Thoughts on series, fiction, and memories of the recent past (Lorena Antezana Barrios)
Thoughts on series, fiction, and memories of the recent past (Lorena Antezana Barrios)

Thoughts on series, fiction, and memories of the recent past (Lorena Antezana Barrios)

This year, the Chilean animated short film Beast has been nominated for an Oscar, and in 2015, Bear Story won the award in this same category. Both productions are inspired by the Chilean dictatorship. The first film focuses on a woman torturer while the second concentrates on exile. The topics were not chosen by chance nor were they a strategy; they are part of the social concerns of the post-dictatorship that were not resolved during the so-called transition to democracy.

The Chilean dictatorship (1973-1990) is part of the country’s recent past, and fiction has been the predominant mode of expression since 2013, the year of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the coup. That year, serial audiovisual products (series and mini-series) took over the small screen with high-quality productions that managed to reach wider audiences than usual for this type of subject and once again put the illegitimacy of the coup up for debate in the public space.

We investigated[1] how three generations of viewers with different life experiences understood these series[2]: those who lived through the coup who at the time of fieldwork in 2016 were between 50 and 64 years old; those who grew up during the dictatorship who in 2017 were between 35 and 49 years old; and those who grew up in democracy who in 2018 were between 18 and 24 years old.

We used a methodological strategy that incorporated, at different levels, two of the epistemological bases of qualitative methodology: interpretivism and social constructivism. We developed a thematic and conversational analysis of 24 interviews and 6 focus groups. Our results indicate that:

(1) the experience lived in relation to the dictatorship has a differential impact on the readings of the fictional series made by men and women; (2) the construction of individual and collective (generational) memories is organized based on the images proposed by the fictional series related to the recent past of the country and are fundamentally linked to the life cycle and daily life; (3) reading these series visually translates the way in which Chilean society took responsibility for the conflict and the emotions on which the transition to democracy was organized; (4) the narratives that men and women constructed about the recent past show differences in relation to the place they assume as narrators and the way they connect with their emotions, these differences being less evident in younger generations; and (5) the climate of the time affects the interpretation made by the different viewers of the recent past presented in the series.

These series do not replace history, but they manage to install certain socially relevant references and milestones whose bases are historical, so they can be considered a useful educational tool for new generations.

Suggested reading: one (in Spanish).

[1] “Images of Memory: Generational readings of television fiction series about the recent past of Chile” project financed by ANID, Fondecyt 1160050.

[2] The series with the highest viewing rates were those considered in this research: The 80sThe Archives of the CardinalEchoes of the Desert, and No, The Serie.

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