April 5, 2009

Chicana/o-Latina/o Gender and Sexuality Studies FA08

This blog was a teaching tool utilized during the Fall 2008 semester where students of CHIC 4232: Chicana/o-Latina/o Gender and Sexuality Studies explored various topics related to the course. Please feel free to browse our ideas and use them as you investigate these important issues. If you have any questions about the blog or content feel free to contact me, Kandace Creel Falcón through email: creel005@umn.edu.

December 11, 2008

Playing with Boys

I tried to write a review of the book Playing with boys but since I have never purchased anything from Amazon, they won't allow me to post a review. Therefore, I will my write my review here in the course blog. One of the strong points of the book is the authors portrayal of Latina diversity. I have not read any other books written by this author but by reading this book I sense that the author has a strong understanding of the Latino culture. However, through out the book the author tends to recreate certain stereotypes of the Latino culture. An example of such is the Mexican singers who are portrayed as macho and disrespectful towards women. The three main characters are also portrayed as self conscious and too preoccupied with their image. I would have liked to have read about a stronger portrayal of Latinas. Latinas who do what they want and say what they want and not take abuse in order to maintain their jobs. Overall, I would give this book a 3 out of 5. It is an ok start for the book, but in the future I would like to see the author write more about Latinas who do more than go shopping and worry about finding a man.

December 10, 2008

El Zorro Continued

I ended up watching the next episode of Zorro after I posted last night, and it was unbelievable how much the comandante's wife represented characteristics of La Malinche. It was made apparent that she is secretly a traitor to her husband and Spain, because she felt it necessary to be "under a man with strong leadership" (double entendre!) She had been secretly communicating with an underground organization that threatened the rule of the king.

I also found it very interesting that she was in a position of power, and passed on directions to those under her watch. This is similar to La Malinche because she was a translator, and could exist in both worlds, like the comandante's wife (who was never suspected of being the one working behind the scenes). One could also argue that her betrayal of her husband could be likened to the betrayal of indigenous lands to the Spanish. It's amazing to me that so many people probably watched this show and had no idea about the political and historical archetypes it was presenting.

December 9, 2008

El Zorro Revisited

Recently I have rediscovered the original Disney Channel "Zorro" episodes on YouTube. Although they are still charming and fun, I keep finding myself questioning and analyzing their 1950's representations of Mexicans, indigenous people, and women. Firstly, I would like to point out that I have not seen one woman in that show who is dark-skinned. Granted most of the women are Spanish, but even the indigenous women seem to be lighter-skinned than their masculine counterparts. The women are often either proper and chaste to a fault, or are dangerous and seductive vixens. The men, on the other hand, are often portrayed as protective, proud (to a fault), and impulsive. Take for example one episode I watched recently where a new comandante came into the pueblo and his wife was young and beautiful. While sitting at a table in the inn with her husband, she was "making eyes" at a nearby handsome man, who was obviously returning the sexual attraction. He is later tricked into serenading the young woman and she comes to the balcony smiling. Throughout this episode I was reminded of La Malinche and wondered if Disney would make this commander's wife into a "traitor" to her husband. That didn't happen in anything I've seen yet, but in a later episode, the comandante asks Don Diego de la Vega (zorro's alter ego) to "watch over" his wife while he is away because she is "young and impetuous, and may be swept off her feet by some young scoundrel". The only Mexican that has been defined outright as one tried to cheat Diego out of some gold by telling him it was fake. And the indigenous people all dress the same, are much darker than anyone else, and have little to no role in the episodes (other than the occasional rescue from the wealthy, handsome, learned Diego de la Vega. Although there are many social issues that should be acknowledged in this show, it's been enjoyable to revisit, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested.

December 7, 2008

Full Circle...

Months ago I wanted to blog about high heels. In the past few weeks we've been discussing representation. More recently, we've looked at different examples "in the spotlight" such as Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Lopez. I would like to just throw out some thoughts, randomly, perhaps linking these things together.

We discussed the relevance of choice, which I believe pertains to all of these matters. So are high heels a symbol which may be seen as oppressive and which then may be reclaimed to offer a feminist agency? Can a personal choice simply be chalked up to just that, choice? I think they're pretty, therefore, the choice that I have made shatters any argument one would have regarding oppression becuase I took ownership over my choice? Which leads me to...

Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz and their "choices" in hollywood regarding representation. What are their allegiances "supposed" to be toward? Should either be making decisions upon what brand to endorse or what roles to play based upon a larger audience that they may or may not choose to represent? If by the "HEELS" argument, it should be more important that they may choose the things that may give themselves the most mobility (which seems to turn these issues into more class-based)? I realize that J. Lo's and Penelope's decisions are not being formed in the classroom, but with the heels argument it was difficult for me not to argue the full spectrum of choice when it comes to representation.

I don't quite HAVE representation yet. Or maybe I'm making it more complicated than it needs to be. My first semester at the U I jumped into a CSCL class at the 3000 level and I didn't learn what "DISCOURSE" really was until the end of the semester. I feel that two years later I still am grappling with representation. Especially in terms of film. For this I will return to J. Lo.

So we have
J. Lo's personal life (which few can claim to know).
J. Lo's career (biography, if you will).
J. Lo's individual jobs (some of which may be a part of the personal life or the career).
J. Lo's films (which would be the most arguable as NOT having anything to do with her personal life).

When we discuss representation, I have no idea (STILL) how we can even get our heads around this. I would understand more if we talked only about someone's political activism, or about only someone's writing, as it comes from within, right? I don't understand representation when someone has all of these layers that could have NOTHING to do with them.

What are the choices in J. Lo's personal life, as opposed to career choice, as opposed to acting roles? My point is with Maid in Manhattan or Selena, I find it very difficult to have these discussions because they are not her. Are we discussing that she is Nuyorican and made the DECISION to play a Mexican American and the subsequent problematics? Or are we discussing how someone else framed this "star" and how WELL she is portraying or representing someone? It's like a tornado for me, really.

Anyway, I could probably zone in and choose a side and argue it, but first i need to get over "representation." I still have questions about representation regarding sexuality...

December 4, 2008

Type Casting is far to problematic then not

All of the popular Latinas in hollywood seem to fall into different categories as we disucssed in class on Wednesday. Jennifer Lopez played into the stereotype when she first come into hollywood, penelope cruz plays into the internationl sophisticated role and Eva mendes is somewhere in between as the Puerto Rican American. My question is, why do these roles seem more prevelvant when it comes to other cultures in Hollywood? The biggest example that comes to mind is how an actress like Lucy Lu plays in to that "ass kickin asian" (for lack of better wording) stereotype. Or how certain African American actresses may always end up playing in roles that are considered "mouthy" or "ghetto." My second question is do people argee with celebrities playing into these roles, just to get a big break? I am on the fense. I know that in life sometimes you have to play the game in order to get where you may want to be, but the fact that these games even need to exist in this manner is far more problematic then anything. We claim to have come so far as a nation, but these unfair situations still insist on occuring. Why is it that we even need to dwell on race. Why is it that only one minority female has ever won a major acting award. It is not the lack of talent it is the lack of opportunity to start in great roles. Hollywood is so influential in this nation, and unforunately it is where so many ideas are developed about the unfamiliar. Even though i know that celebrites sometimes have to make sacrifices to get where they want to be, i can say that i do not agree with playing into a stereotype about ones culture. There has to be a line, and i feel that when celebrites cross this line, they loose a lot of dignity. No job is worth disrespecting who you are and where you came from.

December 3, 2008

J.Lo's butt and Latino roles

I posed the question in class regarding Puerto Ricans only being able to play Puerto Rican roles. Jennifer Lopez had referenced this in the article Jennifer's Butt which I thought to be intriguing. I don't want to diminish the complexities of the argument by also posing the trying to "relate" this to gender and/or sexuality, but my brain works by analogy. Therefore, if I'm insanely insulting, then please fill me in on HOW badly I've missed the mark. That said, I'd like to say, from my perspective, that I am currently siding with J. Lo when it comes to ACTING. This will also reference my question of "representation" the other day in class. Now, regarding the controversy of J. Lo not being Mexican American and playing the role of Selena. I'm not saying that in terms of representation that it wouldn't have been BETTER, but it is complicated because it is a portrayal. Had J. Lo herself attempted to deny herself as Puerto Rican or claim to be Mexican American, in real life, then I would be see further complications. I'm not trying to take away from the argument of the "blanket Latina." I realize that with the systems of power in place it is not fair for me to make such analogies that assume my understanding of these complications. I'm probably proving myself wrong more than anything, which is a good thing, right? In the end, I feel that the space in acting cannot hold the same responsibilities as real life does. Why does Felicity Huffman get to play a Transgender person? Why does Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger get to portray closeted gay men? Once again, I'm not EQUATING race to gender and sexuality, but in an intersectional approach, I'm exploring it.

Reactions to Maid in Manhattan

It had been a long time since I have seen Maid in Manhattan. I espeically had not see it since I have been in this class, and I have developed more skills to be able to think analytically about it. I watched it agian today this after noon so it is fresh in my head. To answer the questions that were posted:
1. I feel that this movie does represnt/portray the latina woman is a stereotypical light in a lot of ways. Lopez's character is a working class single mother who is trying to make ends meet. It is interesting that they picked her to be a maid. It is as though they are alomst saying if she is going to be Latina she has to be portrayed in a working class lower end job. It makes me a little upset that it was so type casted. I also noticed that the WHOLE maid staff was all minorties as well. Which is quite offensive, and another unfair stereotype.

2. The relationship between Marisa and her son was s good relationship. They showed her as the loving, giving type that we have read so much about when we discussed latina mothers. It was like she was working, but i felt that everyhting seh did was so she could give her son a decent life. She comforted him when he needed it, she taught him lessons when he did wrong, and she comended him she he did right. I thought it was a good relationship for the most part. Until she fell in love that is, then her priorities may have gone out the window a little bit, but for the most part audiences got to see a good dipiction.

3. The friendship between Marisa and her friend seems much better then the one between chris and jerry. By better I mean marisa and stephanie are on the same level. There is no power trip from one side. It is a real freindship and is not dominated by one or the other. On the other hand, Chris and Jerry's freindship was like a constatnt power struggle. One was always trying to have power over the other. Jerry was trying to state is dominance and Chris was trying to state that he could not be dominated or controlled. It was interesting to see their version of displaying male dominance.

4.Ya i remember one scene in particular where she expericed a bit of racism. When she brought towels to the rich lady's suite they jsut dissmissed her like she was a peasant. And they said a few words in spanglish, assuming that she only spoke spanish. Also the Rich lady assumed her name was Maria because she was Latina. The racism she experienced in the movie was suttle but i still felt non the less is was still quite offensive. It was also a bit apauling that she just did not stand up for her self when she experienced these things. This was one of the parts of the movie that really disturbed me.

5. I definately felt taht my emotions got the best of me at the end of the movie. I was happy that they were together, so for a moment I negleted all of the thing wrong with the movie. Then I stopped and thought about it. I really do not liek rags to riches strories. They perpetuate the idea that one needs to change to be worthy of someone who may have money or be in another class then them. At the end they could not just leaver her as a maid, she had to break into management. I found it all problematic. Even though it was what she was trying to do the whole movie, it still did not sit well with me. Over all, beyond all the cheesy lovey dovey things about this movie, it is far to problematic to even be considered a good movie. I hate movies that perpetuate negative stereotypes and i feel this movies does just that, There are SOME good things about the movie (her relationship with her son) but over all it was not good when looked at analytically.

Acts Against Women...On Movie Screens and In Real Life

A few weeks ago we read articles in class about the women who were abused and taken advantage of by the police and basically the government. It struck me how things like this were happening and nobody knew about them and they weren't brought up in the media or in any communites. Also that these women were in fear of going to the police because they were afraid of getting seperated from their familes or being deported. Why I'm bringing up this article now is because it came to mind when I was watching a movie that is now out in theatres called Changeling. This is the new Angelina Jolie movie about a mother who's son is kidnapped and when the police bring her son back it's the wrong child. This movie brings to the screen how the police force has so much power over people, especially women. They do whatever they can to make sure that Angelina does not fight back against them and when she does she finds out all the horrible things they, the police, have done to protect and save their own asses.During the movie people in the movie theatre were shocked and could not beleive what was happening and how things like this happened. I just thought that it was really interesting how stories like this are on theatre screens and that people were in awe about these stories and yet they don't even know that things like this are still happening to women and we just don't hear about them. This movie was a very frustrating movie to watch but it was good in the sense that it brought these issues to light.

Rags to Riches

Before this class and discussion about Chicana women I used to enjoy this movie greatly. I'm always a fan of cheezy chick flicks where there's a love story, but I guess I have never examined this movie that deeply. I can see all the contraversal scenes and aspects about this movie and how they create the stereotypical image of a Latina woman. First how Marisa is in a working class position as a maid who waits on rich white people in a hotel and how it would be a "dream" to manage. I think it's terrible how such a dream for a Latina woman is like an average position for a white person; because you didn't see any white maids in the movie. The next scene that stood out to me was when Marisa got all dressed up to go to the party with Chris. When she walked into the party all eyes turned to her and it seemed like everyone was looking at her like why is she here or she doesn't belong here. Why would they have everyone look and whisper something when she walks in? I know this adds a dramatic feel and a cinderella twist to the story but it would have been different if there were some other people of color in the room when it happened. These two aspects stood out to me the most during the movie. Even with all the contraversy in this movie I can't lie and say I hated. When I watch movies like this I don't look too deeply into it and I just watch it for the story. I beleive that if you sat down and watched every movie and picked out all the contraversal aspects of them you would probably hate all movies because there are not many with no contraversy.

December 2, 2008

Lupe vs. Lopez

So I was thinking about the class discussion yesterday about Lupe Velez and the clips we watched from Maid in Manhattan, and it seems like there are some very stark contrasts between Lupe and J. Lo, not just in terms of the roles that they played but also in the public persona that they maintain(ed). What I noticed watching Marisa is that her character seems to have her opinions swayed back and forth by other characters in the movie (Stephanie, her boss, Chris) and she is pushed into acting different ways based on what other people think. Lupe's character however, or at least what I could tell from the montage we watched, did not wait for other people to tell her what to do or say, and was very quick to tell other people her honest opinion and to act as she saw fit, not caring what they thought. Her character also did not prize marriage to be the ultimate goal in life, repeating over and over in one scene "I want to leave my husband!" This seemed to be true in her personal life as well, as she said "I've always been afraid of marriage, it seems to me like being imprisoned in an iron cage...I do not tolerate anyone telling me what I can and cannot do." Lopez on the other hand has been married (or close to it) on more than one occasion. And this last spring/summer she gave People magazine the first glimpses of her newborn twins, and the happy, wealthy, heterosexual home that she and Marc have built together. I don't know that I would consider either Lupe or Lopez to be outstanding role models per se, however I do think that as a feminist and progressive figure that Lupe has a definite edge over J. Lo.

cultural crossdressing or cultural appropriation?

There was a particular passage that Jill and I were discussing in small group last week that I meant to bring up to the whole class but didn't have time to get to. In the "Representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie" there following sentence about the costuming of Barbie and Ken sparked our discussion:

"Barbie and Ken's cultural cross-dressing metonymically invites the consumer to objectify the exotic other without ever actually invoking the image of the other's body."

Jill argued, and I agree, that to use cross-dressing in this context is not only inaccurate, but takes away from the specific subversive power and political or cultural message that cross-dressing and gender bending have. I feel like the term cultural appropriation would have been more accurate, since Mattel was using these folkloric Mexican designs as a means to financial gain, and was doing so most likely without permission or support from anyone from that specific culture. So I was just putting that out to the class to see if anyone felt the same or differently, and if they thought appropriation or another term would have been better used.

Romeo and Juliet...

To me, the "intense love" between Marissa and Chris is as fabricated as the "intense love" in Romeo and Juliet. In Romeo and Juliet you have two people who meet for a dance or two and happen to fall in such deep love that they end their lives for one another. Call me a blasphomist but I just don't buy it. They were two hormonaly challanged teenagers who were infatuated with the idea of one another. At the start of the play the audience hears Romeo discuss his head over heels emotions for a woman (her name is escaping my memory) he just can't live without, this only lasts until he meets his next flavor of the week, Juliet. And Juliet is going through some normal 'i hate my family' teenage stuff and Romeo, the rebel, gives her a chance to escape from some of that. The reason that I bring all of this up is because Marissa and Chris have a very similar situation. They took a walk for about 15 minutes and then suddenly could not live without each other. Both sides of this are problematic. Chris exoticizes Marissa and really demeans her yet the movie portrays this as love. Although I do not think that finding a person's intelligence to be attractive as problematic, I do not think that Chris has and real idea of who she is or what she stands for. The closest to a deep conversation they have is Marissa telling him that he does not understand the real situation in the projects and that she does. He sees this attitude to be attractive and wants to have it in his life. Marissa on the other hand sees him as an opportunity to live this "dream" as her friend calls it. She also does not know Chris. As depicted by her friend, this relationship with Chris is a chance to live a life which is incredibly far removed from her current reality. As a single mother living in New York City, this would look awfully appealing. I think that people formulate emotions which are not really there and be blinded by attraction which is created by their own desires. So, at the end of the day, Marissa and Chris and just using each other to enhance areas in their life which they currently lack and the way that Hollywood portrays this to be a true love Cinderella story is problematic. Thanks for reading my rant :)

December 1, 2008

Maid in Manhattan

I also am a fan of rags to riches stories, but this one was different. Marisa worked hard to become a manager at the hotel, but the "riches" that were emphasized was the wealth that Chris had. Once they were together she could really have it all, love and money. I thought this idea was problematic because her own personal success should have been more emphasized, rather than implying that this (white) man would be the one who could save her and make her happy. The idea that Marisa felt unworthy and that she only felt good enough when she was playing a role for Chris upset me but is pretty general in these types of movies. The fact that most of the maids were not white but most of the wealthy and successful women portrayed were white was frustrating. Would it be so hard to have a Latina play the role of a successful business woman and a white woman play a maid? I never thought of any of these issues the first time I watched this movie, but this class has opened by eyes to these portrayals of Latinas and of all women.

November 28, 2008

From Rags to Riches

I must admit that I do like the story of rags to riches. That being said, there are many aspects of the movie that I believe are problematic. First, there is the beautiful Latina maid who is a single mother. She is portrayed as a hard working woman but she is too self conscious to advance in life. Unlike the typical cinderella, the Latina maid has a child. This to me seems to send the message of the importance of motherhood for Latinas. Then, we have the Prince charming, who is a white male. He of course is secure, powerful and rich. The one thing that bothers me the most with stories like this one is the importance that is placed in physical beauty. From this movie we can see the typical gender roles being played out. Women must be beautiful and men in return must be powerful and rich. The message this movie sends out to me is that the most important aspect in a woman is her beauty. There is also the message that people should be in a heterosexual relationship. Before taking this class I really enjoyed the movie and didn't find anything wrong with it. However, now that I have taken this class, I see the ways the media influences and reinforces our gender roles.