivery people. Performing their prior tasks, and seen as infrequently as the previous cast in professional settings, bosses, associates, administrative assistants, and secretaries.

Although the flesh tomes have been altered, the intrigues remain unchanged.

Inside residences while husbands are away at work the habits of stay-at-home wives remain constant. Ladies who always lunch and continually trivially socialize still spritz innuendo about peers who’ve fallen out of favor. Why? Are reasons necessary? Isn’t it enough for one of them trying to reach above the group? Or that every bunch of gossiping women always resembles the contents of a bag of snakes?

Off in distances yet sponging up every syllable and hugely entertained by their employers’ and their friends’ slanders, the help. Earlier scenes had these women either glammed up or encased in wardrobes intended to draw focus. Now occupying maintenance positions, their formless drab attire matches the near indifference society pays them. Gone also are the extravagant hairstyles. These have either been corralled into buns or hidden under scarves.

The larger the offices, the more involved the office intrigues, no?

As glimpsed with the bureaus’ previous lineups, little true work seems getting accomplished. Instead proximity to co-workers better seen as fantasy fodder than colleagues stirs imaginations. It incites lusts and makes imbalances of power either precarious gambits or potential forfeitures of advancement and dismissal.

Bad enough these detours around decent expected comportment circulate among the professionals. However, isn’t such conduct perceived as threatening when one or more of firm’s acknowledged authorities seeks flinging themselves on staff filling the lowest ranks?

Isn’t that enough to render imbalances crucial toward present employment and the future? That would induce two conversations.

The first, among the white collars, might acknowledge the action transgressive. Nonetheless it only takes a small amount of rationalization among the likeminded to make the biggest sins permissible. Besides, if one looks down from the heights those below start losing their distinctions. Meaning they can be fit into convenient thinking.

Meaning their objections can be disregarded.

Down the in the depths where work is more precarious the question of acquiescence or not earns little debate. And it’s never a matter of setting limits because the imposition sought will forever be boundless.

Instead in submission there is practicality. Exchange. What benefits can be derived?

But what about the law? Redress.

Fine-sounding legal statues swell countless law books. Yet in reality suitable satisfying amends rarely find those without wherewithal and position. For those without either seeking it, the exercise surely hones legal minds but mostly delivers futility.

Therefore, better to gain by being practical than banished emptyhanded.

A good Bunuelian fillip? (Hey. Another Bunuel adjectival form.) That should be all the involved parties somehow sensing something, something like the natural order they currently inhabited, somewhat amiss. Not the backstabbing and double dealing and misbehavior and perverse intimidation acceptable.

The whole bunch would find the above attributes acceptable.

In the end, they’d shrug. None would bother delving any further.

After all, it would be a Bunuel movie.

However, viewers, at least perceptive ones, are a lot more ethical and moral than the vast majority of movie characters. The dark leading cast members acting out roles familiar to predominantly white audiences from their real lives ought to jar.

Seeing actors like them, they wouldn’t see themselves. Seeing figures unlike them mirroring them might pierce selective vision.

Hoping for more, like correction, would be too much. Those adjustments only happen in movies.

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