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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.

Comments

I am struggling with the same question regarding acting. I also do not claim to understand the complexity behind why J Lo playing Selena (being a non Mexican) is a large problem. Something that I cannot help but question is how that is different than when actors use an accent which is not theirs to portray themselves as someone that they are not. If actors solely could play roles which are inside a designed box (a box which they may not be creating for themselves) then that seems oppressive to the actor, in my opinion. Again, in this case, with a cultural icon like Frida or a loved singer like Selena, I cannot speak because it does not hit close to home for me. If the actor does not understand the culture from which their character comes from, in any situation not just in the representation of a Latino person, their performance will not be as convincing or as genuine. I am just not sure that the only way a person can play a role is if they have the same identity categories as the character. Many actors who play people from different social classes, or family situations, have never experienced that life style, yet can find communality with the character to help them be honest in their acting choices. As I write this blog posting I am hearing the Devils Advocate in my ear telling me that I am making this too simple and not thinking about how important these representations are. Please do respond to help me figure this out :)