<%BANNER%>

Looking Latina: Cultural Perspectives on Images and Representations of Latinas in Film, Television and Popular Culture


PAGE 1

1 LOOKING LATINA: CULTURAL PE RSPECTIVES ON IMAGES AND REPRESENTATIONS OF LATINAS IN FI LM, TELEVISION AND POPULAR CULTURE By ROSA E. SOTO A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

PAGE 2

2 Copyright 2006 By Rosa E. Soto

PAGE 3

3 To my mother, Laura Soto-Perez; my grandmother, Ramona Lopez; and a ll of the women in my family.

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my mother, Laura Soto-Perez for, her hard work, her courage, her words of wisdom, her strength, and her di gnity throughout the years. I tha nk my grandparents, Laurentino and Ramona Lopez, for being inspirations to us all. I thank all of my friends, who helped me with the process, from revising dissertation chapters to talking over ideas. I thank my dissertation chairs, Dr. Tace Hedrick and Dr. Malini Schueller, for their encouragement, advice and help. I also thank other committee members Dr. Debra Ki ng and Dr. Efrain Barradas. I thank my Aunt, Inez Santiago, for sharing her stories with me. I thank my Uncle, Amical Santiago, for helping me and for always being there when needed. I th ank my brother, Ricardo Soto, and my sister, Ramonita Soto, for being the wings that let me fly. I personally thank my friends Brigette Smith, Sarah Brusky, and Maisha Wester for their co mfort, their thoughts, and their friendship throughout this process. I thank Onika Washingt on for our decades of friendship and for the struggles we both faced together.

PAGE 5

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCING A LATINA SPECTATOR...........................................................................9 Examining Images of Latinas in Popular Culture.....................................................................9 Tiger Woods and the Creation of Cablinasiani sm: Struggling with Id entity in the Media Spotlight...................................................................................................................... ........12 To Be or Not To Be: That Is the Latina Question..................................................................19 Signs and Signifiers........................................................................................................... .....20 Encoding/Decoding Strategies................................................................................................21 Real Women Have Curves : Ambivalence in Pan Latino/a Identity........................................23 Dame Edna Pisses off the Masses and Salma Hayek Too: Examining the Use of Satire in Popular Culture............................................................................................................. ..31 Bringing down the House: Examining Images of Latinas in Mainstream Cultural Texts......39 2 MADE TO BE A MAID? AN EXAMINAT ION OF THE LATINA AS MAID IN MAINSTREAM FILM AND TELEVISION.........................................................................42 The Banger Sisters : The Most Visible of Maids....................................................................47 Fictional Servants: How Necessary Are Latina Maids?.........................................................50 The Historical Legacy of the Ethnic Maid in Film.................................................................53 The Sexy Latina Maid and the New Latina Spitfire...............................................................57 Maid in Manhattan : A Revitalization of the Latina Maid......................................................69 Maids on Monk : Making Their Way in the World.................................................................74 3 THE MAMMY MYTH:MAMMYHOOD RE CONFIGURED FOR THE LATINA SERVANT........................................................................................................................ ......79 We Need Our Comfort: The Legacy of th e Mammy Lives on in the Imaginations of Whiteness...................................................................................................................... ......85 Am I Imagining Things? The Theory behind the Reality of White Imaginations of Darkness....................................................................................................................... .......89 Case Studies................................................................................................................... .........92 White Women and Women of Color Bond in Film........................................................92 Making the Connection: A Shared Histor y of Oppression for Black and Latina Women.........................................................................................................................99 The Latina Mammy: Two Progressive Films Fail To Be Progressive..........................104 And Never the Two Shall Meet?A Comparis on of the Black Historical Mammy in Gone with the Wind and the New Reconfigured Latina Mammy in Will & Grace ..........112 A Latina Spectators Comments...........................................................................................126

PAGE 6

6 4 ARE YOU MY HOMIE?: LOOKI NG AT ETHNIC TOYS AND A NEW FINANCIAL PLAYGROUND............................................................................................129 Displaying Ethnicity: My Puerto Rican Aunt and Her Collection of Mexican Figurines....138 Black Memorabilia: A Possible Connection?.......................................................................141 A Deal with the Devil: Financial Assistance?......................................................................146 Toy or Collectible: To Play or Not To Play?........................................................................148 Collecting Things: Signifying Potential............................................................................156 Homie Stories: What They Offer a Looking Culture...........................................................162 Is This a Negative Reality?: The Controversial Aspect of Homies......................................175 Positive or Negative: Homies Live On.................................................................................184 5 CONCLUSION: The Best Latino Film Ever Made is Spy Kids ...........................................187 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................194 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................204

PAGE 7

7 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy LOOKING LATINA: CULTURAL PE RSPECTIVES ON IMAGES AND REPRESENTATIONS OF LATINAS IN FI LM, TELEVISION AND POPULAR CULTURE By Rosa E. Soto December 2006 Chair: Tace Hedrick Cochair: Malini Schuller Department of English This work, Looking Latina: Cultural Perspectives on Images and Representations of Latinas in Film, Television and Popular Culture examines the ways in which Latinas are framed both by Latinas/os themselves as well as within discourses of whiteness in dominant culture. It serves as an introduction to analyzing di sseminating, negotiating with and enriching our understanding of the images of La tinas in popular culture as they are presented to us through the media and other cultural texts. I am interested in important ideo logical questions concerning the ways in which we engage with such images. How do I and other Latinas read the Latina image as problematic in a variety of cultural texts? How does Anglo culture read the Latina? What culturally produced images, as well as readings of those images, help us understand our position as Latinas in a local and global discourse? What resistance or complicity do the images elicit? In thinking about these questions, an important goal of this work is to understand the ambiguity of how and why as Latinas (from a number of differe nt positions of identity) we question what we see, at the same time as we may enjoy it. I wa nt to understand how we may read and interpret images of ourselves in film, television and popular culture. Moreover, I am interested in how the

PAGE 8

8 tensions between gender, class and racial identi ties produce tensions in our interpretations of images of us in popular culture.

PAGE 9

9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCING A LATINA SPECTATOR Examining Images of Latinas in Popular Culture It is interesting to me that on the occasions wh en I present, at a conference, my idea that the Latina is all but absent in the discourse of film and television, I inevitably am asked the question, What do I think of Jennife r Lopez? It is a question that bothers me. Almost always, it seems to me that the question is asked as a wa y to trip up my thinking about notions of race, class and ethnicity. The question is always posed in a challenging manner. I feel that implied, but never asked, are the questions, Why do Latinos believe everything is a stereotype? Why is representation so important to you ? What is authentic ethnicity? I feel that my answer somehow betrays the focus of my project. Th e truth I so fear, and at the same time revel in, is that I like Jennifer Lopez. This Jennifer Lopez questionsomehow always a bout her butt, her tan, her films or videos and her menpositions me in complicated narratives and discourses, as a Latina, as a woman, as a spectator, and as an individual representing a certain group of classe d, raced, and ethnicized people. I believe it threatens to implicate me in a fixed, static identity. If I like her, then I have no room to suggest her image is problematic, or I have to defend myself against allegations that she is constructed and therefore not capable of authen ticity. If I dislike her, then I find myself in a contradictory moment where I, as presumably the only individual capable of speaking for authentic Latinaness, threaten to erase Latina discourse, a location I inherently positioned myself against. In Yearning: race, gender and cultural politics author bell hooks elucidates the difficult position ethnic individuals are in when they engage with images of themselves. As she tells us about the struggle African-American men have while watching Spike Lee s film Do the Right

PAGE 10

10 Thing black male students came to talk with me, bringing their buddies, because they were deeply concerned with the issue of whether nega tive critique meant they were not supportive of a brother who is trying to make it and be in solida rity with blackness (6). Additionally, hooks tells us they feared that disagreement among them selves might disrupt feelings of bonding and solidarity (6). Hooks answer to the tension pro duced between these perspectives is to tell her students that critiquing a subjec t (even one produced by someone of ones own ethnic make-up) does not silence the work itself or its importance in cultural discourse. In fact, hooks argues that fully engaging with the text is significant in te rms of the importance of critical exchange. As hooks argues, in any liberator y pedagogy, students should learn how to distinguish between hostile critique that is about t rashing and critique thats a bout illuminating a nd enriching our understanding (7). Moreover, hooks argues that this criticism is es pecially significant for ethnic individuals, who for too long have been abse nt from critical discourse. Hooks argument is important to our understanding that critically engaging with cu ltural subjects a nd texts (like Jennifer Lopez) means that we also engage both our concerns, as well as our emotions--positive, negative or ambivalent--in cultural studies. This work serves as an introduction to anal yzing and enriching our understanding of the images of Latinas in popular cu lture as they are presented to us through the media and other cultural texts. I am interested in a number of im portant ideological questions concerning the very ways in which we engage with such images. How do I and other Latinas read the Latina as problematic in a variety of cultu ral texts? What culturally produced images, as well as readings of those images, help us understand our position as Latinas in a local and global discourse? What resistance or complicity do the images elicit? In thinking about these questions, an important goal of this work is to unders tand the ambiguity of how and why as Latinas (from a number of

PAGE 11

11 different positions of identity) we question what we see, at the same time as we may enjoy it. I want to understand how we may r ead and interpret images of our selves in film, television and popular culture. Moreover, I am interested in ho w the tensions between ge nder, class and racial identities produce tensions in our interpretations of images of us in popular culture. My goal in taking a closer look at the represen tation of Latinas is suggested in bell hooks black looks: race and representation where she examines the personal and political consequences of representations of black me n and women within white culture. And although hooks discusses matters from an African-American standpoint, I transfer hooks arguments to an analysis of the ways in which Latinos/as look at images of them selves. In fact, there are many ties between African-Americans and U.S Chicana/La tina women, especially in regards to our relationships with white women and our relationship with femi nism. For example, we have similarly fought to be given agency and subjectiv ity in discourse, we have fought together for political, economic and social change and we ha ve struggled for representation together. As Gloria Anzalda and Cherre Moraga state in This Bridge Called My Ba ck: Writings by Radical Women of Color : as Third World women, we understand the importa nce, yet limitations of race ideology to describe out total experience. Cultural differe nces get subsumed when we speak of race as an isolated issue: where does the Black Puer to Rican sister stake out her alliance in this country, with the Black community or the Latino? And color alone cannot define her status in society-How do we compare the struggles of the middle class Bl ack woman with those of the light-skinned Latina welfare mother? Furt her, how each of us perceives our ability to be radical against this oppre ssive state is largely affected by our economic privilege and our specific history of coloni zation in the U.S. (105) This ethnic feminist collection of perspectives strived to make those connections more evident within feminist studies, arguing that women of color needed to work together to break or try to break systems of oppressions they had in comm on. However, I would never suggest that women of color neglect their differences based on r acial, ethnic or economi c positioning. However,

PAGE 12

12 limited as I am by the frameworks in the cultural discourse, which allows me to examine these intersections, as well as the tens ions, I employ bell hooks framework, because it is the one I feel most strongly elucidates the argument I wish to make about the images and representations offered Latinas in the contemporar y cultural discourse. Therefore, I would like to ask, as bell hooks articulates in her book black looks: race and representation : From what critical perspective do we dream, l ook, create, and take action? For those of us who dare to desire differently, who seek to look away from the conventional ways of seeing blackness and ourselves, the issue of race and representation is not just a question of critiquing the status quo. It is also about transforming the image, creating alternatives, asking ourselves questions about what types of images subvert, pose critical alternatives, and transform our worldviews and move us fr om dualistic thinking about good and bad. (4) This work represents a politic al struggle to push against the boundaries of the image, to find words that express what I seewhen I am seeing th ings that most folks want to believe simply are not there (hooks 4). Moreover, even as I struggle with ambiguity of images of U.S Latinas/os, I suggest that such images can be ne gotiated with, in order to suggest alternate ways to look at Latina identity and subjectivity. To do this project I will employ a cultural studies framework to analyze and offer my interpretations. As such, in the three chapters which follow, I will offer possibilities of understa nding and in engaging with the images of Latinas in cultural texts in broadly histor ical, political, social and economic ways. Tiger Woods and the Creation of Cablinasiani sm: Struggling with Identity in the Media Spotlight. The question of representation and identity w ithin cultural studies is a difficult one, not always easily explained, analyzed or understood. Even those within the same ethnic, gender, or class group, often find themselves struggling with the intersections between those positions. A clear example of this is how we engage with images of stars in Hollywood, often asking them to posit one identity above the other. As Frank Proschan argues:

PAGE 13

13 despite the malleability of ethnic identity, the permeability of ethnic boundaries, and the fluidity of ethnic group membership, people neve rtheless live and act as if distinct ethnic groups really existed, as if others ethnicity determined behavior (and thereby offered a guide to interpreting and predic ting it), as if one could ab andon ones natural ethnic identity and assume another and as if one s natal ethnic group and temporarily or permanently become a member of another. (92) This is the case with both popular golf pro Tiger Woods a nd singer Mariah Carey. Eldrick Tiger Woods finds himself having to constantly clarify his identity to and for the world. So important is the question of his identity, that when Woods first began successfully playing golf, he made a public media statement to clarif y (or defend) his identity. As he states: The purpose of this statement is to explain my heritage for the benefit of members of the media who may be seeing me play for the first time. It is the final and only comment I will make regarding this issue. My parents have taught me to be pr oud of [my] background. Please rest assured, that is, and always will be the case,past, present and future. The media has portrayed me as African America [n ]; sometimes Asian. In fact, I am both. Yes, I am the product of two great cultures, one African American and the other Asian. On my fathers side, I am African-American. On my mo thers side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African American and Asian! The critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background and/or composition should NOT make a difference. It does NOT make a diffe rence to me. The bottom line is that I am Americanand proud of it. That is who I am and what I am. Now, with your cooperation, I hope I can be just a golfer and a human being. Signed, Tiger Woods. (1) There is so much to consider in examining the statement above. First, th at Woods would have to define himself, before symbolical ly being allowed to play is interesting in itself, but that Woods would believe he would have to do so only once, in a world consumed by the clarification of racial, ethnic a nd gendered determinations, is im possible (otherwise he would not have to continually reaffirm his identity with pr ess releases). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Woods continues to identify himself over and over again, recently as Cablinasian on an Oprah Winfrey show, a name he himself created to explain his multi-ethnic background, which includes African-American, Chinese, Native Am erican, Thai, and Caucasian. Second, it is interesting to note his escape into the transcendental identi fication of American, above his

PAGE 14

14 specific ethnic identities. And, as if that term in itself was not enough, he soon escapes into a more transcendentally-based human identity. Audre Lorde argues that this positioning is brought on by the constraints of society. As Lorde states, as members of such economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathi ng and to handle that diffe rence in one of three ways: ignore itcopy itor destroy it (115). Mo reover, critics note that Woods identity is often framed by his success in the sports field, as well as the ways in which he is marketed. As Andrew Billings notes, when Woods won, he was not portrayed as Black, but when he was not as successful he was more likely to be characterized using traditional stereotypes of Black athletes (1). Also, one critic as ks us to consider the way in wh ich Vin Diesel has been marketed for mainstream audiences. As Rob Walker notes: when the action film XXX opened this summer, with relative newcomer Diesel as the star, the media from People to GQ to Charlie Rose to Jet couldn't get enough of him. Diesel was consistently described as a myst erious figure that, among other things, refused to discuss his ethnicity. He was happy to let his handlers spin this as a marketing plus: Supposedly, Latinos think Diesel is Latino, blacks see him as black, Italians identify him as Italian, and so on. (1) Similarly, Mariah Carey became the ultimate contesta tion of identity for me, when I first spotted her on the cover of a Latina magazine I subscrib ed to. I knew, because her identity has been framed by her multi-ethnicity (by her Irish mother and her African Venezuelan father) that Carey is indeed of mixed race, but when I first saw her on that cover, I began to question why I felt encroached upon. Why did she feel the need to identify as a Latin a? I will acknowledge, because I frame my own argument here, the ambiguity of my own feelings about these issues, I would never suggest that Carey had to pick one ident ity above the other. Nor would I suggest she deny any aspect of the identity she chooses to adhe re to. However, I do suggest that we critically engage with our ambivalence about these issues of identity and how th e intersections between

PAGE 15

15 race and gender frame our discussions of the im ages of Latinas in popular culture and why we are so often forced to choose be tween one or the other or set as ide one for the other, dependent on where we are, to whom we are speaking to and what we are trying to accomplish. Therefore, as I suggested above, I find myself defending Jennif er Lopez to Latinas, as often as I do with white Americans. Stuart Hall argues in Questions of Cultural Identity identities are never unified and, in late modern times, increasingly fragmented and fractured, never singular but multiply constructed across different, of ten intersecting and antagonist ic, discourse, practices, and positions (4). Identities and representations of t hose identities are always subject to a significant amount of considerations based on ethnic, classe d and gendered concerns, if not more (religious considerations, for example.) As Hall further argues: actual identities are about questi ons of using the resources of history, language and culture in the process of becoming rather than being: not who we are or where we came from, so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on how we might represent ourselves. Identities are therefore constituted within, not outside representation. (4) Therefore, the analysis of re presentation becomes the basis of understanding how images are produced, reproduced, disseminated, constructed, created, and understood. I am interested in how and why those representations offer sites of resistance, denial a nd complicity. This is a project Stuart Hall articulat es as an essential space: which individuals as subjects identify (or do not identify) with the positions to which they are summoned; as well as how they fa shion, stylize, produce and perform these positions, and why they never do so completely, for once and all time, and some never do, or are in constant, agonis tic process of struggling w ith, resisting, negotiating and accommodating the normative or regulative rule s with which they confront and regulate themselves. (14) It is important to explain that the project I am working on is not a film studies or sociological project. It is a cultural studies project interest ed in the dissemination of images across a number

PAGE 16

16 of interrelated fields and discourses. As such, I will occasionally draw from whatever fields are necessary to produce the knowledge required for a particular projec t (Hall 2). Therefore, there are instances when I will draw upon film studies and the like to fully actualize an argument. Similarly, as necessary, I will draw upon a number of theoretical positions to articulate the significance of the experiences of Latinas in mainstream popular cu lture texts, including, but not limited to feminist, Marxist, and psychoanaly tic studies. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that this is not an ethnographic st udies project; however, I will occasionally draw upon the experiences and responses of individuals (usually Ch icana/Latina women), as bell hooks often does in her cultural texts, to articul ate the relevance of th eir experiences in the cultural discourse and the importan ce of critical engagement that will give Latinas voice in a world which often threatens to silence them. Additionally, an important aspect of dissemi nating images of oneself or ones group in popular culture is a discussion of ones own gend ered, classed and ethnic make-up. Therefore, as the founding fathers of cultural studies often ha d to do, it is important to identify myself throughout the essay, including my own histories, stories and representations to understand something significant in the readings of the materials used. As the text Introducing Cultural Studies states, one key example is the feminist slogan the persona l is political which sought to put a range of questions about personal identity, personal lives and personal conduct onto an explicitly political agenda (224). It is my position, as a Latina, that makes my critical engagement with the cultural texts significant. As bell hooks states in black looks: race and representation without a way to name our pain, we are also without the word s to articulate our pleasure (2). Therefore, it is important to articulate that I am looking at my analysis through the eyes of a gendered lens (as a female), through an ethnic lens (as a Latina woman), and through a

PAGE 17

17 classed lens (working class backgr ound). However, as I do so, I do not wish to privilege any one particular identity above any other. Rath er, I would like to look at each position as interconnected and interrelated with the others. Moreover, what I find significant are the tensio ns produced by the above delineations. It is true that at times one position is set against the others in struggles for representation and selfidentity. For example, in Chapter Three, when I discuss the representations offered by a popular ethnic collectible, my ethnicity becomes strained by my gendered identity and places me in an ambiguous position which may never be fully fi nalized. As Audre Lorde articulates in Age, Race, Class and Sex: Wome n Redefining Difference : traditionally, in American society, it is the members of the oppressed, objectified groups who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between th e actualities of our lives and the consciousness of our oppressor. For in order to survive, those of us for whom oppression is as American as a pple pie have always had to be watchers, to become familiar with the language and manners of the oppressor, even some times adopting them for some illusion of protection. (114) Do I accept the ambivalence of the images (from a gendered perspective) or do I negotiate with the images (finding the positive in the ethnic), even if it means denying that position? The oscillation between the two, which produces the tens ion I speak of above, is part and parcel of the cultural analysis I strive fo r in this work. Moreover, I am as king that we consider as well the connections between those identities. What are the intersections between the two which produce the ambivalence I speak of? As Teresa McKenna discusses in her disc ussion of how Cherrie Moraga portrays struggle in her texts, many Chicana feminists privilege economic, social struggle over gender issues. How to manage the inters tices of this conflict is the subject (33). One final note, I will not speak for Latinas ev erywhere. I am not a Latina spokesperson for Latina representation and attempts to position me as such (as the Jennifer Lopez example attests) will ultimately set me up to be excluded as a voice of agency. My analyses are mine alone; but

PAGE 18

18 they are capable of imbuing possi bilities for both resistance and collusion with the cultural products offered Latinas. My ambivalence with these cultural products may speak to an ambivalence others feel, but I o ffer only one possibility of unders tanding. As Brian Longhurst et al. in Introducing Cultural Studies state, identities, too, then, are rela tional and contextual Cultural Studies und ertakes the much more difficult project of holding identit ies in the foreground, acknowledging their necessity and potency, examining their articu lation and rearticulati ng, and seeking a better understanding of their function. For some identities would be seen as fundamentally harmonious and unitary, threatened only by largescale social schisms; for others, identities entail contagious antagonism at every site of difference. For some, identities are the inevitable product of history; fo r others, the illusory product of history, or even individual psychic history; for still others, the site of real struggles, real attempts to forge historical unity out of pervasive fragmentation and di fference. But none of these perspectives, located within cultural studies, would ta ke any given identity for granted. (18) Another significant aspect of this project is what texts I chose to analyze and why I chose those texts. According to Stuart Hall, the goal of cultural studies was to en able people to understand what [was] going on, and especially to provide wa ys of thinking, strategies for survival, and resources for resistance (2). What kinds of text s are worthy of analysis is a question which is often discussed a great deal in the field because cultural studies comes from a space where what is being analyzed is not as important as why it needs to be analyze d. Because popular culture frames the way individuals look at and perceive the wo rld around them, understanding representations within that framework is as importan t. As Longhurst et al. in Introducing Cultural Studies states, cultural Studies is thus committed to the study of the entire range of societys arts, beliefs, institutions, and communicative practicesCultural Studies is both an intellectual and a political traditionis simultane ously the ground on which analys is proceeds, the object of study, and the site of political critique and intervention. (5) Therefore, I am engaging with cultural texts th at are popular, because it is important to examine how those images and belief systems are widely accepted, enforced and regulated.

PAGE 19

19 To Be or Not To Be: That Is the Latina Question. Latinas are not passive spectators, readers or individuals. It is true however, that often Latinas are left out in the cold when it comes to authentic representations of themselves. Often we are in a difficult position of either adhering to a pan-Latina identity (controversial for its effacing of national and historical identities for a more universal identity), accepting the negative images of ourselves (dominant readings) or denying and negating the image through what bell hooks calls an oppositional gaze. Though hooks argument is based in black female subjectivity, I would argue that Latinas fall into the same patte rn of negating images they feel need to be denied in order to reject negation in main stream cultural images (121). As hooks argues in black looks, race and representation responding to this assault, many black women spectators shut out the image, looked the other way, and accorded cinema no importance in their lives. Then there were those spectators whose gaze was that of desire and complicity. Assuming a posture of subordination, they submitted to cinemas capacity to seduce and betray. They were cinematically gas lighted. Every black wo man I spoke with who was/is an ardent moviegoer, a lover of Hollywood film, testified that to experience fully the pleasure of that cinema they had to close down critique, anal ysis; they had to forego racism. And mostly they had to forget racism. (120) However, I feel that this oppositional gaze alwa ys positions women outside of the text, in a critical framework that works to protect the psyche from denial and negation. As Latinas from a number of different contexts, I argue that we ha ve to find ways to engage with the images of ourselves in popular culture in more prolific and significant ways. In order to take on this often difficult and tenuous struggle for representation, I will primarily engage with the framework of feminist cultural studies and specifically with the work of Stuart Hall. Specifically, I will work within two of Halls concepts. The first begins with a look at representation as a signifying practice, which Hall defines in his seminal text Representation, Cultura l Representations and Signifying Practices as the production of meaning thr ough language, discourse and image (10).

PAGE 20

20 The second is found in Stuart Halls Popular Culture, Production and Consumption and examines the terms encoding/decoding as useful for determining sites of resistance to the dominant discourse. Signs and Signifiers In Representation, Cultural Represen tations and Signifying Practices Stuart Hall and others engage with the question of how we cons truct meaning in cultural discourses. Concerned with the production and exchanges of meaning in cultural texts, Hall asks us to consider how signs, signifiers and the signified become repr esentations which indivi duals use as symbolic practices to create a sens e of subjectivity and agency. As Hall argues, the more we look into this process of representation, the more complex it be comes to adequately explainto help us unlock secrets (10). One of the frameworks I am interest ed in is the examination of objects and peoples and their meanings or more accurately, their sh ifting meanings. As Hall asks, are meanings constantly shifting as we move from one cultu re to another, one language to another, one historical context, one communit y, group or subculture, to another ? (7) I would argue that yes, meaning does change and it is dependent on a nu mber of social, political and economic factors, as well as ethnic, classed or racial ties. In other words, as I disc ussed above, I am interested in the delineations and tensions produced in my (a nd other Chicanas/Latinas) interrelated identity positions, as classed, raced and gendered subjects. Because representation is always a difficult concept and the task to understa nd representations are equally as difficult, an important goal of this cultural framework and ind eed my project as well, is to understand the complexity of representations and the ambiguity they often offer. As Hall articulates, representation is neither as simple nor transparent a practice as it first ap pears and that, in order to unpack the idea, we need to do some work on a range of examples, and bring to bear certain c oncepts and theories, in order to explore and clarif y its complexities (7).

PAGE 21

21 One such theory includes working from the pers pective of those representations as signs in a constructionist approach to understanding and framing representa tions within discourse. As Hall articulates, things dont mean, we constr uct meaning, using repr esentational systemsconcepts and signs (25). I am interested in how Latinas make the world meaningful (25). As such, I will incorporate Halls co ncepts about how signs and the se miotic process work to signify representation within discourse. This will be especially significant when I tackle the representations offered in et hnic collectibles in Chapter 3, Are You My Homie?, Looking at Ethnic Collectibles in a New Cultural Playground Moreover, I am interested in how signs carry multiple meanings within different identity pos itions. Therefore, what I am looking for is how we use those multiple meanings to articulate difference and how we use difference to articulate signification. Encoding/Decoding Strategies A second critical framework for understanding how Latinas can engage with images of themselves in mainstream cultural texts as cultural critics is f ound in Stuart Halls Encoding/Decoding article, I argue throughout my work that without any possibility of changing the image by oneself then we are in an ambiguous state, where we struggle with our feelings about the images. I will employ the usag e of the theoretical framework of encoding and decoding, which Stuart Hall theorize s is a strategic way in which to strip the negative and often controversial images offered up by mainstream cultural texts and find something positive in their negotiations with those images. As Stuart Hall states in his influential article, if the consumption of information is constructed through the eyes of production, the relatio nship between meanings and messages is about the delicat e relationship between the spectat or (the decoder) and image (the encoder) (125).

PAGE 22

22 According to Hall, messages are constructe d with specific ideologies in mind. The message itself does not stand alone from the discur siveness of its meanings. As Hall states it, too, is framed throughout by meanings and ideas : knowledge-in-use concer ning the routines of production, historically defined t echnical skills, professional ideo logies, institutional knowledge, definitions and assumptions, assumptions about the audience and so on frame the constitution of the programme through this production structure (124). However, what informs this knowledge is presumed knowledge of who the spectator is, because if no meaning is taken, there can be no consumption (123). Therefore, the spectator is as much a part of meaning as the intended meaning itself. As such, the spectator is a power ful force behind the construction of the images constructed by encoders for decoding. Following this stance, it is this idea that as de coders, spectators have the ability to encode the messages with their own individualized positions that becomes the focus of this work. I am interested in how Latina spectat ors choose meanings, based on their own intricately designed encoded beliefs. It is this choice of en coding/decoding where meaning is found and disseminated. It is where power and ideology inte rmingle for subjectivity. So although there may be a dominant meaning or message encoded in a particular structure or production, the spectator can and will negotiate with it, within limits. It is within these limits that Hall posits three positions from which decoding of discourse may be constructed.1 In Stuart Halls second position, referred to as the negotiated code (131), spectators have the power to negotiate with the image and create agency and subjectivity at the same time with the encoded message produced by popular culture. Here Hall argues that audiences understa nd the way in which a 1 See Stuart Hall, Encoding/Decoding, Popular Culture: Production and Consumption eds. C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2001) for further information regarding the Halls three hypothetical positions regarding the encoding/decoding of discourse.

PAGE 23

23 message has specifically been encoded by the mo des of its production and with that knowledge, the spectator confronts, disseminates and chal lenges the discourse offered by the produced message. As Hall states, it acknowledges the legi timacy of the hegemonic definitions to make grand significations (abstract), wh ile, at a more restricted, situational (situated) level, it makes its own ground rules-it operates with exceptions to the rule (131). Though I may not specifically us e the terms above while dissem inating images and cultural products throughout the work, I am constantly and always asking that we engage with images from popular cultural texts as works in progre ss, which always need to be examined and reexamined, in a decoding process, in order to s ituate ourselves as political, economic and social critics within a local and global discourse.2 I believe it is within our decoding of the systems of representation that we allow th e possibility of a personal leve l of representation which may possible lead to political level of resistance and theref ore possible power. Am I certain that this ideological process will succeed? No, I am not. Bu t am I certain it is possible? Yes. As the authors of Introducing Cultural Studies tell us, forms of visual culture are intimately connected to changes in society-moreover such shifts are themselves part of the re-ordering of power relations, especially in respect to their gendered dimensions (364). Real Women Have Curves : Ambivalence in Pan Latino/a Identity. Let me begin explaining the significance of the work above by examining two different, but related moments in the articulation of experi ence and representation for Latinas (and to some extent Latinos) in mainstream cultural moments. The first begins with a look at a film entitled Real Women Have Curves produced and distributed by HBO in 2002 starring Lupe Ontiveros 2 I am engaging with the term as a reference to systems of representation and the production of knowledge. As Hall references, by discourse, Fou cault meant a group of statements which provide a language for talking about-a way of representing the k nowledge about-a particular topic at a particular historical momentDiscourse is the production of know ledge through language (qtd. in Hall et al. 44)

PAGE 24

24 (Lupe will become important in a later analysis a bout representations of Latinas in film as maids) and America Ferrara. This film, produced by Columbian born director Patricia Cardoso and written by Josefina Lopez (based on her own life) and George LaVoo, is the story of a Mexican American family living in East Los Angeles and follows a young woman named Ana (played by Ferrera) who is soon to graduate from high school and has to deci de between staying home with her very traditional Mexican born parents or leav ing for Columbia University and exploring a whole new contemporary world in New York City. Additionally, the film is about the lives and experiences of Mexican women as they negotiate their roles as daughters, mothers, friends, and co-workers in a sweatshop factory. When I first went to see this film with a white female friend, I remember walking out of the film expressing my joy over what I had see n. Their experiences, from an ethnic, gendered and classed perspective seemed real to me. I felt that I had finally seen a movie that articulated my own frustrations as a work ing class Latina woman. (I come from a long family of factory workers, as my grandmother once worked for a Gordons Shrimp plant and both my mother and aunt worked in a childrens clot hing factory in Miami, Florida. I still remember the sweat, smell and dark look of the factory floors and walls.) In the film, this Latina is tr ying to break out of the oppressive world of the larger assimilating (often white) commun ity, as well as the oppressive nature of the Latina community which often excl udes or silences the vo ices of women, while strengthening the position of the Chicano/Latino man. What I felt was a connection to experience, even as the women in the film were Mexican women in East Los Angeles. I thought to myself, how could any Latina watching the f ilm not understand or feel a connection to the narrative?

PAGE 25

25 For now, it is important to remember, in the articulation of this argument, that there is still a significant gap for representations of Latinas in mainstream film, television, and other popular culture texts. While there have been many stride s made throughout the year s, we still have to acknowledge that representation is still lacking a nd that those representations in themselves come with a fair amount of criti cism. As an article entitled Our open letter to Hollywood in an October 2005 issue of Latina magazine attests, whats the point of pushing roles in new directions when you continue to have Latinos liv e by the same old clichd and stereotyped rule book? (152). Moreover, th ere are only so many films with Latino/a characters or Latino/a narratives. America Ferr era, the actress for Real Women Have Curves articulates her own frustrations over the images produced in Hollyw ood of Latinas, as well as expectations for her own acting in a USA Today article. She says: Theres a label on you when youre going out fo r auditions, she says. The part I was always going out for was the gangster girlfrie nd, all these really ne gative stereotypes of what a young Latina is. It was really dishearteni ng. And she couldnt exactly look to other Latinas for career guidance. There are not many Latin-American role models in the entertainment business, she says. You can count them on one hand. I would never see myself reflectedAll I had was Jennifer Lop ez and Salma Hayek as role models, but I dont look anything like them. (1) It is interesting to note that Ferrara is articu lating similar frustrations I have myself, as a spectator watching films that purportedly claim to represent my experience or me. It is also telling that Ferrara points out the lack of images offered in Hollywood representations, which often leave spectators in an am biguous position of desiring repr esentations of themselves so much, that they are willing to forego the accuracies of those representations, and arguably are forced into adhering to a pan-Latino/a iden tity instead. As Fran ces Negrn argues in Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the La tinization of American Culture given the current political economy of representation fo r Latinos in mass media, Puerto Rican s, with less ins titutional clout,

PAGE 26

26 general population, and numbers on Hollywoods home turf, identifying as a Latina expands boricua agency and accrues additional value (230). Additionally, as I will mention in later ch apters, there is a reality that many Latina actresses have often played Anglo characters or a generic unidentified ethnic individuals, to avoid being stereotyped in ne gative Latina representational roles. As Negrn states, in Out of Sight Lpez played the generically named Karen Frisco, a vaguely Latin-sounding name that come from either Italy or Argentina. In fact, Friscos father was white, touting Lpezs career objective. The day I can make a movie and nobo dy is thinking of me as a Latina person-Im thought of as just a person-thatll be a big thing (245). As an example of this, in Lopezs most successful role to date, as Mary Fiore in The Wedding Planner (2001), Lopez is playing an Italian woman. Similarly, we often have Anglo char acters hired to play the stereotypical Latino/a roles as well. Moreover, each of the positions above becomes part of my thesis that in order for us to use the images produced in a less ambi guous manner and into a more possible realm of agency and subjectivity; we have to negotiate wi th the images to produce alternate readings. As we do so, we do have to acknowledge how the imag es may be negatively disseminated as well. Therefore, to return to my previous question, when a film surfaces that is directed by a Latina, written by Latinos/as and includes Chicana/o and La tina/o actresses (Ontiveros, Ferrara and even George Lopez), I wonder if a ll Latinas everywhere shouldnt be at least a little happy?3 3 I am not nave about the production aspect of filmmaking. It is significant to the marketing of the film that we understand the directors; stars a nd writers are Latino/a in order to understand our positions in Hollywood. As Frances Negrn-Muntaner states in Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture marketing Selena to Latino audi ences required the cast, director, and producers to be available to the Spanish-speaking media, which mostly cater to recent and older immigrants. This inevitably created the context for each key player to show their fluency in Spanish, and hence their realness in relation to th eir respective national cultures (233).

PAGE 27

27 However, while researching on the Internet I found to my surprise and eventual understanding, that there were many Latinas who watched the film Real Women Have Curves and felt the exact opposite way.4 It was interesting to find out that many felt that the film was too encompassing, conflating divisions of Latino iden tity. As such, many Latinas dismissed the film as amateurish and problematic. On a website entitled OFF OFF OFF film, one Latina argued, if I were to state how I, as a La tina categorize this movie, I w ould have to say that it was a falsification of a movie that cr eated false assumptions of whoeve r watched the movie of a Latin family or style of living. Further, she states this movie was an offense to the Latin culture.5 Self-identified as a Latina coming from an immigr ant family, what is interesting to me is the tension produced by her opinions. It is a tension that derives from the struggle between wanting a desirable image of oneself in f ilm and having to criticize one of the only representations offered. Similarly, others are torn between these intersec tions as well. As one Chicano identified male, Jesse, responds, there is nothing believable--not the characters, story. In response, Cecilia (whose racial make-up is unidentif ied) states in defiance, I am glad for you that you believe the movie or characters are not realistic. This means that you do know "ZERO" about Mexican culture. Otherwise, you would th ink different. The movie, coul d not possible (sic) be more realistic. I would like to point out that the responses I selected were fairly tame responses. The amount of anger elicited by the issue of whether or not the film accurately represented images of Latinas was overwhelming and serves to illust rate the significance of identity formation in 4 As an important issue, I think it is interesting to explain that the white female friend I saw the movie with, enjoyed the film immensely, articula ting that she enjoyed the film from a gendered perspective, arguing that she understood the struggles and issues women had to deal within their familial relationships, as well as their relationships as frie nds and co-workers. As her project revolved around Marxist analysis of films, she identified with the working class perspective of the narrative. 5 It is important to note that screenplay is based on the story of Josephina Lopezs real life.

PAGE 28

28 society. It explains why I am so interested in the how and whys of those formations, as well as their ambiguities. This returns us to the exam ple articulated by bell hooks earlier in this introduction, about the frustrations of Afri can-American students engaging with AfricanAmerican-produced and directed films. Should th ey support the endeavor without criticism or can they engage in a healthy criticism that opens the gaps and fissures which allows for a clearer understanding of the workings of race, ethnicity, class, gender and more ideological standpoints? Is the criticism more effective than the appreciation of the images? I offer my own feeling that the film was about taking pride in the very similarities that make us Latinas struggling for representation an d voice in a local (familial) and global discourse. I realize that as such, I may situate myself in a controversial pan-Lati no/a stance. Negrn argues in Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture about what she believes is the real reason behind a pan Latino/a identity: Selena went from being a Tejana (a territoriali zed regional identity) to being a Latina (a national ethnic minority) Lati no here refers less to a cultural identity then to a specifically American national currency for economic and political deal making, a technology to demand and deliver emotions, vo tes, markets, and resources on the same level-and hopefully at an even steeper price-as other racialized minorit ies. It is also an appeal to ethno-national valori zation, a way for diverse groups who are similarly racialized to pool their resources. (231) Negrn-Muntaner steeps her analysis in the fi nancial reality of a pan-Latino/a identity, suggesting that universalizing Latino/a experience is done to position products as more marketable to a more generic Latino audience. Ye t, even as I understand th at this is a political hotbed, I argue that without perfected images of ourselves, specifically, that of myself as a Puerto Rican working class woman, I am in th at delicate position of either simply denying psychically (metaphorically) that I exist (at least with representati ons of cultural texts) or I find myself engaging with any text that offers me some possibility of existing. This is the process of negotiation. Therefore, I struggle to find something or perhaps a nything that I can in the texts

PAGE 29

29 offered. As such, a pan-Latino/a identity leaves me with a space in which I can actualize my existence. In From Bomba to Hip Hop, Juan Flores articulates a possible way to engage with the concept of the pan-Latino/a identity. As Flores argues: the pan-ethnic approachhas th e distinct advantage for the study of Latinos centering analysis on the dialectic between the parts and the whole, th e discrete national groups and the Latino construct. The focus is necessa rily on interaction, while the hypostasized social group itself, along with its discourse, is understood as process rather than as a fixed entity or meaning. (150) In other words, we can negotiate with the term pan-Latino/a, as we do with culturally produced images, to examine our constructs as well as our disseminations of the constructs, without necessarily universalizing expe rience or negating i ndividualized ethnic nationalities in the process. This does not necessitate a homogeni zing of experience. It necessitates finding commonalities. As I will elucidate later, I am nego tiating with the cultural texts I have, in order to find some semblance of representation. Therefore, I acknowledge that even though I am a Puerto Rican woman, I could still relate culturally and even, sociologically, as a Latin a woman often oppressed and silenced, to the experiences of Mexican American women in this film. After all, we spoke the same language (even though our dialects may differ), looked some what the same (even if our features were somewhat different) and had similar life experiences (even as they lived in East Los Angeles in a nuclear family and I grew up in a broken home in Miami, Florida). I neither wish to negate the differences that make us different individuals, nor will I pretend that there is not some validity in seeing commonalties. I am (even against criticism) articulating a desire to strengthen the bond between Latinas, Chicanas and ethnic others through our experiences. Similarly, there were other women online who ar ticulated their joy that the film was strong in its complicated notions of identity for Latina women, issues they had be en struggling with for

PAGE 30

30 decades. For example, Erin G. states, I am Mexican-American who knows several people who live life exactly like Anas. This movie was so true to life culturally for many Mexican-American women, so much that it could have been the basis for an ethnographi c documentary. Jerry Weinstein on CultureVulture.net states, few Americ an filmmakers have explored Latino lives with authenticity and intimacy (2). The term authenticity is certainly questionable, as the responses above indicate, but what I would find interesting here, is how the critics are using the term to conflate Latino/a experience. Ultim ately, the examples above explain how truly complicated viewing experiences are for all women, specifically women of color. What I understand now, is that all our positions came from our different positions as historical, social and economic subjects. We were not all ideologi cally the same; therefore, our understanding of the ideology of the film was not similar. As Jacqueline Bobo argues in The Color Purple: Black Women as Cultural Readers when a person comes to view a film, she/he does not leave her/his histories, whether social cultural, economic, racial or sexua l at the door (281). This is why identification and audience studies are such tricky analyses. And as I suggest above, even more interesti ng is the discussion of the film among national newspaper and magazine critics, who themselves seem determined to un ify the experiences of ethnic others watching the film. In doing so, they often examine the film through the lens of the American Dream, and presumably everyones (I myse lf taught a course on the deconstruction of the American Dream) universal desire for it. Add itionally, they sidestep issues of ethnicity in order to universalize the experience, as one about families that everyone in the society can relate to. I wonder if the engagement with such a stra tegy is to make the film less ethnic and more palatable to a traditionally white audience. As Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times states in his review, Ana is a Mexican American, played by America Ferrera, an 18-year-old in her first

PAGE 31

31 movie role.Her battle with her mother is convin cing in the movie because the director, Patricia Cardoso, doesnt force it into a shrill melodrama but keeps it within the boundaries of a plausible family fight (1). As James Berardinelli states in his review, for Anas part, living with her mother is stifling herShe sees college educat ion as the way to broaden her horizonsOne of the reasons the film resonates is that the fi nal break of independence is something every individual must face, regardless of the family relationship (2). As I struggle with their review s and the universalizing appeal in them, I fall back into the ambiguous position I have throughout this work. I do not wish to perpetuate this film as only capable of imbuing ethnic identification, nor do I wi sh to fall back on the precept that all Latinas should identify with the film, but I need to be able to say something significant about the film, something which needs to be identified, and I refuse to give credence to film reviewers who wish to deny the specific ethnic relevance of the film. As Jeremy Heilman on moviemartyr.com suggests, Cardosos direction isn t particularly distinguished, and like most movies that cater to minorities, there seems to be a bit too much underlin ing of the specific details that distinguish the minority portrayed (2). Ultimately, I feel as if I am being positioned, as a Latina, to re-think or re-consider the relevance of this film, both in my own life and to others in their lives. I still maintain however, that there is much to be gain ed in the representations offered by this film, especially as we consider it one of only a few films that delve into issues that U.S Latino/a Americans are in the pro cess of engaging with. Dame Edna Pisses off the Masses and Salma H ayek Too: Examining the Use of Satire in Popular Culture. The second example I offer, as an analysis of how we negotiate with culturally produced Latino/a images, is a Vanity Fair Dame Edna column in February 2003. In the column, Dame Edna responds to this question: I would very much like to learn a fore ign language, preferably

PAGE 32

32 French or Italian, but every time I mention this, people tell me to learn Spanish instead. They say, Everyone is going to be speaking Spanish in 10 years. George W. Bush speaks Spanish. Could this be true? Are we all going to have to speak Spanish? Her response was as follows: Forget Spanish. Theres nothing in that langu age worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that. There was a poet named Garca Lorca, but Id leave him on the inte llectual back burner if I were you. As for everyones speaking it, what twaddle! Who speak s it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study German or Frenc h, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or if youre American, try English. (116) Attached to her response is a photograph of an (I can only pres ume) Anglo individual in a Mexican hat speaking to an armadillo. When I fi rst read the question and response, even though I knew it was a satire, I was incredulous and my firs t response was negative. I began to articulate my frustrations by arguing to myself that her dism issal of both Spanish literature and music is problematic because it excluded the wonderful cont ributions that Hispanics, Latinos and Latin Americans had made to the world. I argued that her dismissal of the language as being only significant to talking to the help is what succeeds in marginalizing Latinas/os as part of a society. It threatened to exclude Latina/o discourse and make invisible the harsh realities of a system of class and ethnic oppression. However, as I was thinking about the respons e, I thought about the column itself and its purported purpose in Vanity Fair which is to satire worl dviews and belief systems.6 Vanity Fair is a high-end magazine which caters to individuals who are of ten educated, wealthy and white. Again, I will acknowledge that Dame Ednas column is a satire and its goal is often to shed light 6 Dame Edna is a character in drag played by Australian comedian Barry Humphries. It is important to acknowledge how Humphries ar ticulates his persona. As Wikipedia.com online informs us, while Humphries freely states that Dame Edna is a character he plays, Dame Edna consistently denies being a fictional character or drag performer, and refe rs to Humphries as her ent repreneur or manager. Indeed, Dame Edna has frequently said that the thought of a man dressing up as a woman for entertainment purposes in repulsive (1).

PAGE 33

33 on bourgeois, upper-middle-class societys hypocrisies.7 As the Editors of Vanity Fair argued (after the Salma Hayek debacle) on Whiteprivilege.com Edna is a caricature of a certain type of small-minded, socially ambitious, vaguely upper-cla ss person. Those familiar with Dame Ednas performances understand that her politically incorrect and often in sulting utterances are meant as a parody of backward attitudes Humphries finds ir ritating or offensive (1). Similarly, Myriam Marquez states in Hey, Amigos: Chill about Dame Edna seldom is satire respectful. It can be hurtful. But, ideally, it exposes th e underbelly of human nature (1). Satire can be painful, but it can be argued that it is especially painful for the disenfranchised that have no voice. However, I argue that the Dame Ednas respons e is unfortunately conf lated with the reality of a society which necessitates th e use of Latino/a servants as c onducive to maintaining its image of upward mobility. As Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A states, the cheap domestic labor of women of color is one means by which white mi ddle-class women escape oppressive aspects of their domestic roles. Their libera tion is achieved at considerable cost to poor and working class women of color (29). Therefore, I struggle with what Dame Edna said, because although it is satirical in notion, it is realit y as well and we still have to understand the re alities of our positioning as ethnic others in society and the daily discrimination we often face in light of the work we do.8 As Adriana Lopez points out, although Edna's xenophobic jab was intended as a 7 Thousands of Latinos/as responded in full for ce to the comments made by Dame Edna. For weeks after the magazine came out, a number of articles about the controversy appeared in major newspapers, internet sites and Latino/Hispanic based magazines. It is a significant aspect of spectator studies that so many Latinas/os, whites, and other et hnicities responded to the Vanity Fair article. The controversy has spanned a number of Discussion groups online and on one individual search on Yahoo.com over 1400, replies were found about the Dame E dna controversy. Many were angry about her comments, however, just as many found the controvers y itself problematic as they argued in defense of Dame Ednas articles which they stated were a satire of upper middle class values. 8 Many of these immigrants come to the United Stat es daily for work in farms, private households and factories. According to Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A only the vaguest statistical data on Chicana private household workers are available, fo r the most part these workers remain a doubly hidden

PAGE 34

34 joke, it was hard for Latinos to muster a laugh. Ther e is little positive repr esentation of Latinos in the media to begin with, despite the recogniti on of the growing Hispanic population (1). I want to make distinctly clear here that Latinas/os are not ignorant of sati re or its workings in society. As such, I am more offended and frus trated by Marquezs need to teach us the true meaning of satire. However, I ca n see using the fervor surrounding this column (especially that created by Latinos/as who responded to Dame Ednas column with a bombardment of letters) as a way to further perpetuate nega tive images of Latinos/as as c onstantly confrontational, and ignorant of real Latino/a issues and concerns with more si gnificance and relevance to our community, being unable to detect satire when they see it. As one anonymous reader of Hispanic magazine states: what boggles my mind is not Dame Edna and he r foul attitudeits us. For years and years weve been ignored and malignedand we, the La tinos of the U.S.A., have, for the most part, acted as if we could have cared less. In stead of speaking out, too, may of us chose to stand by undisturbed, uninformed, apathetic, and always ready to seek excuses for not fully engaging. (1) Furthermore, the reader continues by saying, now all of a sudden, one tired drag queen gibbers on about God-knows-what and surprise, weve go t ourselves a revo-freak in-lution (1). Forget for a moment that the individual ne gates the political activism of Latinos/as in society for the past sixty years (if not more). Forget for a mome nt the slap in our attempt to articulate our frustration with yet another mome nt of political punning. What is significant is the articulation of anger for Latinos/as everywhere. Everywhere I looked it was Latinos/as who were policing Latino/a responses. Ri chard Rodrguez comments on Ask Dame Edna What happened to Humor? in the Pacific News Service its truer today that humor is having a hard population (10). It is important to note as well th at In May 2006, the US Senate approved the building of a wall between Mexico and the United States to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.

PAGE 35

35 time of it in America these days when we cant tell the difference between a joke and the deadly serious (2). What I found interesting as I looked over the varied responses to the Vanity Fair issue is that it was mostly Latinos/as who were attacking other Latinos/as, about th eir frustrations over the comments. As Jos Ruiz states, youve done well, Vanity Fair in unleashing one immigrant against other immigrants and their descendants (2). Many online used the controversy to do exactly that. Marquez goes so far as to tell Latino/a audiences to calm down and not take the comments seriously. As she chastises, learn to let hurtful comments slide. Pick your battles and know when to laugh[Latinos] seem to miss what satire is supposed to be aboutlets not go overboard, mis amigos, because we squander our energies and look like hypersensitive crybabies (1). That this res ponse comes from a La tina woman comes as no surprise. That she does not understand the controversy does. What positions have we been placed in when articulating our frustrations over the column? Why are the very individuals we hope understand our angst and anxiety about the re levant issues silencing us? In the end, I believe that Dame Ednas articl e, although satirical, ends up failing in its goal to satirize upper-middle-class value systems; in stead, it becomes a validation for those who are searching for a way to negate or efface Latina/o cultural discourse.9 Therefore, it is telling that although this article is arguably a satire, even Salma Hayek herself, th e featured cover that month, responded to the letter with her own disappointed with Vanity Fair response, Not-so9 As an important side note framing the contex t of this discussion, Salma Hayek was dating fellow actor Edward Norton when the Dame Edna colu mn came out in February 2003. Nortons past romantic relationship was with singer Courtney L ove. Who was once quoted as saying that Norton would never marry Hayek-for one he can barely understand half of what shes saying. The context of what Love stated (even in joking) frames the analysis above about the role of Latinas, language, and class within societal discourse.

PAGE 36

36 dear Damn Edna (oops! My English is not so good) Im sure you think that youre funny-maybe sometimes you are, but I wouldn t knowHowever, your humor in the February edition of Vanity Fair brings me to the conclusion that you are only funny looking.10 Vanity Fair itself apologized to its audience in their Apr il 2003 issue (although a quicker apology came on February 15, 2003 of that year), pe rhaps elucidating the f act that satire is only as significant as how it is understood in the realm of real issues of immigration and identity politics (which we should admit to ourselves, may not be what all readers of Vanity Fair are struggling with). An overwhelming amount of responses by Latinas/os acknowledges what defenders of Dame Ednas neglected to politicize. In a society where whit e middle-class value systems require the necessity of Latina/o workers, her column serves to reinfo rce the belief that white superiority is a given. However, whereas there is arguably room to make fun of white stereotypes and politics, the fact that Latinas/os are dealing with the reality of be ing servants and maids, the satire reinforces stereotypes where it should instead bring light to such. There is simp ly not enough satirical difference. What Is in a Name? Defining Terms in Culture. The question of identity and naming is the most elucidated by the previous example of Tiger Woods in this introduction. Frustrated by society making claims on who he is and how should or could identify himself, Woods hoped he could dissemin ate that anxiety by creating a new word Cablinasian to identify himself within al l of the racial, ethnic, social histories of his 10 The April 2003 issue of Vanity Fair included a letter of response from Salma Hayek, which states: as for your statement that there is nothing in our language worth reading except Don Quixote, and that Garcia Lorca should be left on the intell ectual back-burner, you could not be more sadly mistakenWhat belongs on the backburner are your ri diculous fake eyelashes, which are clearly keeping you from reading Nobel-prize winners such as Gabriel Garcma Marquez, Octavio Paz and Camilo Josi Cela.

PAGE 37

37 family name. As Suzanne Oberler tells us in The Politics of Labeling Latino/a Cultural Identities of Self and Others characterizations of the self necessarily evoke thos e of the other, and there are many others to be portrayed, recreated and redefined in the process (19). Although I argue that Woods is nave in hoping that discovery of this new word would sile nce societys claims on his identity, I understand the difficult position in which Woods frames himself in this particular discourse. Ones identity frames a particular pol itical, social and economic discourse as well. As Jose Calderon argues in Hispanic and Latino: The Visibili ty of Categories for Panethnic Unity Latinos interviewed at the city council a nd administrative levels owned property and had a stake in the local economy, and they were unwilli ng to affiliate with a political identity that might jeopardize their positionsThose at this level who preferred to use the term Hispanic submitted that it was politically safer and more acceptable to the mainstream than others (41). Therefore, as the above example makes clear, individuals who position themselves as Hispanic frame themselves behind a particular classed id entification marker. At the same time, there are others who deliberately do not use the term His panic because it threaten s to position them in those classed identities which they resist, along with situating themselves against a generically devised term created by a government, which they f eel is trying to pan-identity all Latinos within a similar rubric which simplifies matters for them. As Oboler tells us, informants rejected the term Hispanic as a self-identif ier, but this rejection took ma ny forms and was particularly differentiated if terms of social class (22). As Oboler furthermore informs us, the threat felt by Latinos was the fear that the term His panic was a homogenizing label (24). Similarly, imbuing the term Chicano or Latin o positions oneself w ith a more political framework. The term, Chicano, is historically a te rm associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and is specifically used to fram e ones identity (gener ally Mexican-American

PAGE 38

38 identity) from a political, social and occasio nally economic standpoint. As Eduardo Del Rio states, Mexican-American is the preferred term for many people of Mexican origin who do not like the political implications a ssociated with the term Chicano (4). The term Latino, generated in the last 20 years is a term accepted in a more academic environment, associated with defining oneself outside of a connection to Spain and mo re defined within Latin America, including the Caribbean. Therefore, many Puerto Ricans often employ the term as a way to define oneself under colonial oppression and as a term which wa s created by themselves and not a government agency which threatens homogenization. Whether employing the term Hispanic, or Lat ino or Chicano, many feel that to use any of the terms positions them within the politi cal, social and economic framework of that word; as such, the danger is accepting one term a bove another is the danger of losing a particular Americanized identity (along with national and class distinctions) whic h threatens to exclude them from an American discourse. As Antoni o Darder and Rodolfo D. Torres tells us in Latinos and Society: Culture, Politics and Class this is particularly the case with US Latino populations whose different national, class, gender, and sexua l identities have been homogenized in terms of public policy under the all-encompa ssing categorical label of His panic which, not surprisingly, is divided in terms of white and non-white subcategories (10). Additionally, the term by which to accurately define oneself becomes more complicated by factors which include nationalistic principles, divisions in color, coun try and language to name just a few. Ultimately, because this project is grounded within politically gendered, cla ssed and ethnic intersections and divisions, it is important for me to employ what I believe are more political terms. Therefore, I use the terms Latino and Chicano to examine images in popular culture.

PAGE 39

39 Bringing down the House: Examining Images of Latinas in Mainstream Cultural Texts. Ultimately, this work is about representation a nd identity. My goal in looking at the images of Latinas in popular cultural te xts is about how those images ar e used to position Latinas in the cultural discourse. Additionally, it is about how we can and should negotiate with the images in order to position ourselves within that discourse as critical agen ts with voice and subjectivity. I am interested in the ways in which Latinas are framed by both Latinos/as in themselves as well as within the discourse of dominant white culture For the reference of this work, I will use the term discourse as the conversations, discussions and arguments and such which often determine the political, social and economic positioning of i ndividuals within society. Additionally, I use the term ideology to discuss coll ections of ideas in society. The first chapter of my work entitled Made to be a Maid?: An examination of the Latina as maid in mainstream television and film focuses on the Latina maid as a necessary component of American films in the last tw enty years and examines how the La tina as maid is often used to complicate, problematize or situ ate white middle-class or upper-m iddle-class value systems. I argue that the Latina maid or servant functions in very spec ific ways for white audience members; from clarifying for the audience the cl ass status of the often Anglo protagonist of a film, to showing the protagonist as a good and ea rnest individual who is worthy of the respect and admiration given to them by their servants, to showing them as revamped spitfires, which threaten the security of white familial and economic ideals, and finally to showing the protagonist as conscientious of culture and ethnicity in th e changing world around them. Why have images of Latinas, as maids, servants or work ers, offer white culture the fact that they have become a staple of that culture ? Additionally, through our position as critical agents capable of negotiation, are there ways to enga ge with the images in positive ways; for example, looking for the ambiguity in these images in order to find a way to re-appropriate the images?

PAGE 40

40 The second chapter entitled The mammy mythology: Mammyhood revamped for the Latina servant examines the mammy figure in television and film as this figure is connected with, yet distinct from, that of the Latina maid. Th e analysis of the Latina maid or servant, as a new mammy figure of comfort for the Anglo protagonist, needed its own dialogue because it was in and of itself a complicated concept which also includes the discourse and relationship between Anglo women and women of color throughout the la st two hundred years. Because white culture if predisposed historically to imagine a mu tual relationship between black women mother figures, I argue that white women today need th e discourse of a relationship between them and their servants (most often women of color), which is mutually beneficial and important for the white woman to feel good about he r own identity. Moreover, I argue that it is the desire to be mothered by women of color that makes white women create a fantasy of friendship about that relationship. I argue that the La tina maid, as reconfigured mammy figure, works in a number of ways, which include the Latina maid as a figure of comfort, as a surroga te parent, as a body or site of difference, and as an indivi dual who helps to accentuate privilege. The third chapter entitled Are you my homie?: Examining et hnic toys and collectibles in a new financial playground examines a relatively new cu ltural product on the marketHomies and Mijosin relationship to how and why they are consumed by the general population. Homies and Mijos are small 2-inch plastic Latino /a dolls sold in vending machines across the country. I examine why they were created and how they serve to represent Latino/a or Chicano/a ideals and values. It proves an interesting analys is which further complicates notions of Latino/a identity in United States consumer society. I argue that these collectibles offer Latinos/as nationality, a bonding community, a hi story, an ethnicity, a sense of identity and an affirmation of their significance in the multi cultural wo rld around us. Additionally, I examine homies

PAGE 41

41 through the lenses of ethnic co llecting, making ties to the historical collecting of black memorabilia. Why are Latino/a collectors collect ing versions of themselves? What ethnographic desires are embedded in this colle cting? What is to be said ab out the controversy surrounding the collection, of what some argue, may be problema tic images? From a gendered framework, I am interested in the tensions between my gender and racial identity, in my desire to engage with these cultural products What intersections are created? Wh ich ones are become more divided? As always, it is the ambiguities of these te nsions which engage with in the chapter. I hope in the articulation of my experience, as well as the experience of other Chicanas/Latinas, we are able to understand th at Chicanas/Latinas are engaging with cultural texts and becoming a part of the cr itical process, instrumental in finding voice and subjectivity in a society which often excludes ethnic women in the cultural discourse. As bell hooks says in Yearning: race, gender and cultural politics : cultural critique is particular ly relevant to black artist and/or intellectuals who see ourselves as committed to an ongoing black li beration struggle with a central emphasis on decolonization. Education for critical conscious ness is the most important task before us. Working in the academy, as many of us do, it is through a liberatory pedagogy that we make useful critical intervention. (5)

PAGE 42

42 CHAPTER 2 MADE TO BE A MAID? AN EXAMINAT ION OF THE LATINA AS MAID IN MAINSTREAM FILM AND TELEVISION. I was watching films one day when I noticed so mething similar throughout them that I had never noticed before. I wondered how this similar ity spoke to the way in which narratives are complicit in perpetuating a negative image of th e Latina experience. Each of the films I was watching had a Latina maid. A few of these films, in just the last twenty years, include Goonies (1985), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) and Maid in Manhattan (2002).1 A few television shows include Designing Women (1986) Veronicas Closet (1997) and Will & Grace (1998present). Many Latina maids appear in gues t roles in different shows like Whos the Boss Sex and the City, CSI:Miami, Seinfeld, Bones, and a plethora of other television shows and film. This trend is so pr evalent that Mexican maids even crop up in Mexican films like 2002s Y Tu Mam Tambin and Latino films like 2003s Chasing Papi Like a computer background setting, which individuals often use to express some creativity on their part (their own photography, family photos, va rious graphics) and which often affirms something about their identity (fun-lovi ng, adventurous, bold), these background Latina maids often serve to say somethi ng ideologically about the family or individual they work for in the film. Since I maintain that these Latina maid s in film are not there simply by chance, it is 1 A more inclusive list of Latina maids in films is as follows: The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) El Norte (1983) Troop Beverly Hills (1989), Regarding Henry (1991), Cape Fear (1991), Leap of Faith (1992) Universal Solider (1992) Clueless (1995) Ransom (1996) First Wives Club (1996) As Good As it Gets (1997) Liar, Liar (1997), Enemy of the State (1998) Dr. T and the Women (2000), Dont Say a Word (2001) Storytelling (2001) Two Weeks Notice (2002) Big Trouble (2002), Mr. Deeds (2002), Big Fat Liar (2002), Mr. St. Nick (2002), Hollywood Homicide (2003), The Last Shot (2004), Win a Date with Tad Hamilton (2004), Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), Spanglish (2004) and Crash (2005) Just a few television shows include Charlies Angels (1976-1981), I Married Dora (1987-1988) 21 Jump Street (1987-1991) Designing Women (1986-1993) Dudley (1993) Veronicas Closet (19972000) Pasadena (2001) Will & Grace (2003-Present) Curb your Enthusiasm (2000-present) Ed (20002004) Reba (2001-2006), 24 (2001-2006) O.C (2003-2006) Whoopi (2003-2004) and Arrested Development (2003-2006), shows (both parodies), as well as a new television shows on HBO and Showtime called Entourage (2004-present) and Weeds ( 2005-present ).

PAGE 43

43 essential to discuss the many ways in which the Latina maid or servant functions for the mainstream whiteand sometimes Latinoaudiences.2 Understanding how the Latina maid functions leads to an understand ing of the politics of racial re lationships and the politics of Hollywood discourses. My goal in taking a cl oser look at the repr esentation of Latina representation is suggested in Krin Gabbards Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture an academic text which examines the complicated politics of AfricanAmericans in films. Gabbards book sheds light on the ways in which whiteness or white people remain in unquestioned centrality in Ameri can films (7). As Richard Dyer argues in White research-into books, museums, the press, advert ising, films, televisionshows that in Western representation whites are overwhelmingly and disp roportionately predominant, have the central and elaborated roles and above all else are placed as the norm, the ordinary, the standard (3). It is in recognizing how whiteness is presen ted as a standard and in analyzing it which allows us to understand how racial others are constructed. As Gabba rd further argues, there is no better way of looking at how whiteness is constructed in movies than by examining how blackness makes these constructions work (8). Looking at the image of the Latina maid allows us to understand how the role of the marginalized Latina continue to play in Hollywood and the racial myths that continue to perpetuate themselves in American racial mythology about the nature of the Latina. And although it may seem a mere coincidence that there are a number of Latina maids in film and television, it is the overwhelming number of them which is suggestive of an ideological need of mainst ream white audiences. It is a raci al invisibility which needs to become a visible reality. 2 For purposes of this essay, I will employ the use of the term Anglo--which means white--when defining individual actors or actresses, to define thei r ethnic make-up in a film. However, for the audience I speak of, I will employ the use of the term white as a general make up of audience spectators.

PAGE 44

44 The image of the Latina servant or maid in f ilm and television, from the beginning of the 1980s to today, performs a number of different narrative purposes, some of which have been fulfilled by different groups of people throughout th e years. Each, however, speaks to the way in which the Latina maid is a necessary character for the Anglo characters. First, the Latina maid or servant often clarifies the genera lly Anglo protagonist as a classe d individual. She often clarifies the progress that the Anglo protagonist has achieved, through obvious hard work and determination. For exampl e, in the 2002 film, The Banger Sisters the Latina maid serves to illustrate just how much Susan Sarandons charac ter Lavinia Kingsley has come up in the world. In Veronicas Closet she serves as an indicator of th e wealth Veronica has achieved throughout her modeling years. Second, the Latina maid serves the function of allowing white protagonists and characters to see themselves as good and altruistic indivi duals, who are worthy of care and devotion from their servants. This shows the true nature of th e protagonist, even in light of obvious character flaws. In First Wives Club Teresa, the Latina maid is rewarded for good and loyal service by Cynthia (an upper class woman play ed by Stockard Channing) who gives the maid an expensive pearl necklace as thanks for l oyalty throughout the years, right before Cynthia jumps out of a window. This indicates that Cynthi a indeed cares for the servant, even as she is preserved as a martyr for first wives everywhere. In Maid in Manhattan, the Latina maid serves to foreground in the male Anglo character Chris Marshall (pla yed by Ralph Fiennes) his true dedication to the cause of the working class, his worthiness as an individual as he str uggles against a political system which threatens to abuse individuals like Je nnifer Lopezs character Marisa Ventura. It is Marisas ideas about class oppressi on that makes Fiennes character the hero of the story, willing to fight for the underdog, represented by Ma risa. In this way, not only does the Anglo

PAGE 45

45 protagonist gain the loyalty of his constituents, specifically those minority constituents in the working class neighborhood he visits but he is also able to do so by employing her value system, without acknowledging her contribution. Additionally, the functio n of the Latina maid serves to allow the Anglo protagonists a sense of altruism in a larger global and philo sophical world, as they help Latinas/os gain employment and provide for their own families, thereby solidifying their care of humankind and their neighbors. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills the Anglo protagonists often posit themselves as good people who have helped the underclass mi nority to achieve greatness, both as maids and gardeners for their homes, but also as fact ory workers in Mr. Whitemans hanger factory. On Will & Grace Karen Walker often forces Rosario, the Latina maid, to acknowledge all that she has done for her, from giving her a job to get ting her a green card. Alt hough I must acknowledge that Will & Grace is a comedy television show. As such, we often have characters who, through satire and parody, reflect our misconceptions of the stereotypes we have about certain individuals. Therefore, Rosario is often cheeky and Karen often looks the fool for the harshness of her outlandish behavior, which is also reflective of the parody being offered. Third, the Latina maid serves as ethnic flavor for the Anglo protagon ists. Ethnic flavor is how we understand that the ma in characters are hip to the world, understanding culture and ethnicity in an ever-changing so ciety. As such, having a Latina maid helps them gain a global sense of perspective. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills for example, Carmen provides Spanish language lessons and food lessons to Mrs. Whiteman, the mother of the family. In this example, the Whitemans prove that they car e about the social welf are of Latinos/as; at the same time that an exclusive relationship can exist, which is mu tually beneficial for both the employee and the

PAGE 46

46 employer. Mrs. Whiteman helps Carmen with a job and Carmen, in her gratitude, helps Mrs. Whiteman prove her dedication to a global sense of culture. Finally, Latina maids are often sexy servants (a throwback to the1930s Latina spitfires) who threaten the status quo of the white upper middle class and middle cl ass. Their exuberant sexuality is both an ethnic thr eat to the assumed purity of sexu ality within the Anglo household (specifically that of the white wo man), and also a threat if she us es that sexuality to break up the marriage, and hence the value systems of the Anglo household and, further, white society. In both Big Trouble and Down and Out in Beverly Hills the Latina maid thre atens that seemingly secure and untouchable status. These Latina maids are used by Anglo male protagonists of the films as sexual relief, from the hum drum reality of their suburban lifestyles. Additionally, they are used by the Anglo female protagonists, as the reason their marriages fail within the same suburban life. These maids serve as a displaci ng option for the white middle class, who would rather blame the Latina maid for their descen t from privilege than blame the political, economic and social realities of a particular time. It is important, however, to e xplain that these roles are ofte n conflated with one another. Therefore, a Latina maid like Carmen in Down and Out in Beverly Hills provides cultural lessons, provides us with a visual marker of the class status of the Anglo family, at the same time that she serves as the sexy Latina temptress who threatens the Whitemans marriage. The Latina maid Marisa in Maid in Manhattan reaffirms for a white audience and the Anglo protagonists the position of the ethnic other, at the same time that the Latina maid offers resistance and upward mobility for the ethnic spectator. All of this happ ens within a universal love story which tries to appeal to all in a racially charged wo rld where our differences could melt away.

PAGE 47

47 Ultimately, my analysis strives to explai n and understand how these individualized classifications of the Latina maid are used to complicate, problematize or situate white middle class or upper middle class value systems, as well as their own identity politics and individualized experiences. As I tackle this examination, I will also connect the historical and traditional employment of ethnic help, in both fi lm and in modern society. Beginning with an analysis of the film The Banger Sisters which addresses the ideologi cal process of denial that under grids a classed sense of whiteness in these films, I will work my way through Down and Out in Beverly Hills in order to show how one characte r in one film embo dies all of the classifications of the Latina maid; fi nally I move on to an analysis of Maid in Manhattan which purports to escape the traditional placement of the Latina maid, but which merely serves to reinforce traditional stereotypes and finally to the television show Monk in which Latina maids are unusually placed to challenge some assumptions and reaffirm others. The Banger Sisters : The Most Visible of Maids. Let me begin by explaining a moment in a recent 2002 film starring well-known actresses Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon. The Banger Sisters has a scene in which Hawn plays Suzette (no last name given); a woman wh ose real life has never met up with the expectations of her experiences in the 1960s when she banged we ll known rockers for a living. She seeks out her left-it-all-behind friend Lavini a Kingsley (played by Susan Sarandon) an upper middle class conservative, who neither acknowledges her old li fe nor the reality that her life today is monotonous and suburban. As Suzette becomes frus trated by what she imagines is Lavinias pretend existence, she questions Lavinias abuse of history, her entrapment as a woman and her views on class oppression. One cruc ial scene serves to explain both Suzettes superiority as a working-class woman who understands true oppr ession and explains the taken-for-granted system of the upper middle class whose work is built on the backs of invi sible servants. Suzette

PAGE 48

48 lectures Lavinias spoiled children Hannah and Gi nger about dishes they do not want to clean. As they argue about the dishes, the young girls point out to Suzette that it is Rosa who normally does them. Suzette then asks the girls if they know Rosas last name, to which they reply no. Suzette then says, you have people wiping your ass and you don t even know their names. After the confrontation, she calls them spoiled brats and th ey begin to clean the dishes. Implicit in the scene is the moral of the film that privileges are not deserved, but rather earned, and without hard work, one is destined to become the irrelevant (as designated by her daughters, husband and friend), oppressed mother La vinia, who lives in a daze and mechanically goes through life everyday doing what is needed, but not what she desires. This scene examines how radically Lavinias life has changed and how complicit she and her daughters are in a world that oppresses workers. In other words, the philosophical question of the film becomes, When did I become the person who oppresses? When did I turn my back on real work? Lavinias realization and self discovery ar e the discourse of the film. Rosa, the maid, spoken of, but never seen, explains much about the invisible presence of a narrative that excludes Latinos/as from the daily discourse of life. The narra tive had made her, her history and her subjectivity invisible. The maid could have been anyone; however, we assu me, without having to see her that Rosa is probably an immigrant and she takes care of this family out of loyalty or love. It is easy to understand that the purpose of the film The Banger Sisters is not to explain or individualize the experience of this La tina maid. However, the film chooses her subjectivity to emphasize an abusive white upper middle class real ity. It is her abuse, by the daughters, that frames the discourse of the film. Therefore, he r subjectivity is significa nt, especially as we consider its momentary purpose to clarify a white upper middle class whose achievements take for granted the hard work of ethnic others. Howe ver, her subjectivity a nd her abuse are quickly

PAGE 49

49 displaced onto Suzette. We are to understand, through the physical invisibility of the Latina maid, that she is no longer the focus of the discour se; that focus is shifted to Suzette and her hard work as a bartender, which has been taken for granted throughout the years by people like Sarandons middle class character. Therefore, the invisible Latina here was never significant to the narrative, so why is she Latina? Simply put, the Latina maid is necessary in order for the white spectator audience (and sometimes ethni c audience as well) to understand the Anglo family in the film as classed individuals and at the same time to understand the family as good and altruistic individuals who have helped employ others in need. The Banger Sisters is not different from other typical films, which produce the same narrative. Another such film which includes rema rkably similar dialogue and narrative purpose is the film Clueless with Alicia Silverstone in the ro le of a clueless young girl named Cher Horowitz whose discussion with the Latina maid serves to foreground her discovery of her taken-for-granted system of oppre ssion. In this film, Cher asks Lu cy (played by Aida Linares) to parley to Jose the gardener that they got a second notice to fix the bushes. Lucy tells Cher to tell him herself and Cher replies th at she does not speak Mexican. Lu cy replies, I no a Mexican, and Cher is then admonished by her stepbrother, who clarifies for her that Lucy is from El Salvador. Implicit in the scene, like in the film The Banger Sisters is the fact that Silverstones character Cher comes to the reali zation that she is part of a sy stem of oppression; and as with The Banger Sisters this realization paradoxically displ aces the servants oppr ession onto the white female protagonist. Therefore, it is Chers growth in the film which is significant and not the Latina maids ethnicity, politics, or heritage. It does not escape my notice either that Jose the Gardener is probably Latino as we ll. Most of these narratives, which include a moment with a background Latina maid, usually foreground the sub tle politics of the f ilm that the Anglo

PAGE 50

50 protagonist is either simplistic in nature or capable of great change, using the politics of the Latina maid as a superficial discourse for the growth of a white consciousness. It is also interesting to note that of a variety of movie criti cs who analyzed this film in the popular press, none discussed the moment of the Latina maid eith er, even though it is at a critical juncture of the film which foregrounds its politics. Whether subconscious or not, the choice to position these maids, as Latina, becomes an ideological one which reinforces the image of Latinas/os as background to certain social questions. Clearly, they are such a necessary prop in films that Mary Romero, in Maid in the U.S.A ., states these are shadow figures, walk on props in films and TV programs celebrating family life among Texas oil barons or Wall Street ex ecutives (2). In addition, this concept of the Latino/a worker continues to efface the Latina in Hollywood, where the assumption, for the most part, is that the Latina can only be seen in the role of the maid, not in the role of the lead. It is therefore telling that Latinas in fi lms often do not play Latinas at all, as they might not want to be caught up in these typecast ro les. This is why the film Maid in Manhattan starring popular actress Jennifer Lopez, is an in teresting film to analyze, beca use her subjectivity is clearly framed within the concept of upward mobility, a new trend for the Latina maid in contemporary film. It is this sense of an arguably false ag ency that positions the Latina spectator in an interesting dichotomy between the image they wa nt to disenfranchise and the only image that allows them any agency or possibility of upward mobility Fictional Servants: How Nece ssary Are Latina Maids? As Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A states: While shadowy figures of Latina maids and na nnies serving in homes being groomed by Latino gardeners are still common media imag es and fixtures in urban and suburban landscapes across the country, real life has intruded into th e American consciousness as well. The importance of the role that the Latin a domestics play in the lives of the well-todo has become unmistakable. (2)

PAGE 51

51 Additionally, Romero argues that actual Latinas are necessary because she fulfills a specific economic need in the white upper middle class. Sh e argues that, the intersection of statuses constitute Latina immigrant women as ideal can didates to fulfill the needs of the American families. Not only are they less expensive than employees hired by agencies who pay benefits, but they are easily exploited for additional work (6). Furthermore, Romero argues that this is more than simply hiring a domestic worker for insi de the home; it also incl udes a variety of other positions. She states, citizenship, race, ethnicity, class and gender continue to mark the boundaries of domestic service-an occupation th at extends from the rare household staff that includes butler, driver, cook, maid, and nanny to th e day worker who cleans four to nine hours for a different employer each day (3). However, the financial necessity of hiring the Latina maid is often constituted as an unselfish act for that white upper middle class nece ssity, as whites situate th e act of hiring as an altruistic one, in which they help the underc lass minority, while helpi ng their own financial bottom line. Because white employers understand both the financial need of their Latina/o employees and the hard work value systems presumably inherent in ethnic identity (as a necessity of being allowed to stay in the country and prove ones ability to achieve the American Dream), they use this to their advantage in hiring ethnic employees. Romeros argument acknowledges a changing culture that threatens white security. Without serv ants, there is the threat of being positioned as part of the underclass themselves (a subtle ideology which plays out in the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills ). Without servants, they have to fulfill the obligations of childcare and housing duties themselves. Therefore, in hiring ethnic help, white people are subtly able to assuage their liberal guilt over their exclusion of Latinas/os as part of th e culture around them, as they create a myth

PAGE 52

52 around the concept of hiring ethnic la bor and re-creating the hiring as an altruistic act. As a reallife example of this mythmaking, Mary Romero tells us in her book of Linda Chavez, who was the former nominee for Secretary of Labor unde r George W. Bush. Chavez claimed the two years she provided shelter and cash to Marta Mercado, an undocumented Guatemalan, was not an employment arrangement, but rather an act of charity and compassion (14). Thus, Chavez (a conservative Latina) solidifies the relationshi p as a personal one (regulated by kindness and altruism) and not a public one which s hould be regulated under the law. The background Latina maid in real life and in film is no new pattern. For years, servants, field hands, caretakers and others have fulfilled the purpose of clarifying quickly the classed position of an Anglo character in th e narrative and indeed in real li fe. Furthermore, they serve to clarify and reaffirm hierarchal societal realities that are nece ssary for the upper middle class to feel good about their wealth and success. They al so allow individuals to feel good about helping the ethnic, who needs the altruism of the employer in order to be a successful part of society. This is true for both mainstream film and tele vision productions and soci al reality. The wealthy individual today needs the ethni c servant. And I believe that the ethnic individual may feel she/he needs the Anglo patron for real life economic realities, as well as her/his upward mobility growth, which may not happen without the altruism of the Anglo majority in the world today. Additionally, there is a vital c onnection necessary between the wh ite characters (white spectators looking for positions of relation) and the servants (played historically by black characters and not Latinas/os) which speaks to the legacy of the re lations between whites and people of color in the United States, one that is occasionally built on the ideology of friendship and mutual codependence, but which often forgets a leg acy of racism and gender inequalities.

PAGE 53

53 The Historical Legacy of the Ethnic Maid in Film It is necessary to situate the representation of the Latina maid in context with other ethnic maids throughout films of the twen tieth century, so as to elucid ate the connection between the past and the present and the ways it seems the maid is necessary (or at least a preferable trope) for the structuring of a white classed ident ity. In the early decades of film (1910), the visible servant was often an Irish immigr ant. According to Faye E. Dudden in Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America when the famine immigration poured into the United States from Ireland in the late 1840s and early 1850s, it began to look as though every servant was Irish, at least in the major seaboard cities (60). This tre nd of hiring Irish women continued throughout the 19th century and found its way into th e twentieth century. Hiring Irish women was often convenient for white women who found the fact that the Irish spoke the same language, unlike Russian, German or Scandinavian workers, a help ful necessity to the household. As Dudden states, facing no language barrier, they could find ready acceptance as servants, and entering service solved the problem of finding housing (60). The trend then to hire Irish servants makes its way into early cinema, becau se of what is commonly seen in individual households. Therefore, the stereotype of the Iris h servant also makes its way into early cinema. However, it was the early concept of the Iri sh Biddy, which saw Irish immigrant women as helpless and problematic, that becomes more significant to the way in which the servant is structured for the white spectator audience on the cinematic screen: The Irish domestic, stereotypically referred to as biddy, which dominated the labor market at mid-century and therefore drew th e blame for servant problems, tended to make an unsatisfactory servant. She carried to extrem es what were, in the eyes of the employers, the characteristic faults of domestics. Am ong faithless strangers the immigrant woman was most faithless, not just person ally but culturally. (Dudden 65) This reinforced for upper middle class women, both in reality and in film, their altruistic sense that they were helping (or resc uing?) immigrant women with thei r inability to take care of

PAGE 54

54 themselves. At the same time, they were able to reinforce that they were continuing their individual responsibilities to their families, ther efore not feeling the guilt of not maintaining their roles of motherhood. Therefore, the domestic servant allowed the white upper middle class woman to welcome the prospect of more elev ated activities than constant domestic drudgery (Dudden 47). Nevertheless, because of immigrant and economic realities, the Irish biddy is the visual servant of early cinematic films. Howe ver, Irish immigrant women became increasingly unwilling to work for low wages, in addition to religious differences and often saw domestic service as a temporary working cond ition before marriage. This is a fact we can contribute to an assimilation of white cultural values According to David M. Katzman in Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America : whatever effects the cultural matrix had on th e Irish-born womans propensity for domestic service, the next generationthe first to be born in the United States-had adapted sufficiently to the American experience to av oid household labor . . Clearly, for Irish immigrants service had provided the vehicle for entry into American society and for upward mobility. (70) Therefore, as Irish woman began marrying and m oving into middle class circles, black servants, who have always been commonplace in the s outh due to slavery, became commonplace further north and indeed in television and film. David Ka tzman explains, as the number of white women servants, including Irish women d ecreased, the number of African -American servants began to increase. Katzman states, at the same time black women were migrating from the South into Northern cities, they began replacing whites in th e nations largest cities, where they formed an urban servant population. Soon blac k women comprised nearly a majority of servants and laundresses nationally (72). Additionally Katz man argues, unlike white women, for whom household labor provided a bridge between leavi ng their parents home and getting married, many urban black women could expect to be wage earners most of thei r lives, regardless of whether or not they married (72). Therefore, in the 1930s and throughout the 1950s, the servant in film

PAGE 55

55 was more often than not African-A merican. Mary Romero argues in Maid in the U.S.A ., it is not surprising to find that the pre-civil rights m ovement image of the African American woman toiling in the kitchen, cleaning the house, and ca ring for white peoples children has largely been replaced by images of immigrant women speak ing Spanish and living as undocumented workers in the U.S (2). Implicit always in the trends is the concept that the hired hand will be ethnic. Only in rare exceptions is the servant not Latina. For example, the hiring of au pairs and cooks tends to lean toward whiter servants, suggesting a division between work and ethnicity. The 1930s servant is most typified by actress Hattie McDaniel who was the first black woman to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mammy, Scarlett OHaras servant and friend in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind In fact, Mc Daniel was widely successful in portraying the mammy figure in over 82 films. According to Carlton Jackson in Hattie: the Life of Hattie McDaniel at the end of her career, during the 1950s, McDaniel refused to play the mammy roles; for this sh e was boycotted (or blacklisted) by producers and left, ironically, to become a real maid in order to support herself. It is in teresting here to note the conflation between the real Hattie McDaniel and the roles she played all her life. I am almost certain that most spectators felt McDaniel was n aturally inclined for her role as a maid. The changes in the ethnic makeup of help on film and television, from African-American to ethnic others, came from a changing economic structure in African-American families. As Carlton Jackson states in Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel : by the mid-point of Hatties career, the late thirties, things were changing. Black newspapers had grown in quant ity, and many of their reporte rs were young, sophisticated, and educated, and would not follow what they c onsidered to be the meek, fawning ways of their ancestors. The liberalism engendered by Wo rld War II furthered this feeling of black independence. Anything that smacks of U ncle Tomism, or Mammyism, came under attack by the black activists. (95)

PAGE 56

56 Similarly, Patricia A. Turner tells us in Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence of Culture : starting in the late 1950s and through the 1960s and 1970s, a window was broken in the kitchen to which African-American women had been confined. Suddenly they had increased opportunities to seek work outsi de their own and other peoples homes. Educational opportunity grants afforded acces s to higher education, and employers were eager to display their liberal credentials by hiring African-America n employees. (56) As African-American families began their upw ard mobility into the middle class, new immigrants again filled the opening for domestic se rvants in the home. As Mary Romero states: the occupation in the United States not only i nvolved class differences between employer and employee but racial and et hnic differences as well. In South Carolina, employers typically expect to hire Af rican American women as domestics; in New York, employers may expect their domestics to be Caribbean immigrants; however, in Los Angeles and Chicago they can expect to hire undocumented Latin American immigrants. (101) Therefore, as soon as new immigrants arrived, th ey were displaced as working class or poverty class individuals. Because of a lack of edu cation, language barriers, and ethnic discrimination, they often found themselves working as se rvants in white households. According to Women Immigrants in the United States: the U.S immigration peaked in the first decade . .picking up speed again immediately after World War II and accelerating exponentially after the 1970s the figures indicate that immigration in the first half of the centur y was dominated by immigrants from Europe (more than 80 percent) while the contempor ary era is dominated by those from Latin America and Asia. (Zhou 23) Thus, it is important to note that this system of hiring has also been grounded in geographic realities. What often helps to fr ame the discourse of the Latina ma id is the geographic setting of the film or the television show. For example, films like Forrest Gump Claras Heart and Corrina, Corrina more often feature African-American se rvants, as those films are set in the South. Whereas films or shows set in eastern New York City such as Will & Grace or Miami such as Big Trouble often feature Latina or South-American workers, films set in California, like Hollywood Homicide or Big Fat Liar often feature Mexican maids. Also, it is important to

PAGE 57

57 note that the films decade or century may also necessitate a certain background as well. Films situated historically during th e Civil Rights movement more of ten feature African-American servants. Implicit always, no matter what the decade or geographic setting, is the concept that the hired hand will always be ethnic. However, as I suggested previously, au pairs and cooks tend to be whiter, more educated and of unidentified European lineage, suggest ing a division of labor according to ethnicity. The darker one is, the mo re inclined that individual is to being the gardener, the maid or the chauffeur. As in the tim es of slavery, the lighter ones skin, the more likely she/he were to be found inside the hous e as opposed to outside toiling the fields. Nevertheless, today, in a politically correct world, the servant is no longer AfricanAmerican. Although it is important to acknow ledge the non-descript background of most servants in films, I argue, as always, that th is phenomenon has not entirely been replaced, as evident in the film Maid in Manhattan in which most of the ma ids working with Jennifer Lopezs character Marisa Ventura are African-A merican and Latina. In fact, the background of the film often shows a majority of ethnic maids. A white maid here would be problematic, because it would threaten the safe status quo of an Anglo world confidant it its knowledge as the ones capable of upwardly mobility; therefore, th e only white maid who appears is one who is grossly overweight and who lacks s ubjectivity. She is silent and insi gnificant, especially in the politics of the film Maid in Manhattan which specifically tries to politicize the ethnic maids as part of an upward trend of mobility. The Sexy Latina Maid and the New Latina Spitfire The sexy Latina maid is a segue from the Latina spitfire roles of the 1930s through the 1950s. These roles, best exemplified by actress es Lupe Velez, Dolores Del Rio, and Rita Hayworth, are often dominated by sensuality and frivolous behavi or. The spitfire has a specific role in early Western films. She functions as a temptress who tempts the Anglo male protagonist

PAGE 58

58 from his life of conformity and rigidity or his threat to leave behind th eir (read=white western) moral value systems. She often threatens the basic moral values of the Anglo male, which include honesty, hard work, and a valiant need to help the helpless and to save their towns and communities. In the story, the temptress is set in direct contrast to the white female heroine who will redeem the white male protagonist by re-directing his value system to the correct path. These spitfires are often superficial characters, generally not developed beyond their basic sexual desires and needs, whereas Anglo characters, set in direct contrast in the film, are often fully fleshed out with clear moral ideals and an honest and obviously correct id eology. The function of the spitfire was obvious; for the Anglo male pr otagonist, resisting those treacherous spitfire women often redeemed him, indicating to th e audience that his moral virtue was beyond reproach and that he stood for the honest va lues of hard work, compassion and upholding good white moral values of justi ce, honesty and fidelity. Today, the Latina spitfire has be en transformed, but is nonetheless still evident in many films, within the role of the Latina maid, including 1986's Down and Out in Beverly Hills starring Richard Dreyfess, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte and 2002s Big Trouble starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo with Sofa Vergara as the Latina maid Nina. In fact, in a recent television show Bones titled The Woman in the Garden the Latina maid is killed by the manager of the household (a Latino man) who feels that sh e had tempted the young Anglo man of the house with her sexuality. Upset that she has overstepped her bounds, he argues that he has killed her to maintain the status quo in the relationship between employees (the Latino men and Latina women evident everywhere in the garden a nd inside the house) and the Anglo employers. Implicit in the television show is that the La tina maid has somehow corrupted the innocence of the young Anglo male and that she threatened to redi rect the correct path of this family. As such,

PAGE 59

59 the Latino manager was simply saving the white uppe r middle class family from their dissent in upward mobility and therefore, preser ving their virtue and their place. Elizabeth Pea plays the Latina maid Carmen in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and provides the most memorable role of a revamped spitfire in contemporary films. Set up (by producers, screenwriters or direct ors) as a temptress who threaten s to break down the protagonist Anglo family and their upper middle class valu e system, Carmen is a reconfigured Latina spitfire, re-producing the ideol ogy that a white male protagonis t who falls does not fall alone. Down and Out in Beverly Hills sets itself up as a satire of upper middle class and bourgeois value systems. It is a comedy of reaction, to the attemp t of one Anglo lower class male to achieve those prized values. We are supposed to understand the characters as satires of themselves, exaggerated figures who represen t ideals which are set up to fail as unreasonable value systems. Therefore, some critics of my ar gument may argue that the Latina ma id in this film is not worthy of recognition, as she is simply set up here as an attempt to perpetuate the inherent silliness of the Anglo protagonists in the film, who clearly do not believe their own ideological rhetoric or are set up as hypocrites of that rhetoric. In truth, most critics do not unde rstand the role of th e Latina maid in this film at all. Rather, most casually read the visibility of th e maid, as I have suggested above, as simply clarifying the wealth of the A nglo protagonists, as they have enough money to afford a maid. Additionally, as I also su ggested, they may read the hiring of an ethnic maid as the altruism of Anglo protagonists who are ge nerous enough to help an underprivileged minority. These arguments reaffirm my analysis, but critics may dismiss them because of the satire suggested by the film. This negation of the importance of her char acter continues with the fact that most critics seem obsessed with her representation as a se xy Latina maid. For example, Pauline Kael from

PAGE 60

60 the New Yorker calls Carmen the Whitemans hot live-in maid (105). Later, she further negates the character by talking up the maids physical attr ibutes, rather than any social significance she may have to the politics of the film. She states, Elizabeth Pea plays Carmen as tantalizing and sulky; she has a bedroom mouth, and when it says no to Dave the rejection is brutal, because that mouth looks as if it were made to say nothing but yes (106). None of th e critics which I have looked at, however, spoke to the maid as a si gnificant character worthy of our analysis. Down and Out in Beverly Hills directed by Paul Mazursky is actually a re-make of a 1932 French film by famed director Jean Renoir, Boudu sauv des eaux translated in English as Boudu Saved from Drowning. Renoir was a well-known hu manist, realist and naturalist filmmaker who wished to understand what motivates people, especi ally those separated by class politics. He had an intricate way of examining the problems and absurdities of bourgeois class structures. Though not necessarily didactic, Renoirs films explore th e ways in which individuals cope with trying economic times. The Renoir film Boudu sauv des eaux (1932) follows the story of Boudu, a tramp, who jumps into the Seine River and is rescued by Mr. Lestingois a bookseller who gives him shelter and hopes to redeem the man who the tramp once was. In the film, the goal (both by Mr. Lestingois and the individuals making the film) is to reinstat e the depressed French man into an economically stable livelihood. The maid in the film (played by Svrine Lerczinska) is clearly positioned as the lower class and is also pressured by the head of the household, Mr. Lestingois, into sleeping with him. What is important is that she only sleeps with him in exchange for the possibility of upward mobility. In fact, she makes it clear that she will not sleep with him if he does not provide her with a way to escape her lowe r class existence. Later, she sleeps with the Tramp, situating her struggles as easily forgotten in the presence of the real struggle: the Lestingois familys goal to make th e Tramp part of society and of the middle class

PAGE 61

61 again. In fact, in some ways she allies herself w ith the Lestingois family in their attempt to make the Tramp a respectable member of the community. The fact that the Tramp ultimately decides to forego the acceptance of the familys ideologies as he throws his bourgeois given hat in the Seine River and swims, both literally and metaphoric ally, away from the Le stingois and all they believe, is important to understanding this film as a class criticism. The tramp ultimately wants nothing to do with the compromise associated w ith living for and up to societys expectation of the upper middle class. The 1986 re-make of Renoirs film is a re-make which fails to stay with the class critique of its predecessor. Whereas the maid in the orig inal attempts to change her class status by seducing Lestingois in Boudu Saved from Drowning, the re-make has the Latina maid in a position of less power, as she is not so much se ducing her employer as much as she is being seduced for his pleasure. What has changed in this updated version is that the maid is now dependent on her employers for her green card, sugge sting an interesting anal ysis of the fears of international immigration in the 1980s; an unstable economic environment where the country felt its first recession in years. Struggling with the real possib ility of downward mobility, films made a point of reassuring indi viduals struggling fina ncially by promoting a facial uplift (a visible uplift) to the situati on, often showing middle class or upper middle class families as secure, while also reaffirming the idea that the ethnic immigrant was not out to get their jobs. This is a technique common to film. In the early 1940s, films directors, sc reenwriters and actors felt the need to reassure audien ces of a tumultuous time at war. Therefore, films often promoted uplifting images of individuals eager to defend th eir country; such is the case with the film Yankee Doodle Dandy.

PAGE 62

62 Being a Hollywood film, Down and Out in Beverly Hills falls into this trap and backs down from any attempt to explore or negotiate complicated class politic s, even though it sets itself up to do so. As Jerry the bum (the tramp of this film) ends up successfully entering the prized value system of the film in a heartf elt ending sequence (in co mplete negation of the originals ending), in which he and the family are reunited, both on the screen and in the metaphorical world of the Whitemans ideologica l bourgeois reality; thus any satire of the prevailing middle-class values which might have been suggested is eliminated. As Janice Morgan argues in From Clochards to Cappuccinos: Re noirs Boudu is Down and Out in Beverly Hills though at first the rebel had promised lib eration from the re lentless cycle work produce consume work produce consume we are lead to the cynical conclu sion that he has, in fact, only eliminated the first two terms of th e above three (8). Morgan continues by arguing, properly defused, stripped of a ny revitalizing potential to change or to challenge the social orderthe Outside is more than welcome to be co-opted into the system. Whatever promise, threat, or possibility Jerrys presumed otherness might have represented has, for the price of a cappuccino, been overruled (11). What Morgan argue s is that the film, in true Hollywood style, never follows through on its promise to sati rically understand that Jerrys opposition to the Whitemans is an opposition of greed. When he joins the fold, he jo ins their ideology. As Andrew Kopkind of The Nation states, Mazursky exploits the myth but never exposes it (252). Essentially, the film never follows through on its promise satirize and therefore expose problems inherent in class systems. Therefore, it is th e analysis of the Latina maid Carmen (played by Elizabeth Pea) which will prove fruitful towa rds an understanding of class and racialized politics that ultimately makes this film worth watching.

PAGE 63

63 Initially, I must explain how it is that we know Carmen is Latina. First, she speaks Spanish and has a clear accent throughout th e film. Second, she is often in her room watching Hispanic television shows and news. Third, she is often positioned as ethnic by the Whitemans throughout the film, as Mrs. Whiteman constantly asks Carmen to correct her Spanish and Mr. Whiteman prophesizes often about his helping of th e poor minority. Carmen is first seen in the background of the film, cleaning and cooking for th e Whitemans. The name of the family does not escape my analysis either. (Is this a pun abou t how truly white their value systems are or a mere coincidence?) As she cooks, she helps Mrs. Whiteman with her Spanish and they talk about the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. The fact that Ca rmen is invited to share the dinner with the family serves to situate the family as a kind and generously liberal family because they allow the servants to dine with them. However, here is where the narrative become s more complicated. As she dines with the Whiteman family, her function as the maid is ne ver forgotten, as she co ntinually serves them food throughout the dining experience. Moreover, as she serves them, there is a moment when one of the diners asks, in a fa miliar tone, how her family is doing. Although it may seem that the interest is genuine and seemingly purports th e idea that the white upper middle class is concerned about the real problems of the Latina servant, what occurs when she responds (that her family is not doing well and that he r brother, a sugar cane worker, is out of work) is that others at the table laugh at the misfortune of a brother wh o cannot be a productive wo rker in their societal framework. It is clear by the response offered, th at theres not much of a call for that in Los Angeles is a way of re-affirming the concept th at the Latino does not want to work. What is perpetuated is that Latinos/as do not really wa nt to be successful, and as a result, they are displaced from acceptable society.

PAGE 64

64 The function here is complicated. At the same time that the char acter is clearly seen as one of the family, allowing the middle class audience (w hich is the target of this film) to assuage their guilt as employers, as they see themselves as generously helping out, they can also see themselves above the very obvious stereotypically abusive character who neglects and mocks the real life subjectivity of the Latino. As Bonnie Thornton Dill states in Notes from Our Mothers Grief: Racial Ethnic Women and the Maintenance of Families racial ethnics were brought to this country to meet the need for a cheap and expl oitable labor force. Littl e attention was given to their family and community life except as it related to their ec onomic productivity (15). Therefore, the moment in the film is quickly glossed over and we forget that Carmen and her family have difficult fi nancial constraints. What is important in the narrative of Down and Out in Beverly Hills is the problem of the family dynamics, and it is clear that the Latina maid, Carmen, (like the spitfire of the 1930s) is one of those problems. As I have initially argue d, often the stories of th ese films are about the breakdown of upper middle class valu e systems, and in the film th at breakdown is quickly seen in the initial scene in which the couple is pos itioned far from each other in bed. Following that moment are allusions to a sexua lly ambiguous son, an anorexic daughter, an obsessed with the unnecessary (a middle class attr ibute of shopping addiction) wife and a confused male protagonist feeling occasional guilt about his succe ss. This capitulates in a moment early in the film when Dreyfesss character Mr. David White man asks his wife, in the privacy of their bedroom, whether she is happy and she responds, Im content. As clear as the allusions are of the breakdown of this famil y, the reasons for the breakdown are more elusive. Are they in a middle class rut, like Lavinia in The Banger Sisters ? Are they tired of marinating in the American Dream? Or, as I might suggest, does the film deliberately set

PAGE 65

65 up a destructive pattern of their ideology at the beginning, because th e recompense of that pattern at the end of the film is what builds up the sp ectator in the 1980s to believe that everything (upper middle class traditional valu e systems) will regain its norma lity? What is clear is that the breakdown is not helped by the Latina maid, wh o is then positioned as sleeping with Mr. Whiteman (Dreyfess), who again functions as a char acter ambivalent about his role in this upper middle class oppressive system, in which he constantly feels guilty about having made so much money. His acknowledgement of the guilt, an upper middle class preoccupation, is used in such a way as to convince others that if he c ould change it, he would, and he does by helping the underprivileged minority. One wonders, therefore, if sleeping with the maid assuages his guilt because it allows him to feel he has saved her from a life of drudgery as a maid and if he feels his saving her, and by extension the Mexican workers in his plant, is necessary to viewing himself as altruistic and a guiding force in their presumed upward mobility. This sets up the plot of the story that has Richard Dreyfesss character Mr. Whiteman helping Nick Noltes (Jerry) tr oubled homeless character. The na rrative again situates itself within the dynamics of white America, especi ally the problem of a white America which does not value the very system created for their benefit. Jerry, and his placement in direct contrast to the upward mobility of Mr. Whiteman, is seen as the more prominent problem of the film. Although the film is a comedy, the serious impli cation of a white man who is unsuccessful is seen as further perpetuating the dow nward fear of the particular cl ass dynamic. It is clear in the film that what scares the family more is the possi bility that they can become this bum that they can and still have the possibility of one day being in the same position, as Mr. Whiteman states, there by the grace of god go you and I. Therefor e, Carmen and her brothers obviously similar situation (seen earlier in the film) is negated by the more serious situation of the white man out

PAGE 66

66 of work, who threatens their stat us quo, while reaffirming the fact that Latinos are in the place they should be and are because of their own lack of motivation. In fact, throughout the film Mr. Whiteman is obsessed with finding out how this ha s happened to Jerry in order to reinforce his superior position in society. Nevertheless, remember that as this family becomes obsessed with correcting a system that neglects the Anglo mans str uggle, again represented by both Jerry and Mr. Whiteman, it has again sacrificed the real probl ems of the maid and her family. Moreover, the film carefully positions Carmen as part of the oppressing system (which the Whitemans know they are a part of, as indicated when Mr. White man expresses his anxiety and guilt about how much he has) when she refuses to clean up after Jerry the bum. It is clear that she f eels comfortable cleaning for the upwardly mobile but has the same disregar d for Jerrys situation as Mrs. Whiteman has, therefore subtly placing herself in the same subjectivity as the white woman of the house, later reaffirmed by both of them sleeping with Jimmy the bum. As the role of the past spitfire indicates, pa rt of that role was a bout positioning the Latina temptress in direct contrast to the morally upstanding white female character that the male protagonist has to choose between.3 Here, more than 50 years later, that function is still evident in a multitude of films which feature a Latina maid. Furthermore, the Latina, set up as the sexy maid, reinforces the idea of the immorality of Latinos today, who neither understand nor help middle class oppression by staying ou t of those problems. Their sexiness, their individuality (set off by her often biting comments) is inconceivabl e and therefore problematic. As such, she must be and is punished for her indiscretion. Therefore, she is the maid and the maid is there for the 3 See Gary D. Keller, Chicano Cinema: Research, Reviews, and Resources (New York: Bilingual Review/Press, 1985) for a further examination of early spitfire roles and their function within historical films.

PAGE 67

67 use of her patrons. Second, she has no individual identity. Rather, she serves the narrative function to examine white family suburban crisis today, which is occasionally displaced onto the Latina maid. That crisis involves a realization that the domestic bliss of the family is not blissful after all. In the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills Mr. and Mrs. Whiteman have become dysfunctional in their relationship. This is due to Mrs. Whitemans preoccupation with maintaining the image of wealth. Mr. Whiteman, how ever, is imbued with a sense of superiority that perpetuates itself in the idea that he can a nd will take whatever is his (body ownership of the Latina body). Again, the primary function of the A nglo protagonists as generous and inherently altruistic replays itself with Je rry being the foundation that serves to facilitate the maids journey to bettering herself and becoming more politically powerful. What is made evident in the film is that the Latina maid is incapable of coming into this agency on her own. She needs the guidance and direction of the Anglo world in order to gain any subjectivity. Similarly, in the past, Anglo employers were ofte n able to see themselves as altruistically generous individuals when they gave maids time o ff, clothes, even support in order to facilitate their growth or individuality. However, Carmens agency within the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills continues to be irrelevant, as the real goal of the film is to reinforce the goodness and honesty of the Anglo characters in the film. This is also reinforced by Mrs. Whiteman often reaffirming to her and others, including the maid Carmen, that she is a generous and giving individual who understand the difficulties of the impoverished and the ethnic others she constantly hires to maintain the faade of her ge nerosity. Additionally, the fact that we find out that Jerry is a scam artist and th at he has lied about all that he has done in the past, and tells Carmen that he picked up the Marxist books at a bargain store, negates any agency she creates

PAGE 68

68 from the texts. And we are to understand that his lies, which are accepted at the end of the film by both Carmen and the family, were not as impo rtant as the allegiances they have created amongst themselves and the fact that they have saved Jerry from an Anglo mans world of possible drudgery. Therefore, the maids subjectivity is never rele vant and is displaced on to the subjectivity of the Anglo protagonist, who struggles to make the imperfect world a little better for ethnic others. Not only is her subjectivity displaced, but so is the subjectivity of th e Mexican immigrants working for Dreyfess, who only further situate his goodness and kindness at the expense of the real economic, social problems of ethnic others. In fact a subtler dangerous element in the film is the fact that Carmen is an immigrant w ho is dependent on Mr. Whiteman for a green card. Therefore, she is positioned in the film as a pros titute, by the fact that she is selling her body to Mr. Whiteman for the possibility of staying in the country. Su btly, the film postulates the good morality of the white woman and degrades the morality of the Latina woman, which is again a characteristic of past spitfire roles. Furtherm ore, we can argue that Carmen sleeps with Mr. Whiteman in order to reaffirm her loyalty to th e Whitemans, which is brought into question later when she sleeps with Jerry the bum and Mr. Whiteman feels betrayed. It is important to analyze the situating of Mr. Whiteman as a good moral person who is constantly seen as bettering the liv es of Mexican immigrants in th e film, by hiring them to work in his clothes hangar factories, and by reminding them of his generosity in giving them yearly bonuses. Lest one should forget, we must remember that this generosity is often overlapped by his concern for the welfare of the white male ch aracter, Jerry, as it is th e breakdown of the white male that most threatens his upward mobility. He is only showing Jerry the Mexican workers in order to get Jerry to understa nd that his success can somehow be transferred onto to Jerry. In

PAGE 69

69 fact, there is another moment in the film when a black homeless man, who is a friend of Jerrys, approaches them while they are dining. Mr. Whit eman is clearly upset by the mans inclusion into his private discussion with Jerry. Again, hi s concern is not with th e struggles of the black man whom he dismisses with a statement that he seems crazy; it is Jerr y, as the white man, who is the most significant because of the possibility of white downward mobility. It is interesting then that Jerry, who sleeps with Mrs. Whiteman, is actually regard ed as the savior of the film, unlike Carmen who sleeps with Mr. Whiteman, who is seen as the moral breakdown of the film. She is vilified by the films structure while he is idolized. Her lack of morals, again re-affirming the moral ambiguity of ethnic work ers, is then situated in th e moment when she sleeps with Jerry, further making her problematic because sh e has now become responsible for the moral degradation of two white males. In the end, we are left with the nega ted subjectivity of the Latina maid in Down and Out in Beverly Hills It is the subjectivity of whiteness that is significant for the film. What is ultimately important is how the Latina maid functions for whiteness and not how she may function for herself. Her problems are never truly resolved. Carmen is offered no upward mobility to escape her position and she continues in her world of oppre ssion. If in fact she is allowed to escape her role (suggested but never fully realized), it is b ecause the white protagonist allows her to. In fact, Carmen becomes part of the white upper middle cl ass struggling to save one of its own, as the last scene shows Carmen, together with the famil y, asking Jerry to stay and help them out of the fallible upper middle class world that they have become a part of. The white homeless man is saved, which is really th e narratives true inten tion from the beginning. Maid in Manhattan : A Revitalization of the Latina Maid The Latina maid in film which leaves itself ope n to one of the most significant analysis is Jennifer Lopezs maid Marisa Ventura in Maid in Manhattan Following the tradition of many

PAGE 70

70 actresses, including famous black actresses like Dorothy Da ndridge who played AfricanAmerican stereotypes in the 1950s, Lopez takes on the challenge of reversing and subverting stereotypes in a film in which she plays a maid. Maid in Manhattan is a film about a Latina maid who struggles between her fears of upward mobility and her desire for it. Playing a single mother in charge of a rambunctious ten-year-old, L opezs character Marisa meets a single Anglo politician named Chris Marshall (played by Ralph Fiennes). This pairing also parallels many earlier 1930s films in which Latinas played for an Anglo love interest. Additiona lly, it also lays out the possibility of the Latina temptress, who can represent the potential downfall of the Anglo male. This is situated by the fact that his second in command continually tells him to leave her alone and to think about the repercussions of his decision to get involved with a Latina maid. Furt hermore, she is even set up, as temptresses of the past, as part of a triangle l ove interest with another Anglo woman in the film Caroline Lane (played by Natasha Richardson), who his second in command feels is more suited to his position. The film follows Marisa Venturas struggle to free herself from th e fears of her position in order to take over a management role in the hotel. It follows her struggle to stave off a romantic interest in the politician she met while pretending to be a rich socialite, in a moment when she wears one of the wealthy patrons outf its to try on the mask of wealth. I have no doubt that Lopez was initially in trigued by the idea of playing the Latina Cinderella, one who is able to have all wishes come true after a lif e of abject poverty and disillusionment. I have no doubt that Lopez felt that she would imbue the character with a new sense of Latina pride that says I can make something of myself if I really try hard enough Lopez, no doubt, felt that she was capable of subverting a ny ideological possibilities of the Latina maid

PAGE 71

71 that I argue have played out in a number of different roles thr oughout the years. Indeed, the film is touted as reversing the idea of the invisibility for the maid. Even the trailer for the film states: At Manhattans Barrister Hotel, where the rich and famous can always be seen . it was Marisa Venturas job to go unno ticed . but when you least expect it, fate can open the door. . the girl that wa s invisible. . is all that he can see. . if only he could figure out who she is. .no matter who you are, destiny will find you. (trailer) It is important to acknowledge the statement no matter who you are whic h implies a necessity for the minority to work that much harder to be noticed. Additionally, let us not forget gender construction in fairy tales. We have to be consci ence of what fairy tales reinforce in society. As Katherine E. Bartnett states in Destructive and Constructive Characterizations of Women in Disneys Mulan : fairy tales originated as stories passed dow n by word of mouth. They were a way of providing meaning to the experiences of a communityThey conti nue to send messages that reinforce ideology that text ual critics refer to as patria rchal oppression-in other words, a society in which men domina te women. In fairy tales, typically, a woman is neglected, isolated, silenced, or generally treated w ith disdain by some male figure or group of people, until another male comes along and save s her from desperate circumstance. (185) So, in fact, there is a double edged sword here wherein the Latina maid is both constrained by the gendered fairy tale aspect which negates her and her ethnic perspective, which does the same. The truth is that in some small part, Lopez doe s exactly what she sets out to do, challenge the stereotypical belief of society of the difficultie s Latinos have in becoming upwardly mobile, as the character does manage to escape her life of poverty and become a manager of maids. However, her mobility does stop there; while her love interest (played by Fiennes) goes on to become a Senator. As a spectator, however, I am torn by the real ization of her visual marker of success and the price she pays for that success. It does not escape my notice either that Jennifer Lopez has been darkened for the role. Considering that Ho llywood has made quite an effort to lighten her up in films like The Wedding Planner and commercials for her Glow perfume, it is interesting to

PAGE 72

72 see how visibly darkened she is for this role.4 However, it is her pseudo success in the film which presents a more interesting problem. Clearly, this film wishes to play for all audiences. For Latinas, she is the possibility of success, and for white women, she is the reaffirmation of maintaining her place. Therefore, the film strives to not aliena te any possible audience, and in doing so, threatens to reaffi rm certain stereotypes. The problems begin with her success in the film, which comes only after her absolute humiliation by the hotel employers, the press and the main love interest, Fiennes character. It is only after she has been stripped of all self-confiden ce that Chris Marshall comes in to rescue her at the end of the film, therefore reinstating her into the possibility of upward mobility. Like Down and Out in Beverly Hills the white man of the film allows for the Latinas upward mobility. In this way, he is seen as a good and mo ral figure that truly care s about the problems of the ethnic help. In addition, it seems that the way in which Ma risa is seen as good and moral herself, in comparison to the white characte r (played by Natasha Richardson) manages to validate the white audience member, who can mani pulate the images by letting themselves seem virtuous by comparison to the white woman. It is important to acknowledge Marisa Ventur as resistance, throughout the film, to the idea of applying for a managers positio n in the hotel. We see her yell ing about her frustration with 4 Although it may seem coincidental and some ma y argue she may have spent a little time out in the sun, what should be understood is that Hollywood is visual. For film, overt stereotypes of ethnicity are often subsumed under the color of ones skin. One me rely has to examine the controversy surrounding an earlier Latin film entitled The Perez Family (1995) and the hiring of Italian Marisa Tomei to play the role of a Cuban woman who travels to the United States to experience freedom. After an exhaustive search of 2000 women in Miami, Florida, where many Cuban Americans live, director Mira Nair defended her choice (against criticism from Hispanic/Latino organiza tions threatening to boycott the film) by arguing that she couldnt quite find someone in Miami who embodied the specific traits, characteristics and talent which Tomei offered. However, after hiring Tomei, Nair proceeded to have her tanned daily and asked the actress to gain 20 pounds in order to look more authentically native. As such, Nair emphasizes the necessity here to have Tomei attain a visual marker of ethnicity.

PAGE 73

73 her co-employer Stephanie, who secretly turns in an application for Marisa. Later, in a conversation between her mother and herself, Marisa reaffirms that she is not stepping out of her place by wanting to apply for this position. Her mother worries that she will be a threat to the status quo by becoming uppity enough to want more Their fight is indicative of the struggle of Latina upward mobility in the light of a society who would have her maintain her place. Therefore, it is only after Chris Marshall saves her, by charging in on his mythical white horse, that she is able to achieve any success in the fi lm. It is his prompting, and not her mothers that makes her desire the managerial position. Moreover when she is fired for having appropriated a wealthy patrons identity and she begins to work at yet anot her hotel as a maid, it is Marshall who tells her to value what she has to offer. It is his prompting that gives her subjectivity and makes her attempt to better herself. Likewise, the son Ty in the film, who has a problem with speaking in front of his sc hool, is able to speak out only after Marshall show s him how to, even though his mother gives him advice as well. The subjectivity of the Latina maid here is al so displaced onto the white man in the film, for it is his realization that ther e are individuals in the world w ho are oppressed that frames part of the discourse of the film. However, I must acknowledge that she is able to re-direct his passions in the false direction of the charity dinner he is going to; from it being beneficial to his campaign to his understanding that it is beneficial to the hundreds th ey will be helping with the money. Furthermore, she also re-directs him from a speech in the projects, where he suggests he is about to shed light on the problems of the ghe tto and she makes him realize that in order to shed real light onto the situation, he has to understand the real problem s of the people who live there. Moreover, she does make him change his be lief in what is the right thing to do. The film threatens, however, to displace all the good that she has done by reaffirming again that it is more

PAGE 74

74 important that he realize his faults than she realize hers. It is more important that he save her than she save herself. It is ultimately more importa nt that we wrap up the real differences between them in a happily ever afterno race, gender or class hinderingending for the movie. It is complete with pictures of their gaiety in magazi nes and it ends with the political success of Chris Marshall and the financial and seemingly ethnic American Dream success by Marisa Ventura. Maids on Monk : Making Their Way in the World. It is on the show Monk that we have the most interesti ng possibility for th e subjectivity of the Latina maid. In the show Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation Monk, who is an obsessivecompulsive out-of-work detective, goes on vacati on somewhere near the coastline of California. While there, his assistants son witnesses a potenti al murder. As he searches for who might have killed someone, he begins, through his own superi or knowledge of cleanline ss (think the literal whiteness of Mr. Clean) to suspect the maids wh o are the only ones capable of cleaning up a murder scene so perfectly. Inheren tly problematic is the assertion here that the duties of cleaning up are an essential part of the make up of women of color or of any woman for that matter. The maids, of course, are Mexican or of so me non-descript Latin American background. There are a number of issues of importance in this show. The maids on this show, who, by the way, are guilty of murdering one of their ow n, are espionage aficionados as well. Using the cover of the maid, and manipulating the system, wh ich often makes them invisible, and of little concern, these maids have been stealing informa tion from the briefcases of businessmen who stay in the hotel. They have been taking digita l pictures of papers a bout corporate takeovers, high-end investments and stock market options a nd investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds, therefore reversing their positions by working th eir way up the class mobility ladder, without the direct help of an Anglo individual pr ompting them to better themselves.

PAGE 75

75 This juxtaposition of the maids as criminal, th e maids as capable of murder and the maids as capable of corporate espionage is a fascinatin g subject for analysis. Because it threatens to reaffirm the stereotype of Latinas/os as crimin al, it nonetheless portrays them as reversing the tables of oppression, and manipulati ng their invisibility in the hotel and in society, to support the very families that make them oppressed individuals in the first place. In fact, in one crucial moment during the show, Monk directly questions the maids about their criminal activities, and in a moment which appears to crystallize the et hnic politics of the moment, the Latina maids respond in affront, asking Monk if he believes th at being white (a si gnificant and underlying idea here is his encoding as a white indivi dual when Monk, played by Tony Shaloub, is clearly ethnic or other) allows him to believe that Latin os are criminals, or allows him to assume that the ethnic help will always be the criminals. Th e humor and irony of the mo ment is significant to the politics of representation, as we know that these maids are indeed criminals. The Latina maids here reverse the politics of the moment, s ubvert the ideology of white superiority and then reverse all of that potential by making su re that the Latina maids are caught. As a spectator, I find myself intrinsically pl aced in the position of liking the Latina maid image as represented in this segment of the s how. After all, these ar e powerful women who are actively conning and manipulating the very sy stem which positions th em invisible in discourse. Thus at the same time, as a comp licated individual subj ect defined through many possibilities (ethnic, gendered, relig ious etc.), I find myself upset by the essentialism that allows women to be seen as inherently cleaner than me; after all, it is implied, an essential part of a womans programming is that she be able to clean better than a man. This is important here because Monk is obsessive about cleaning.

PAGE 76

76 One of the more noteworthy aspects of the s how is that it takes Monk a significant amount of time to figure out how the women have committed the crime. It usually takes Monk only five to ten minutes of every show to figure out who has committed the crime. The rest of the time is spent on Monk trying to figure out how the crime has been committed and it is usually his obsessive-compulsive behavior that allows him to figure it all out. So, at the same time as we are presented with Latina figures who outsmart Monk fo r a full 35 minutes before he figures out who has committed the crime, we pay the price of conf irming the essentialism of the Latina maid as able to clean better than Monk hi mself, the obsessive compulsive cleaner. He is only outsmarted by a womans (an ethnic womans) i nherent ability to clean. Therefor e, as a spectator here, I am pulled two different directions: I am given a false sense of comfort about the ability of Latinas to outwit a criminal investigation while having conf irmed for me my inherent ability to commit a crime. It is an interesting dichotomy and one th at speaks to the ways in which we must position ourselves as extracting what is empowering in the moment, and decoding the intricacies of ideological representations. In the end, when Monk finally discovers how the women were able to dispose of the body, by hiding them in a suitcase in th e front lobby, I find myself actually hoping that this is the one crime that Monk will not solve. Because the La tina maids here were positioned as using their invisibility to become upwardly mobile, I wa nt them to succeed because I want to see the possibility of agency in their characters. Unfortun ately, Monk solves the crime as its necessary to understand that no one, not even those oppressed, get away with murder. Nevertheless, for a moment these maids made me as happy as I ever was with the representation and the possible agency they offer.

PAGE 77

77 What we ultimately have to acknowledge about the Latina maid is that she is a necessary character in film and television today and not si mply because she positions the family that she works for as classed. In addition, he r figure is necessary because she is intrinsic to structuring the economic and class privilege of whiteness in multiple ways. She is important as a signifier for white privilege, wealth and superiority. It is impo rtant that she exist in order for their ideologies to exist in a number of ways, including s eeing themselves as altruistic, as good moral individuals, as caring of their communities, as individuals worthy of all the privileges they are entitled to. My purpose here then was to visualize the un-visualized in film. As Richard Dyer states, in a visual culture-that is, a culture which gives a primacy to the visible as a source of knowledgesocial groups must be visibly recognizable and represen table, since this is a major currency of communication and power (44). As su ch, I hope I have given us the power to look more closely at what certain repr esentations offer people of color, even if those images were not intended. My purpose here was to make ideol ogy visible for the unseen and unheard, the maids and servants who are not allowed to speak, but w hose representations in media say something for both people of color and white America. I leave this analysis with two examples of how the Latina as a maid continues to be circulated and widely consider ed as normalized. The first is a Call for Papers I saw for a conference on racial constructi ons and considerations. The call asked that we examine the Whoopi show and the nature of her character and her Persian valet/handyman, and the questions which rose about racial construc tions that abound in our society. However, there is no mention of the equally problematic nature of the relations hip between her and the Latina maid who cleans the hotel. The truth is that her role may be seen as natural, while his appears stereotypical. It is

PAGE 78

78 the subtle difference between what is necessary to maintain the status quo and what needs to be problematized or subverted. The second is an advice column letter sent to Latina magazine in March 2006: Dear Dolores: I was wondering if you could he lp me. About two year s ago, when I stayed at the Homewood Suites in Lewisville, Texas, I met a nice maid by the name of Gabriela. I never caught her last name. She didnt speak mu ch English, so she might have been an immigrant or a guest worker. We both had fun talking in broken English/Spanish. She had a real pleasant disposition. I would like to track her down, and I thought that maybe you know her? (48) Doloress response: Dear Traveler: You must be kiddingThis may come as a surprise to you in Nebraska but all Latinos dont know each ot her. We dont even look alike or eat exactly the dame food. For all I know, Gabriela could be the CEO of Homewood Suites by now. I dont keep track of hotel maids or facilitate dating services but if I were you, Id contact the Hollywood producers association. Judging by the abundance of Latina maids in movies, Id say they are true experts on the subject. Just tell them what your drea m maid looks like: Paz Vega in Spanglish ? Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan ? Elizabeth Pea in Down and Out in Beverly Hills ? Lupe Ontiveros inoh, God! You have some nerve! D. (48) There is simply much to discuss with the above statement to delve into fully and truthfully, I wonder if the person who initiall y wrote the letter was not bei ng slightly facetious (although my argument to this point is that I believe people are not). Ultimatel y, it is important to examine the conflation of Latino identity, the language questi on and the reality of a society or world that mandates or desires Latinos/as as servants in orde r to maintain its position of privilege. As Mary Romero states in Maid in the U.S.A in the U.S., it [maids work] remains women of colors work, and it is never done (22).

PAGE 79

79 CHAPTER 3 THE MAMMY MYTH:MAMMYHOOD RE CONFIGURED FOR THE LATINA SERVANT. The racial history of the United States is a complicated one, embroiled as it is in slavery, oppression and hardship. Within this history, the relationship between women of color and white women in the United States is deeply complex. As Talmadge Anderson argues in Comparative Factors Among Blacks, Asian, and Hispanic Americans: Coalition or Conflicts? race, ethnicity, and color are catalytic social factors in the Un ited States, causing cla ss antagonism, controversy, and conflict among its diverse population (27). Th is divisiveness is one embedded in centuries of inequality, witnessed in hi storys literary and popular cultu re images of black women as mammies, jezebels and Aunt Jemimas, and to depict ions of Latina women as spitfires, harlots, female clowns, and Dark Ladies. This inequality is seen today as women of women of color continue to make less than white women a nd continue to suffer from stereotypical representations. This relationship between white women and wo men of color is complicated by notions of race, ethnicity and gender and this is more evid ent in the relationship between white women and African-American woman throughout hist ory. As Adrienne Rich states in On Lies, Secrets and Silence Selected Prose 1966 1978 : the mutual history of black and white women in this country is a realm so painful, resonant, and forbidden that it has barely been touched by writers either of political science or of imaginative literature. Yet unt il that history is know n, that silence broken, we all go on struggling in a state of deprivation and ignorance. (281) However, the relationship between white and Bl ack women is almost always perpetuated and represented in film and televisi on as one of bonding and friendshi p. In these representations, the relationship between white women and women of color is often pr esented as helping each other to break through doors of in equality together.

PAGE 80

80 For example, one interesting film which illustrates this perpetuation is the Universal Pictures 1934 classic Imitation of Life starring Claudette Colbert a nd Louise Beavers, and which was re-made by Universal again in a 1959 vers ion starring Sandra Dee and Mahalia Jackson. These films tell the story of two women (one white and one black) who bond together over family, life, womanhood and business. The promo tion of the original 193 4 films states, two women with young daughters who build a life and a fort une together. Imagined in the film is the way in which these two women bond in ways whic h negate color or ethn icity as a factor, both understanding each others oppression (as the wh ite womans husband dies and she is left without financial support and the black woman is abandoned by her husband and left to raise her young daughter by herself) as women in a society wh ere female economic survival is most often contingent upon the presence of a male. This film, along with others in the same vein, perpetuates an understanding and bonding over mutual oppression by men or, more genera lly, by a patriarchal so ciety. What the film forgets or conveniently neglects to explore in detail is the ineq uitable relationship between the two, although it hints at that inequality within th e context of the film itself. When, for example, in the 1934 version we see Aunt Delilah and Beat rice Bea Pullman in the physical interior of the house, Aunt Delilah lives downstairs in the ba sement and Bea lives in the upstairs portion of a grand mansion. The size difference is a visual and subtle message of the film. It allows spectators to believe in the relationship based on their close proximity to each other (they decide to live and raise their children together) and yet it firmly mainta ins the status quo in the physical division of the household. Yet, those subtleties di d not change the reception of the film in 1934. As such, the film and its desired ideol ogy were re-made in 1959, 25 years later.

PAGE 81

81 In Ceramic Uncles and Celluloid Mammies: Bl ack Images and Their Influence on Culture, Patricia A. Turner discusses the film Imitation of Life as it is ingrained in the white imagination, arguing, movie audiences cried when a rare urba n auntie proved unequal to the challenges her own child heaps upon herA good-humored, stocky, asexual, dark-skinned black woman, Auth Delilah unselfishly helps make her white employer rich with her secret pancake recipe (52). Turner tells us that audiences loved the representation of the unselfish black woman who loves her white employer above all else, that she is willing to let her us e her pancake recipe to achieve a level of financial success. Moreove r, throughout the film, she clarifie s that it is not necessary to pay her back for that recipe and its eventual success. Ultimately, what is solidified in the imaginations of white audiences is the reciproc ity of that relationshi p as one of a true friendship that transcends raci al and economic issues; however, it does not overtly acknowledge the inequality of that relations hip, nor the white womans subconsci ous desire for that necessary mammy figure whose central focus is her white charge, which is evident in the depiction and actions of Aunt Delilah. In an earlier chapter, I discussed the varied wa ys in which Latinas as maids played into the imaginary of white middle or upper middle clas s value systems in both film and television. I argued that the Latina maid or servant functi oned in very specific ways for Anglo audience members: clarifying for the audience the class stat us of the white protagon ist of a film, showing the white protagonist as a good and earnest i ndividual who was worthy of the respect and admiration given to them by their servants, and fi nally, portraying the prota gonist as conscious of culture and ethnicity in a cha nging world. However, it seems to me, in viewing many films which depend on a Latina maid or servant, that we also need an analysis of the Latina servant as a new mammy figure of comfort for the Angl o protagonist needs its own analysis.

PAGE 82

82 Therefore, this chapter analyzes the Latina maid as another component necessary in the imaginations of whiteness--that of the Latina maid as a new mammy figur e. Historically, white women have often, consciously or subconsciously, imagined a mutual relationship between themselves and their imaginings of black women mammy figures. Many white women today need the fantasy of a relationship between them selves and their maids (most often women of color); one which is mutually beneficial and im portant for the white woman in creating her own identity. In other words, it is the white womans ab ility to define herself in contrast to the black woman (or women of color) in order to more firmly situate her political and social reality and her image as a desired one. In addition to the way in which producers of film and television continue to imagine black women as traditional mammy fi gures, I argue the Latina maid is now being imagined within the same framework and in some ways has becomes a new, reconfigured mammy. I engage with the images of Latinas in c ontemporary popular culture in order to understand how racial myths continue to be perpetuated about the place of Latinas in cultural discourse, as well as in order to understand how those representations serve th e desires of white middle or upper middle class individuals to maintain the st atus quo. In examining how films and television have come to depict Latinas as the new mammy figures, I will consider wh at specific physical, social and emotional characteri stics are maintained from the original belief systems about mammies and the white women (and ch ildren) they cared for, as we ll as consider what specific characteristics have been erase d, effaced or reconfigured. It is useful to begin with a discussion of the relationships between black and white women in film today. I will first examine how they ofte n play out as equitable; yet do not take into consideration the power pl ays within that relationship. (For the recor d, I acknowledge that I am

PAGE 83

83 not talking about every relations hip between black women or ot her women of color and white women in film. Rather, I speak to the generalizati ons and imaginings we see most often.) Next, I put forth my engagement within the critical fram eworks of theorist Hortense J. Spillers in Mamas Baby, Papas Maybe: An American Grammar Handbook and writer Toni Morrisons Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. These womens work both explore the idea that whiteness cannot exist without blac kness both in the historical past and in the contemporary imaginations. Using their framewor k, I will examine the ways in which, I argue, whiteness cannot exist without otherness. Moreov er, I will examine how those historically determined representations have become reconf igured, yet continue to be perpetuated and represented in more subtle wa ys in two contemporary films Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002) and Monster-In-Law (2005). From there, I will tu rn to my analysis of the ways in which Latina women have to some exte nt replaced (although not entirely, as suggested by the above examples) African-American wo men as contemporary mammy figures. I will examine how the necessity of the mammy figur e becomes reconfigured and transposed onto women of color, most specifically Latina wome n, and how this relations hip plays out in the contemporary imagination. For this analysis, I o ffer two other contemporary films (both of which self-present as ideologically progressive) Spanglish (2005) and Crash (2005). Finally, I will examine and analyze how ideas of slavery and this re-imagination of the re lationship is relevant in the show Will & Grace (1998) in the satirical relation ship between Karen Walker, a rich white woman and her Latina maid, Rosario, upon wh om she subconsciously transposes ideas of slavery, mammyhood and the and a subc onscious desire for mothering. Here in particular, as I examine the s how between Season 1 through Season 5, I will analyze how Rosarios role, like that of mammies in the past, is primarily to take care of,

PAGE 84

84 comfort, and support Karens life. I will explai n how the relationship is imagined as a codependent one, necessary for the survival of both. As Manhaz Kousha notes that being closer in class and culture, operating w ithin a clearly defined syst em of social and racial inequalitySouthern black and white women devel oped a kind of mistress /servant relationship that was psychologically satisfying, to some de gree, to both groups of women (77); to a strikingly similar degree, Karen needs Rosari os care-taking, motheri ng and otherness and Rosario needs Karen for some of the same, incl uding the reality of her financial welfare. The ways in which the reciprocity in the relations hip between white women and women of color is built and fore grounded through years of slavery, civi l rights and identity politic movements, I argue, is imagined and reconfi gured through eight seasons of Will & Grace as a loving and an emotionally necessary friendship built on years of loyalty and devotion. I acknowledge here, and will do so in that particular section, th at the show plays out as a satire. However, I will argue that although the sh ow is imagined as ironic, and we, as Latina spectators, recognize that on one le vel, we as spectators are also invited to believe that on another level this relationship is truly one of love and caring, es pecially when the show turns to its serious moments in its imagining of the re lationship between the two women. Moreover, there is a conflation between the ficti onal and the reality that white wo men most often hire women of color to work for them; this means that I am as ambiguous in my feelings about the representation Rosario offers, as I am about Dame Edna and her unwittingly upsetting column. Therefore, I will argue that the sa tire of that relationship has to be grounded in more realistic examinations. I am always interested and inve sted, as a Latina spectator, on the ambiguity presented by our understanding of the satire and our understanding of the re ality of our positions as Latinas in societal discourse.

PAGE 85

85 We Need Our Comfort: The Legacy of the Mammy Lives on in the Imaginations of Whiteness. The mammy has a clear historical and economic reality in Unite d States history. They were servants and caretakers of the white family. Th ey took care of the house, the children and most importantly their white employers. In the historical imaginations of whiteness (specifically in the South) the mammy is reconfigured as a woman of great importance to white womanhood and to the structure of the white famil y. As Trudier Harris states in From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature : she was considered self-respecting, indepe ndent, loyal, forward, gentle, captious, affectionate, true, strong, just, warm-hearte d, compassionate-hearted, fearless, popular, brave, good, pious, quick-witted, capable, thri fty, produced, regal, c ourageous, superior, skillful, tender, queenly, dignified, neat, qui ck, tender, competent, possessed with a temper, trustworthy, faithful, patient, tyrannical sensible, discreet, e fficient, careful, harsh, devoted, truthful, neither ap ish nor servile. (35) Reconfigured in their historical imaginations as women who loved their roles in lives, the mammy was often seen as wholeheartedly devoted to her white family, even leaving her own family behind in order to maintain the structur e of the white family. As Harris states, these women usually compromise everything of themse lves and of their connections to the black community in order to exist in th e white world (23). It is an im portant reconfiguration about the mammy that she lived her life for the white family she served. She needs to be seen as a willing individual who chooses the white family above her own, rather than the reality that she is forced into choosing one above the other. The mammy of the historical past was also imagined as the ideal servant who never complained, who maintain ed her place in societ y and who functioned to maintain the white family as successful. As Ha rris continues, she was a woman completely dedicated to the white family, especially to the children of that familyShe served also as a friend and advisor. She was, in short, surrogate mistress and mother (49).

PAGE 86

86 In fact, so embedded in historical imaginations is the relationship of care between white women and their mammies that in 1923, the Daughters of the Confederacy asked the United States congress to allow them to create a monument to honor genera tions of, what they felt, were their caring and devoted mammies. As Cheryl Thurber states in the Development of the Mammy Image and Mythology : in celebrating the mammy, the increasingly middle-and upper class United Daughters of the Confederacy were reclaiming and reinterpre ting the past in confor mity with their own middle-class, progressive values and shifting the focus away from the veterans and the war. Having a mammy became a badge of having been raised right as a proper southerner. In the mythology, the white folks were firmly left in control of the subservient and dependent mammy who knew her place, and because of the mammy could be seen as having power with the household. (99) Only because of strong protest by African-Ame ricans, was the plan abandoned. But this example is indicative of what the mammy im age represents and ne cessitates for white individuals and specifically for white women. As Thurber continue s, the glorif ication of the mammy was intimately connected with nostalgia a nd the longing to return to childhood days and a simpler, peaceful life (104). It is this glor ification, desire and necessity of the mammy (as reconfigured) in the historical imaginations of whiteness that is an avenue for analysis. So, why do white women continue to imagine a need for the mammy figure in their servants? Whether acknowledged or not, this mammy figure reverberates still in social expectations of the relationships between white women a nd their mammies. White women often recall nostalgically their relationships with mammies as one based on a mutual sense of friendship, one that worked cohesively between two halves. As Ch eryl Thurber argues, white society still has a secret and perverted need for a nurturing Mammy figure, and a desire to keep black womanhood reined in and relegated to antiquated stereotypes. This is evident in the sustained presence of these stereotypes, renovated for modern use, but fundamentally unchanged (5). Melinda Price agrees, arguing in I Aintch Yo Mamma: The Mammy Myth Unveiled that she sees the

PAGE 87

87 contemporary mammy figure continually incorporat ed in lauded images of black women in society. She argues that in Oprah Winfrey, one of the most popular and powerful AfricanAmerican women of the last twenty years: we see the embodiment, literally and figura tively, of the evol ution of the Mammy figureTruly, Oprah wishes to be a great loving mother, a new mammy with a spiritual take of life. That is not to say Oprah em braces the mammy myth and accepts it as her personal archetype; she differs sh arply from the representations of her enslaved ancestors. She has chosen to be a caregiver. (8) Moreover, Price is hardly the only individual who has made th e connection between Oprah as care-giver for primarily white audiences and thei r need for a reconfigur ed mammy figure they cannot live without.1 Esther Iverem, Editor of SeeingBlack.com states: decades of "Oprah" and years of Lewis on MT V certainly have shown that a Black host does not equal a "Black" show. Rather, thes e women become vehicles for conveying a staid brand of women's programming aimed at White Middle AmericaSo, more and more, the Black woman sitting in the host seat begins to look a lo t like mammyit is not outrageous for the conscious Black viewer to be rattled by the TV mammy's new calling to heal White people and, perhaps, give them some soul. (1) In fact, Oprah may not be the su ccess she is if white audiences (specifically white middle and upper middle class women) did not approve of her and need her to guide them into living better and more productive lives.2 And although the Oprah concept may disturb some, the reality that white audiences subconsciously desire a mammy figure is evident in any number of other contemporary films with women of color who are mother-like or mammy-like figures, For example, in The Warner Brothers 1988 film Claras Heart which stars Whoopi Goldberg as a 1 See Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism (New York & London: Routledge, 2005) for a fu rther examination of Oprah Winfrey and other African-American female representations, in contem porary film, television and popular culture. 2 See Janice Peck, Talk About Racism: Framing a popular discourse of race on Oprah Winfrey. Cultural Critique (Spring 1994):89-126 for a discussion of the popularity of Oprah Winfrey and its racial context.

PAGE 88

88 housekeeper hired to take care of the young white son of a white couple whose marriage is deteriorating. She, the young son and the mother end up bonding together to make it work out for all of them. Moreover, this mother-like or ma mmy-like figure plays ou t in a number of other Goldberg films, including the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina.3 It is her mothering that allows the girl to open up after the death of her mother. The film, which is set in 1959, allows for an interesting twist, in that Corrina ends up marryi ng the white father against the disapproval of the society of the time. However, it is only after she has proven her worth as a mother that she becomes allowed to be part of the family4. Additionally we see this same figure in Universal Pictures 1995 hit Billy Madison, who has a black housekeeper Juanita who takes care of him, in 20th Century Foxs 2000 hit Big Mommas House and in Warner Brothers 1999s The Matrix starring Keanu Reaves as a character named Neo, w ho is guided to his future as the One by the black mother figure of the Oracle, played by Gloria Foster. Moreover, we see this image in past television shows including Gimme a Break! (1981), which stars Nell Carter as a black housekeeper who takes care of three white ch ildren after the deat h of their mother.5 All of these 3 See Krin Gabbard, Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture, (New Brunswick, New Jersey & London: Rutgers University Pr ess, 2004) for an analysis of the Black magical friend in Hollywood films and how that friend or figur e serves to radically transform the lives of white characters, usually providing them with romance a nd gravitasAfrican Americans often appear in films for no other reason than to help white people reaffirm their own superiority (6). 4 I acknowledge the films progressive possibilities. 5 See Patricia A. Turner in Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and their influence on Culture (New York: Anchor Books, 1994) for an analysis of the reconfigured mammy figure in the show Gimme a Break!.

PAGE 89

89 examples serve to show that the mammy image (and its characteristics) has not disappeared in modern mainstream imaginations of the black woman.6 Am I Imagining Things? The Theory behi nd the Reality of White Imaginations of Darkness. In Mamas Baby, Papas Maybe: An American Grammar Handbook Hortense J. Spillers articulates an analysis of the African-Ameri can womans development of the psychic self. Arguing that the gendered self is always fractur ed by a historical imagination of blackness as other, Spillers contends that the African-American woman has had to suffer as an object of white racial imagining and never the subject of her ow n reality. As such, the African-American female figure has become irreducible to white knowledg e only. It is only when whiteness imagines her that she exists. Moreover, in her analysis is an argument that the white imagination is unable to exist without blackness as a factor of its own ideological or idealized reality. As Spillers tells us my country needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented (65). Spillers argument comes from the critical framework of examining slavery s implications on the fractures of the African identity in a contemporary imag ination, from an inabi lity to name oneself metaphorically or historically to fractures of a historical imagination of their own. At the same time, Spillers argument entails examining the un-gendered captive body (read slave) as it is negotiated by whiteness, as a way in which to imagine the gendered freed om of their own bodies. African-Americans otherness in a variety of ways allows whiteness to be articulated as normalized. Spillers seems interested in unders tanding the way in which whiteness needs and 6 See Lorraine Fuller, Are We Seeing Things? Th e Pinesol Lady and the Ghost of Aunt Jemima Journal of Black Studies 32 (Sept. 2001):120-131 for an analysis of television advertising and the stereotypical images of black females presented by those advertisers.

PAGE 90

90 desires blackness as a symbolic and physical reality in order to create its own psychical sense. As Spillers states: the captive body, then, brings into focus a ga thering of social realities as well as a metaphor for value so thoroughly interwoven in their literal and figurative emphases that distinctions between them are virtually us eless. Even though the captive flesh/body has been liberated, and no one need pretend that even the quotation makes do not matter, dominant symbolic activ ity, the ruling episteme that re leases the dynamics of naming and valuation, remains grounded in the originati ng metaphors of captivity and mutilation so that it is as if neither time nor history, nor historiography and its topics, shows movement, as the human subject is murdered over a nd over again by the passions of a bloodless and anonymous archaism, showing itself in endless disguise. (68) The ruling episteme that Spillers discusses above is the white historical and contemporary imagination that continues to perpetuate, consci ously or subconsciously, a desire to devalue the presence of African-American gendered iden tity in the framework of a global discourse. Therefore, the white historical imagination always imagines an African other in disguise. I will argue that the disguise comes in the form of the relationship between white women and women of color (primarily African-American, but now including Latina Americans) in film and television. That relationship occurs many time s over, and is fore grounded on whiteness as a superior position of normalcy and the ethnic fema le other as negated or always framed around the discourse of white womans identity. As Spil lers argues, we cannot unravel one females narrative from the others, cannot decipher on e without tripping over the other (77). Similarly, in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination Toni Morrison also articulates an argument that whiteness cannot exist without blackness. Using American literature as the basis for her analysis, Morri son examines how images of Africanism or Africanist identity are deeply embedded, whet her consciously or s ubconsciously, in the framework for American literature. As Morr ison argues, through si gnificant and understood omissions, startling contradicti ons, heavily nuanced conflicts, through the way writers people their work with the signs and bodies of this pr esence-one can see that a real and fabricated

PAGE 91

91 Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness (6). Therefore, Morrison articulates this Africanist presence in literature, and indeed in ot her cultural texts, as one that allows for the possibility of disseminating the discourse of whiteness in a cultural context.7 As Morrison suggests, what Africanism became fo r, and how it functione d in, the literary imagination is of paramount interest because it may be possible to discover, through a close look at literary blackness, the nature-even the cause-of literary whiteness. (9). Therefore, I am interested in applying Morrisons foundational ar gument and her rubric for the way in which whiteness imagines blackness to the relationshi p between white women and Latina women in film and television. I am interest ed in how those imaginations of the ethnic female other (here imagined as Latinaness) continue to be maintain ed or reconfigured in ways that allow white women to keep the necessary imaginations of mammies in the framework of their relationship with women of color.8 7 See further Gabbard for an analysis of how the necessity of an Africanist presence is reimagined in films as the black magical friend who al ways helps an Anglo protagonist achieve greatness, either physically, symbolically or metaphorically. 8 In a number of ways, theorists have explained th at their imaginings of the mammy is a way to alleviate guilt over the historical reality of slavery. As Patricia A. Turner states in Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and their influence on Culture by suggesting that antebellum households had been run by smiling, self-assured, overweight, born-to-nurture black women, fiction writers and journalists bega n to perpetuate a mythological Southern past removed from all of the heinous dimensions of slavery (47). Additionally, such imag es or such reaffirmations (as argued in a previous chapter) allow whiteness (specifically white women) to re-imagine themselves as altruistic figures helping out those who are unable to help themselves. As Cheryl Thurber states in The Development of the Mammy Image and Mythology with the expression of pious devotion and support for mammy, proper southerners could convince themselves and others of th eir own goodness. In a sense they were attempting to redeem themselves for the other wrongs they ha d done to blacks because of course, I loved my old mammy (98).

PAGE 92

92 Case Studies White Women and Women of Color Bond in Film. Let me explain the subconscious or conscious necessity for whiteness to maintain women of color as mammy figures with examples from the recent films Monster-In-Law (2005) starring Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), starring Ashley Judd, Ellen Burstyn and Leslie Silva. For the first film, let me briefly note that both actresses of the film, Fonda and Sykes, are well known for thei r often-controversial ta kes on politics, race, and gender. As www.imdb.com the Internet film database informs us: Jane Fondas professional success contrasted with her personal life, often laden with scandal and controversy. Her appearance in several risqu movies (including Barbarella (1968) by then husband Roger Vadim was followe d by what was to become Jane Fonda's most debated and controversial period: her espousal of anti-Establishment causes and especially her anti-War activities during the Vietnam War. Similarly, Wanda Sykes9 often complicates notions of race, gender and ethnicty in her stand-up work, often satirizing or turn ing the tables on black/white relationships. Her current book entitled, Yeah, I said it, is a collection of pers onal essays and jokes about American life and politics. As the New York Times states, Wanda Sykes' unique blend of stinging humor and outspoken honesty has found her moving beyond a car eer in standup thanks to notable success in film and television (1).10 The reason I mention part of the history of th ese two women is because of the relationship that plays out between them in the film Monster-In-Law Though they are both willing to 9 Wanda Sykes is the only black women to make Comedy Centrals Top 100 List of The Greatest Standups of All Time and has been cited by Entert ainment Weekly as one of the 25 funniest people in America. 10 Her controversial jokes have even found their way into criticism of President Bush. As Wanda jokes on the Jay Leno Show "I dont think the President should ha ve taken responsibilit y. I dont blame the President. I blame the American people. Yall knew the man was slow when you voted him in. You cant blame the blind man for wrecking your car when youre the one who gave him the keys."

PAGE 93

93 elucidate serious questions personal lives, they nonetheless reaffirm those inequitable positions in the roles they choose and concerns about th e oppression of women within society in the negotiation of their se to ta ke in film, whereby the African-American woman effectively becomes, like the mammy once was, the reconfi gured African-American caretaker of the white woman in film. And as I argue previously, the inequitable relationship between the two women in this film is perpetuate d as a bonding relationship. In Monster-In-Law Ruby (Sykes) and Violas (Fonda) relationship is imagined as a fr iendship; yet, Ruby play s servant and caretaker (in effect a contemporary mamm y) for Violas self-aggrandizi ng character, who over mommies her own son. Similarly, the film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002) depicts a selfaggrandizing character, played by Ellen Burstyn, as the matriarch of an old southern family and a black woman caretaker Willetta, played by Leslie Silva11 Unlike Monster-In-Law the black woman here appears as a servant (a t least in the historical past).12 It is important to examine the way in which th ese relationships are imagined as friendships instead of working based or se rvitude based relationships. In Monster-In-Law the film often shows Viola and Ruby shopping together, hangi ng out together and eating together in restaurants. Viola often talks abou t the number of years they have been together and we often see them discussing the life-altering moments of their lives and the tough times they have lived through together In fact, when Viola is fired from her career as a Barbara Walters-type newscaster and replaced by a younger and hipper version of her, it is Ruby who is there to 11 Actress Sarallen plays the older Willetta char acter in the film and Leslie Silva plays the younger version. 12 This film covers a number of historical decad es, as the characters are often thrown into the historical past to examine Vivian Walkers (playe d by Ellen Burstyn) life from childhood to life as an adult. The younger version of Vivian is played by Ashley Judd.

PAGE 94

94 protect and console Viola and it is Ruby who sta nds by her side against the television station. The inclination here, like that of the traditional mammy, is to protect her mistress from her own oppression (symbolically suggested by her re placement by a younger woman) by men and the patriarchal system. Similarly, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood the characters of Vivian Walker (Burstyn) and Willetta (Silva) also appear as a re lationship based on friendship, loyalty and trust. We often see Vivian frame Willetta as a confidant, often talking to her about her fears (in raising her children) and her hopes (that she will develop a friendship with one of the daughters later in life). In fact, we see Vivian stand up for Willetta when others wish to dismiss her and we often see Vivian and Willetta, later in life (the film moves between the past, where Willetta is more clearly configured as the servant, to the present where Willetta is configured more as the friend) sitting together and discussing, as in Monster-In-Law the life altering moments of their lives, as well as their tough times together However, neither of the films acknowledges the working relationship between the two characters. To do so would be to acknowledge the class and racial factor s which determine their relationship. It would mean that the Anglo women of the film w ould have to acknowledge their privilege in society and societal discourse. As Adrienne Rich ar gues, the nascent antiracist, class-transcending feminismwould always be unde r pressure from the patriarchal strategy of divide and conquer. This strategy has repeatedly fed on the capacity of privileged women to delude themselves as to where their privilege or iginates, and what they are having to pay for it (287). As such, in order to maintain some sembla nce of their own psychical position of power in society, white women have to maintain the st atus quo in their relati onships with AfricanAmerican women (at least subconsciously on film). Therefore, there are moments in both films

PAGE 95

95 where the Anglo mistresses often reaffirm that their friends are in fact their servants, assistants or caretakers and reaffirm the African-American women as secondary to their own needs. In Monster-In-Law Viola often puts Ruby in her place by telling her to stay out of her business. She also reaffirms Rubys position as her assistant by telling her to retrieve certain items, serve her drinks, or more importantly do th e dirty work of investigating the daughter-inlaw to be by finding out everything negative abou t her. Only in the private space between her and Ruby, does she situate the relationship as a friendship and calls Ruby her confidant. In the public space, however, she negates their friendshi p by reaffirming to Charlie (the prospective daughter-in-law played by Jennifer Lopez) that Ruby is indeed her assistant. Similarly, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Vivian never acknowledges that Willetta is her servant, often positioning their relationship as friendship to any one who will hear. In fact, there is a pivotal moment in this film, where Vivian (as a younger self) defends Willetta against a cousin of her friend at a dinner in the rich cousins nouveau riche home. This young boy wishes to situate the servants place, as well as his own, by saying who told you, you could walk your Black Louisiana ass into our dining room ? A few moments later, he call s her nigger. In defense of her friend Willetta (even though Willetta is older th an her) Vivian throws a plate of food in the young boys face. When this happens, a second important aspect of the framing of the relationship between African-American women and Anglo women in f ilms is elucidated. The relationship becomes reconstituted as a way for the whit e women to perform altruistic acts. In other words, if there is a moment when they acknowledge the fact that Anglo women and African-American women are mistress and servant, it only serves to frame th e Anglo women in the film as understanding that she does not adhere to those demarcations and in effect will stand against all others who wish to

PAGE 96

96 perpetuate that inequality, making her seem aware of the political and social restraints that often interfere in their relationships with other women of color (as evident in the scene above). In this way, they alleviate any guilt over that positioning, suggesting they are not at fault and effectively transfers any fault to another sy stem of power (classed, racial, or patriarchal based) instead. For example, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood prior to the scene in the dining room, Vivian finds Willetta crying in her bed at night. She asks her why she is crying, an d Willetta replies, I miss my children. Immediately after that moment, in what I can only presume is an attempt to compensate the servant for the loss of her fam ily, Vivian takes on the role of the adopted daughter and asks her adopted mother to make her a glass of hot chocolate. After Willetta denies her, the preceding scene in the dining room takes place. There after, we see Willetta bring Vivian her hot chocolate, telling her how much she ca res or her. Ultimately, the scene clarifies the character of Vivian Walker as strong, courag eous, caring, devoted, and one willing to stand up against those who would oppress her dear friend Willetta. In contrast, Willetta is seen as somewhat selfish in her denying Vivian her hot chocolate, which becomes a metaphor for denying Vivian her place and moreover denying Vivian her metaphorical mammy. In Monster-In-Law however, no scene like the above takes place because the above example is set in the historical past, when Vivi an is young and Willetta is the hired caretaker for the southern family. Nonetheless, a metaphorical mammy (reconfigured of course) still exists within the relationship between Viola and R uby. After all, Rubys primary concern throughout the film is Viola in every possible way. She takes care of Viola when she is fired. She also most poignantly protects Viola from herself, stopping Viola from drinking hers elf into oblivion and preventing Viola from poisoning th e prospective daughter-in-law. Sh e even helps Viola hide the evidence, suggesting a willingne ss to sacrifice herself along si de her friend. Likewise, in Divine

PAGE 97

97 Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood we see Willetta take care of Vi vian throughout her life, and even protect Vivian from herself, stopping her from abusing drugs and preventi ng Vivian from beating her children. Ultimately, in both Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Monster-In-Law we see imagined are friendships that stand the test of time. In the end, an older Vivian is feeding an even older Willetta in her bed when Willetta ha s become incapacitated by old age, visually cementing for the audience, the relationship be tween the two women as friends and more importantly as real family. Similarly, in the end of Monster-In-Law when the newlywed couple departs of their journey, the camer a frames Viola and Ruby in the la st shot of the film, visually cementing them together forever as real family in the minds of the audience. In fact, there is another interesting final possibility for reading the above scene in Monster-In-Law At the end of romantic films, we usually see parents framed t ogether saying goodbye to their children; here we see Viola and Ruby. Therefore, is it possible to suggest that Ruby is a substitute parent or metaphorical mother for Charlie (who earlier in the film is classifi ed as alone in the world) and Kevin (the son played by Michael Vartan)?13 Ultimately, we never forget, either through the visual (when Willetta baths the young Vivian or when Ruby brings Viol a a drink) or the verbal (whe n either Vivian or Viola call Willetta and Ruby friends) that these women are th ere as their assistants their servants, their caretakers and more importantly their reconfigured mammies. The African-American women in the film are never part of the discourse of the film unless it serves the purpose of framing the altruism and good nature of the Anglo female pr otagonists. We find out relatively little about their desires, hopes and fears. T hose are always situated around the Anglo women they serve and 13 I would like to thank fellow colleague, Sa rah Brusky, for suggesting this possibility.

PAGE 98

98 work for. In other words, they live for them, in the very ways in which the mammies of the past where framed as living for their white families. We never know who they truly are or indeed how they might feel about the racial, social and class factors which determine their place as the servants for Anglo women. Therefore, this subconscious desire to perp etuate African-American women as caretakers, and indeed replacement mother-like figures as reconfigured mammies, survives throughout the centuries and is continually im agined over and over again in contemporary films and television today. As Adrienne Rich states, this persona l history is not unique; many white women have been mothered by black women, a connection we sentimentalize at our peril (280). Consequently, as Rich argues, the relationshi p between white women and women of color is always framed with a more desirable format for the white woman, one where she sentimentally and nostalgically, looks upon the re lationship without any conscious recognition of the inequality which privileges one above the other. Wh ite women need the gendered black figure and therefore, as Spillers argues, it must exist. Beca use there is no way to publicly acknowledge the truth of those relationships or the way in wh ich those relationships play out, white women subsume those desires and reconfigure them into more acceptable frameworks in film. This now included reconfiguring the mammy as a Latina. I would argue that this move makes it easier, ideologically speaking, to bypass the history of that racial pain which determines the relationships between black women and white wo men in society. Adrienne Rich notes this difference when she says, throughout this text I say black and not First (or Third) World, because although separation by skin color and class is by no mean s confined to that between black women and white women, bl ack women and white women in this country have a special history of polarization (280).

PAGE 99

99 Making the Connection: A Shared History of Oppression for Black and Latina Women. In the argument above, I discuss the historical connections, as well as the ways in which those historical connections beco me reconfigured in the present, in the relationships between white women as employer or mistress and women of color as servants or maids in film. I am concerned with asking, what comm on characteristics does the mammy figure of the past have in common with reconfigured maids as mammies in film and television today? Do the mammies of the past function in the same way that the La tina maids function today? And although I do argue that many of the same characteristics of the ma mmy and mistress configur ation still exist in the relationships between white women and Latina wo men in films, I acknowledge that there are elemental differences as well, one of which is in acknowledging that the hi storical racial pain (which I mentioned above) that exists between black women and white women is not the same in the relationship between white women and Latinas; after all, Latina women were not specifically slaves or traditionally mammy figures for white women (at least not typically within the United States historical framework). As Talmadge Anderson states: even the dominant White societys paradigm of ethnicity acknowle dges Black uniqueness in relation to the other nonAnglo-racial-ethnic groups (O mi and Winant, 1986). Indeed, perhaps because of their forced immigration, experience of slavery, and blackness of color, Blacks see themselves as unique and incomp arable with the other two racial-ethnic populations. (28) It is important to acknowledge that the historical pain wh ich foregrounds the relationship between black women and white women in societ y is not the same for white women and Latina women. However, I argue that there are still fundamental connections which can be made between the social, economic and political oppre ssions of Latinas by white women both within social causes and in the feminist struggle, from which women of color have often felt excluded from in the last fifty years. As Alma A. Ga rcia states, Chicana fe minists shared a common experience with other women of color whose life histories were shaped by the multiple sources

PAGE 100

100 of oppression generated by race, gender, and social class (4). Moreover, many of the oppressive factors which determine the representations of Latina women are the same factors which determine the representation of African-American women in society and in film. As Bonnie Thornton Dill states, commonalities of class or gender may cut across racial lines providing the conditions for shared understanding (138). However, ultimately, I am not arguing that th e Latina maid is a contemporary slave, with all the historical connections which determin e that reality. I am arguing that historical memory of the mammy and how she functions for whites still exists in the relationship between white women and Latinas, in film and television, within the character of the Latina maid and her employers.14 Though reconfigured and unacknowledged, that mammy image has transferred a number of ideological frameworks for the way in which the image of the Latina maid is used today. Specifically, the Latina women as maid, becomes the new figure of comfort for white women. She is the source of their strength, wher e they allay their fear s, hopes and desires. Moreover, as in the traditiona l usage of the mammy, by comparis on to the dark body, the white female body becomes a desirable, wanted figure. Additionally, as mammies of the past were, these new Latina mammy figures become replacemen t mother figures and mothering figures to white women and their children. Nevertheless, there are differences as we ll which must be acknowledged. One of those differences is in the issue of silence. These r econfigured Latina maids, much of time, are not 14 See Lorraine Fuller. Are We Seeing Thing s? The Pinesol Lady and the Ghost of Aunt Jemima Journal of Black Studies 32 (Sept. 2001):120-131 and Pa tricia Hill Collins Black Sexual Politics: African Americans; Gender and the New Racism (New York: Routledge, 2001) for an analysis of the ways in which the image of the mammy or the Jemima figure continue to circulate in contemporary television and films portrayals of African-American women.

PAGE 101

101 silent figures. They, unlike Mammy in Gone with the Wind,15 talk back, criticize their mistresses or employers, and often mock (though maintain) their positions as servants. Furthermore, I would argue that the fact that La tina women were not traditionally slaves in the historical sense, perhaps allows for a silence to exist in the ways in which they are being oppressed by white woman in the global discourse. In this way, white women can acknowledge the pain of the black woman (and therefore react to them in more positive ways) and not acknowledge the pain of the Latina woman. Therefore, I believe it is possible to argue that the perceive d lack of historical oppression may, in todays world where such be havior might not be stood for by AfricanAmerican women, allow them to act even more monstrously toward Latina maids. As Mary Romero argues, in terms of the reality of the Latina maid: I was shocked at my colleagues treatment of the sixteen-year old domesticevery attempt Juanita made to converse was met with teasing so that the conversati on could never evolve into a serious discussion. Her employers sexist paternalistic behavior effectively silenced the domestic, kept her consta ntly on guard, and made it impossible for her to feel comfortable at work. (2) In fact, as Romero narrates the experiences of Latina maids in the United States, she often tells us of the physical and mental abuse they often suffer at the hands of their employers, including being often subjected to racial slurs and sexist remarks. The question of how this racial pain is denied and plays out in cultural imaginings of mammies as Latina maids can be seen, for example, in the film S torytelling which stars Lupe Ontiveros,16 as the Latina maid Consuelo, for a white upper class family. In one important scene 15 More often than not, Mammy reacts to Scarlett in visual ways. The camera often pans to her for a reaction shot to the absurdities of Scarletts decisions in the film Gone with the Wind When she does verbally react, it is often in an aside and not directly to Scarlett. Unlike Scarlett, the character of Rosario in Will & Grace directly confronts Karen on the absurdities of Karens decisions. 16 I would like to note that Mexican actress Lupe Ontiveros has played over 150 maids in film to date.

PAGE 102

102 the young boy in the story attacks Consuelo ab out her social and working class positioning, mocking her dedication to him above her own fam ily, criticizing her inabi lity to get a better job and become a better (in this context a class positioning) human being and even dismisses the hardship of her life. As he tell s her, this isnt real work. This is just babysittingYour jobs really not bad if you think about it. You should smile more. Later, the young child deliberately messes up the kitchen and calls Consuelo out to clean it in the middle of the night.17 At the end of the film, Consuelo can take no more and sh e ends up physically burning down the home of the young boy and symbolically trying to destroy his ideological belie f system. As always, I feel ambiguous about her representation. It is true that Ontiveros hous e burning maid offers Latina spectators moments of resistan ce, and on a more complicated le vel, subversive possibilities. However, the audience is reaffirmed with the th reat that hiring a Latina maid offers and more importantly, that the threat of th e other exists. However, I merely point out the above example to ask that we consider that just because a sense of historical pain does not exist between white women and Latina women does not mean that th ere are not ways in which the relationship between them is executed and maintained as ine quitable. And the concept and structure of the Latina maid works to maintain that inequality. There are other ways in which to examine the commonalities between representations of African-American and Latina women in film. Many contemporary African-American scholars are ambivalent about any connectio n between Latina and black women s images or realities. For the most part, the argument against commonalities be tween the two stem from the fact that there 17 It is important to acknowledge that director Todd Solondz, who also directed the critically praised Welcome to the Dollhouse focuses on the dark side of huma n behavior, often reflecting and deconstructing the highly praised American Dream i ndividuals in society seek. Therefore, his film is probably used to shed light on the destructiveness of an upper middle class family who takes for granted the hard work of the servants who work for them.

PAGE 103

103 is a historical legacy of slavery between white and black women that Latinas have not experience. However, in Sapphires, Spitfires, Sluts, and Superbitc hes: Aframericans and Latinas in Contemporary American Films Elizabeth Freyberg argues that the connection is found in the commonality of the images and representations allotted both women throughout film history. Freyberg connects the tw o both historically and politically, stating that images of Aframericans and latinas have a long history of deformation and distortion because of racism-a by product of colonialism and sexismAlthough Latina women we re not brought to American for breeding, they were perceived as members of a c onquered people (222). Therefore, although Latinas did not have to face the historical realit y of slavery, does not preclude them from being viewed, as African-American women often have, with some of the same imaginations of slavery and the way in which its slavery is imbued onto blackness or the black body. Moreover she argues that, the attitude of whites, toward Hisp anics was infused with biological and militaristic superiority based upon the dame pseudo-scientific rationalization that had natured the most sophist defense of slavery (224). In other word s, the same ideas about the sexually promiscuous and muddled headed black woman have led to a same ideological belief for Latinas. Freyberg segues from the earlie r representations to engaging with the specifics of those oppressive beliefs and representa tions which have transferred themselves into contemporary images of African-American and Latina wo men. She argues that African-American women today face similar representations (an exam ple would be Halle Berrys award winning performance in 2002s Monsters Ball ) and some of those beliefs have been transferred onto the body and the image of the Latina woman as we ll (Rosie Perezs Latin a portrayals in 1989s Do the Right Thing and 1992s White Men Cant Jump ). Some of the same stereotypes exist for Latinas that black women have been facing for many years. Latinas also face a lack of honest

PAGE 104

104 representation in real life. As K. Sue Jewell states in From Mammy to Miss American and Beyond: Cultural images and the shaping of US social policy because race, class and gender serve as important criteria for determining power and wealth, Afri can-American women and other women of color occupy the lowest social and economic position in the United States (27). As she elucidates further, this means black women and women of color continue to be subjugated in the popular imagination as that wh ich reaffirms whiteness as superior by affirming otherness as inferior. Grace Chang in Disposable Domestics: Immigr ant Women Workers in the Global Economy states: the US media, acting on behalf of and through the support of th e capital and the State, have disseminated these myths as assaults on black women is perhaps not news. What is of greater concern is that such imagery has been extended to other racial and ethnic groups, such as Latinas, and that these images are ev en infiltrating the very communities against which these attacks are being leveled. (47) The Latina Mammy: Two Progressive Films Fail To Be Progressive. It seems evident that the mammy figure is no longer politically correct, in the U.S cultural imagination (at least in film and television shows) but the image has not disappeared. As I have previously argued, it has been reconfigured in a more desirable format in order to retain an important dichotomy between white Americans a nd others, specifically women of color. Toni Morrison argues in Playing in the Dark: Whitene ss and the Literary Imagination : I want to suggest that th ese concerns--autonomy, authorit y, newness and difference, absolute power--not only become the major themes and presumptions of American literature, but that each one is made po ssible by, shaped by, activated by a complex awareness and employment of a constitutes Af ricanism. It was this Africanism, deployed as rawness and savagery, that provided the st aging ground and arena for the elaboration of the quintessential American identity. (44) And although Morrison is making an argument for the way in which an African-American presence continues to be embodied in literature in order to situate white identity both in an American ideology as well as within the white im agination, I similarly ask if there are ways to

PAGE 105

105 engage with her theoretical framework in orde r to look at the Latina maid, as reconfigured mammy, in order to see what she embodies to si tuate or concretize whit e American identity. Using the 2005 films Spanglish and Crash I elucidate how the image of the Latina maid as reconfigured mammy is necessary for the ways in which it allows white women in film to configure their own essentialized identities. Morrison argues that there are significant ideologies which are embodied in this articulation of desire that white ness has to depend on Africanism (and I argue otherness) for its situating of identity politics. As Morrison ar gues, as a metaphor for transacting the whole process of Americanization, while burying its part icular racial ingredie nts, this Africanist presence may be something the United States can not do without (47). One of the frameworks Morrison puts forth in her text is the concept of Africanism s een as Surrogate and Enabler. Morrison asks, in what ways does an imagina tive encounter with Af ricanism enable white writers to think about themselves? (51) As sh e articulates, the Surr ogate and Enabler allow white writers to articulate their identities in relati on to the identities of others. As she puts forth, the question is how whiteness imagines itself in co mparison to darkness or to the other. I ask in what ways does an imaginative or concretized encounter with the Latina maid enables white audience members of Anglo individuals of the fi lm to think about themselves? Moreover, I ask, how I, as a Latina spectat or, negotiate with the images in orde r to see a more positive possibility for representation in the images being offe red in these two progressive films. In the film Spanglish the white mother Deborah Clas ky (played by Ta Leoni) tries to situate herself as a stronger and more capable individual, by comparison to the otherness, seen through the Latina maid Flor Moreno (playe d by actress Paz Vega). Although she does not always succeed in doing so, there is much she seems to gain in situating herself against the

PAGE 106

106 Latina maid. For example, in one elemental scene, having felt she was losing the moral ground to the Latina maid, she outruns the Latina maid in th e street in front of her house. This scene may serve a dual purpose. In one regar d, Deborah is able to prove for herself, her physical superiority over the maid. In another regard, the scene allows for the audience to frame Deborah as a selfish mother who races her maid, who clearly cannot comp ete, because she to work all day. Moreover, in two other elemental scenes, the white mother tries to prove herself financially and perhaps intelligently more capable of taking care of th e Latina maids daughter (as she proves wholly unsuccessful in mothering her own child). In one scene, she takes the da ughter on a shopping trip without Flors permission. At the end of the trip, her subconscious desire to be the better of the two is solidified by the daughters claim that she is the most amazing white woman Ive ever met. In yet another scene, the white mother drop s the daughter of the Latina maid off to a new school, which she successfully manipulates both th e Latina mother and daughter into going to, and while there gives the Latina daughter (and not her own) a beautiful necklace. Again, her attempt to position herself (although I argue it is not a subconscious desire here) as the better mother is solidified by the Latina daughter onc e again claiming, thank you so much for the opportunity. Again, an unde rlying motivation of the scene is to solidify for the audience what a selfish character the mother truly is. Here, we understand the opportunity as being more than attending a private school, but in opening up possibilities for a successful future which her own mother cannot provide.

PAGE 107

107 However, I find myself feeling ambi guous about the narratives intent.18 It is true that at the end of the narrative, the white mother becomes completely vilified, as she has an affair and alienates both daughter and husband w ith her pettiness and nastiness. It is true, as well, that we may see some positive aspects of the Latina maid, as she fights against assimilation (although she does learn English in the film, in the end, she reverts back to Spanish), stands firm against threats to her family and hopefully guides the white family into living better lives. Nonetheless, the Latina mother seems framed by a number of co mplicated discourses. First, she appears to fall in love with the white father of the family, subconsciously proving what I argued in chapter one that a Latina spitfire (i.e, ma id) threatens the white upper middle class family. She is the conflation of the mammy and the spitfire: beau tiful and seductive to the male head of the household, and therefore a threat to the white wife. She is talk ing back to her employers and standing up for herself and what she sees as her daughters welfare, but se lf-sacrificing enough to not follow through with a seduction. At the same time, she provide the love, comfort and support, all subsumed under her de sire to subconsciously save th is family from itself, thereby proving herself a reconfigured (though desired) mammy. A second complicated discourse is seen when sh e is portrayed in the final scenes as a bit ungrateful for all that has happened. In that last scene, she and her daughter are fighting about the fact that she has pulled th e daughter away from a good home ( living with the white family), pulled her away from a good school (she withdraw s her) and pulls her away from a good life. As the young daughter exclaims, you ruined everyt hing. And although we do here the voice over 18 It is interesting to note that once again, the Latina maid appears to be overlooked by most film critics. Most prefer to transcendentalize the story in to one of universalized human experience. As Roger Ebert notes in his December 14, 2004 review, Spanglish isn't really about being a maid, it's more about being a life-force, as Flor heals this family with a sunny disposition and an anchor of normality.

PAGE 108

108 of the daughter saying (later in life) that she learned a great deal from the tough choices her mother had to make, it seems somewhat negated by the lack of any visual confirmation of their success. And yet again, I ask myself whether the films true goal is to use otherness (as a metaphor for Morrisons Africanist) as a presence to more clearly situate concerns with the white family structure. In other words, is the film more subconsciously concer ned with what happens to the white family? However, this film is more interesting than most in the depiction of the Latina maid. For although she is definitely the Latina caregiver and spiritual guide for the white family, there is some subjectivity in her position throughout th e film, including the daughters claiming at the end of the film that she is indeed, her mothers daughter. The argument above ties into another of th e frameworks of Morrisons argument, one which asks us to examine how the strategic use of black characters (in the argument I use Latina characters) serves to define the goals and enha nce the qualities of the white characters (52). In the above examples, one of the purposes of th e Latina maid is to frame how the white father (played by Adam Sandler) grows as a better man b ecause of her presence in his life. And indeed, the white father does grow, as he learns to communicate better with his own daughter in the story. Without a doubt, one of the more subtle narrativ es of the film is that he not quite the best parent he can be yet and meeting Flor will facil itate this growth and allow him to be the best parent he can, which may mean standing up to his wife to the detriment of their marriage. He also grows as a better man in his ability to ha ndle the world around him, and he even learns to speak up for himself throughout the narrative. In ot her words, Flor as th e caregiver lets him articulate his voice. Moreover, I argue that Flors self-sacrifice (in her own sacrifice of the good job she holds with the family, in her sacrif ice of a good opportunity, for her daughter and finally her sacrificing he r feelings for the white husband) allo ws the grandmother of the narrative

PAGE 109

109 (played by Cloris Leachman) to become a better mo ther to her daughter, Deb. Flor is even able to help the grandmother quit drinking. She also guides the daughter of the white family into accepting herself when her mother is unable to do so. In the end, we see the white daughter hug Flor for all that Flor has done for her. Similarly, in the film Crash the Latina maid is not as significant to the film as what happens in her white family because of her. In this film, we first see the white mother, Jean (played by Sandra Bullock), framed as a white u pper class bourgeois individual who gets robbed early in the film. The narrative frames her as an gry about the encounter and believes that this has happened to her unjustly because she is a white woman and is easily taken advantage of. As the perpetrators of the car jacking are both black men, she becomes su spicious of anyone who is the ethnic other. And later in the f ilm, when a Latino man is sent to change the locks of her house, she proclaims to her husband (loud enough for the La tino male to hear) that she wants the locks changed again, because she fears that the Latino man (whom she believes to be a gang member because he has tattoos on his body) will sell the ke ys to his gang friends and they will be robbed again. In a later scene, she proclaims to a friend that she is angry at the world. For her, that world is represented by the threat of the ethnic other, as she tells he r friend Carol that she is angry with the Latina maid, the dry cleaner who destroyed a shirt of hers and the gardener who keeps overwatering the lawn. In fact, the film sets itself up as ideologically progressive in its attempt to counter negative stereotypes. It s transcendent message (for audience members and characters alike) seems to be that we can all learn from each other if we take the time, and we should not believe the built-in stereotypes we all have. Un fortunately, I believe the film unwittingly negates

PAGE 110

110 its own message, as the ethnic others seemed framed once again to help the white individuals19 (and in a more subtle narrative themselves) learn and grow from their ignorance. Jeans growth in the film is what becomes important. After all, when she falls down the st airs at the end of the film and is helped up and put to bed by her Latina maid, and the camera frames her face in the moment between her and the Latina maid, she learns that it is the maid who has always been her best friend and she learns a valuable life lesson that she ca nnot frame everyone (i.e, Latinos/as) with the same stereotypes.20 Furthermore, to return to my initial argument, it is also clear that the Latina maid functions as the reconfigured mammy figure in both films. For example, the idea that the Latina maid is used as a surrogate mother, for both of the white women in the films and their children is evident in both Spanglish and Crash In Spanglish the Latina maid, Flor, is set up as the mother figure for the young children early in the film. The white mother, Deb, is portrayed as a woman of high expectations, who seems preoccupied by her pl ace class position, often positing her anxiety about her expectations as a mother and a wife and often asking Flor and her own mother for understanding under a transcendent feminist ideol ogy. In the beginning of the film, we hear Deb 19 It is possible to understand Flor within the framework of Krin Gabbards argument about the black magical friend. 20 Jeans lesson isnt the only time when an A nglo character learns and grows from their ignorance in the film. In another example, a white police officer (played by Matt Dillon) molests a lightskinned African-American woman (played by Thandi e Newton) in front of her husband during an unnecessary traffic stop. Later in the film, when the same woman Crash es her car, it is Dillons character that saves her life by pulling her from the car before it explodes. He learns, by the look of fear on Newtons face when he pulls her from the car, that he has done wrong and a disturbing aspect of this growth is solidified when we see the Newton character smile at him in gratitude for saving her life. It feels as if the initial molestation sequence is negate d by their silent, yet poignant communication in this final encounter, which allows us to understand the gro wth of the Angloe man and forget the abuse of the African-American woman. These moments repeat themselves over and over in the film through the experiences of Anglo characters that learn from their encounters with ethnic others.

PAGE 111

111 articulate her angst at having lost her business, thereby positioning the possibility that she will go back to work soon and that she is in fact looki ng for someone to take car e of her children while she is not there.21 And as the film plays on, we do see Fl or taking care of th e children. In an important scene of the film, Flor is seen fi xing the mistake of the white mother, who has purposely purchased a size too small for her daught er in order to force her into losing weight. Flor spends the entire night re -sewing the clothes for the young daughter and then presents them to her the next morning. The touching scene th at follows Flor and the young daughter solidifies Flors purpose as the surrogate mother, when th e mother is unable to do her own mothering. Similarly, in Crash it is the Latina maid Maria who is responsible for the caretaking of the white mother and children. However, in Crash we do not visually see a similar relationship play out between Maria and the white mothers childre n. Here, the Latina maid becomes the surrogate mother of the white woman. For it is the Latina maid who becomes the only one that Jean claims she can count on. This is specifically foregrounded by an incident at the end of the film, when Jean falls down the stairs of her home.22 Later, we see Jean wrapped up in the comfort of her bed, put there by her maid Maria. Ma ria is then seen sitting Jean up in the bed, bringing her a cup of Tea and fluffing her pillows for her. Then, Jean hugs Maria hard and says, youre the best friend Ive got. Here again, we see the Latina ma id as the surrogate mother figure. It is 21 It is important to note that Flor does not vi sually appear as the traditional mammy figure in terms of her looks, after all, she is quite attractive. More likely, as I indicated in Chapter One, she more likely appears here, at least physically, as a revamp ed spitfire, as her sexiness is a point of contention between her and the white mother. In fact, like the spitfire, she is most definitively a threat to their upper middle class value systems, as there is a real possibility that she will sleep with the white male father here and destroy their perfect family. However, what fra mes the film and her character more often is her relationship with the young daughter. 22 Jean claims in a conversation with her husband th at she asked a friend of ten years to help her; however, the friend could not help because she was getting a massage.

PAGE 112

112 important to acknowledge the disparaging remark s that Jean says about Maria throughout the film, including the fact that Maria never takes th e dishes out of the dishwasher and that she always takes longer than she should when she is running errands on the outside. Crash like Spanglish and other films alike, never fully articulates the experience of its ethnic others in ways in which they fully arti culate the experiences of its Anglo characters. Moreover, the desire to universal ize human experience negates i ndividualized ethnic, racial and gendered experiences of oppre ssion in societal discourse.23 Ultimately, both films unfortunately reaffirm (though never fully acknowledges) the Latina maid as an prop necessary for situating or clarifying white middle class or upper middle va lue systems. Incorporating Toni Morrisons arguments with ideals of the mammy figure of comfort allows us to understand the subtle or obvious ways in which white identity formation (in films and perhaps fo r white spectators) is necessitated by the ethnic ot her, in this case the Latina maids in both films. And Never the Two Shall Meet?A Comparis on of the Black Historical Mammy in Gone with the Wind and the New Reconfigured Latina Mammy in Will & Grace As I indicated previously, the show Will & Grace which ran on NBC from 1998 is argued to be a satire, at least a satire within the portrayal of Karen Wa lker (played by Megan Mullally). I point this out because I so often h ear people fall back on that logic to defend the portrayal of the Latina maid Rosario (played by Shelley Morris on) and the relationship she has 23 Critic Roger Ebert states in his May 5, 2005 re view of the film: not many films have the possibility of making their audiences better people. I don't expect Crash to work any miracles, but I believe anyone seeing it is likely to be moved to have a little more sympathy for people not like themselves. The movie contains hurt, coldness and cruelty but is it without hope? Not at all. Stand back and consider. All of these people, superficially so differe nt, share the city and learn that they share similar fears and hopes. .You may have to look hard to see it, but Crash is a film about progress. It shows the way we all leap to conclusions based on race -yes, all of us, of all races, a nd however fair-minded we may try to be -and we pay a price for that. If there is hope in the story, it comes because as the characters Crash into one another, they learn things, mostly abou t themselves. Almost all of them are still alive at the end, and are better people because of what has ha ppened to them. Not happier, not calmer, not even wiser, but better.

PAGE 113

113 with employer, Karen. Presumably, the representa tions of the individuals on the show are mere reflections of exaggerated stereot ypes and are there to mock their ridiculous belief systems. As satire works, it is important for the subject to ex pose its own inherent cont radictions in order to provoke change. However, satire is only effectiv e if change occurs or if people understand what is being questioned or ridiculed. As I argued previously, with my example of Da me Edna in the Introduction, the fact that the satire of the Latina maid on this show is conf lated with the reality of a society that depends on Latino/a servants to solidify their level of succ ess is what purports to negate the satirical element of the show. As Mireya Navarro stat es, Hispanic actors and media watchdogs argue that stereotypical roles loom di sproportionately large because ther e are not enough alternatives to counteract something like the Hispanic maid in hit comedies like Will and Grace (4). In other words, although it is true that Rosario, along w ith Karen, are recognized (a t least by the majority of individuals who watch the show ) as satirical figures, the fact that there are not enough (other than maid) representations of Latinas in Ho llywood means people may subconsciously believe these are the only representations. Therefor e it is possible (if not probable) that this image will be a representation that affirms negative ideas about La tinas which leaves them absent or negated in the cultural discourse. This does not mean that as an individual La tina spectator, I do not understand that Rosario and Karen are indeed satirical figures. In fact, when I first saw the show Will & Grace it was on a popular Thursday night line-up on NBC, which featured an array of Latina characters.24 I called them my Thursday night Latinas. On the show Scrubs we had nurse Carla (played by 24 I will note that the only exception to the line-up is the all Anglo character show Friends

PAGE 114

114 American Born-Puerto Rican Judy Reyes), on the show Will & Grace we had maid Rosario (played by Spanish-Jewish actress Shelley Morrison), on the show Good Morning, Miami we had weather person Lucia Rojas-Klein (played by Cuban actress Tessie Santiago) and finally on the show ER we had nurse Chuni Marquez25 (played by Mexican actress Laura Cern). I argued then, as I do now with one exception (I believe that the character Carla on Scrubs has become a strong avenue of Latina re presentation) that the ch aracter of Rosario seemed to be the one that I felt best allowed for the possibility of agency to be created for Latina sp ectators because of the satirical edge of the show. After all, Rosario talk ed back and she talked back often. She asserted her individuality and declared he r subjectivity in ways that most Latina maids in television and film never do. In fact, she of ten parodies and questions Ka rens position, wealth, success, independence and subjectivity, of ten restructuring the politics of servant and employer. If we examine the image of Lucia in Good Morning Miami by comparison, Rosario appears to be the better representation. Lucia init ially appears to be the better situated Latina; after all, she offers the possibility of upwar d mobility as a weather person for a morning television show in Miami, Florida. However, de constructing her character elucidates the reality that she is more stereotypical and less resistant than the character Rosario on Will & Grace Lucia is portrayed as a ditsy a nd whiny newscaster whose success is partly attributed to her sexuality. In fact, the show within the show app ears to be failing and part of that failure is attributed to the fact that Lu cia talks with a heavy accent that no one (whites) can understand.26 25 As a curious note of reference, it was only wh en I searched for her character online that I discovered she has a last name. 26 I will note that actress Tessie Santiago did not a pparently fit the stereotypical profile producers of the show were looking for. As such, she had to darken her hair and appropriate a heavily accentuated voice to appear more authentic according to the pro ducers. This is significant because actress Judy Reyes (who plays Nurse Carla on Scrubs ) once articulated her excitement that the character was not stereotypical. As she states: Carla is a highly skille d, very confident nurse with a bit of an edge and a

PAGE 115

115 Her only purpose of the show was to offer th e occasional off-color joke and by comparison, clarify the Anglo characters as more hardworking and dedicated. Ultimately, her character leaves Latinas signified but not represen ted. On the other hand, the fact that Rosario continues to be perpetuated as active and vocal may leave room for negotiating the gaps and fissures which allows Latina spectators the possibility of representation.27 However, this assertiveness (and satirical defense) and possible subjectivity may be a strategic ploy to avert any ques tions of the stereot ypical perpetuations of the character. The Latina maid who asserts herself is a way to not alienate a growing Latino/a audience. It embeds possibilities of resistan ce; however, one can argue that hege mony often structures itself around possibilities of resistan ce without possibilities of cha nge. As the authors of the text Introducing Cultural Studies notes, at the back of repressive stat e power lay hegemony, a special kind of power--the power to frame alternatives and cont ain opportunities, to win and shape consent, so that the granting of legitimacy to the dominant classes appears not only spontaneous but natural and normal (105). In other words, there is a bui lt in structure of the unde rrepresented--trying to achieve approval from the dominant regulates an d normalizes their oppressi on in the oppressive system in control. As a result, built into he gemony is resistance, but the resistance, which really great heart, says Reyes, who praises the show's writing. It's a terrific job. Executive producer Bill Lawrence ( Spin City ) planned for the character to be a Latin a, Reyes says, but not a stereotyped one. Reyes incorporates elements of her experience in the ch aracter. There's an urban reality that comes with the person I am, the actress says. You get to see different colors, different splashes of it. And Carla doesn't have a Spanish accent, the bilingual Reyes says, which is a refreshing change after so often seeing accents automatically tied to Latino roles (Keveney 1). 27 I will note that a fellow Latina friend recently articulated that she also enjoyed Rosarios character and by comparison, hated what happene d with the Dame Edna column I noted in the Introduction.

PAGE 116

116 appears to situate itself as ideo logically progressive, merely rea ffirms the institutions of power structures already in place. Therefore, although Rosario may talk back to Karen and make Karens belief systems look foolish, I, as a Latina spectator, always understand that she will never truly have the upper hand in the relationship. The employer/em ployee dichotomy which exists wi ll continue to affirm itself, and Latina maids, both in film and real life, w ill continue to be the norm and I will have to continue to look for the gaps and fissures in those images which allow me to have a representation, subjec tivity and agency. Moreover, I will not e that this fake politicizing comes with a more insidious possibility, which I suggested in Chapter one that the Latina maid serves to assuage white guilt about their avenues of oppres sion, which necessitates the structure between maid and employer as cohesive and emblematic of the goodness they need to feel about their wealth. Rather, for some film viewers, if a character conforms in any way to negative stereotypes, that is what they will notice and remember, they will disregard any non-stereotypical qualities the same character demonstrates (Berg 201). Furthermore, when actress Shelley Morrison, w ho plays Rosario, was arrested in real life for shoplifting, I noticed somethi ng interesting. People online jokingly made references to the reality of Morrison as a real ma id, stating, she had a note from her Director, she was researching a role. Hee Hee Hee (Yahoo News 1). The clear c onflation of Morrison with the role she plays (as Hattie McDaniel was often conf lated with her role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind ) is suggestive of the reality that many people (thoug h not all) are not se eing Latina identity as different from the roles they play as maids or contemporary mammies figures of comfort for their white audience. Even those who understand the satire of the charac ters acknowledge that

PAGE 117

117 the fallacies of such characters exist in the real imaginations of those often-white spectators watching the show. As one individual online on www.imdb.com notes: at the same time, paradoxically, the characters are so completely monstrous-Karen being the clear example-that they seem unrealistic. In fact, they are ostensibly awful, they are merely gross exaggerations of every human be ing, replete with the same fears, prejudice and pettiness of which we are all guilty and which are brought to fore in comedic form. Ultimately, I believe that a comparison between Mammys character in Gone with the Wind and Rosarios character in Will & Grace and the way in which both function as a necessities for Scarlett OHara and Karen Walker shed light on the continual perpetuation of the Latina figure as underrepresented in discourse. Making the conn ection is necessary in order to elucidate the ways in which the Latina maid is configured and reconfigured as a new mammy of comfort in the imaginations of whiteness (whether a subconscious desire or not) and which needs to be there as a signifier for white audience spectators. This clarity may allow us to understand why Latinas are not normally framed within other discursive representations. Additiona lly, as I struggle with the ambiguity of the images offered by Rosarios representation, I will try to search for the gaps and fissures which may allow the Latina spectator to frame the discourse of Rosario in more positive ways. As I make this comparison, I will individually examine the specific characteristics of the mammy figures of the past and consider the ways in which those characteristics can be found in contemporary image of the Latina maid Rosario on Will & Grace Mammy as Caretaker for mistress In the past, from the early 1930s until th e 1960s civil rights movement, the mammy figure in film and television functioned to take care of the white upper middle class or upper class family. She was their caretaker, their protect or and as seen in the most famous of mammy roles, Hattie McDa niel as mammy in Gone with the Wind functions to take care of Scarlett. We see her through three generations of OHaras and we see her poverty-stricken along with them

PAGE 118

118 during the years of the war. In one moment in the film, Scarlett asks Mammy and Ossie (a male black servant of the family who has also been with them throughout the years) where the other servants are; Mammy replies that some have invol untarily become part of the war and yet others have abandoned the plantation and the famil y. We are to understand that because Mammy stayed, that her loyalty is w ithout question. We understand that even though war has ravaged the home and the family, Mammy will not leave. Similarly, we understand that Mammy will go as hungry as Scarlett in order to stand by her family. What we see play out in Will & Grace then, is a similar function for the relationship between Rosario and Karen. Like Mammy in Gone with the Wind Rosario is also determined to stand by her mistress through tough times, for wh en Karen is divorcing her husband and does not have any money to pay Rosario; Ro sario decides to stay with her, implying that they are in the struggle against Stan (Karens hu sband) together. In fact, most of the dialogue revolves around the we that is fighting against Stan. In one of the shows, Karen has taken to living in her limousine because Stan has thrown her out of the house and it is Rosario who we see in the limousine with Karen, never leaving her side ev en though she is now without a home as well. Rosario will not leave Karen when Karen needs he r most and whenever Karen is sick or ill, Rosario stands by her side.28 In fact, when other rich individu als want Rosario as their maid and mammy, Karen does all she can to fight for Rosari o. However, such fighting for Rosario is taken into the realm of the ridiculous when sh e plays the prospective ne w owner over a game of pool for ownership of Rosario. 28 In a similar film Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) starring Ta Leoni and Jim Carrey, the upper middle class family loses their ability to pay the Latina maid (paying her with appliances instead). We see her work with them throughout the film, staying by their side during the tough times. And like Will & Grace the film is considered to be a satire of the work ings of society. As such, we are not supposed to believe the characters or their situations are real in anyway.

PAGE 119

119 Mammy as Mother Figure for Mistress Within this context as caretaker, the mammy al so serves as a mother figure for their white owners or employers. It is mammy who would make sure you ate, dressed appropriately and acted the right way in front of people, and in Gone with the Wind mammy takes on the replacement mother role by being there for Scarle tt when Scarletts mother dies during the Civil War. Similarly, in Will & Grace, Rosario is there as mother fi gure, making sure that Karen is well taken care of throughout, including making su re to put Karen to bed, making sure that she eats, occasionally helping her dr ess, and saving Karen from hers elf (like Rubys protection of Viola in Monster-In-Law ). In fact, in Season Four, we find out that Karen is estranged from her mothers life, leaving the role of replacement mother open for Rosario. The fact that Karen cannot live without Rosario is continually reaffirmed throughout the eight years the show ran. Mammy as Caretaker for the Mistresss Children The mammy, as caretaker of the children, functio ns as a replacement mother figure for the white woman who is unable or unwilling to take ca re of the children. Often, this function allows the white woman to continue with her extracurri cular activities while maintaining the physical presence that was also necessary to maintaini ng a level of status as a white woman of that society. Important in this concept, is that the bl ack woman give up her right to take care of her own family to take care of the white family. As Robert M. Entman a nd Andrew Rojecki note, the mammy figure convey the notion that genu ine fulfillment for black women comes not from raising their own children or feeding their own manbut from serving in a white familys kitchen (25). In Gone with the Wind Scarlett is obsessed with gaining back her 18-inch waist after she gives birth to her daughter. It is Mammy who tells her that she w ill never gain back that figure;

PAGE 120

120 after all, she reminds Scarlett, she is now a woman who has had a child. Frustrated, Scarlett states that she will never have another child ag ain. Later, we know that both Mammy and Rhett often reproach Scarlett with th e fact that she is not a good mother. We also know that Mammy does not have children of her own; rather, Scarle tt and her child become the children Mammy is not allowed or chooses not to have. Moreover, we know that the st ory makes a point of positioning Mammy as having taken care of the O Hara family through three generations of daughters. It is not a stretch to imagine that Sc arlett did not feed her daughter, as breastfeeding would also disfigure her. Therefore, it is le ft to Mammy to feed Scarletts daughter. Although we do not see Rosario metaphorically breastfeeding Karen s stepchildren on Will &Grace she is definitely the rep lacement mother figure, for it is Rosario who maintains their health, makes sure they eat, goes to their sc hool projects, plays, a nd teacher meetings and puts them to sleep at night. In many episodes, we see Karen directing Rosario to do these things for the children, who throughout many shows are seen as a burden for Karen, who only accepts them as her stepchildren because she wants Stans money. She often refers to the mothering of Stans children as maternal crap (Episode 2.3 I Never Promised You an Olive Garden) and often refers derogatorily to the children themselves and the tr ouble they cause her. In one of the early shows of season one, on Will & Grace Karen calls Rosario and asks Rosario to put the children to sleep, explaining that she does not kno w what that requires. Rosario, like Mammy in Gone with the Wind also reproaches Karen for her lack of mothering. In an episode entitled Swimming Pools Rosario states, in my country, parents take care of their own kids. We also know that Rosario, like Mammy, does not have any children or fam ily of her own. In this way, Karen and Karens family clearly become Rosari os own family. In many episodes, each refers to the other as family, often connoting concep ts of motherhood, as when Rosario calls Karen,

PAGE 121

121 after a fight and reconciliation, oh, mommy. In fact, on many ho liday episodes, we see Karen spending her time with Will, Grace or Jack, which leaves one wondering who may be at home with kids and husband. It is no leap then to imag ine, as replacement moth er figure, that Rosario is at home with the kids, possibly cook ing and bonding with them over turkey. Mammy as Loyal Friend for Mistress Mammy figures of the past were also often seen as the only true friends of their masters or their employers. As Deborah White states in Ar'n't I a woman?: Female slaves in the plantation South so respected was Mammy that she often se rved as friend and advisor to master and mistress (10). It is clear, that because a con cept of friendship is evoke d amongst them, the white woman allows herself to feel as if her mammy is her friend, while she strictly maintains guidelines about that friendshi p as inferiors and superiors. As Mahnaz Kousha argues in Neither Separate nor Equal Women, Race, and Class in the South : the employers willingness to disclose privat e information is not only a function of the domestics familiarity but also her infe rior position. Allowing friends, neighbors or relatives access to information about family dynamics or personal feelings could be harmful to ones ego and self-esteem, or ev en dangerous to ones social position, but sharing it with a domestic is not considered a threat. (81) Also, the friendship is clearly de lineated one way (for the white wo man) and there is no mutually exclusive sharing by the mammy. We know nothing about Mammys concerns in Gone with the Wind and similarly, we know very little about Rosario in Will & Grace As Kousha states, they did not share their life stories or experiences in part because they kne w their status did not provide them with relationships based on equality and mutual respect; not sharing information was a means of demonstrating thei r insight and power (84). This structure definitely plays itself out in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Crash and Monster-In Law wherein we know nothing about Ruby, Maria or Willetta.

PAGE 122

122 Indeed it is Mammy in Gone with the Wind who tends to know all of Scarletts secrets, often making clear to Scarlett that she does. It is Mammy that st ands by Scarletts side when she is dismissed by so many of societ y. It is Mammy who keeps Scarletts desire for Ashley a secret and it is Mammy who first recognizes that desi re has changed to Rhett Butler, even though Scarlett herself will not ac knowledge the attraction. As Mahnaz Kousha states: in some cases, elite white women became emotionally dependent on their domestics, making them into personal confidantes who were exposed to the most intimate details of their employers lives. As a resu lt, domestic service in the South has not been limited to cleaning, cooking, or child care but has in cluded a hidden emotional labor wherein workers were compelled to respond to their employers emotional needsAfrican American household workers in the South we re involved in enhancing the status and psychological well-being of their white empl oyers while suppressing their own feelings. (78) Scarlett needs mammy to maintain that role of friendship even though the Civil Was has passed through the South and servants are no longer indebted to be tied legally to their white families. Like Rosario is to Karen, Mammy is infinitely loyal to Scarlett and even though she is now free, will never leave Scarlett. Karen depends on Rosario like Scarlett does Mammy. On Will & Grace Rosario plays out as one of Karens only true friends. In, The Third Wheels Gets the Grace Rosario wants to go shopping as part of a fifteen-year anniversary of having worked for Karen. Again, I will note here, that it is these serious moments whic h foreground the show as more serious than the satire it proclaims to be. Karen forgets the important shopping trip (showing once again her disregard of the how important the friendship real ly is to her) and Rosa rio is distraught. Once Karen realizes her error (and in fearing Rosario will leave, even though she would never consider doing so), she goes through the effort of reaffi rming their friendship by not only taking Rosario shopping, but buying her a most expensive gift, wh ich Rosario explains is unnecessary. This reaffirms that what is more important is that she and Karen go shopping because of the time they

PAGE 123

123 can spend together. Similarly, in another epis ode entitled Object of My Rejection, Karen proclaims that she cannot liv e without Rosario. This continues through many episodes throughout the years, including Season Ones A t the Wedding, Season Twos Whose Man is it Anyway? and Hes Come U ndone, Season Threes My Uncl e, The Car and many more. Just as often, Rosario proclaims that she loves Ms. Karen and will never leave her. Rosario declares to Karen in Season Twos episode Hes Come Undone, oh, dont ever leave me, cupcake. This relationship always plays out as a mutual one, one necessary for both of their survival, even when it is clear there is a division between them as mistress and servant. After all, the show also builds itself up as trying to achie ve a real friendship be tween Karen and Grace. What we understand is that mammies and r econfigured mammies, like Rosario, are the only ones who truly know what thei r mistresses are like. It is Rosario in Husbands and Trophy Wives that gives insight to Grace about Karens emotional issues and concerns and when Grace oversteps her bounds by asking Rosario how old Kare n is (definitely a secret), Rosario twists Graces ear and tells her that she better never ask that question of her again. Additionally, it is evident in many Will & Grace episodes that Rosario is aware of all of Karens well kept secrets. It is also clear that Mammy, in Gone with the Wind knows all of Scarletts secrets, including her desire for her friends husband, Ashley. Rosa rio will never let anyone find about Karens secrets, such as her insecurities about her unf aithful husband. She makes it clear that she will take these secrets with her to her grave. Again, these serious moments foreground a friendship more than delineation between employer (mistress) and employee (maid). Moreover, it brings us back to the concept that whites (specifically wh ite women) desire and need mammy figures in their lives for the comfort and unconditional love they provide their charges. As Thurber states,

PAGE 124

124 this idolized Mammy, a symbol of unconditional love and devotion, at w hose breast one could find warmthShe had become a universal earth mother for American society (5). A final important aspect attached to the above argument is that Mammy in Gone with the Wind is willing to die alongside the OHaras in poverty or through the war. Most definitively cheeky, on the final episode of Season Fives 4, Karen is thrown overboard by her husbands mistress, and it is Rosario who dives in to save her at the end, showing to o that she is willing to (I will argue metaphorically go down with the ship) and die trying to save her mistress, so that their friendship is preserved. I will again acknowle dge that this is satire and I do not for one minute believe that Rosario would actually jump in to save Kare n. That is not the argument. My argument is that the comedic joke here is used to structure a more unive rsal belief system about the relationships between white woman and women of color as an equitable one, without a real understanding of the social, ec onomic and political realities which exist, as well as an understanding of the realities of the way in which whiteness nece ssitates the othe r as a way of framing their own complicated discourse. If Latina maids were not a reality and if they were not so overtly displayed and used as part of the rh etoric of television and film, this may not have become an issue. Mammy as Contrast for Whiteness The mammy figure, in film and television also serves as a contrast point for white women. White women maintain their superiority and their desirable looks, in direct contrast to how the black woman image is formed or re gulated. As Toni Morrison states: if it were not for the reliance the white world had on black bodies to carry the burdens of shame and otherness, the need for thei r presences would be greatly diminished. Safeguarding white womanhoods purity, untouc hed by the tainting effects of housework or sexuality, allowed white woman to function as a symbol of their husbands wealth and Christian propertyThus, maintaining the limiting myths and stereotypes of black

PAGE 125

125 womanhood, whether it be seduc tive temptress or complaisant mammy, was necessary for white societys stability. (qtd. in Price 2) In other words, it is mammy as different that makes white woman the norm. It is Mammys inability to be anything else than servant and caretaker, that allows the white women to be whatever she may choose to be: femi nist, scholar, worker etc. In Gone with the Wind as Mammy is taking care of the plantati on, Scarlett is metaphorically rebu ilding the South and financially rebuilding the plantation, Tara. Similarly, in Will & Grace Karen can play pretend at work, while her reconfigured mammy Rosario is taki ng care of her home and her children. Both Scarlett and Karen maintain a level of privile ge in direct contra st to their mammies. Moreover, it is important to the mammy figur e that she maintains a certain weight. In doing so, the white woman, by comparison, would be seen as having mainta ined the delicateness that was necessary as a white wo man. As Alice Walker states in Anything We Love Can be Saved, about the Aunt Jemima figure, so closely a nd historically attached to the mammy figure, I would see her in films about the antebellum (before the war) South, playing a truly described supporting role to skinny white stars like Bette Davis, her h uge bulk, demonstrating what would happen if white women didn t limit their appetites and subm it to having their stays pulled tight (138). Similarly, K. Sue Jewell in From Mammy to Miss America and Beyond states, when the physical and emotional makeup of mammy is examined it is clear that she is the antithesis of the American conception of wo manhood. She is portrayed as an obese African American woman, of dark complexion, with extr emely large breasts and buttocks and shining white teeth visibly displayed in a grin (39). Ultimately, the ma mmy was a sexless figure, tied more to the concept of motherhood and motheri ng (as noted above) then in sexuality and love, thereby reaffirming that it was white women who were allowed sexually desirable privileges and rights.

PAGE 126

126 Scarlett maintains her beauty in direct cont rast to Mammy. The way the camera highlights Scarletts outfits and her physica lity within those outfits, often posits her whiteness as glorified, while Mammy, in overly abundant clothing and indulge nt weight, is seen as an impediment and is often shadowed by the camera or highlighted in contrast to Scarletts physical appearance. Similarly, in Will & Grace Karen maintains her beauty and desi rability in direct contrast to Rosario. It is Karen who is in beautiful, expensiv e clothes and Karen (and her breasts) whom the camera highlights. In fact, we never see Rosario out of her uniform, even when they are friends shopping together29. Rosario helps to maintain level of beauty by dressing Karen and making sure she is perfect. Finally, it is important that Karen remain sexua lly desirable in comparison to Rosario. As such, Karen wants to stop any romantic attachment s that Rosario may want. In fact, in order to keep Rosario in the United States for her plea sure, Karen marries Rosario off to Jack, an obviously gay character. Although Karen would like to position the act as an altruistic one that helps Rosario, we understand that Karen needs Rosari o to subjugate all rela tionships with others in order to position Rosario as sexually undesira ble, which frames her as the opposite. It is important to the narrative that Karen is consta ntly seen as a sexual and provocative figure in contrast to the obese undesi rable figure of Rosario. Howe ver, when Karen manages to manipulate Rosarios position as a sexless figur e on the show, occasionally what happens is a reversal of the normal dichotomy; instead Ka ren begins to look sexua lly loose and without morals and Rosario is seen as an upstanding good individual. As such, this is one of those ambiguous moments where we can frame Rosarios character as creating a sense of agency in 29 This serves the dual purpose of maintaining th e dichotomy between servant and mistress.

PAGE 127

127 rejecting Karens perpetuation of herself as supe rior. However, even as that initially seems possible, we know that Rosario a nd Jack will not have sex, because Jack is gay, therefore Karen has controlled Rosarios sexuality while maintaining her own. A Latina Spectators Comments. Ultimately, Karens way of relating to Rosario is an over-the-top version of how rich white women are imagined to relate to their Latina maids. She is both completely racist and classcist in ways that the audience is to unde rstand that she is being portrayed as blatantly absurd and that the show is treating the relationshi p as a satire of the ways in wh ich those relationships play out in real life. As such, Rosario herself plays th e long-suffering, but ultimately loyal maid to the hilt. Nevertheless, it is the way in which we bot h recognize this relationship and at some level believe in it which makes this show interesting to analyze. When push comes to shove, the show will turn to a serious moment to show the g enuine feeling between the two. And in reality, those who employ Latina maids will also foreground their relationships with their Latina maids as helpful, altruistic or friendship based. Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A tells us of a colleague who clarified hi s relationship with his Latina maids this way: he began by providing me with chapter and verse about how he aided Mexican women from Juarez by helping them cross the borde r and employing them in his home. He took further credit for introducing them to the a ppliances found in an American middle class home. He shared several funny accounts about teaching country women from Mexico to use the vacuum cleaner, electric mixer, and mi crowave. .For this on-the-job training and introduction to American culture, he complained, his generosity and goodwill had been rewarded by a high turnover rate. (3) Additionally, the fact that so many people on www.imdb.com acknowledge the representations of the show as accurate or foregrounding (there are those of course who dislike the show immensely for the exaggerations offered, although they are not as preval ent as those who love the show) suggests that people c onflate the fictional and the re ality as occasionally take the content of the show as serious and real. It distresses me to know that many online claim to

PAGE 128

128 admire Karens character as being honest and fort hright and some seem to love the relationship between Karen and Rosario: There will always be Rosario. Like the Toto to Karens Princess Centimillia, Rosario is the funniest prop in recent TV memory. Whatever is going on in the scene just wheel in Rosario, let Karen demean her a nd its almost a free laugh from me every time (imdb.com).30 Ultimately, Rosario is a necessity for Kare n so that she can lead the lifestyle she has become accustomed to. She needs and desires Rosa rio as a site of difference to exist in order to solidify her own existence as a successful, desirable and a worthy woman. As Hortense Spillers ultimately reminds us, my country needs me and if I were not here, I would have to be invented (65). 30 As a note of reference, as I poured over individua l comments, I also tried to search out reviewer comments or critics comments; however, none spoke to the delicate relationship and racial subtext between Rosario and Karen and many did not ack nowledge the satire of the show either.

PAGE 129

129 CHAPTER 4 ARE YOU MY HOMIE?: LOOKING AT ETHNIC TOYS AND A NEW FINANCIAL PLAYGROUND. There is a woman named Nena, who lives in the barrio and raises her three children. For years, young Nena was in love with a kid na med Tonto, who was always in some trouble or another. He stole cars, sold dr ugs and was always involved in a fight. He would go to juvenile hall for a few weeks; promise to straighten out and th en he would repeat the cycle again. When he turned 18, no longer a juvenile, he went into the court system, but this time as an adult, and soon found himself spending time in a real County Ja il. Nena waited for him for five years. As her biography tells us, she was rais ing their three kids while on we lfare, staying true and faithful to Tonto the entire time. However, whenever she would visit him in jail, he would verbally abuse her and call her a lousy mother. When he eventu ally left jail, he missed a special homecoming party Nena threw for him, because he felt the need to party that night with his more felonious friends. When he returned home that eveni ng, Tonto began hitting and slapping Nena around. The next day, he returned to jail for committing yet another crime. This time, things changed. Nena enrolled in a government-funded nursing progr am and with many years of hard work and determination, and the help of her family and he r fellow Homies, she was able to overcome the system and cycle of abuse which had always haunted her in the barr io. She divorced Tonto, moved out of his parents home and into her ow n apartment. She is now off of welfare, her children are doing better in sc hool than ever before and sh e has the self-esteem and the independence she craved for years. As a Latina, Nena is a symbol of courage, dignity and determination and a success story for Latinas ever ywhere. There is only one problem. She is not real. Nena is a Homies figurine. Homies are 4.5 cm (about an inch in height) rubber figures sold in 50-cent gumball machines and Nena ideologi cally represents many things to an ethnic

PAGE 130

130 consumer culture. Understanding how and why people collect Homies means understanding how belief systems are structured by race, gender, cla ss and more in the cultural discourse. Initially a slang term for a homeboy (someone from one s neighborhood) or a friend, the term Homie has come to be associated (at least in the medi a) with gang culture and describes a member of ones gang or group.1 Historically, the term is thought to have generated in African-American urban culture; when it migrates into urban U.S. Latino neighborhoods, it sp eaks to the racial and class ties between African-Ameri can, Chicanos and Latinos. The tiny Homie figurines are found from urba n cities to suburban to wns (both large and small) from Miami to California, from Illinois to New York. Their popularity has grown to such proportions, that one can find th em sold online everywhere, including Mexico, Australia, Europe, and Japan and their prices now range from $1.00 to $25.00, depending on the number of Homies purchased, as well as their collectibles factor.2 Homies are curren tly the No. 1 vending machine figure in Canada and the Homie Shop Company is an estimated multi million-dollar industry, which has sold over 130 million figurines since their creation in 1998. The Homies industry no longer makes just figurines, but has expanded into lunch boxe s, posters, t-shirts, action figures, bobble heads, remo te control cars, nightlights, m odel kits, stickers, books, video series, alarm clocks, bedding and even underwear. 1 Creator David Gonzales defines the term as a popul ar street term that refers to someone from your hometown or, in a broader sense, anyone that you would acknowledge as your friend. 2 One highly prized figurine is the character of Willie G. who is bound to a wheelchair after, according to his biography online, participating in gang violence. He now promotes a healthy lifestyle through education and volunteer work in the local neighborhood.

PAGE 131

131 Homies began as the creation of grap hic artist and designer David Gonzales3, who originally focused on Homies as part of a comic strip serialized in California lowrider magazines in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In itself, bot h the time period and the placement of the initial cartoon (in these particular magazines4, which celebrate the lifestyle and culture of Chicanos since 1977) become significant in terms of Chi canos political and representational power. Beginning in the 1960s, Chicanos (through civil ri ghts protests and grassroots movements, art, plays, street performances, poetry and more) be gan the articulation and visualization process necessary to both identify themselves as Chican os, and thus to politicize Mexican-Americans. Creating organizations like the Br own Berets and modeling the resist ant stance of I am Joaquin by Rudolfo Gonzales, Chicanos began pushing agains t the reality of an a ssimilation driven world by embracing their differences and suggesting a lo ving Chicano/Latino identity. As Rosa Linda Fregoso tells us: during the 1960s, within artist ic practices such as poetry, mural paintings, and film, Chicano and Chicana cultural workers experi mented with alternative Chicano subjectidentities. Within the Chicano movement, cultural nationalism produced new Chicano subjects, reversing their previously ne gative position in dominant discourse. (662) 3 In a recent interview on his online Homies website Gonzales tells us: the Homies first started as a little underground strip called the Adventures of Chic o Loco. I drew it as a senior in High School when I was supposed to be taking notes. Everyone told me Chico Loco looked like me so I changed his name to Hollywood, my given placaso. The strip b ecame Adventures of Hollywood. It was first published in Lowriders are happening and eventually became a regular feature in Lowrider Magazine. In the strip I began introducing Hollywood`s Homi es, and the name again changed, this time to Homeboys. I changed the name one final time to Ho mies. Eventually it became a regular feature in Lowrider Magazine. Although the successful comi c strip and collection began in Los Angeles, California, the Homies have become a global collectible. 4 Brownpride.com tells us that: the lowrider cultures humble beginnings originated in the barrio streets of East Los Angeles. East L.A. became hom e to the worlds most famous cruising spot, Whittier Blvd, made famous by movies like Boulevard Nights (1979). The low rider movement became a form of urban expression between man and machine. Using cars to uniquely express the owners personality through airbrushed murals, custom wheels, hydrau lics, and lowered suspensions. The art of building customized cars in the lowrider style spread from barrio to barrio and soon crossed one international border after another.

PAGE 132

132 It is important to note however, that while Chicano nationalism proudl y proclaimed difference and rewrote Chicano history through Chicano eyes; such nationalism was viewed by many feminist scholars as effacing or objectifying a gende red perspective.5 As Angie ChabramDernersesian states, without th e possibility of inscribing vi able Mexicana/Chicana female subjects with which to identify at the center of Chicana/o practices of resistance, Chicanas were denied cultural authenticity a nd independent self-affirmation (83). The absence, negation or silence of the Chicana woman (a nd by extension Latinas) will be si gnificant to the ways in which we imagine the Homies as cultural products worthy of analysis. With his Homies, Gonzales tapped into an unrealized market6, one which caters specifically to Chicanos/Latinos (even if the by-product is that ot her ethnicities, white or black, are purchasing these figurines as well). 7 According to David Gonzales his initial intent was to 5 I cannot help but articulate that these re-wr itten and re-inscribed Chicana narratives often neglect to mention the history or reality of other Latina women, including Puerto Rican women. Instead they offer a universalized Hispan ic/Latina/Chicana/Mestiza subject which aspires to (though may never fully actualize) the different experiences and histories of all those women, including the threat of essentializing all Chicana subjects themselves. Theref ore, I believe these women subconsciously adhere to or hope for (in the same ways that Chicano men did when creating Chicano manifestos) a PanLatino/gendered identity. Though I would not go as far as suggesting they use or agree with such a term while doing so. As Angie Chabram-Dernersesian states in I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Dont Want to Be a Man: Writing Us-Chica-nos (G irl, Us) / Chicanas-into the Movement Script about one of these such re-inscribed poems: this poem also estab lishes a distance from universal feminism, for the speaker goes on to elaborate that she is not just any woman-not a generic woman-but a woman of the movement (88). 6 According to Hispanic Business.com U.S. Hispanic purchasing power has surged to nearly $700 billion and is projected to reach as much as $1 trillion by 2010, according to new estimates by HispanTelligence . This means that Latinos are a viable market of old and new consumers which have more disposable income. What they choose to buy, even at 50 cents, is as important as why they choose to buy these things. It is especially significant when we realize how sophisticated David Gonzaless Homie business and enterprise has become in the last six years. 7 A debate about ethnic products can begin with a discussion about the difference between urban dolls (Bratz) and ethnic dolls. Although Bratz are sold as multi-ethnic, each of the dolls appears to be replicated using the same facial mold, and although e ach appears to be multi ethnic in terms of name and look (some are darker than others) they do not include narratives which signify them to be ethnic in other ways.

PAGE 133

133 write about the people he knew growing up, giving them both a visual and verbal reality in a world he felt placed an emphasis on assimilation. Placing them in lowrider magazines, which are popular magazines in California, Texas and Fl orida urban neighborhoods, Gonzales states, I liked drawing and cartooning and found my fello w Lowriders to be good subjects. .you could say all of the Homies are a part of me, since I create each and everyone of them by myself (Loudenback 2). For Gonzales, the move from co mic strip to figurine may reflect a natural process which signifies the popularity of his characters and a money marketing possibility.8 Regardless of the encoded reality that Gonzales is making a fortune by selling this creation, it is still significant to our decoding of this produc t that we understand the Homies as more than market driven, in a marketplace where so often there seems to be nothing created by them or for them. Where success goes however, criticism ofte n follows, and many, including Los Angeles police officers, criticized the figur ines and went as far as to pr otest their inclusion in gumball machines in California neighborhoods. In fact, one police officer, P.J Morris, was influential enough to have a grocery chain in Los Angeles st op the sale of them altogether. However, over the years Homies have expanded to include Mijos, Pallermos, Hood Rats, Dogpound and more (all created by David Gonzales),. Today, even in the relatively small town of Canton, New York (94% white according to City-data.com) with a population of just over 10,000 people, Homies are found in gumball machines in the CVS market and the local grocery store. 8 I will note that Gonzales often feels a bit de fensive when Interviewe rs ask him about the financial reality of his creation. Gonzales maintains a class-based sense of community: I started drawing Homies for the love of my culture, not because I sm elled big dollars (Loudenbeck 2). However, I feel ambiguous about the claim when he argues in a recent interview, after being asked about Homie freebies, This is a business, not a soup kitchen, quit beggin This ain`t the way our society works. You young Homies, stay in school, get a job and you will have m oney to get things in life. You veteranos that are poor, my heart goes out to you, this means you have to work even harder to get ahead. Just remember, our Jefitos did it (Homies.com).

PAGE 134

134 As a Latina spectator, as well as an indivi dual whose Homies coll ection now monopolizes three shelves of my office, th e question of who Homies are a nd what they represent to the cultural discourse, proves an interesting examina tion of heritage, ident ity, and the location of culture. Why are Homies so popular? Why do they provoke such controversy? What is to be said about the discussion and articula tion of desire surrounding the Ho mies? What is the cultural phenomenon, which envelops the purchase, collecti on, and distribution of th ese figurines? Is this about play or about collection? In this chapte r, I will be examining why Homies were created and how they serve to represent Latina and Chi cana ideals. This analysis strives to examine that representation through a femi nist and race studies analysis of play and et hnic collecting. I begin by discussing Homies as collectibles. Expl oring the idea that collecting grants a certain amount of agency, I will discuss the collecting of Homies as a social and political engagement with cultural products. Briefly discussing blac k memorabilia and African-Americans who collect these historical items, I will analyze how Homi es form a location, where the collector engages with questions of identity. I th en briefly discuss the significan ce of children at play with the figures, and then move from play to an analysis of identity inherent in that play. From there, I will transition into an analysis of how these figurines function as signs and signifiers of national pride for Chicano/Latino communities. I will also discuss the inherent male privileging in the construction of the Homie narratives. For althoug h these figurines are progressive in many ethnic and nationalistic ways, ambiguities still exist in their representations, especially of women (even Nena would agree with this). Ultimately, I will argue that for Latinos/as and Chicanos/as, these figurines represent more than a fascination with what is popular. Rather, these toys or colle ctibles offer a possible sense of nationality, a bonding community activity, a recollected and re defined history, a sense of

PAGE 135

135 alternate or authentic ethnicity, and an affirmation of their significance of Latinas/Chicanas in a presumably multi-cultural world. And although I w ould rather have the perfect ethnic or gendered toy or collectible (if even one could exist), I will mainta in, as I have done in previous chapters, that some representation, problematic and ambiguous as it is is better than no representation at all. I would like to suggest, as Stuart Hall does in Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices that the study of cultural ar tifacts is the study of the usage of things. As Hall argues: even something as obvious as a stone can be a stone, a boundary marker or a piece of sculpture, depending on what it means -that is, within a certain c ontext of useIt is by our use of things, and what we sa y, think and feel about them-how we represent them-that we give them meaning. In part, we give objects meaning by the frameworks of interpretation we bring to them. (3) Therefore, I argue that Latinos, in an act of articulation, incorporate the usage of Homies as part of a rhetoric of representation, si gnification, subjectivity and agency. Stuart Hall argues in this seminal text that the use of these signs and symbols helps us determine a great deal about the fluidity of our iden tities. In a world visualized, for many, by others, and where representations are often the ster eotypical, Hall argues that it is our ability to code and re-code things that allows for their si gnification as a positive re-articulation. Anything in the visual (from art to collectible) has the abil ity to transfigure itself into more than a mere item, to a signifier for identity formation. In othe r words, we have the power to bring into play meaning (positive or not) into imagery and imagery into a sense of identity. In doing so, we can project ethnic, national and ev en personal pride and personality onto objects. We can further situate them within political racial or gendered discourse As Marilyn Halter states: whereas at one time the relationship between hu man beings and material objects resulted in identities that were acquired with the po ssessions one inherited, in modern times, people most often construct their own identities a nd define others through the commodities they purchase. With the rise of individualism a nd the evolution of mass consumerism objects became an extension of the self, and this has co me to include ones ethnic identification as

PAGE 136

136 well, a new brand of cultur al baggage. Through the consumption of ethnic goods and services, immigrants and their descendants m odify and signal ethnic identities in social settings no longer sharply organized around ethnic group boundaries and the migration experience. (7) And as I have argued previously in my analysis of Latina maids, the invisible can become the visible by articulating and re-appr opriating stereotypical images of Latinos/as in popular culture, as I suggested with Latina maids and subjectivity in Chapter One. Theref ore, although some of the images and representations may appear to be negative, it is our ability to code them differently which allows for the possibi lity of a more pos itive representation.9 How this happens is a complicated process a nd has to do with the spectators ability to negotiate with the images offere d. As Stuart Hall states in Encoding/Decoding the process by which individuals engage with images encoded to reflect certain str uctures of understanding (125) may be disrupted by distortions or mis understandings [which] arise precisely from the lack of equivalence between the two sides in the comm unicative exchange (126). In other words, the spectators ability to negotiate w ith the structuresby und erstanding that there meanings are not fixed but are themselves fl uid and often lack unive rsalized subjects or experiencesis what allows for the possibility of resistance. Hall argues, it is always possible to order, classify, assign and decode an event within more th an one mapping (129). This process requires that the spectat or, as subject, engage with and negotiate with the dominant (though not fixed) discourses in place. To do so, the spectator has to find the contradictions 9 See Randall Kennedy, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (New York: Vintage Books, 2002) and Alice Walker, Notes on Givi ng the Party Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writers Activism (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997) and Angie Chabram-Dernersesian, I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Dont Want to Be a M an: Writing Us-Chica-nos (Girl, Us) / Chicanas-into the Movement Script . These texts examine the usage and re-approp riation of certain words and images in the general culture. Kennedy examines the re-appr opriation of the term nigger by African-American Culture, Walker examines the re-appropriation of th e mammy figure in the same culture and ChabramDernersesian examines the re-appropriation of the Chicana figure in Chicano History.

PAGE 137

137 and miscommunications which occur within those representations a nd find ways to engage with or disseminated cultural objects and posit more positive possibilities for representation, which in turn may articulate further into political or soci al resistance. Engaging and negotiating with images of Latino/Chicano Homies (in both personal and political ways) becomes a statement of the reality of our existence in an active cultural discourse. As Mary Romero and Michelle Habell-Palln argue in Latino/a Popular Culture : those who have limited access to the production a nd distribution of the dominant modes of representation-television, commercial film, pop ular music, and so forth-can find more accessible formatsto gain voice in discussi ons about everyday life in the United States and to represent themselves and their concerns, fears, and hopes for the future. (7) It is our dialogue with these repr esentations, and our articulation of them as a site of difference from mainstream (read dominant) society, that can be used as a significant position of a political and social location of power. What may allow for at least a partial agency in our resistance to assimilation lies in part in affirming and recons tituting our difference as positive rather than negative. As I articulate this analysis, I am constant ly aware of the ambiguity offered me via the figures of Homies, as well as the ambiguity of my responses to those images. I understand that Homies work to both identify and to deny the mu ltiple realities of Latino/Chicano communities, specifically Chicana/Latina women within those communities. It is possible to suggest that a great deal of whom we are determines the way we may look at these Homies. The realities of our class status, our ethnic determinations, our ge ndered perspectives, our childhoods and more will determine whether we feel these little Latino or Chicano people define us or may determine how we define them. It is within these ambiguities however, that we find a space for engaging with both the personal and the political and where we can: constitute social territories where it is possible to engage in cultural poli tics (Habell-Palln and Romero 7).

PAGE 138

138 Displaying Ethnicity: My Puert o Rican Aunt and Her Collect ion of Mexican Figurines. My upper-middle-class Puerto Rican aunt lives in Davie, Florida in a four-bedroom house in the heart of a suburban neighborhood. In her half-a-million dollar home is a variety of collectibles and colorful displays, from baskets, to photos of the fa mily, to horse statues. What I find the most interesting when I visit my aunt ar e the collectibles of pape r Mache figurines which are prominently displayed on a shelf in a corner of her living room. These figurines appear to be ethnic (most likely Mexican). They are a foot tall in length each, ar e dark-skinned (which appears to be darkened by the sun, a sort of leathery appearance I attribute to my uncle who works in the sun daily), and are in the process of working. Each seems to be wearing cut-off pants and long-sleeve shirts and each is carrying an item indicative of work in progress. They appear to be ethnic and though ther e is no specific historical att achment, my aunt believes them to be figures of the past and she sees them as figures of Spanish descent. Of these figurines, one woman carries a basket of corn, another carries two small pigs, one carries clay, another plates and yet another carries a sack of something on hi s back (one even carries a Corona beer). As a Latina scholar of cultural artifacts and th eir significations, I was very curious as to why my aunt decided to purchase these items and fu rthermore, just exactly what my aunt felt she was getting out of this and so I called to ask her. Strangely enough, it was not as hard as I believed it would be for her to articulate her de sires on this matter. My aunt regaled me with stories about the past and her own time as a hardworking seamstress for a childs clothing sweatshop in Miami. She explained to me that she was drawn in by the figures, because she felt she knew them somehow and because they felt lik e part of an extended, metaphoric family of

PAGE 139

139 people she had known all her life.10 She felt that she understood th eir faces, their culture, and their hard work. She liked what she believed we re individuals represen ting a sound work ethic and she was determined to use them as a visual for the hard work which allows someone (specifically a Latino someone) to achieve the American Dream. When I asked her where she had acquired the fi gurines, my aunt explained that she often found them in local cultural Hondur an and Puerto Rican fairs that she attended. Fu rther curious about her attendance at these fa irs, I asked her what had prom pted her to attend them. She articulated a desire to attend fa irs which honored her people, both in terms of her own nation and a more pan-Latino sensibility th rough food, music and culture. As Marilyn Halter states in Shopping for Identity ethnic festivals, commemorative events, museum and popular culture offerings, retreats, and courses of study have pr ovided a temporary sense of community that, in an intensive and optional way, gratifies such long ings for meaningful interpersonal contact (13). Additionally, she articulated a desire to financia lly help her own people by purchasing the artifacts they created. For my aunt, these figures represented a part of a historical past, a link with ethnicity and a clear class positioning. As I thought about the way in which my aunt articulated her usage of these figurines (which I remind everyone were prominently displayed in her home, even as she often changed what curiosities and collectibles she placed on he r entertainment center), I asked myself whether the use of the Homies, which I was collecting, could be seen in the same light. I examined my own feelings about the Homies, along with my families and further with individuals online who articulated positive desires about them. For myse lf, I recognized friends from the past, their 10 As an additional note, I will mention that while presenting this paper to a friend, she indicated she collected similar figurines and like my aunt, also articulated her desire to connect to history and ethnicity through the purchase of such items.

PAGE 140

140 histories and their stories. More importantly however, I recognized something different and unique in them. These were not bronze statues, w ith unrecognizable features. They were not toys or collectibles which claimed to be ethnic, but in reality were pseudo-ethn ic, like the Bratz dolls which I footnoted in the beginning of the chapter, which are classified as urban and conflated with an ethnic identity. These were my comm unities faces in the neighborhood I grew up in Miami, Florida. They were a visual representati on in a world almost always un-visualized in dominant culture. Similarly, most of my famil y, who all grew up in Miami as well, found the same. We recognized the local barber and the local hip hop artists of our past and perhaps present neighborhoods. We recognized the clothing with its distinctive styles and the hair styles which were and are reminiscent of our past and our present. And in the narratives, we recognized our own different, yet similar stories. As one onlin e chat participant, Lady Joker states, I would like to thank you for putting out the Homies cause they represent the Hispanic culture and make me proud to be one. I also like that you put there [sic] biography and what they are really about, some describe me (29). Even though we were Puerto Ricans, we found similarities within th e representations of Chicanos in mainstream cultural discourse. For ex ample, when we saw a brown face in film and television, we responded to it in ways in which we could not respond to the white faces. Though never fully actualized, it was at least a possible part of us. There were familial issues, religious backgrounds and social customs that we had in common. Therefore, when we heard about Lowriders11, or when we saw artists like Cuban singe r Celia Cruz becomes successes, as I argue 11 Lowriders were historically linked to early African-American and Chicano culture. Today, Latinos from a number of ethnic backgrounds (PuertoRicans, Cubans, Anglos and more) participate in Lowrider festivals and culture.

PAGE 141

141 in my Introduction, we saw a part of ourse lves. Frances Negrn-Muntaner argues in Boricua pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American culture that this conflation of an ethnic perspective is dangerous because it threatens to efface specific political and social realities. As she argues: Selena went from being a Tejana (a territorial ized regional identity ) to being a Latina (a national ethnic minority): Latino here refers less to a cultural identity than to a specifically American national currency for economic and political deal making, a technology to demand and deliver emotions, vo tes, markets and resources on the same level-and hopefully at an even steeper price-as other racialized minorit ies. It is also an appeal for ethno-valorization, a way for diverse groups who are similarl y racialized to pool their resources. (231) I argue that this pan-Latino univers alizing may be controversial, bu t it is one of the only ways to see ourselves as positively represented, in a space where specific ethnic representation (i.e., Puerto Rican and such) were and are so often invi sible or stereotypical. After all, the one time Jennifer Lopez played a Puerto Rican charac ter, she was a maid. And as I have argued previously, it is better to have so me viable representation (even if we have to negotiate with it in terms of ethnicity, class and gender) than to have no representation at all. Searching the Internet online, I found many who felt the same way and who argued that the Homies represented a similar connection to pan-Latino rhet oric and to a sense of the past and a sense of ethnicity that they did not want to lose. Homies were not simp ly things, in their usage; they became embodied as signifiers of an ethnic pride, even if that ethnicity was anothers. Black Memorabilia: A Possible Connection? Perhaps an answer to the question of the am biguous representation that Homies offers and our ambivalence to them are to be found in comp aring the collection of Homies with those who collect and still collect black memo rabilia. It is through this conn ection that we can see that the act of collecting Homies, as well as our critical discourse of them, is important as a cultural endeavor that is integral to the understanding of Latino/Chicano racial and class positioning. For

PAGE 142

142 in collecting Homies, individuals are consciously or subconsciously saying something about their identities and their choices. In comparing the co llecting of Homies with the collecting of black memorabilia, we can understand that collecting these figurines is not simply a matter of collecting a thing ; it is about collecting a historical pa st, about class dis tinctions, and more importantly, about collecting ethnici ty, authenticity and identity. Black memorabilia are often stereotypical depi ctions of African-Americans; for example, showing African-Americans eating watermelon, or blacks with dark skin and big red lips and mouths.12 Such objects usually represented blacks as ignorant, sloppy, comical, obese, shucking and jiving to satisfy whites. When whites of the past purchased these items, it was a way in which whites were able to imagine and maintain th e status quo. As Kenneth W. Goings states in Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black Coll ectibles and American Stereotyping when the collectibles began appearing, they reinforced the stereotypical notions already held about African Americans, and for this reason they were readily accepted (vx). However, for African-Americans, the collecting of these items became an important way to reconstruct the past and reconstitute the negative images represented. When African-Ameri cans began collecting these items in the mid twentieth century, they saw themselves as collec ting a painful and yet important aspect of the past. As Carol M. Motley et al. states in Exploring Collective Memories Associated with African American Advertising Memorabilia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly : from the 1950s to the 1970s, during and follo wing the civil rights movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Pe ople sponsored an effort to remove these stereotypic images from the public domain (Morrison 1974). Affluent African Americans purchased and destroyed many of the artifacts, and the remainder were collected and/or 12 See Elvin Montgomery, Collecting African American History (New York: Stewart, Tabori and Change, 2001) for an examination of the difference between collecting black memorabilia and collecting African-American History.

PAGE 143

143 hidden in the back offices of antique and s econd-hand shops. It seems that the sentiment was out of sight, out of mind. And if these degrading images were no longer visible, then they would no longer be a part of autobiograp hical, historical, or collective memories. Morrison (1974) characterizes th ese actions and ideas as early hysteria [which] has abated, because collectors, many of whom are African Americans, have amassed significant collections of historical artif acts and include both beautiful and beastly depictions of blacks. (5) In one very important way, collecting black me morabilia was a way to set themselves in opposition to the images offered by such items. It is when we learn about racial history and historical pain, that we have the power to reme mber it and change it. As Motley et al. notes, black memorabilia helped the black respondents remember the ch allenges their forbearers were able to overcome (6). Collectors of black memorabilia also believe that by collecting the memorabilia, they will be able to protect them selves by making certain they have control over these things and hopefully control over their usage As one analyst of black memorabilia notes if we dont portray it, people wont know how far weve come, continuing, Precisely by possessing these objects, black people rob them of their power. Silly and crude these things may have been, butgenerations of black people lived in their shadowsNow at last they are being set free. (qtd. in Goings xxiv) Not only do th ey construct a more pos itive decoding when they examine memorabilia to see how far they have come (or as an articulation of difference), theorists argue that African-Americans, who coll ect black memorabilia, hope that the negative images can be re-appropriated in the same wa y in ways in which other things, words and histories have been. For example, Alice Walk er argues that the image of the fat and happy mammy, so often used to negate black female subjectivity, can be re-a ppropriated by AfricanAmerican culture. As she argues: what I was seeing, as if for the first time, was a very ancient image which the modern world, quite without knowing why, had found impo ssible to do withoutI smiled, as if for I felt something sweet coming over me. A sureness. A peace. It was, in fact, the belated recognition that I was in the pr esence of the Goddess. She w ho nurtures all, and that no matter how disguised, abused, ridiculed, she ma y be, even white supremacists have been

PAGE 144

144 unable to throw her away. And She is with us still. Furthermore, I realized I loved her. (139) For Walker, re-assigning a different set of values onto the figure was a way to see her in a more positive light. Similar arguments have been posited for the use of the N-Word in the vernacular. According to Randall Kennedy in Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word appropriating the object or word for oneself a nd ones culture was an important aspect for reconstituting and exploring th e racial pain attached to the items. As Kennedy argues: many blacks also do with nigger what other me mbers of marginalized groups have done with slurs aimed at shaming the. They have th rown the slur right b ack in their oppressors faces. They have added a positive meaning to nigger, just as women, gays, lesbians, poor whites, and children born out of wedlock have defiantly appropriated and revalued such words as bitch, cunt, queer, dyke, re dneck, cracker, and bastard. (38) It is important to acknowledge that although so me critics have argued that Homies perpetuate negative stereotypes of Latino/Chicano culture, in the collecting of black memorabilia we can see that there is a way in which such things might be collected through reconstituting them with more positive possibilities fo r representation. We have th e ability to decode these things and imbue them with positive racial, ethnic and ge ndered perspectives in ways which alter the negative perpetuation of stereotypes. It is possible therefore to argue that collecting Homies is al so about collecting more than an item itself. In fact, we can understand Homies as part of a U.S Latino popular culture, as well as a way to memorialize and reme mber Latinos as part of an American cultural system (the collection of history) which often negates Latino and Chicano identity or pushes for assimilation. Therefore, I wonder if years from now, we will be asking questions about these Homies, who are they? Where did they come from ? What do they represent? What would these Homies say about where they lived and who they lived with? What would these Homies sa y about the historical

PAGE 145

145 time period and the Chicano/Latino struggle for repr esentation and identity? What would be the cultural discourse surrounding these things ? One important point of difference to remember is that unlike items of black memorabilia, Homies were created specifically for Chicanos/L atinos. Although the collections have branched out significantly to others from a variety of ethnic groups (including Anglos), David Gonzales himself is a Chicano and his initial audience wa s Chicanos and Latinos from a California base. And there are spectators w ho feel tied into a cultur al product which they feel may be made just for them. As one online chat room member lile states, they make Homies for the Homies!!! (22). As yet another member, Smiley states, fina lly we have a Mexican to represent the brown (27). What has now become black memorabilia we re in fact once items sold to whites and African-Americans had to deal with the fact that the initial intent of such objects was to dehumanize African-Americans. However, Gonzales and his collection of Homies do not have the same intent. Here, Gonzales argues on the main website that Homies ar e about overcoming the negativity and a binding cultu ral support system, although it is important to note the universalized American subject that Gonzales embodies in his argument about what the Homies represent. As he states, from Kindergarten ag e to grandma and grandpa. Guys, girls, gays, brown, black yellow, red, white, hip, Straight, ch olo, goth, rocker, rapperThats the beauty of this thing-its part of Amer ican culture (3) Needless to sa y, I feel ambiguous about this universalizing, at the same time that I apprec iate the pan-ethnic/cla ss/racial/gender etc. perspective he embodies. After all, he does not threaten to escape into a transcendental American perspective (as I argue in the Introduction Tiger Woods does) a nd negate the fact that these Homies were initially created to represent a Ch icano subject. Rather, as he says, we want viewers to get to know us as we know ourselves, la ugh with us, cruise with us, party with us and

PAGE 146

146 share our culture. Maybe then they will not be so intimidated by our appearances and growing numbers. Hopefully they will learn to like us and accept our lifestyle. Maybe then we can call them Homies (qtd. in Seyfer 3). A Deal with the Devil: Financial Assistance? Let me briefly explain an important factor re lated to the collection of these Homies, one which articulates the way in which Latinos/as attempt to articulate a bonding across national, global and economic barriers. Many online, who pur chased the Homies, felt they were helping a fellow Latino out financially (not unlike my aunt and her collection of field workers). They articulated a desire to support Latino-owned bus inesses and ventures, of ten asking if we do not support them, who will. Juan Gonzales, 36, says in an online chat room, its good seeing a Mexican being successful, something for kids to l ook up to [.] [I]f he can do it I can do it. Keep up the Good Work David!!! (17). Paula states, I absolutely love the Homies. David, always know I am another person here who loves what you created and appreciates you for making your dreams come true. You inspire so many Latinos a ll over to achieve their own goals. We all love you and stand being you 100%. Viva La Raza! (5). As I am always interested in the ambiguity of positions in relation to these Latino/Chicano cultural products and discourse, I must note here that there is a real dangerbecau se Gonzales project is situated here as a rags to riches narrativethat the narra tive threatens to perpetuate an as similationist American Dream (anyone can achieve personal success if they work hard enough) perspective. It ignores possibilities of oppression in the ways in which gender, race, ethni city and class may affect individual success or non-successful realities. Moreover, such narrativizing, especially on the part of Ch icano/Latino consumers, does not take into consideration the idea, as Frances -Negrn-Muntaner argues, that not everyone is interested in a pan-Latino iden tity. Many Latinos/Chicanos are in vested in more historically

PAGE 147

147 individual ethnic (i.e., Puerto Rican, Mexican, Chicano etc.) real ities and political concerns. However, there are some invested in the possibilit y that a pan-Latino identity can translate into a bonding reality for Latinos and Chicanos. Another in dividual online Faros call s out to all razas to support raza ventures. As he writes, hey raza, we must support our raza products que no? White man. [Dont] Buy white man stuffblack man does the sameraza buy from the raza (34). Others articulate similar arguments; in fact, one individual clarifies that although the Homies may not represent all Latinos, they symbolize at least a portion of that identity and therefore a viable possibility for representation. As Highway City, Fresno Dog (a moniker for one individual online) states: first of all I would like to thank MR. David G. for repres enting the Chicano race in a positive way instead of all the ***ed shit they show about us on the news. And also for letting people know that there are different routes to take when you grow up in the hood instead of selling dope and gang banging and us e the hood to your advantage and not let it DRAG you down. So you let me [know] that the ideas in our heads our worth million$, and inspired me to start working on my ow n projectsFor all the haters who criticize make your own shit then say something. (53) Others use David Gonzales as a platform for their own projects and possibilities. As Giovanny aka B-boy states, I think no one can beat me with wh at I have but [since] Im really into it an all I started drawing them and [since] I had after sch ool art class I try to ma ke it the same style as you so I crated [sic] about 200 of them Giovanny further states that he has named his own creations and created another vi able community of Latinos and Chicanos that others could bond with. These, in honor of street names and codes, he named Mono, Peches, Chucho, Ese, Mamacita and more. Statements like these indica te that individuals are not always in opposition to pan-Latino rhetoric or the representations offe red to them in the cultural discourse. Although much of this is couched in the language of the marketplace, Chicanos and Latinos are using Gonzales and his Homies as a platform to articulate a sense of bonding and community.

PAGE 148

148 Toy or Collectible: To Play or Not To Play? When I was growing up, I played with the same dolls that most girls played with. I had dolls that peed and dolls that cr ied. I had pretty dolls and dolls w ith long hair. I had Barbie Dolls (Sun Bathing Barbie, Princess Barbie etc.) and Ca bbage Patch dolls. (To my ever-lasting shame, I even had a Donny and Marie Osmond dolls). Thes e dolls say much about what was available for purchase, as well as accumulation (in regards to ethnic toys and perhaps ethnic identity) in the 1970s and 1980s. Those dolls and many like them embodied ma ny of the traits that young girls were to learn throughout their lives and th eir development from girls to women. They were pretty, well-groomed, polite, small and feminine. However, underneath were more subtle lessons to learn. As many theoretical scholars have ar gued, these dolls taught girls about being women, dressing pretty, being submissive and always lo oking ones best. Jonathan Bignells Where is Action Mans Penis? notes that the Barbie doll w ould restrict play activity to the framing of display postures, collecting, nurturing or crafting for instance, reflecting a subdivision of roles for adult men and women (44). Toys teach and wh at they teach is the natural development of national and gendered space.13 Many feminist and cultural critics point to the fa ct that toys are not innocent of the social constructions which are embodied in them. Toys are play, but they are play that often constructs the way children look at the world and themselves in that world. As Stephen Kline states in Out of the Garden toys are objects that acquire unique symbo lic content and meaning in a particular 13 Toys and dolls made for girls where not the only to fall under such incarnations, but dolls or toys made for boys as well. According to Jeannie Ba nks Thomas in Naked Barbies, Warrior Joes & Other Forms of Visible Gender many boys toys were technologically or iented miniatures. They helped train boys to imitate the adult world of work and technology (131). In fact, advertisements for cars often came with a tagline suggesting they were Building Me n As well As Motors, suggesting the societal implications and usage of mere things.

PAGE 149

149 social contentDesigned as miniatures of id eas, people, animals and things, or working indirectly though the structures they impose upon the play activit y, toys and games are signs of the social world and the way it is organized (143). Moreover, toys teach us about the constructions of power relations hips (specifically within et hnic and gendered discourse) in society. As Pamela B. Nelson states in Toys as History: Ethnic images and Cultural Change : toys, like other artifacts of material culture, can tell us a great deal about changing cultural attitudes and values, and about the exercise of power in so ciety. Mass produced toys are especially revealing because their designers, concerned with marketability, intentionally try to appeal to dominant att itudes and vales. Since the toys reflect the attitudes of the dominant group, they have helped legitimate the ideas, values and experiences of that group while discrediting the ideas, values a nd experience of others helping the favored group define itself as superior and justify its dominance. (2) I would posit the notion that w ithin the dominant attitudes and values of society (i.e., white society) not only do toys create part of experience for girls an d boys; they also threaten to displace ethnicity and culture as invisible. At the same time, I propos e that the significant difference offered by ethnic toy representations allows us to understand the Homies as part of an ethnic reconstruction of subjecte d identities which children can us e as part of a growing ethnic national consciousness for Chicano/Latino identity. Throughout the years, I have heard many tales of horror about girls of color and their hatred of the dolls they grew up with. Toni Morrison herself, in The Bluest Eye tells us the tale of a young African-American girl who is given a white doll for Christmas. Claudia narrates her experience with these dolls as sh e was growing up: it had begun w ith Christmas and the gift of dolls. The big, the special, the l oving gift was always a big, blue -eyed Baby Doll (20). Claudia understands, from the clucking s ounds of adults I knew that th e doll represented what they thought was my fondest wish (20). Claudia tells us that instead, she hated the doll her and could think of nothing more than destroying her, to the utter dismay of her family. As Claudia tells us:

PAGE 150

150 what was I supposed to do with it? I had no interest in babies or the concept of motherhood. I was interested onl y in humans my own age and size, and could not generate any enthusiasm at the prospect of being a motherThe other dolls, which were supposed to bring me great pleasure, succeeded in doing quite the opposite. When I took it to bed, its hard unyielding limbs resisted my flesh-th e tapered fingertips on those dimpled hands scratchedTo hold it was no more rewardingI had only one desire: to dismember it. To see what it was made of, to discover the dear ness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs-all the world had ag reed that a blue-eyed, yellow haired, pinkskinned doll was what every girl child treasur edI could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable. (20) Claudia dismembers the doll in order to get to the root of its desired ability for adults. But for her family Claudia seems to be disregarding the hard work which allowed them to buy this doll. As the adults of the novel say, you-dont-know-how-to-take-careof-nothing. I-never-had-a-babydoll-in-my-whole-life-and-used-to-cry-my-eyesout-for-them. Now-you-got -one-a-beautiful-oneand-you-tear-it-up-whats-the-matte r-with-you? (21). For Claudia, however, that doll represents what she is in a study of contrasts and what sh e feels she cannot ever be. As she states, to discover what eluded me: the secret of the magi c they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say, Awwwww, but not for me ? (22). It is important to notice that Claudia understood that the doll represente d more than a simple toy. She understands that she is supposed to imbue it with certain ideological constructions of her own identity, from a gendered, classed and racial perspective. An important consideration is what the doll repr esents for Claudias family, that is, a sense of worth and acceptance into the dominant culture. As a symbol of status, the purchasing of the doll is subconsciously an acceptance and assimila tion into a white society. And as for Claudia, we soon learn that to not distur b or further complicate the alrea dy strained color relationships, she will hide her shame and, thus the conversion fr om pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love. It was a small step to Shir ley Temple. I learned much later to worship herknowing, even as I learned, that the change was adjustment without improvement (23).

PAGE 151

151 But, even as Claudia comes to an understanding of the struggle between identity and acceptance in her community, it is her friend Pecola Breedlo ve however who ends up insane at the end of the novel through her inability to achieve those bl ue eyes (an inherent signifier of the dolls) which signify, for her, approval. Similarly, a Native American friend I met y ears ago told me the story of how, when growing up, she would hang her Barbies from the banister of her home. She would cut and mangle their hair, mark up and destroy their features.14 At the time, she did not know or understand why she did this. She simply knew she hated them. Years later, after spending much time and research on ethnic perspectives and the constructions of ethnic identities, as well as discovering more of who she was, sh e clued into the idea that it was her hatred of what the dolls embodied (whiteness, pureness, and beauty) that made her feel her imperfections and therefore made her feel out of place in a world where white traits and value systems are often appreciated above all else. Ultimately, as girls, we internalized racism and rage because of the kinds of dolls that we were made to play with. It is important to note that while I wa s growing up during the 1970s and 1980s, there were very few ethnic toys choices for ethnic ch ildren. Choices for toys often came at a heavy price of identity negation or stereotype. As Ann duCille asks about her own experiences with ethnic toys: what does it mean, then, when little gi rls are given dolls to pl ay with that in no way resemble them? What did it mean for me that I wa s nowhere in the toys I played with? (1). For example, Barbies first African-American frie nd was colored Francie, and controversy was 14 See Ann duCille, Dyes and dolls: multicultural Barbie and the merchandising of difference, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (Spring 2004): 46-69 for examples of other ethnic women and their experiences with Barbie dolls.

PAGE 152

152 severe enough that the experime nt to produce Francie failed. As Marilyn Halter tells us, [In 1967], they came up with a clone named Colored Francie[she] bombed completely. The name, of course, a throwback to an ear lier era, demonstrates that th e rhetoric of the black pride movement had not yet reached the corporate sector (182) Similarly, when the Mattel Corporation tried again with thei r ethnic and foreign collection of Barbies, which came out in the early 1980s, they received cr iticism about the representations being offered. Some feminist, cultural and ethnic scholars bega n claiming that the historical narratives (as well as the promotion of certain desired ethnic nationalistic belief systems) introduc ed (on back covers) were stereotypical narratives a nd beliefs of different countries and the people who lived there. Similarly, there was a fair amount of criticism attached to Pu erto Rican Barbie when she was introduced to the public. I was insulted, said Gina Rosario, a 46-year-old school art director of Puerto Rican descen t who lives in Alexandria, Va. S he looks very, very Anglo, and what was written on the package was very condes cending The U.S. government lets us govern ourselves.' If you're going to represent a culture, do it properly -be politi cally honest, she said (qtd. In Navarro 1). Among other things, critic s argued that the clothes introduced as native clothes were problematic and st ereotypical and did not take into consideration the wealth of difference of different people from the same nation, arguing a conflation of identity which threatened specific histories of individuals. As Na varro argues, for many in Puerto Rico the doll is a welcome, if belated, recognition of the island's culture. But on the mainland there is a heightened sensitivity to the image among Puer to Ricans who must grapple with stereotypes while trying to fit into an ethnically diverse so ciety (1). From a gende red perspective, it is important to consider the looks of the dolls as well. Much controversy has spun from the idea that the Barbie doll and her figure are unachievabl e. As Ann duCille states, "unrealistic" or not,

PAGE 153

153 Barbie's weight and measurements (which if pr oportionate to those of a woman 5'6" tall would be something like 110 pounds and a top-heavy 39-18-33). However, in defense of the Barbie, other schola rs, critics and theorists argue that Barbie is not (and can not be held accountable) for the id eology surrounding the dolls (although they were ultimately responsible for the information produc ed with the dolls) and whether an accurate representation of a country is offe red. Rather, critics retort, Barbie is about what is economically viable. According to Wendy Varney in Barbie Australis: The Commercial reinvention of National Culture the design of such commodities is driven by commercial interests and stereotypes, with a view to wh at is attractive, marketable a nd fits prevailing perceptions, misguided or otherwise (1). Yet, as ambiguous as desire is, the Puerto Ri can Barbie and equally as successful ethnic counterparts are highly successful products. And de spite all the criticism for the P.R Barbie, she sold off the shelves in Puerto Rico within da ys of her Introduction. Negrn-Muntaner in her article Barbies Hair: Selling Out Puerto Rican Identity in the Global Market argues however, that the fact that Puerto Rican Barbie sold off the shelves does not take into consideration who and why people bought the doll. She notes that there was divisiveness between island Puerto Ricans and U.S Puerto Ricans and their reception of this controversial doll. As she states: many U.S.-based boricuas, who already live in a state of the Union but still consider themselves Puerto Ricans, feared Barbie as a Trojan horse of identity destruction; in contrast, Island nationalist intellectuals and consumers, who often denounce the eroding effects of Americanization on Puerto Rican cu lture, gleefully embraced the doll and their right to enjoy it. Evidently, both communities wrapped a different narrative around the plastic and made the Barbie a desirable playma te to engage in the increasingly high-stakes game called Puerto Rican identity. (207) In the articulation of this argument, it is impor tant to note the comple xity of ethnicities and genders even within a self-ident ified Puerto Rican identity.

PAGE 154

154 This complexity, as always, is at the heart of my analysis. After all, although colored Francie was unsuccessful in her launch in the late 1960s, today the ethnic and global Barbies (including African-American dolls Christie and Shani) are a multi-million dollar venture for the Mattel Corporation. As Negrn-Mu ntaner states, the company had already manufactured dozens of dolls representing countries from the wo rld without any compla ints (38). Again, the questions become one of the way in which identit y and representation play out for differences in ethnic and gendered realities. Ann duCille notes that, someone asked me the other day if a black doll that looks like a white doll isn't better than no black doll at all. I must admit that I have no ready answer for this (29). I myself have no an swer to this complex question. I can however, argue that the discourse surrounding such discussions is an interesting spa ce to think about. I am interested in those ambiguities between our de sire to be represented and our acceptance of impossible or fractured representations. Unfortunately, for many ethnic children (like Claudia from The Bluest Eye ), toys (like Barbie) subconsciously or not taught ethnic children what it wa s to be white and accepted. Jonathan Bignell states, while it would be mistak en to simply decry Barbies whiteness (since this assumes that identification with the childs like is simply based on mimesis and imitation) it is important to consider the globalization of normative representations of the white gendered body across diverse cultures and markets (43). What we understand is that Barbies are perceived as an important way in which childre n cultivate a sense of identity; and as ethnic children have little variety in thei r selection of ethnic toys, Puerto Rican Barbie and the like have become dolls we cling to. At least, this Barb ie meant I and my heritage existed in someway. With this Barbie, I would be able to recognize po ssibilities of myself, even if those possibilities were fractured by other intersections of identity -for example, where do Puerto Rican Africans

PAGE 155

155 become represented? This struggle becomes a site of contestation that must be worked out on an individual level. Without the possibility of producing and manufacturing dolls ourselves (and this would lead to duCilles que stions about what may or may not be authentic) it becomes a decoding game to articulate the ethnic Barbie as products which represents us in some way, than to have no representation at all. As Ann duCille tells us, I do vividly recall, however, the day when, looking for a gift, I stopped along the Barbie aisle in a Miami toy store, and could not believe my wondering eyes, hurt in so many battles for dignity. The big, corny white and pink letters spel ling PUERTO RICAN BARBIE drew me in, for they seemed to conf orm what as a child I always knew, but as a migrant adult, had been denied: Barbie has always been Puerto Rican. (227) My Puerto Rican Barbie is sharing her bookshelf space with University of Florida Barbie! It is the very difference which the Homies as possible toys (and I note here that I have seen them at play with many young children, including my nieces and nephews) represent that signifies and accepts identity in multiple forms. As bell hooks articulates in her essay about African-American culture Loving Blackness as Political Resistance, the importance of acknowledging the way positive recognition and acceptan ces of difference is a necessary starting point as we work to eradicate white supremacy ( 13). In essence, hooks articulates a necessity to promote difference in order to accept articulate a sense of power in societal discourse. As Alicia Gaspar de Alba states: I would be careful about att aching any sort of value judgm ent to those images, she saidThey represent life as it really is, with a ll the diversity of profe ssions that we engage in as a community. For Mexican American children, she said, they are a favorable alternative to blond-haired, blue -eyed Barbies. If they play with an image in which they see themselves, there is a sense of mirrori ng and empowerment. (q td. in Manners 3) As always, I have to consider the ambiguity in the representation of the Homies. For although we can argue for the possibility that Homies, as pla y, can allow for the possib ility of representation, I wonder if there is enough accura te or strong representation of Homie girl characters, which

PAGE 156

156 young girls like Claudia in The Bluest Eye can use to articulate a pos itive loving Chicano/Latino self. I wish to briefly acknowledge here that often-et hnic and gendered iden tity is positioned as complementary to Anglo or patriarchal identity. In other words, we are positioned to associate with whiteness or patriarchy and not against it. As bell hooks argues in Loving Blackness as Political Representation about the ways in which African-Ame ricans posit themselves with whiteness: those black folks who are more willing to prete nd that difference does not exist even as they self-consciously labor to be as much lik e their peers as possible, will receive greater material rewards in white supremacist societ y. White supremacist logi c is thus advanced. Rather than using coercive ta ctics of domination to colonize it seduces black folks with the promise of mainstream success if only we are willing to negate the value of blackness. (17) Similarly in Angie Chabram-Dernersesians essay I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Dont Want to Be a Man: Writing Us-Chican-nos (Girl, Us)/Ch icanas-into the Movement Script she argues that often Chicanas have to often subsum e themselves under the Chicano identity in order to find representation; therefore Chicanas often posit themselves with Chicano identity and not against it. It is easy to understand that there is an appeal to simply aligning oneself with the dominant culture and traditions. Whiteness is positioned as the norm throughout society and ethnicity is often positio ned outside of the norm and escaping into the dominant paradigm often allows for psychical sense of relief from the fractured selves which are often identified by dominant culture. Collecting Things: Signifying Potential When I saw my first Homie, she was deliver ed to me in the mail by a good friend I knew (ironically the friend who destroyed her Barbies so many years ago). I remember thinking, what did I just get? Was this supposed to be me or some version of me? It was the oddest thing I had

PAGE 157

157 ever seen, a little La tina girl. (It is important to my analysis to understand that I recognized her as such.) She was brown and curvy and had a Lady Pompadour hairstyle and white rimmed cat-eye sunglasses. She looked like a character from a 1930s/1940s inspired era and could have been a Zoot Suit girl, hanging out on the corner and flir ting with the boys. She ca me with another male figure who was also wearing a Zoot Suit, low ri der pants which were tig htly pressed, a white starched shirt, suspenders, with a chain running from the suspenders to the bottom of his stylish pants. Topping off his immaculate style was his stylized mustache a nd his fashionable fedora hat. But who were they and where did they come from? What I found out about what they were and what they became and what they soon signi fied was something uniquely interesting and important to understand. Because Chuca, short for Pachuca15, was a part of me, a part of old histories and new histories, a part of old neighborhoods and new cultural playgrounds. She and her counterpart became a community away from home. They were my homeland, my friends, my history and I in many ways that I both knew a nd did not know. She began the collection which has grown into the hundreds and which holds a sp ecial place on three shel ves of my office. So, why after years of collecting nothing, did I choose to collect them? An important factor of consideration about my collection is why I, as a Puerto Rican woman from Miami, Florida, chose to collect figu rines which initially seem ed more aligned with Chicano/Mexican American culture. First, I collect these particul ar figurines because they offer to bring Chicanos and Latinos together in a cross-cultural and community bonding ritual; one that promotes a pan-Latino identity, which forges allegiances across socio-economic and 15 The term Pachuca, a feminized version of Pachuc o is defined as youth of the 1930s and 1940s who wore distinctive clothes (Zoot Suits) and spoke thei r own dialect (a street version of the blending of English and Spanish). Due to their double-margina lization stemming from their youth and ethnicity, there has always been a close association and cultural cros s-pollination between the Pa chuco subculture and the American subculture. For this reason, many memb ers of the dominant culture assumed that anyone dresses in Pachuco style was a gang member.

PAGE 158

158 political barriers to promote a more unified Chicano/Latino identit y. And although I understand the term pan-Latino is a controversial one16, I believe it necessary to use the term, as I argued in my Introduction, as a way to actualize my experi ence when often there are no other avenues left for me to do so. Moreover, it is important to use the term in ways that promote healthy alliances between different, yet similar, Latino/Chicano culture s. I believe it is only when we do so, that we have the possibility of engaging more strongly in political discourses. As I believe that disagreements amongst us threaten to keep us fi ghting each other and not against the oppressive structures of dominant power in place.17 And although I am not nave enough to believe that such thinking is all that is necessary to translate lack of representation into political representation, I am hoping that our bonding togeth er under pan-Latino rhetoric may allow for more representation in a cultural discourse. This does not mean that one has to conflate the complexity of ethnic identity; rather, I will suggest it merely allows us to work together (within our similarities) to fight the stru ctures of power which would alre ady threaten to erase us with our differences. Second, I noticed that these figur ines did not simply cater to Mexican American culture, but included a mixing of cultural (Latino) perspec tives that I myself ha ve experienced in the urban/ethnic neighborhood I grew up Their narratives (whether about Chicanos in California or Puerto Ricans in New York) are about the wo rking class, about str uggling with an ethnic 16 See Suzanne Oberler The Politics of Labeling: Latino/a Cultural Identities of Self and Others and Frances Negrn-Muntaner, Boricua pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American culture (New York: New York University Press, 2004) for an examination of the controversy surrounding the Pan-Latino term and its appli cations for Latinos/Chicanos in the cultural discourse. 17 See Juan Flores, Juan, From Bomba to HipHop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000) for an examination of the divisiveness of terms used to discuss ethnic variations within Latino/Chicano etc. identities.

PAGE 159

159 identity, about familial relationships which are commonalities I feel many Chicanos/Latinos experience. These seem like my narratives. There are racial and class si milarities. I bond with these toys on a social and political level, as I know and understand that th ere are similarities in oppression that both Mexican Americans and Puerto Rican Americans face. It makes me feel part of a larger community of individuals, fighti ng together, to articulate a visual and therefore ideological representation in a larger discourse. Collecting them makes me feel closer to other Chicanos/Latinos struggling with the same desires of representati on that I struggle with daily. As Stuart Hall articulates in Representation: Cultural Repres entations and Signifying Practices : turning up at football matches with banners a nd slogans, with faces a nd bodies painted in certain colours or inscribed with certain symbols, can also be thought of as like a language-in so far as it is a symbolic practi ce which gives meaning or expression to the idea of belonging to a national culture, or iden tification with ones lo cal community. It is part of the language of nati onal identity, a discourse of national belongingness. (5) Although the metaphor Hall uses is the bonding spectat orship of football, the same metaphor can apply to people in the process of collecting. Collecting Homies can make one feel part of a larger community of people and therefore can become a symbolic practice of articulating a desire to belong to a national culture of Chicano/Latino identification. Collecting is both a public and private end eavor, both a question of class and a lack thereof, sometimes historical and at other times new, sometimes about the memory of something and its authentic value, at others times a bout collecting the unus ual, the kitschy. In How to do things with things Bill Brown tells us the questions of things, even the question of whether they are, is inseparable from a question about what they do, or what can be down with them (935). Therefore, collecting, although often private and pe rsonal, does often refl ect a public possibility to be more in uniting collectors a nd their collective endeavors. In other words, what is significant is the way in which collecting may hold a univers al appeal of bonding. As one collects, one can share that collection with others who feel the same, sharing stor ies, collections, and more. I am

PAGE 160

160 interested in what collecting may say about a co mmunity at large and how that community might use the metaphor of collecting in the actualizing of a po litical and social identity in a cultural discourse. I am interested in how collecting is structured as a part of the construc tion of ethnicity, race, and gender. Like my aunt who collected her ethnic paper Mache figures, I am interested in how she bonds with their ideals about work, cla ss, and more to articulate commonalties with other Latino/Chicano cultures. Therefore, what does it say of those who collect two inch Latino people? An important consideration is why the actua l act of collecting is signifi cant for Chicanos/Latinos, who traditionally lack the means necessary to collect inherently valuable objects. As such, it is important to analyze David Gonzales and his mark eting teams choice to sell this particular product in vending machines across the nation. Perhaps I am positioning the choice as more sophisticated than it was, but I believe it is impor tant that Gonzaless aim is to market to the working class man or woman. The vending machine product is about class separation, as one can imagine that wealthy or even middle-class peopl e are not likely to buy pr oducts or collectibles from vending machines. Vending machine purchases could be seen as articulating a desire to collect something specifically opposite from objects of inherent value. This is not a highly valuable African mask selling for a thousand dollars at a gallery. This is a specifically tail ored collectible created for the purpose of making it possible for anyone who wants to collect who wants to collect. Homies are unique and the ability to collect them without breaking the bank is an important factor for Chicanos/Latinos who are looking for something pers onal (and visual) to co llect. By strategically placing them in 50 cent gumball machine across th e nation, Gonzales appeals to a working class

PAGE 161

161 culture and both a youth culture and an adult culture, seeking thi ngs which allow for more selfrepresentation and self-identity.18 Another aspect important to th e significance of these Homies as collectibles is the appeal they offer Chicanos/Latinos actively looking fo r and desiring images of themselves in mainstream popular culture. Their a ppeal lies in the self-representa tion they offer, even if, as I argue, the images they offer are ambiguous. Thes e Homies have become extremely successful (over 130 millions sold) precisely because they offer something inherently different in their representations then mainstream culture allots po ssibility for. There are many ways in which the Homies offers an alternate (I do not mean to s uggest something outside of the norm) sense of identity for Chicanos/Latinos wh ich allows them to maintain st rong cultural and social ties. The alternate sense of identity, I argue, comes from the situating of the Homies in specific-to nationalistic and racialzied identities. This ha ppens primarily through th e use of the narratives and histories attached to the Homies on an online database David Gonzales has created. There in the narratives, as Stuart Hall argues in Representation: Cultural Re presentations and Signifying Practices is where the engagement of meaning can take place. As Hall has said, meaning is produced whenever we express ourselves in, ma kes use of, consume or appropriate cultural things; that is, when we incorporate them in different ways into ever yday rituals and practices of daily life and in this way we give them value or significance. Or when we weave narratives, stories-and fantasies-around them (4). For Hall, our usage of narratives is a way to counter traditional mainstream culture, sp ecifically if we choose to challenge assumptions about the norms of society or alter them in signifi cant ethnic and theref ore political ways. 18 I believe a similar class perspective can be in troduced here in terms of the ways in which individuals collect poster prints of fine art. It is about making culture consumerable.

PAGE 162

162 Homie Stories: What They Offer a Looking Culture. It is important, while examining the narrativ es Gonzales has created to go with each character, to consider the si gnificance of the text itself in the production of meaning. In examining the significance of the text, we can discover that the Homies present a sort of language which communicates to Chicanos and La tinos in the world at large. These Homies narratives offer a distinctly Chicano/Latino visu al and linguistic based (although there is some appeal in their universal themes as well) discou rse which is important for self-representation in a political and social context. Fashion and the Counterculture The Homies figurines are dresse d in styles which have been traditionally viewed as an ethnic counterculture.19 In the early 1930s and 1940s, Chicanos and African-Americans20 wore Zoot Suits to set themselves apart from a mainstreamoften white societywhich often negated difference. Made from an excess of mate rial during war rationing times, this excess was transferred into an excess of immorality a nd an unpatriotic discourse during a time where presumably we were all bonding against enemie s. As Douglas Henry Daniels tells us in Los Angeles Zoot: Race Riot, the Pachuco, and Black Music Culture : 19 According to Wikipedia.com the counterculture is defined as a: cultural group whose values and norms of behavior run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition Although distinct countercultural undercurrent s exist in all societies, here the term counterculture refers to a more significant, visible phenomenon that reaches critical mass and persists for a period of time. A counterculture movement thus expresses the ethos, aspirations and dreams of a specific population during a certain period of time. 20 According to PBS.com Zoot Suits were initially an African American youth fashion, closely connected to jazz culture, the Zoot suit was co-opted by a generation of Mexican American kids, who made it their own. The oversized suit was both an outrageous style and a statement of defiance. Zoot suitors asserted themselves, at a time when fabric was being rationed for the war effort, and in the face of widespread discrimination. Zoot suits were reserved fo r special occasions -a dance or a birthday party. The amount of material and tailoring required made them luxury items. Many kids wore a toned-down version of the "draped" pants or styled their hair in the signature "ducktail."

PAGE 163

163 in a Time magazine letter, a solider stationed in Kearney, Ne braska explained his hostility and that of many Americans to the zoot-suited youth: To a solider who has been taken from his home and put in the Army, the sigh t of young loafers of any race, color, creed, religion or color of hair loafi ng around in ridiculous clothes that cost $75 to $85 per suit is enough to make them see read. (102) Therefore, the Zoot Suits were used by young Ch icanos and African-Americans as a way to create themselves as radical subjects in a hege monic discourse and they were used by dominant culture to reign in this radicalism. As Rosa Linda Fregoso notes, Zoot Suits were a rebellion against accepted dress a nd musical styles, and, moreover, th ey sometimes went beyond fashion and entertainments statements, embodying an intelle ctualized political position (99). In fact, the Zoot Suits were so often conflated with the un -American that they were often banned in many places and those who wore those suits were sometimes beaten.21 As Daniels tell us, whites not only attacked and beat Mexican Americans and black s, but stripped from them their fashionable zoot suits (98). However, al though the outfits were often de emed street or hood and often conflated Mexican and African -Americans with violence22, it was and is the difference they articulated which is what Chicanos /African-Americans clung to in the past and clings to in the present. As Bruce Tyler notes, Zoot Suits proje cted racial pride and cr iticized white racism (qtd. in Fregoso 104). Zoot Suits and those who wo re them imbued in their ideologies a way of spurning white culture, in the ar ticulation of pride in the difference of Chicano culture. Many of the hundreds of Homies figurines I co llect are dressed in historical clothes indicative of earlier periods in Chicano History. I argue that this suggests, for the collectors, a 21 See Douglas Henry Daniels, Los Angeles Zoo t: Race Riot, the Pachuco, and Black Music Culture, The Journal of African American History (Winter 2002): 98-118. Daniels informs is that in 1942, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution outlawing the Zoot-suit. 22 See further Daniels for an examination of th e history of the Zoot Suit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon Trial in the 1940s and their c onflation with wearing Zoot Suits.

PAGE 164

164 correlation between collecting things and collecting historically signi ficant things. As I articulate previously, about the ways in wh ich African-Americans collect bl ack memorabilia, the collection of these Homies represented the possibility of collecting a part of the historical reality of Chicanos. As such, it is possibl e that people are collecting Homi es as a way to collect and remember something significant historically to th eir culture. Other Homies are dressed in street gear, with low-riding pa nts (which deliberately show the unde rwear of the individuals wearing them), long (and often sizes larger than the people w earing them) t-shirts, and bandanas and caps (usually designated as Chicano/Latino based on specifi c colors or country flags). I argue that this particularly wear also indicates a desire (though somewhat controve rsial) to be different from a mainstream culture. As Chris Macias states, Mij os (a collection of young Homies) enjoy a street credibility, you cant find on Sesa me Street, and in a toy market that thrives on fantasy, the scrappy mijos live in a bitt ersweet world, working towa rd a better life (1). Hall, in Representation: Cultural Represen tations and Signifying Practices argues that, clothes themselves are the signifiers. The fash ion code in western consumer cultures like ours correlates particular kinds of combinations of clothing with certain concepts (elegance, formality, casual-ness, romance). These are the signifiedscertain items go together (37). What Hall articulates is that society is often a bout the construction of these signs of acceptance and approval. Wearing the style of the day is a gr eat deal about adhering to societys approval of oneself. Not only are much of the Homie clothes a direct affront to mainstream culture, but much of the way they look is as well, including the wa y they style their hair. What Zoot Suits and the like did, were to challenge the status quo of acceptability. In their very difference, they articulated a desire to not assimilate. As Hall fu rther states, some signs actually create meaning by exploiting difference (38). Douglas Henry Daniel s tells us; this is exactly what historical

PAGE 165

165 young Mexican and African-Americans symbolized w ith their clothing choices and styles. As Daniels states, black and brown American yout h found highly charged emotional and symbolic meaning in dress (100). And the signs being created are a sense of difference which people were and are embodying. As one individual, Mont oya, claims, I think these do a good job of capturing our cholitos23 (little cholos)Everybody needs an id entity, and sometimes the way we dress becomes our placaso, our tag (qtd. in Macias 2). Therefore, Gonzales is strategic in his conflation of these present Homies with significant politic al struggles of the past. In this way, he is able to market his Homies to an older colle ctor looking to collect th e memories of a past radical Chicano reality at the same time that he can market to a new youth collector looking for attachments to the past. As one online chat room individual, Anj, states, my son collects Homies & I tell him how they remind me of me & my friends when I was growing up. Thanks for the memories (48). Yet another chat room pa rticipant, Westsider on the Eastside, states, Homies bring back a part of the culture I grew up in Southern California (56). Not only is Gonzales imbuing the historical past of the 1930s and 1940s, but also the 1960s and 1970s, when Chicano protestors them selves re-appropriated the earlier Chicano styles (Zoot Suits and the such) to reclaim a historical reality to re-inscribe their current Chicano movement with ideological and pol itical beliefs. At the same time, they could remember the struggles and oppression of a hist orical pain to validat e current oppressive struggles. They used a pachuco identity to re-imagine a Chicano politic al discourse. Therefore, many of Gonzaless 23 Cholos are defined by urbandictionary.com as a term implying a Hispanic male that typically dresses in chinos (khaki pants), a sleeveless white tee-sh irt or a flannel shirt with only the top buttoned, a hairnet, or with a bandana around the forehead, usua lly halfway down over the eyes. Cholos often have black ink tattoos, commonly involving Catholic im agery, or calligraphy messages or family names.

PAGE 166

166 Homie men are imbuing that resist ant stance by fighting the good fi ght, spreading the word of resistance and struggle to younger Homie men. However, it is important to note here that those Chicano/Latino movements occasionally tended to negate the participation of Chicanas/L atinas in the movements. As Alma A. Garcia states although the Chicano m ovement-an insurgent uprising am ong a new political generation of Mexican-Americans-challenged pers istent patterns of societal inequality in the United States, it ignited a political debate between Chicanas and Chicanos based on the internal gender contradictions prevalent within El Movimiento (1). Most of the movements were about valorizing male identity and making it more viab le in the face of a public affront to their masculinity by dominant discourse s. To do so, Chicanos often pa triarchally subjugated women in the process of their own struggle for self-representation or self-i dentity. As Rosa Linda Fregoso states, yet, the ambivalence of the cultural pr oject of nationalism centered on its systematic elision of women as subjects of cultural di scourse (663). Therefore, although the Homie men seem posed to imbue some possible positive ethnic politicizing in their incorporation of these Homies, left by the wayside are the Chicanas/Latinas who fight by their side. Naming and Recognition The very names attached to the Homies are indicative of the difference of Chicano/Latino peoples. There is Gata (Cat), Baby Doll, Big Loco (Big Crazy), Bruja (Witch), Mr. Raza (Mr. Race), Veterano (Veteran), Chula (Sweetheart), P-Rico, Conejos (R abbit), Gordo (Fat), Fly Girl, Borriqua (Island Puerto Rican), Mamasota (Big Mama), Culebra (Snake), Cochino (Dirty), Diablo (Devil) and so many more. The naming of oneself articulates a pa rticular position of power in society. (quote here from Spillers?) It also represents a way in which to re-appropriate formally derogatory terms and names used by do minant culture to efface ethnic identity, as

PAGE 167

167 Randall Kennedy suggest with the term nigger and Alice Walker suggests about the mammy image. Moreover, it was a way of belonging a nd achieving acceptance fr om within ones own ethnic group. As Joseph E. Holloway states in African-American Names : A more direct survivor of Af rican naming-practices is the us e of nicknames. Almost every black person in slavery was known by two names: a given name and a name used only within the family circleIn African-Ameri can naming practices, every child receives a given name at birth and a nickname that ge nerally follows the i ndividual throughout life. Some examples of these nicknames are Jo Jo, June, Tiny Baby, O.K., John-John, MercyMercy, Baby Sister, Sister, "T," Sunny Main, Bo, Boo, Bad Boy, Playboy, and Fats. Among enslaved Africans, this practice was also evident in names used by slaves, such as Pie Ya, Puddin'-tame, Frog, Tennie C., Monkey, Mush, Cooter, John De Baptist, Fat-Man, Preacher, Jack Rabbit, Sixty, Pop Corn, Old Gold, Dootes, Angle-eye, Bad Luck, Sky-upde Greek, Cracker, Jabbo, Cat-Fi sh, Bear, Tip, Odessa, Pig-Lasse s, Rattler, Pearly, Luck, Buffalo, Old Blue, Red Fox, Coon, and Je wsharpfound that Gullah-speaking people preserved their language and nicknames usi ng what they called basket names or day names. Their children always had two distinct names, an English one for public use and an authentic African name for private use by th e extended family alone In the Sea Islands, children sometimes have not onl y their given names and basket names but also community names. The community gives the child a name th at characterizes or is characteristic of the individual, such as Smart Child or Shanty (1). And although the above is specifically refere ncing slave cultu re (although as I have argued previously there are many connections between African-American and Latino cultures) an argument can be made that Chicano/Latino culture also imbue themselves with a re-naming process, which articulates a desire to define themselves in directly different ways then mainstream culture. Aztln: The Mythical Mexican Homeland Homie narratives offer a sense of culture and ethnicity for Chicanos/Latinos looking for a culture to belong to. Not only are the names indicative of such, but also the ways in which the narratives speak to th e community of people around them. Who they hang around with, where they hang around and what their interests are, all ally them with a sense of ethnic identity and pride. Many sing Mariachi (there is even a litt le Mariachi figurine) a nd boast or brag about Chicanos/Latinos who have made it big; there is a sense of community pride being imbued by in

PAGE 168

168 those who have made it. Yet others discuss th e mythical presence of Aztln in their lives.24 The Aztln of Chicano historical imagination is a pl ace where self-affirmation and determination are the ways to gain a politi cal voice (Prez-Torres). Therefore, in instilling a sense of the Aztln, Gonzales imbues his Homies with a sense of the spiritual and religious which is important to Chicano culture and identity. Moreover, he inspires his Homies (and by exte nsion their collectors) to fight the good fight by reclaiming a sense of the historical past (as he strategically does with the usag e of the Zoot Suits as his main clothing style). Additionally, thes e Homies often talk about mystical presences in their lives, and witch doctors in their neighborhoods. One such charac ter, Culebra (Snake), sa ys that the spirit of the snake went into her during a construction acci dent one day. As the narrative tells us, it was at that moment that the spirit of the snake ente red Culebras soul and became a part of herShe now has visions and she is able to see into the future and read dreams. It is important to note that the mythical Aztln is configured and cl aimed by Gonzaless Homie men, while Gonzaless Homie women are configured by the mythical and perhaps the more dangerous element of believing in a mythical homeland. Another figurine, El Padrecito (also known as the Priest) performs Catholic sacraments on the Homies a nd is influential in the Homies daily lives. Incorporated within the narratives is an understanding and acceptance of the variety of religious beliefs that are a part of Chicano and Latino cultu re. Therefore, while some pray to the Virgin Mary, others pray to the Virgin de Guadalupe However, even though we have a strong male presence in El Padrecito, in Si ster Mary Maria (a nun), we have a religious woman deemed a bit 24 The idea of Aztln was introduced in a Chicano Youth Conference held in Denver, Colorado in March of 1969 and launched the idea of a spiritual/m ythical homeland which Chicanos dream is a place where Chicanos will bond together and create a nation of great power.

PAGE 169

169 more negatively. She is the one who is configured as using force, in order to get students to believe in God. She is called a strict discip linarian who often swats the knuckles of young Homies when they act up. It may seem too subtle a distinction, but when added up to the rhetoric of a positive ethnic representation for Chicanos/Latinos, we have to consider the way it is predicated on a negative female subjectivity. Gonzales also seems to imbue a deep sense of cultural pride in his Homies figurines, one which can transfer itself into those who collect these things. An impor tant aspect of David Gonzaless Homies and the narratives he has created for them online is a connection to the historical and the political. Gon zaless narratives often come w ith Internet links to outside Chicano/Latino political, cultural, social a nd economic websites which evoke a sense of understanding more about ones ethnicity and iden tity. In fact, one of his characters, not an individual, but a symbol is El Chilote (the Chi li) who evokes a status as a sign and signifier of ethnic, national and cultural pride. As his moni ker states, he rode with legendary icons in Chicano history like Joaquin Murieta, Gregor io Cortez, and Tiburcio Vasquez. If you young Homies dont know about these characters, their stories are in your loca l librarieslook them up. They are heroes in our history and you should know about them to preserve their legends. However, no similar connection with equally as st rong female historical fi gures is imbued in his collection. Online chat rooms and the individuals partic ipating in them seem to suggest that Gonzaless work Homies are findi ng an audience of individuals e ngaging with them as cultural, political, and social texts (and not all of are unde rstanding the fine distin ctions between gender, race and class which complicate these images). On an online website, Norma Year states, note* to Mr. Gonzales, have you ever thought about ma king a Llorana doll, or Aztec versions of the

PAGE 170

170 dolls. Keep up the great work (9). Looney online states, I just wanna say the Homies are the best out there that represent La Raza (8). Fernando says they re present Brown Pride (9). Baby Doll states, hey, whats I love the Homies representing mi Raza. Almita_510 articulates a desire for representation, which th ey feel is lacking in mainstream American culture. They state, Im sick of all this white man tv. We need to represent La Raza!!! (20). Ultimately, what we have online is a convergen ce of ethnic individuals sharing th eir experiences and socializing on a level which may purport to enhance relati onships among Chicano/ Latino individuals. Cross-Cultural Realities What is also significant about Culebra, who I mentioned previously, is the cross cultural reality of her identity. Cu lebra is a mixed individual, with Na tive American blood as part of her ethnic make up. Therefore, an important element in Gonzaless work is the conflation of society today, the reality of White-Ame ricans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Latino-Americans and more inter marrying each other and having bi -racial children. In fact, many of his other Homies are also products of bi -racial relationships. Additionall y, Gonzales makes an important point in his articulation of the Ho mies as different in terms of sk in color; in itself a powerful ethnic positioning that reflects the significance of the variety which is Chicano/Latino culture. In other words, Gonzales may be imbuing a real sense of a pan-Latino audience. As Gonzales states, from Kindergarten age to grandma and gr andpa. Guys, girls, gays, brown, black, yellow, red, white, hip, Straight, cholo, got h, rocker, rapper, redneck, white collar, blue collar and no collar, lowrider, hot-rodder, skateboarder. Thats th e beauty of this thing-its part of American culture (qtd. In Loudenbeck 3). Yet, it is important to acknowledge that th is pan-Latino identity does not stand alone. Gonzales is also reflecting on a pan-American id entity and in doing so, broadening his audience

PAGE 171

171 and market-base to reflect an understanding and awar eness (both culturally and financially) that Chicanos/Latinos come from different histor ical and ethnic pasts which include African, Caribbean and Aztec cultural backgrounds. For ex ample, La Negra is a dark-skinned Latina who is a dancer and choreographer. La Morena is a dark skinned woma n from the Dominican Republic. Poca Ana is part Navaho, Indian. Moreover, Gonzales includes othe r ethnicities in his Homies collectibles, including Home Lee (the local Korean store owner), Japon (from Tokyo, Japan), China Doll (China) and Indio (a full blooded Blackfoot Indian), who is himself significant because he is trying to cross bounda ries between Native Americans and Chicanos. Specifically, he asks Chicanos in his comm unity to reflect more upon the past and the commonalities they have with Aztec culture, by invoking the relationship each has to Aztec history and blood. However, as alwa ys there is an ambiguity in hi s determination to reflect a panLatino or pan-American ident ity, as doing so possibly negate s any resistance or unique-to Chicano/Latino identity in a subconscious subsumed American cultural identity or dare I say an assimilationist perspective. As a way to frame the above argument, let us examine two different figurines. The first is the highly prized figurine Mr. Raza (Mr. Race) w ho is deeply proud of his cultural heritage and has degrees in Chicano Studies and Latin American and Pre-Colu mbian History. This figurine is politically aware and encourages young Chicanos/L atinos to work to change the system of oppressions (i.e., dominant culture) which threatens to harm thei r culture. In th is figurine, Gonzales encourages a Chica no/Latino Brown Pride mentality. Another important and popular figurine is that of Soljaboy. Soljaboy is in the military and fights to save the homeland represented here, not as the myth ical Aztln, but as the United States. As Gonzales narrates, while I realize some of you Homies may have i ssues with our government and its treatment of

PAGE 172

172 the Razathis is still our homeland and Homeboys and Homegirls have to help defend it from anyone who would harm our way of lifeBut free dom comes with a priceand someone has to be ready to pay it. Thank you Solja boy It is important to consid er who is paying the price to ensure the freedom and belief system of a United States so embroiled in controversial racial, ethnic and classed realities. With this narrative and this figurine25, Gonzales hopes to cross cultural boundaries that go far beyond Chicano/Latino culture. Here he invokes a sense of pride in the United States were Chicanos/Latinos make their lives.26 However, I will go beyond the argument of pride in a United States homeland here to ar gue that I believe Gonzales pos its a complicated discourse. For consciously or not, he is suggesti ng that one of the ways they can prove their allegiance to this homeland is to pursue a military career and de fend the country against common enemies. In other words, he uses the desire to become part of an imagined nation to prove their allegiances. This subconsciously promotes a more conserva tive ideological nature which may efface his counter cultural product. 25 Playing the Devils Advocate, I wonder where our little female Homie Soldier is. 26 As a significant part of my analysis, it is impor tant to think about Soljaboy in terms of the time period in which he arrives. I could not find any info rmation about the specific dates of his arrival in gumball machines, but I can estimate that his arrival, anywhere between 2004 and 2006, comes at a very important time period in the current political and soci al climate. In March 20, 2003, almost 18 months after one of the worst acts of terrorism to happe n on U.S soil on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush declared war on terrorism and began an attack on Iraqi soil, which is still in effect now three years later. Without delving into a political battle about whether going to war was right or wrong, what is significant is thinking about who is fighting the war. It is est imated that over 10% of the United States military is Hispanic and it is further estimated that the number of Hispanics in the military will double in the next decade alone. Moreover, its important to note that ov er 25% of the Hispanics are involved in combat or hazardous duty occupations (Berkowitz 1-2).

PAGE 173

173 Community Bonding There is also a sense of community imbued in these Homie figurines. Many of them are related to one another and are friends with each ot her. They help each other out with getting jobs, meeting new friends, becoming part of the commun ity and whenever they are in need. Gonzales himself articulates on his website a desire to create a support system in ones community which can help individuals feel a sens e of belonging. As Gonzales states in his website, in an innercity world plagued by poverty, oppression, violence, and drugs, the Homies have formed a strong binding and cultural support syst em that enables them to ove rcome the surrounding negativity and allows for laughter and good times as an anec dote for reality. One such figurine, Big Foot, is in charge of the local Junk Ya rd and will often help others in the community find the necessary transmissions and such to fix their cars ,when ot her big companies often cannot or will charge a fortune in a community where people do not have a lot of money. Another significant aspect here is the fact that there is also a desire to s ee cultural support systems grow beyond the barrios of East Los Angeles and into the cities and comm unities in New York and Miami. Although I will note here that one female Homie character, Sly Gi rl, is configured as a smart individual who wants to be a personal injury la wyer; yet, she is characterized as someone who doesnt really want to change her community to help the ot her Homiesshe just wants to get paid. Tied into this concept is the idea that Ho mies represent role models of hope for younger Chicanos/Latinos, who find themselves, getting in to trouble in their own communities, with gang violence and more. Here, Gonzales instills a mora l message to his Homies figurines. It is true that many of Gonzaless figurines find themselv es with troubled pasts, but many of them have fought their way through troubled times to make successes of themselves and more importantly come and give back to their communities by sh aring their experiences and promoting a better

PAGE 174

174 understanding of the opportunitie s which Chicanos/Latinos s hould avail themselves. For example, Nena (from the beginning of the analys is) became a nurse. Big Loco left his gang after spending time in prison, received a degree in so cial work and started a government funded program called Homey Outreach to promote a healthier lifestyle and prevent troubled youth from falling through the system. And Gonzales does offer many positive representations; Gonzaless Homies are professionals from lawy ers to police officers and Highway Patrolmen to business owners. Borriqua, a Puerto Rican home girl, has an eye for fashion and works as a designer for a clothing line called Chula Wear a nd evens gets small dancing parts in music videos. Boxer owns the local gym and use to be a professional boxe r who held two world championship belts. Gordo is a chef who owns a local restaurant named El Chilote (The Big Chile) and has his own Mexican cuisine televisi on show. Mr. Lurch owns his own antique car parts business on the Internet. Yet others are skateboard champions painters, basketball players, models, dancers, mechanics, barbers, postmen, a nd more. And although it is true that there are not as many lawyers as there are aspirations for greatness (Booby Loco wants to become a professional wrestler in the Latino World Other), what is significan t is that Gonzales understands that Chicano/Latino youth is in a tricky situation, struggling to outgrow their poverty stricken or working class neighborhoods and make so mething of themselves. According to High School Drop Out Rates for Latino Youth by Richard Fry, in 2000, about 530,000 Hispanic 16-to-19year-olds were high school dropouts, yielding a dropout rate of 21.1 percent for all Hispanic 16to-19-year-olds (U.S. Census Bureau 2003). The Latino youth dropout rate was more than three times greater than the 2000 non-Hi spanic "white alone" dropout ra te of 6.9 percent. Equally as significant to the narratives is how many do articulat e a desire to get out of the barrio life. Even Gonzales as a representation himself is being us ed to articulate an (American?) success story.

PAGE 175

175 Is This a Negative Reality?: The Co ntroversial Aspect of Homies Not all of the Homies offer positive represen tations of Chicano/Latino identity and it is important that I acknowledge them. Mosca (the fly) is a cat burglar of expe nsive art, chips, and even industrial espionage. Oso (bear) is head of the local gang and his members include Angel, Mosca and Veterano. Q-Ball is a blind pool hustler. Some of the Homies just hang out on a daily basis, with no aspirations for bettering themse lves. And there are many individuals who express their anxiety about the ambiguity of the images offered. Some argue that Gonzales is merely trying to impart a reality in how young Chicanos/La tinos live, especially in the barrio. However, in order to posit these Homies in a netter light, Gonzales has most of hi s Homies realizing the error of their ways, even as they try to move on to better lives. It is true that many of the Homies use to be a part of gang culture, which in itself many represent a ne gative stereotype of Chicano/Latino culture; howev er, Gonzales states that what is im portant is to not deny a part of the cultural reality of the world we live in. As G onzales defends, not all the characters are role models, but it is a reflection of r eal lifeThere is always anothe r story to someones life, what makes them do what they do (qtd. in Reveries 1) As Gonzales further articulates, Mexican Americans do not need cultural guardians to tell them what is acceptable (1). Gonzales seems especially embittered by the consumable images of Jennifer Lopez27 and Ricky Martin, which are white-washed and circul ated through Chicano/Latino communities as representational of what it takes to achieve a certain amount of su ccess in society. If we examine the ways in which Jennifer Lopez markets hers elf, dependent on the pr oduct she is selling herself, her perfume, her movie career or her music careerwe note distinctions, which 27 See further Frances Negrn-Muntaner for a discussion of conflated ethnicities and the reworking of Jennifer Lopez into Pan-Latino rhetoric.

PAGE 176

176 themselves depend on who she is selling to. Th erefore, it is telling that Jennifer Lopez is considerably lighter in skin color when she sells her perfume Glow in such magazines as Cosmopolitan and Elle and considerably darker when playing a maid in Maid in Manhattan Priscilla Nordyke Roden tells us in Toys from the Hood another renowned mainstream American artist who comes up in Gonzaless co nversations is Norman Rockwell but he has a different take on his own work. I characteri ze people. I draw Americana, but not his Americana. Instead of drawing a boy and girl shar ing a milkshake, he might depict them at a car show (3). Therefore, Gonzales argues that his Homies are not about acceptability by a mainstream culture or about acceptability for thos e he feels have sold out their culture. He does articulate a desire to capture and capitalize on a sense of the American culture he believes Chicanos and Latinos are growing up a part of; however, we have to recognize the complicated nature of the representation of Ho mies and the complicated nature of the responses to his cultural product. What Gonzales makes an effort to impa rt in his figurines, which are ambiguously articulated through difference, are words of wisdom in his description of these characters. As he argues on his website: the goal is to make the public understand that gangs are only a sm all part of the barrio and not the essence of it. Through the storylines we want to educate the public about the difference between hardcore gangsters and the Homies overall. It would be an opportunity to use these characters that do exist in our co mmunities in situations where we can get an anti-gang message across to our young viewers. I am uncertain as to whether Gonzales ever really fully actualizes or achiev es his goal, especially if his presumed audience are not reading these narratives, but simply collecting the figurines. Additionally, Gonzales never seems to explain the difference between Homie gang members and real gang members (which he articulates a diffe rence for). Therefore, the distinction and its promise of change may never be fully articulated.

PAGE 177

177 Women in Trouble: Abused, Used and Crui sed in a Patriarchal World of Homies. Para Un Revolucionario (1975) [For a Revolutionay] You speak of art And your soul is like snow, A soft powder raining from your Mouth, Covering my breasts and hair. You speak of your love of mountains, Freedom, And your love for a sun Whose warmth is like una liberacin Pouring down upon brown bodies. Your books are of the souls of men, Carnales with a spirit That no army, pig or cuidad Could ever conquer. You speak of a new way, A new life. When you speak like this I could listen forever. Pero your choice is lost to me, carnal In the wail of tus hijos In the clatter of dishes And the pucker of beans upon the stove. Your conversations come to me De la sala where you sit, Spreading your dreams to brothers Where you spread that dream like damp clover For them to trod upon. When I stand here teaching Para ti con manos bronces that spring From mi espiritu (for I too am raza) Pero it seems I can only touch you With my body, You lie with me And my body es la hamaca That sans the void between us.

PAGE 178

178 Hermano raza I am afraid that you will lie with me And awaken too late To find that you have fallen And my hands will be left groping For you and your dream In the midst of la revoluci n Lorna Dee Cervantes (1975)28 This Lorna Dee Cervantes poem I cite above, written slightly afte r the height of the Chicano movement when radicalized Latinas were beginning to come into their own, illustrates an important concern for Chicanas, who felt deni ed and negated by a movement that promised social, political and economic prosperity fo r Chicanos/as everywhere For Cervantes, her frustration stems from the expectations Chicanos had for Chicanas. As she tells us, Chicanos sat in their living rooms, planning revolutions, wh ile the Chicanas worked in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning. For Cervantes, Chicanos appear to sweat everyday, protes ting for their rights and at night they come for comf ort in the arms of their Chicanas, whose bodies become a metaphorical space for conquering the battlegrou nd they are struggling with outside. The Chicanas place becomes a symbolic one, where her purpose is to create and build up her Chicano man in the private world so that he can exist in the public world. However, even as Cervantes forgotten woman cooks, cleans and serves up her body for the Chicano man, she hopes and desires that he will include her in the public struggle for representation. She fears however, that the raza which now becomes code for the male pa triarchal system, will fail to give her voice. 28 A translation of the terms within the poem are as follows: una liberacin (one liberation), cuidad (city), Pero (however), carnal (sexual) tus hijos (your children), De la sala (from the living room), Para ti con manos bronces (For you with bronze hands), mi espiritu (my spirit), Hermano raza (brother race), revolucin (revolution).

PAGE 179

179 The struggle which Cervantes explains in her poem, is one felt by many Chicanas, both in days past and in the present. A ccording to Alma M. Garcia in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings although the Chicano movement--an insurgent uprising among a new political generation of Mexican-A mericans--challenged persistent pa tterns of societal inequality in the United States, it ignited a political deba te between Chicanas and Chicanos based on the internal gender contradictions prevalent within El Movimiento (1). What Garcia explains is how Chicanas felt oppressed and confined by a moveme nt which was willing to struggle for Chicano independence, but who felt womans place was in the home. In fact, according to Garcia, there was an ideal woman created in the ideologica l minds of Chicano men. For them, the ideal woman was Inspired by a cultural nationalism that indiscriminately equated Chicano cultural survival with the glorification of traditional gender roles for Chicanas. Thus, Chicano cultural nationalist praised the Ideal Wo man of El Movimiento for re presenting strong, long-suffering women who endured social injustice, maintained the family as a safe haven in a heartless world for their families, and, as a result, assure d the survival of Chicano culture. (6) It is in David Gonzaless miniature world of Homies that we stil l see the significance of Cervantes poem and Garcias comments. Even though I argue that Gonzales gives us the possibility of engaging with the Homies in positive racial/ethnic/ cultural ways, his ways are still embedded within a patriarchal discourse, which often silences women or makes them objects of male discourse and struggle. The role of the Ch icana/Latina, in his world, is the same Latina struggling in the real world for an active discour se of her own. In his world, women are highly sexualized (Bouncy, Gata, Lola, Mamasota, Sly Girl Shorty, and Right Eye are all described in their narratives by their physical features), wo men are strong mammy or mother figures (Baby Mama, Nurse Nena, and Abuelita) and/or are l ong-suffering women waiting for their men to do

PAGE 180

180 something or anything (Baby Mama and Nurse are both framed by this discourse and the discourse above). Anna Nieto Gomez states in La Chicana-Legacy of Suffering and Self-Denial in Chicano history Chicanas were: three basic images of women as virgin, woman as wife and woman as mother, all of which reinforce social, psychol ogical and economic depende ncy for womenindependence became synonymous with being out of control. For a woman to act out su libertad [her freedom] her independence was believed to lead to whoredom, the negative alternative. (49) Therefore, in Gonzaless world, woman seem pa ssive, while men seem active and while some of the women of his world do work and actively engage in struggle, many Homie women are constantly framed by the discourse of men and thei r expectations and desires. They are always objects of male desire and theref ore never subjects of their own di scourse. After all, it is Nurse Nena who spent years taking care of her man a nd her children and it is Baby Mama who has been left alone with a set of twins to raise. Gonzales positions most of his Homie female figurines as always there when they are needed to provide support, love and care for th eir Chicano/Latino men, but never as subjects of their own emotional needs or desire s. Most are described as perfect girlfriends or perfect friends who are wrapped emotionally around the desire s of men. For example, Baby Doll is defined simply as the perfect girlfriend in her narrative, st aying true to her lover Paz. Gata is defined as only having eyes for Hollywood and is constantly buying him gifts and talk ing about him. (She is additionally framed within the narrative as nav e about his true intentio ns and therefore nave about the world). In her case, her family has re peatedly warned her of his playboy tendencies; yet, she constantly returns to him. Additionally, Gonzales frames many of his Homie girls as cap able of breaking a man down emotionally and spiritually. Borriqua is P-Ricos love and yet, Gonzal es tells us she flirts with a lot of Homeboys behind his back. Bouncy, Gonzales tells us is desired by Pelon, never gives

PAGE 181

181 him any play. She just uses him. As such, Gonzal es frames her as a bad girl who loves being bad. Bruja seems to ensnare men through witchcra ft. Gonzales never really frames his Homie women as independent, strong, and ca pable of standing alone or with their female counterparts in an active social and political discourse necessary for a strong necessary representation. When he does articulate possibility for his female Homie ch aracters, he does so in such a way that negates or effaces their struggle by framing it around thei r emotional abuse by men. In other words, it is only after they have been abused by men and thei r desires that they manage to break free from their abuse and achieve some notion of succe ss, for example, in Nurse Nenas case. In fact, even those female characters that s eem to have a level of success outside of being framed as abuse victims seem to be negated by their physicality or thei r complicated narratives. Gonzales frames their success through the discou rse of sexuality, suggesting a positioning which negates their intelligence or determination. As Elizabeth Martinez tells us is La Chicana , femininity is turned into capitalist consumerism. Her wo manhood is channeled into buying clothes and make-up (33). At the same time, hi s positioning them as sexualized, allows for the male privileged gaze to construct and negate them ideologically as bad women who threaten to bring down the good Chicano man. As Bernice Rincon states: the image of the mala mujer-the bad womanis almost always accompanied by the ideal of aggressive activity. She is not passi ve like the self-denyi ng mother,; the waiting sweetheart, the hermetic idol; she comes a nd goes, she looks for men and then leaves themThe mala is hard and impious a nd independent like the macho. (33) These figures become part of a visualized di scourse and not linguistic one. Their bodies, as overtly promiscuous or overtly displayed, are positioned as a way to control them in a more political discourse. In fact, Gonzales has even created a pin-up calendar for his female Homie figurines, that display th em in far greater sexualized positions than the narratives (and pictures which are attached to such narratives) themselves This pin-up calendar me rely serves to further

PAGE 182

182 negate any agency on the part of Chicanas/Latin as in Homies patriarchal designed society. And if we further examine the narratives attached to these Chicana/Latina Homies, we find that Gonzalez women are silenced by his perpetua tion of them as sexual and not political. For example, one female Homie named Bubbles who is shown, wearing a tight, short red dress with red heels, is appa rently a successful marketing manager for a rapidly growing toy company and yet, her outfit leans more toward a suggestion of success on the streets. Another such character is Mija is presented as smart e nough to attend college, but is dressed in a short, tight, leather skirt and a tight tu rtleneck. Sly Girl, who is initially presented as smart, as she attends community college and plans to be a personal injury lawyer is negated by being identified as manipulative and selfish, only concerned with herself and not the community. As Gonzales tells us, she finds it easy to get what she wants. She manipulates her friends to get it for her. You seeshe doesnt want to change he r community or help the other Homiesshe just wants to get paid. For now she uses her sly skills to get gifts, cl othes, jewelry, boyfriends, even a car. Ultimately, their successe s seem overshadowed by their se xuality or their framing as selfish bad women. By contrast, the Chicano/La tino Homie figure is seen through his virility and strength. There is a valo rization of manhood in his Homies which seems tied into the Chicano rhetoric of the Zoot Suit movement of the 1930s and 1940s and the Chicano movements of the 1960s and 1970s. One way in which to mystify the female fi gure is by imbuing that figure with a highly sexualized personality and for Gonzales, the hi ghly sexualized woman is almost every woman we come across in the narratives. With the excepti on of the mother or the nun, almost the entire

PAGE 183

183 collection of women (no matter what their level of success) falls into this sexualized persona29. However, most of the women are dressed in rev ealing outfits, which emphasis curvy figures and accentuates the figure. Most are positioned, by the narratives, as being hot, sexy, beautiful, and bad. Bouncy is sexy in a nasty ki nd of way. Shorty is describes as a hot little club babeshe sports a brick house body. While not too bright up stairs, she knows how to dress. Shorty sleeps around a lot, but only because she falls deeply in love with ev ery cute guy she meets. Yet another female Homie, identified as Right Eye, is described as a party girl who comes from an abusive background and has a negative view of men in her life. She is further represented as a bad mother who neglects her kid and leaves parties with different men each time. There is no mention of the father in her narrative and no connection between her abuse and the possibility that the abuse is the reason for her promiscuity. What is signifi cant is how she is framed as a woman of infinite and uncontrolla ble desire and as such, needs to be reined in or controlled. Finally, Lola is our most definiti vely sexualized Homie, as she is the most skimpily dressed ad is considered to be the tramp of the town, sleeping with a number of Homies, despite the fact that they may be attached to one of her friends. Ultimately, Gonzales fr ames his Homie females within the gaze as a male object of desire and never subjects within their own right. Finally, Homie female characters are often re presented as fighting against each other, sacrificing a significant aspect of female bondi ng, over the men in their lives. In Gonzaless world, they are positioned in ways to let the Ho mie men in their lives ta ke advantage of them, even going as far as being positioned as abused and used for the satisfaction of male privilege. 29 Those not overtly sexualized (Nena or Baby Mama) are almost inevitably framed by their abuse at the hands of their men. And those who are not pa rticularly sexualized are further framed negatively by his referring to them as prudish or into girls.

PAGE 184

184 As Anna Nieto Gomez argues, male supremacy dictates that women depend on men. Therefore women must compete with other women towards developing their economic futures for Finally, Gonzaless female characters are better jobs, rich husbands, or poor husbands (98). Again, this privileges male discourse above anything else. Ultimately, these gendered ethnic figures are problematic for Chicanas and Latinas who are actively searching for ways to create and part icipate in Chicano/Latino discourse. I will admit a certain amount of ambiguity in my desire to like these representations, because in a very important way, these dolls do look like me. Ho wever, in the Homie world, even though the women are pretty and desirable, they lack a ce rtain level of substance; the are girlfriends, mothers and desired objects whereas men are stro ng and capable, fighters and lovers. And this is a discourse I resist. So although I argue that Homies represent a possi ble ethnic/racial/class perspective, there is an ambiguity in the repres entations they offered a gendered perspective. Positive or Negative: Homies Live On. Look up Homies online and you will see hundreds of websites and chat rooms dedicated to their discussion. Picking a random website, I found the number of responses which seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the Homies, as either toys or collectibles; a real reason for the appreciation of those toys fell on the idea that the toys were ju st like them in ethnicity, looks, desires, backgrounds and history. La lazy, who says she is 15, states: I LOVE THE HOMIES, THEY ARE THYE BOMB. THEY REPR ESENT MY RAZA, BROWN PRIDEI HAVE MY OWN LITTL E HOMIE SECTION IN MY ROOM WHERE I PUT ALL THE POSTERS, AND ST ICKERS UP IN THE WALLS AND THE LITTLE FIGURES. MUCH LOVE TO DA VE GONZALES. I LOVE YOU AND THE HOMIES. KEEP DOING YOUR THING!. .SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY GENTE (THE BROWN). (6) At the same time however, I saw a few who critici zed these figurines. As one online chat room participant, HomieHater! States, I just want to say that homies are a disgrace to the Mexican

PAGE 185

185 culture! For crying out loud, Mr. Gonzales, u r a racist. Th at is the reason everyone hates Mexicans (1). The rest of HomieH atera diatribe is a bit angry to say the least and allows us to understand that not everyone is examining the Ho mies and finding positive representations in their images. What is ultimately significant a bout the articulation and usage of Homies is the personal, cultural and political stakes i nvolved. Homies are bot h resistant to dominant culture in their possibilities of engaging with a pan-Latinidad imagination, but th ey also complicate dominant narratives by subsuming them under an Ameri can Dream. Moreover, Homies may promote a positive male discourse, but often leaves female subjectivity negated or effaced. And with the advent of more and more transcendent or confla ted (like Bratz or ethnic Barbies slightly less ethnic then perpetuated) based t oys and collectibles with univer sal appeal, is it important to examine Homies as part of a loving Latinos product? I remember long ago a controversy surrounding two network televisi on shows running at the same time. One of the shows, The Cosby Show was controversial because people felt that the representation offered by the show (a black middl e-class family) was unrealistic. What critics and spectators argued was that the show was me rely a more palatable and easy to swallow version of African-American identi ty, one whereby the family was tr ying its best to achieve the American Dream by becoming white middle cla ss blacks. At the same time, in 1999, a new show executive produced by Eddie Murphy was in troduced to network television on the WB, a traditionally white network station which specializ es in marketing to young, hip, white kids. The P.Js which focused on the story of chief superi ntendent of a housing project in the ghetto, became equally, if not more, controversial. African-Americans fe lt torn between two representations which never fully articul ated their individua l ethnic realities.

PAGE 186

186 So, where does the middle ground lie between the two representations? Can any one representation offer enough agency a nd subjectivity for people alwa ys articulated by difference? The answer may simply be no. But the ambigu ity between those who find representation and those who do not needs to be examined. Ultim ately, David Gonzales and his Homies offer possibility and in that possibili ty, an articulation of possible re presentation. Homies should not be (as neither of the shows above should either ) about homogenizing expe rience. As Rosa Linda Fregoso says, there is no Chicano core-essen ce, awaiting that inward journay of discovery, without a language or codes ( 671). Therefore, I argue not ever yone has to think the Homies represent Chicano/Latino realities to understand they may represent some.

PAGE 187

187 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION: THE BEST LATINO FILM EVER MADE IS SPY KIDS Feminist and cultural studies th eory have pointed out that the personal is political. As Stuart Hall states, one key example is the fe minist slogan the pers onal is political which sought to put a range of questi ons about personal identity, pe rsonal lives and personal conduct onto an explicitly political age nda (224). And in this work, I ha ve made it a point to make the personal the political, for it is in that space that I and we, as Latinas, articulate our desires and gain a sense of agency and subjectivity which ma y lead to political and social representation. A voice which is active is a voice that is heard. Too many times, as Latinas, we are silenced by the dominant discourse that surrounds us, as is ev ident in my discussion of the invisibility of Chicanas/Latinas as maids, as reconfigured mammies and as underrepresented in the Homies world. Therefore, in writing this work and in speaking to others, I hope to put a face to the images which threaten to erase us. I hope that by examining my responses and the responses of other Chicanas/os and Latinas/os, I can articulate that we are indeed part of the global discourse and that we are indeed talki ng back and taking back. Though we may not have the power to change things in the production as pect of images of ourselves (and I do hope that we slowly gain this power) I hope that this proj ect shows that we ar e critically engaging with the images and representations of ourselves in popular culture; and ar guing that those images do not define us, we must define them. At the beginning of this wor k, I quoted bell hooks in her text black looks: race and representation: From what critical perspective do we dream, l ook, create, and take action? For those of us who dare to desire differently, who seek to look away from the conventional ways of seeing blackness and ourselves, the issue of r ace and representation is not just a question of critiquing the status quo. It is also about transforming the image, creating alternatives, asking ourselves questions about what types of images subvert, pose critical alternatives,

PAGE 188

188 and transform our worldviews and move us from dualistic thinking about good and bad. (4) And this project serves to ask those questi ons and posit answers to them. Although I do not proclaim to speak for all Chicanas or Latinas when I engage with these an swers, I hope that the examinations of the ways in which Chicanas/Latin as continue to be effaced, allows us to think about ourselves as part of the cultural context. I h ope that there is a possibility that we will learn to create alternatives or subvert the ways in which we look at the images. I hope then, that it will be possible to go to a conference and as k the person who asks me about Jennifer Lopez and her butt, her tan, her films and her men, Why do you want me to look at Jennifer Lopez? or more importantly What do you have to gain by my response?. I hope that their answers betray what they might fear more, t hose Latinos/Chicanos/Puerto Ricans or Mexicans/Hispanics/Cubans and more are here, bot h visually and more importantly socially and politically represented. After all is said and done, I wondered what I thought was a show, a film; an image that best represented Latinos today. I thought about the many images I have seen throughout the years and the conversations I have had with family, friends, and colleagues about what I considered negative representations And the truth is, there are ma ny things I like. I may have a problem with the way in which Jennifer Lopez represents Latinas in Maid in Manhattan but I love her representation of a Latina (there is no specific ethnic-Puerto Rican etc.-reference for her in the film, but she does speak Spanish) FBI agent in Out of Sight I may not like Rosario as a maid in Will & Grace but I love the way she makes Kare n look a bit foolis h and the way she talks back. The film Girlfight directed by Karen Kusama, which follows the story of a Latina girl who lives in the ghetto and struggles to escape the ghetto with a ca reer in boxing. The film does some interesting camera work which e ngages with Laura Mulveys gaze in some

PAGE 189

189 interesting ways which allow for some fascinati ng representation and agency for Latinas. And as I mentioned before, I like new images which have begun to crop up in television shows; for example, Nurse Carla in Scrubs is indicative of a strong represen tational character. She is hardworking, dedicated, funny, and capable. I even like the George Lopez show on television. However, considering the amount of television I watch (I am a Cultural St udies theorist) I am surprised there is not more and this attests to the reality that there are not many Latino based programs, nor visual represen tations of Latinos themselves in nighttime television. From 2002, briefly on CBS and then relocate d to PBS, there wa s a television show named American Family starring one of my fa vorite Latino actors, Edward James Olmos and directed by one of very few Mexi can directors, Gregory Nava, who had also directed such films as El Norte and Selena American Family was the story of a man na med Jess Gonzalez, who is described as the average father, who is forced to fight everyday troubles, after the death of his wife. I remembered that I was initially excited by the show; after all, there were not many shows which actively spoke to the experiences of Chica nos/Latinos in television. Most shows had one ethnic character, sometimes a Chicano or Latino who was part of an ensemble. I remembered that when I finally saw the show, I hated it. And the reasons why where complicated indeed. One of the main reasons I so disliked the show was th at I felt the show was all about being Latino. Let me explain. I did not wa nt the show to tell me everyday that these were Latinos who were living in the United States. It made me f eel like we were always on the outside of the normal discourse. I wanted to be inside of it. Therefore, I was bothered by the daily lessons about Mexicans trying to achieve the American Dream. The concept of the American Dream itself was problematic, because as I mentioned with David Gonzales and his Homies, did the narrative threaten to become part of an assimilation driven discourse?

PAGE 190

190 Additionally, I was somewhat bothered by the daily Mexican history lesso ns the show made a point of providing for me. I felt th at the lessons were more about teaching white spectators about who Mexicans were then simply telling a story about a family and their problems. After all, Anglos shows and films did not have to teach us about being white? This is where the ambiguity of representation becomes complicated. I argued previously, that as a Puerto Rican Latina woman, I could use the rhetoric of commonality, between myself and Mexicans, in orde r to find social and political representation, but I was unable to do so when I saw this show. Why not? The truth is that ultimately my history is not their history. My life is not their life. My story is not thei r story. Does this mean that I cannot find some common middle ground? No. It simply means that I have to ferret out what I like or dislike about the represen tations of Latinos/as in the cultural discourse. Therefore, I am almost always in the process of dividing my self between the gendered, the ethnic, and the classed position. I have to position myself in such a way as to constantly negotiate my positions of identity and find the gaps and fissures which allow me to have representation. It is not a simple process, but it is the purpos e of this project. I did not like American Family and therefore I did not continue to watch it. Maybe one day, I will take the time to watch both seasons (I ask myself whether the fact that it did not last a long time indicates a problem for either Latinos/Chicanos or mainstream dominant culture) and engage more with the images, narratives and possible representations. So, what do I think is a good representation? People may think it is a bit odd that I say this, but the one popular culture image I li ke the best is a family film called Spy Kids directed by Robert Rodrguez, who also directed El Mariachi and Desperado Because I feel like Spy Kids did one thing that other films, television shows, music and more do not often do. They made

PAGE 191

191 Latino the norm. The story was not framed as a Latino family trying to achieve the American Dream and it was not about trying to escape the barrio and it was not about Latinos who move into the middle class and the struggles to become a part of that lifesty le. This film was about international spies, who just happen to be Latino And there were subtle references to that ethnicity that did not teach white spectators who and what Latinos are and were; they simply were who they were. But there was enough in the f ilm that Latinos felt they were represented. This film makes them a part of the societ y and therefore a part of the discourse. In Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion and Resistance Charles Ramrez Berg argues that there are ways in which Hollyw ood can portray Latinos without stereotype. Additionally, he makes the case th at there are ways in which La tinos can portray themselvesthrough acting, directing, or writ ing-in more positive ways. As he argues, there are five categories of films that featur e Latino counter-stereotypes; those that were conflicted, partly stereotypical and partly progressive those that departed from the dominant film making paradigm, sometimes simply by casting Latino actors to play Latinos those that were ideo logically oppositional those in which Latino actors subverted stereotypes; and, finally and most recently those made by Latino filmmakers whose project was overtly, or in the case of filmmakers like Cheech Marin and Robert Rodrguez in El Mariachi, covertly, to counter Hollywood pattern of Latino imagery (78) Therefore, I would like to briefly talk about so me of the above, in connection with the film Spy Kids and my argument that it is the best Latino film ever made. First, this film which purports to be about spies, who happen to be Latino, includes a partially Latino cast. (The story is about a man on one side of the international spy world who is Latino who marries an Anglo woman from the other side of the internati onal spy world; therefore, there kids are intermixed.) For the

PAGE 192

192 character of the father, we have Antonio Bandera s, who is from Spain and Alexis Vega as the daughter, who is half Columbian in real life. Additionally, we have Mexican actor Cheech Marin who plays a friend of the family and Mexican actor Danny Trejo (a cousin of Robert Rodrguez) who plays the fathers brother in the film. Ther e are other characters in the background which are also Latino, from the cross walk lady to the Priest which marries them and further to the kids we see both in the school and when they are on the r un. Moreover, it is interes ting to note that the enemies of the film happen to be Anglos. Second this film does seem to be progressive. After all, this is about a su ccessful family of spies who manage to bring down the bad guys and they do so by their smarts and their abil ity to strengthen the family bonds including bringing the brother back into the fold after a disagreeme nt which initially separated them. At the same time, I believe that Rodrguez as the director subtly includes Latino products, language and culture in the film without overtly situating it as a lesson to be learned about Latino culture. As he tell s us about the film in Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion and Resistance it could easily be an Anglocized, Home Alone-type movie, but anyone who has watched it so far really notices the colors and th e flavor and the feel (q td. in Berg 245). And I find this to be true. For example, when the daughter Carmen Cortez has to get in a secret doorway, the door asks for her name, when she does so by saying Carmen Cortez, the door asks her for her full name, in which she re plies, Carmen Elizabeth Juanita Cost-Brava Cortez. This indicates a desire on Rodrgue zs part to incorporate the importance and significance of naming in historical Chicano and Latino cultures to include the fathers family, as well as the mothers family. Additionally, in the background of the filmalthough always in the periphery of spectators vision are billboards a nd advertisements in Spanish. And there is so much more, from Day of the Dead statues which line the top of the wedding cake, to

PAGE 193

193 Chicano/Spanish/Latino murals, paintings and sculptures which fill their Spanish-themed hacienda and further to the Spanish-themed music always playing in the background. And the film never directly shows us where they live; th erefore, I feel there is no conflicted ideal here about an ethnic family living in a white-subur ban neighborhood, who throws off the normalized structure of the suburbs with their difference. It simply makes the difference a reality. Moreover, there are ladies at the crossw alk who say Pare, Pare, inst ead of Stop, Stop and Spanish themed dinners. Ultimately, I will say this; this film and the representations within are what I consider ones that not only make Chicanos/Latinos part of the di scourse; they make it seem as if we were always there to begin with.

PAGE 194

194 LIST OF REFERENCES Will & Grace NBC. 15 May 2003. Almita. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Anj. Online Posting. 23 Oct. 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Anonymous. A stupidity of a m ovie. Online Posting. 29 Oct. 2002. OFFOFFOFF film 25 July 2006 Anonymous. Online Posting. Will & Grace: Maid Arrested in L.A. Yahoo!News 26 April 03. 30 April 2003 Anderson, Talmadge. Comparative Experi ence Factors among Blacks, Asian, and Hispanic Americans: Coalitions or Conflicts? Journal of Black Studies 23 (Sept. 1992): 27. Anzalda, Gloria and Cherre Moraga eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Berkeley, Califronia: Th ird Women Press, 1984. Baby Doll. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Balmaseda, Liz. Dame Edna overkill. Online Posting. 17 Feb. 2003. March 2003 Issue Fourm. 1 July 2006. The Banger Sisters Dir. Bob Dolman. Perf. Susa n Sarandon and Goldie Hawn. 20th Century Fox, 2002. Bartnett, Katherine E. Destructive and C onstructive Characterizations of Women in Disneys Mulan. Race/Gender/Media: Consideri ng Diversity Across Audiences, Content and Producers. Ed. Rebecca Ann Lind. Boston and New York: Pearson, 2004. Berardinelli, James. Rev. of Real Women Have Curves dir. Patricia Cardoso. Moviereviews.colussus.net 18 Oct. 2002. 25 July 2006. Berg, Charles Ramirez. Latino Images in Film: Stereo types, Subversion, Resistance Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

PAGE 195

195 Bignell, Jonathan. Where is Action mans Penis? Determinations of Gender and the Bodies of Toys. Intermediate Bodies Eds. Naomi Segal, Lib Taylor and Roger Cook. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2003. Big Trouble Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld. Perf. Tim A llen and Sofia Vergara. Touchstone Pictures, 2002. Billings, Andrew C. Portraying Tiger Woods: Ch aracterizations of a Black Athlete in a White Sport Howard Journal of Communication 14 (2003): 29. Abstract. 25 July 2006 . Bobo, Jacqueline. Black Women as Cultural Readers New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Boudu Sauv des Eaux Dr. Jean Renoir. Perf. Mich el Simon, Jean Gehret, and Svrine Lerczinska. Crdit Cinmat ographique Franais, 1932. Brown, Bill ed. Things Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2004. Canton, New York. City-Data.com July 2005 30 Jan. 2006. Cecilia. Re: this sucks. Online Posting. 20 April 2003. OFFOFFOFF film 25 July 2006 < http://www.offoffoff.com/f ilm/2002/realwomenhavecurves.php3 > Chang, Grace. Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press, 2000. Chabram-Dernersesian, Angie. I Throw Punches for My Race, but I Dont Want to Be a Man: Writing Us-Chica-nos (Girl, Us) / Chicanas-into the Movement Script. Cultural Studies Eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler. New York: Routledge, 1992. Clark, Kendall. Whiteprivilege.com Vanity Fair Editors Apologize. 6 March 2003 Clueless Dir. Amy Heckerling. Perf. Alicia Silv erstone and Aida Li nares. Paramount Pictures, 1995. Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism New York: Routledge, 2004. Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Perf. Sandra Bullock and Yomi Perry. Bulls Eye Entertainment, 2004.

PAGE 196

196 Dame Edna. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia 1 July 2006. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dame_Edna > Daniels, Henry Douglas. Los Angeles Zoot : Race Riot, the Pachuco, and Black Music Culture. The Journal of Afri can American History 87 (Winter 2002): 98. Dear Delores. Desperately Seeking Maid. Column. Latina (March 2006) 48. Del Rio, Eduardo. The Prentice Hall Anthology of Latino Literature New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002. Dill, Bonnie Thornton. Our Mothers Grief: Racial Ethn ic Women and the Maintenance of Families. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press, 1986. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Dir. Callie Knouri. Perf. Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd, and Leslie Silva. All Girl Productions, 2002. Down and Out in Beverly Hills Dir. Paul Mazursky. Perf Richard Dreyfess, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte. T ouchstone Pictures, 1986. DuCille, Ann. Dyes and dolls: Multicultu ral Barbie and the Merchandising of Difference. differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6 (Spring 1994): 46. Dudden, Faye E. Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth Century America Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1983. Dyer, Richard. White London and New York: Routledge, 1997. Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Real Women Have Curves dir. Patricia Cardoso. rogerebertsuntimes.com 25 Oct. 2002. 25 July 2006. < http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20021025/REVIEWS/ 210250310/1023> Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Spanglish dir. James L. Brooks. rogerebertsuntimes.com 17 Dec. 2004. 25 July 2006. < http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041216/REVIEWS/ 41201005/1023 > Editors. Our open le tter to Hollywood. Latina (Oct. 2005): 152. Entman Robert M. and Andrew Rojecki. The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America. Chicago and London: The Univer sity of Chicago Press, 2000. Faros. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp >

PAGE 197

197 Fernando. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Flores, Juan. From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Fregoso, Linda Rosa. The Representation of Cultural Identity in Zoot Suit (1981). Theory and Society 22:5 (Oct. 1993) 659. Fry, Richard. High School Dropout Rates for Latino Y outh. ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education. Nov. 2003. 27 June 2006 Fuller, Lorraine. Are We Seeing Things? The Pinesol Lady and the Ghost of Aunt Jemima. Journal of Black Studies 32 (Sept. 2001): 120. G, Erin. Dont Believe the Hype. Online Posting. 24 Oct. 2002. OFFOFFOFF film 25 July 2006 < http://www.offoffoff.com/film/ 2002/realwomenhavecurves.php3 > Gabbard, Krin. Black Magic: White Hollyw ood and African American Culture New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Garcia, Alma A. Introduction. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings Ed. Alma M. Garca. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. Giovanny aka B-Boy. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Goings, Kenneth W. Mammy and Uncle Mose: Black Collectibles and American Stereotyping. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Gone with the Wind Dir. Victor Fleming. Perf. Vi vien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939. Gonzalez, Juan. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Habell-Palln, Michelle and Mary Romero eds. Introduction. Latino/a Popular Culture New York and London: New York University Press, 2002. Hadley, Elizabeth Freyberg. Sapphires, Spitfires, Sluts, and Superbitches: Afraamericans and Latinas in Contemporary American Film. Black women in America Ed. Kim Marie Vaz. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1995. Hall, Stuart. Encoding/Decoding. Popular Culture: Production and Consumption. Eds. C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

PAGE 198

198 and Paul Du Gay eds. Questions of Cultural Identity London and Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996. ed. Representation: Cultural Repres entations and Signifying Practices London and Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997. Halter, Marilyn. Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity New York: Schocken Books, 2000. Harris-Lopez, Trudier. From Mammies to Militants: Domestics in Black American Literature Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982. Hayek, Salma. Letter. Vanity Fair. (Feb. 2003): 146. Heilma, Jeremy. Rev. of Real Women Have Curves dir. Patricia Cardoso. moviemartyr.com 28 March 2002. 25 July 2006 Hes Come Undone. Will & Grace NBC. 08 Feb. 2000. Highway City, Fresno Dog. Online Posting. 24 Nov. 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Holloway, Joseph E. Africa-American Names. Slavery in America 25 July 2006. < http://www.slaveryinamerica.or g/history/hs_es_names.htm > Homiehater. Online Posting. 3 July 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Homies. 2005. 30 Jan. 2006. Hooks, Bell. Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1990. Black Looks: Race and Representation Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992. Humphries, Barry. Ask Dame Edna. Column. Vanity Fair (Feb. 2003): 116. Husbands and Trophy Wives. Will & Grace NBC.19 Oct. 2000. Imdb.com 1990 The International M ovie Database. 1 July 2006 . Imitation of Life Dr. John M. Stahl. Perf. Claude tte Colbert and Louise Beavers. Videocassette. Univer sal Pictures, 1934. I Never Promised You an Olive Garden. Will & Grace NBC. 14 Dec. 1999.

PAGE 199

199 Iverem, Esther. Talking Show Mammies? SeeingBlack.com 4 Jan. 2004 21 Sept. 2005 Jackson, Carlton. Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel Lanham: Madison Books, 1990. Jesse. This sucks. Online Posting. 7 Oct. 2002. OFFOFFOFF film 25 July 2006 < http://www.offoffoff.com/film/ 2002/realwomenhavecurves.php3 > Jewell, K. Sue. From Mammy to Miss America and Beyond: Cultural Images and the Shaping of US Social Policy. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Kael, Pauline. The Current Cinema: White and Gray. The New Yorker 61 (1986): 105 110. Katzman, David. Seven Days a Week Women and Dome stic Service in Industrializing America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. Keller, Gary D. Chicano Cinema: Research, Reviews, and Resources New York: Bilingual Review/Press, 1985. Kennedy, Randall. Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word New York: Pantheon Books, 2002. Keveny, Bill. Prime Time for Latinos on T.V. Puerto Rico Herald 26 Aug. 2001 08 08 2006 Kline, Stephen. Out of the Garden: Toys, TV, and Ch ildren's Culture in the Age of Marketing. London: New York: Verso, 1993. Kopkind, Andrew. Films: Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The Nation (1986): 251 252. Kousha, Mahnaz. Race, Class, and Intimacy in Southern Households: Relationships between Black Domestic Work ers and White Employers. Neither Separate nor Equal: Women, Race, and Class in the South Ed. Barbara Ellen Smith. Temple, University Press, 1999. Lady Joker. Online Posting. 26 June 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > La Lazy. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Lile. Online Posting. 17 May 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp >

PAGE 200

200 Loudenback, Jeremy. Miniature Mayhem: An Interview with David Gonzales, Creator of the Homies. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration Sept. 2003 30 Jan. 2005 Longhurst, Brian, Scott McCraken, Miles O gburn, Greg Smith and Elaine Baldwin. Introducing Cultural Studies Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999. Lopez, Adriana. The Media Takes on Hispanics. SLJ.com 1 April 2003. 1 July 2006. < http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/inde x.asp?layout=article &display=criticas& articleid=CA291569&pubdate=4/1/03 > Lorde, Audre. Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984. Macias, Chris. Mijos Mania: Little Latino figurines blast out of barrio into the mall. Sacramento Bee. 01 Oct. 2004. Redding.com 10 Jan. 2005 < http://www.reddingemployment.com/newsarchive/20041001cu005.shtml > Maid in Manhattan Dir. Wayne Wang. Perf. Jennife r Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. Columbia Pictures, 2002. Manners, Tim. Cool news of the Day. Reveries: Magazine 1 May 2003. 01 March 2004. Marquez, Myriam. Hey, Amigos: Chill About Dame Edna. Puerto Rico Herald 13 Feb. 2003 1 July 2006 Martinez, Elizabeth. La Chicana. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings Ed. Alma M. Garca. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. McKenna, Teresa. Intersections of Race, Class and Gender: The Feminist Pedagogical Challenge. Pacific Coast Philology 25 (Nov. 1990): 31. Monster-In-Law Dir. Robert Luketic. Perf. Ja ne Fonda, Wanda Sykes and Jennifer Lopez. New Line Cinema, 2005. Montgomery, Elvin. Collecting African American Histor y: A Celebration of America's Black Heritage through Documents, Artifacts, and Collectibles New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2001. Morgan, Janice. From Clochards to Cappucci nos: Renoirs Boudu is Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Cinema Journal 29 (1990): 23. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye New York: Plume Book, 1994. Playing in the Dark: Whitene ss and the Literary Imagination Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

PAGE 201

201 Motley, Carol, Geraldine R. Henderson, and St acey Menzel Baker. Exploring Collective Memories Associated with African Am erican Advertising Memorabilia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Journal of Advertising 32 (March 2003): 47. Mr. Monk takes a Vacation. Monk USA Network. USA 15, Po tsdam. 20 Sept. 2002. Navarro, Mireya. Trying To Get Beyond the Role of the Maid. The New York Times 16 May 2002. 07 July 2006 "A new Barbie in Puerto Rico divides isla nd and mainland: Mattel Inc.'s new Puerto Rican Barbie doll insults some Puerto Ricans." The New York Times 147 (Dec 27, 1997): A1(N) pA1(L). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. University of Florida. 10 Aug. 2006 . Negrn-Muntaner, Frances. Jennifers Butt. Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2004. Barbies Hair: Selling Out Puerto Ri can Identity in the Global Market. Boricua pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2004. Nelson, Pamela A. Toys as History: Ethnic Images and Cultural Change. Ebony 47:2 (Dec. 1991): 23. Nieto Gomez, Anna. La Chicana-Leg acy of Suffering and Self-Denial. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basi c Historical Writings Ed. Alma M. Garca. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. Object of My Rejection. Will & Grace NBC. 15 May 1999. Paula. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Peck, Janice. Talk about Racism: Framing a Popular Discourse of Race on Oprah Winfrey. Cultural Critique (Spring 1994): 89. Prez-Torres, Rafael. Movements in Chicano Poetry: Ag ainst Myths: Against Margins New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Price, Melinda. I Aintch Yo Mamma: Th e Mammy Myth Unveiled. Seniors Thesis Project. University of the Pacific, 2002. Proshcan, Frank. we are all Kmhmu, just the same: Ethnonyms, Et hnic Identities, and Ethnic Groups. American Ethnologist 24 (1997): 91.

PAGE 202

202 Puig, Claudia. Actress, 18, is ahead of the curve with Real Women. USA Today 18 Oct. 2000: E2. Real Women Have Curves. Dir. Patricia Cardoso. Perf Lupe Ontiveros and America Ferrera. HBO, 2002. Rich, Adrienne Cecile. On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966 New York: Norton, 1979. Rincon, Bernice. La Chicana: Her Role in the Past and Her Search for a New Role in the Future. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings Ed. Alma M. Garca. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. Roden, Priscilla Nordyke. Toys From the Hood. The Daily News of Los Angeles 8 Aug. 2004. U11. Rodrguez, Richard. Ask Dame Edna What happened to humor? Pacific News Service: News for the New America 17 Feb. 2003 1 July 2006. < http://news.pacificnews. org/news/view_article.ht ml?article_id=553265c5fc7384e 00484dedb043c30c0 > Romero, Mary. Maid in the U.S.A New York and London: Routledge, 1990. Ruiz, Jose. Our Reply to the Magazine. Editorial. Reviewplays.com 1 July 2006. < http://www.reviewplays.com/dame_edna.htm > Seyfer, Jessie. Homies Latino Characters a Bittersweet Toy Success. 01 March 2004. < http://madmax.Imtonline.com/mainnewsarchives/052200/s13.htm > Smiley. Online Posting. 15 June 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Spanglish. Dir. James L. Brooks. Perf. Ta Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman and Adam Sandler. Columbia Pict ures Corporation, 2004. Spillers, Hortense J. Mamas Baby: Papas Maybe: An American Grammar Handbook. Diacritics 17:2 (Summer 1987): 64. Storytelling Dir. Todd Solondz. Perf. Lupe Ontiveros. New Line Cinema, 2001. Swimming PoolsMovie Stars. Will & Grace NBC. 11 Jan. 2001. Sykes, Wanda. The New York Times 08 08 2006 The Third Wheel Gets the Grace. Will & Grace NBC. 27 Sept. 2001. Thornton, Bonnie Dill. Our Mothers Grief: Racial Et hnic Women and the Maintenance of Families. Memphis, Tennessee: Center for Research on Women, 1986.

PAGE 203

203 Thurber, Cheryl. Development of the Mammy Image and Mythology. Southern Women: Histories and Identities Edited by Virginia Bernhard et al. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992. Turner, Patricia A. Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture New York: Anchor Books, 1994. Varney, Wendy. Barbie Australis: The Commer cial Reinvention of National Culture. Social Identities 4:2 (June 1998): 1. Walker, Alice. Giving the Party. Anything We Love Can Be Saved New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1997. Walker, Rob. Black and White Marketing 25 July 2006 Weinstein, Jerry. Rev. of Real Women Have Curves dir. Patricia Cardoso. CultureVulture.net 2002. 25 July 2006 Westsider on the Eastside. Online Posting. 20 Dec. 2004. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > White, Deborah Gray. Ar'n't I a woman?: Female sl aves in the plantation South New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1999. The Woman in the Garden. Bones. CBS. 15 Feb. 2006. Woods, Tiger. Tiger Woods on Race: Media Statement 1996. 25 July 2006 < http://www.geocities.com/colosseum/2396/tigerrace.html > Yera, Norma. Online Posting. TD Monthly: Design Inspiration. 1 June 2006. < http://www.toydirec.com/monthl y/Sept2003/design_inspiration.asp > Zhou, Min. Contemporary Female Immigration to the United States: A Demographic Profile. Women Immigrants in the United States Eds. Philippa Strum and Danielle Tarantolo. Proc of a conference sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Migration Policy Institute, Sept. 2002, Washington, D.C: Woodrow Wilson Intern ational Center for Scholars, 2002.

PAGE 204

204 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Rosa Esther Soto is of Puerto Rican herita ge born in Miami, Florida whose interest in English and reading began at an early age. She attended Florida State University for her undergraduate degree in English Li terature with a minor in Co mmunications. There she studied abroad in London, England, where sh e traveled to Italy, Wales, and Ireland as part of her program and then attended the University of Tole do for her masters degree. From there, she attended the University of Florida, where she rece ived her doctoral degree in English Literature with specialties in Gender and Cu ltural Studies. While at the Univer sity of Florida, Rosa won a number of scholarships, incl uding the Grinter Doctoral Fellowship, the Ruth O McQuown Scholarship in Gender Studies and the Irene Thompson Scholarship. After attending the University of Florida for the first few years of her Doctoral program, Rosa applied for and won a Dissertation Fellowship at St. La wrence University where she stayed for two years. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Literature at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.


Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0016600/00001

Material Information

Title: Looking Latina: Cultural Perspectives on Images and Representations of Latinas in Film, Television and Popular Culture
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0016600:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0016600/00001

Material Information

Title: Looking Latina: Cultural Perspectives on Images and Representations of Latinas in Film, Television and Popular Culture
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0016600:00001


This item has the following downloads:


Full Text





LOOKING LATINA: CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES ON IMAGES AND
REPRESENTATIONS OF LATINAS IN FILM, TELEVISION AND POPULAR CULTURE





















By

ROSA E. SOTO


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2006


































Copyright 2006

By

Rosa E. Soto

































To my mother, Laura Soto-Perez; my grandmother, Ramona Lopez; and all of the women in my
family.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank my mother, Laura Soto-Perez for, her hard work, her courage, her words of

wisdom, her strength, and her dignity throughout the years. I thank my grandparents, Laurentino

and Ramona Lopez, for being inspirations to us all. I thank all of my friends, who helped me

with the process, from revising dissertation chapters to talking over ideas. I thank my dissertation

chairs, Dr. Tace Hedrick and Dr. Malini Schueller, for their encouragement, advice and help. I

also thank other committee members Dr. Debra King and Dr. Efrain Barradas. I thank my Aunt,

Inez Santiago, for sharing her stories with me. I thank my Uncle, Amical Santiago, for helping

me and for always being there when needed. I thank my brother, Ricardo Soto, and my sister,

Ramonita Soto, for being the wings that let me fly. I personally thank my friends Brigette Smith,

Sarah Brusky, and Maisha Wester for their comfort, their thoughts, and their friendship

throughout this process. I thank Onika Washington for our decades of friendship and for the

struggles we both faced together.









TABLE OF CONTENTS


A C K N O W L ED G M EN T S ................................................ .................................................4........

ABSTRACT .................................................. ..... ......................7

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCING A LATINA SPECTATOR...................................................... ...............9...

Exam ining Im ages of Latinas in Popular Culture.............................................. .................9...
Tiger Woods and the Creation of Cablinasianism: Struggling with Identity in the Media
Spotlight............... ... ........ ......... .............................................................. . 12
To Be or N ot To Be: That Is the Latina Question ............................................. ................ 19
Signs and Signifiers ............... ................... .. .......... .............. ............... 20
E ncoding/D ecoding Strategies........................................................................... ................ 2 1
Real Women Have Curves: Ambivalence in Pan Latino/a Identity...................................23
Dame Edna Pisses off the Masses and Salma Hayek Too: Examining the Use of Satire
in P popular C culture ............. .. ......... .. ............... ......... ... ............... 3 1
Bringing down the House: Examining Images of Latinas in Mainstream Cultural Texts......39

2 MADE TO BE A MAID? AN EXAMINATION OF THE LATINA AS MAID IN
M AINSTREAM FILM AND TELEVISION ....................................................... ............... 42

The Banger Sisters: The M ost Visible of M aids ............................................... ................ 47
Fictional Servants: How Necessary Are Latina M aids? .................................... ............... 50
The Historical Legacy of the Ethnic M aid in Film ............................................ ................ 53
The Sexy Latina M aid and the New Latina Spitfire ............... .................................... 57
Maid in Manhattan: A Revitalization of the Latina Maid ................................................69
M aids on M onk: M making Their W ay in the W orld. .................................................. 74

3 "THE MAMMY MYTH":MAMMYHOOD RECONFIGURED FOR THE LATINA
SE R V A N T ........................................................................................................... ....... .. 79

"We Need Our Comfort": The Legacy of the Mammy Lives on in the Imaginations of
W h ite n e ss ................................ ..... ........... ............................................................. ......... 8 5
Am I Imagining Things? The Theory behind the Reality of White Imaginations of
D ark n ess........................................................................................................... ....... .. 8 9
Case Studies ............................... .. ...... ................ ..................... 92
W hite W omen and W omen of Color Bond in Film ................................... ................ 92
Making the Connection: A Shared History of Oppression for Black and Latina
W o m en ................. ....................................................................................... ........ 9 9
The Latina Mammy: Two Progressive Films Fail To Be Progressive ........................104
"And Never the Two Shall Meet?"A Comparison of the Black Historical Mammy in
Gone i i/h the Wind and the New Reconfigured Latina Mammy in Will & Grace ..........112
A L atina Spectator's C om m ents ........................................................................................... 126









4 "ARE YOU MY HOMEE?: LOOKING AT ETHNIC TOYS AND A NEW
FIN A N C IA L PLA Y G R O U N D ...........................................................................................129

Displaying Ethnicity: My Puerto Rican Aunt and Her Collection of Mexican Figurines....138
Black M memorabilia: A Possible Connection?...... ... ..... ..................... 141
A Deal with the Devil: Financial Assistance? ....... .. ..... ...................... 146
Toy or Collectible: To Play or Not To Play?...... ..... ..... ...................... 148
Collecting "Things": Signifying Potential...... ........ ..... ...................... 156
Homie Stories: W hat They Offer a Looking Culture. .......... ...................................... 162
Is This a Negative Reality?: The Controversial Aspect of Homies.................................175
Positive or N negative: H omies Live On. ..... ........... ........... ...................... 184

5 CONCLUSION: The Best Latino Film Ever Made is Spy Kids................................... 187

L IS T O F R E F E R E N C E S ............................................................................................................. 194

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .................................................... ............................................. 204









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

LOOKING LATINA: CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES ON IMAGES AND
REPRESENTATIONS OF LATINAS IN FILM, TELEVISION AND POPULAR CULTURE

By

Rosa E. Soto

December 2006

Chair: Tace Hedrick
Cochair: Malini Schuller
Department of English

This work, Looking Latina: Cultural Perspectives on Images and Representations of

Latinas in Film, Television and Popular Culture examines the ways in which Latinas are framed

both by Latinas/os themselves as well as within discourses of whiteness in dominant culture. It

serves as an introduction to analyzing disseminating, negotiating with and "enriching our

understanding" of the images of Latinas in popular culture as they are presented to us through the

media and other cultural texts. I am interested in important ideological questions concerning the

ways in which we engage with such images. How do I and other Latinas read the Latina image as

problematic in a variety of cultural texts? How does Anglo culture read the Latina? What

culturally produced images, as well as readings of those images, help us understand our position

as Latinas in a local and global discourse? What resistance or complicity do the images elicit? In

thinking about these questions, an important goal of this work is to understand the ambiguity of

how and why as Latinas (from a number of different positions of identity) we question what we

see, at the same time as we may enjoy it. I want to understand how we may "read" and interpret

images of ourselves in film, television and popular culture. Moreover, I am interested in how the









tensions between gender, class and racial identities produce tensions in our interpretations of

images of us in popular culture.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCING A LATINA SPECTATOR

Examining Images of Latinas in Popular Culture

It is interesting to me that on the occasions when I present, at a conference, my idea that

the Latina is all but absent in the discourse of film and television, I inevitably am asked the

question, "What do I think of Jennifer Lopez?" It is a question that bothers me. Almost always, it

seems to me that the question is asked as a way to trip up my thinking about notions of race,

class and ethnicity. The question is always posed in a challenging manner. I feel that implied, but

never asked, are the questions, "Why do Latinos believe everything is a stereotype? Why is

representation so important to you? What is authentic ethnicity?" I feel that my answer somehow

betrays the focus of my project. The truth I so fear, and at the same time revel in, is that I like

Jennifer Lopez.

This Jennifer Lopez question-somehow always about her butt, her tan, her films or videos

and her men-positions me in complicated narratives and discourses, as a Latina, as a woman, as

a spectator, and as an individual representing a certain group of classed, raced, and ethnicized

people. I believe it threatens to implicate me in a fixed, static identity. If I like her, then I have no

room to suggest her image is problematic, or I have to defend myself against allegations that she

is constructed and therefore not capable of authenticity. If I dislike her, then I find myself in a

contradictory moment where I, as presumably the only individual capable of speaking for

"authentic" Latinaness, threaten to erase Latina discourse, a location I inherently positioned

myself against.

In Yearning: race, gender and cultural politics, author bell hooks elucidates the difficult

position ethnic individuals are in when they engage with images of themselves. As she tells us

about the struggle African-American men have while watching Spike Lee s film Do the Right









Thing, "black male students came to talk with me, bringing their buddies, because they were

deeply concerned with the issue of whether negative critique meant they were not supportive of a

brother who is trying to make it and be in solidarity with blackness" (6). Additionally, hooks tells

us "they feared that disagreement among themselves might disrupt feelings of bonding and

solidarity" (6). Hooks' answer to the tension produced between these perspectives is to tell her

students that critiquing a subject (even one produced by someone of one's own ethnic make-up)

does not silence the work itself or its importance in cultural discourse. In fact, hooks argues that

fully engaging with the text is significant in terms of the importance of critical exchange. As

hooks argues, "in any liberatory pedagogy, students should learn how to distinguish between

hostile critique that is about 'trashing' and critique that's about illuminating and enriching our

understanding" (7). Moreover, hooks argues that this criticism is especially significant for ethnic

individuals, who for too long have been absent from critical discourse. Hooks' argument is

important to our understanding that critically engaging with cultural subjects and texts (like

Jennifer Lopez) means that we also engage both our concerns, as well as our emotions--positive,

negative or ambivalent--in cultural studies.

This work serves as an introduction to analyzing and "enriching our understanding" of the

images of Latinas in popular culture as they are presented to us through the media and other

cultural texts. I am interested in a number of important ideological questions concerning the very

ways in which we engage with such images. How do I and other Latinas read the Latina as

problematic in a variety of cultural texts? What culturally produced images, as well as readings

of those images, help us understand our position as Latinas in a local and global discourse? What

resistance or complicity do the images elicit? In thinking about these questions, an important

goal of this work is to understand the ambiguity of how and why as Latinas (from a number of









different positions of identity) we question what we see, at the same time as we may enjoy it. I

want to understand how we may "read" and interpret images of ourselves in film, television and

popular culture. Moreover, I am interested in how the tensions between gender, class and racial

identities produce tensions in our interpretations of images of us in popular culture.

My goal in taking a closer look at the representation of Latinas is suggested in bell hooks

black looks: race and representation, where she examines the personal and political

consequences of representations of black men and women within white culture. And although

hooks discusses matters from an African-American standpoint, I transfer hooks' arguments to an

analysis of the ways in which Latinos/as look at images of themselves. In fact, there are many

ties between African-Americans and U.S Chicana/Latina women, especially in regards to our

relationships with white women and our relationship with feminism. For example, we have

similarly fought to be given agency and subjectivity in discourse, we have fought together for

political, economic and social change and we have struggled for representation together. As

Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga state in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical

Women of Color:

as Third World women, we understand the importance, yet limitations of race ideology to
describe out total experience. Cultural differences get subsumed when we speak of 'race'
as an isolated issue: where does the Black Puerto Rican sister stake out her alliance in this
country, with the Black community or the Latino? And color alone cannot define her status
in society-How do we compare the struggles of the middle class Black woman with those
of the light-skinned Latina welfare mother? Further, how each of us perceives our ability to
be radical against this oppressive state is largely affected by our economic privilege and
our specific history of colonization in the U.S. (105)

This ethnic feminist collection of perspectives strived to make those connections more evident

within feminist studies, arguing that women of color needed to work together to break or try to

break systems of oppressions they had in common. However, I would never suggest that women

of color neglect their differences based on racial, ethnic or economic positioning. However,









limited as I am by the frameworks in the cultural discourse, which allows me to examine these

intersections, as well as the tensions, I employ bell hook's framework, because it is the one I feel

most strongly elucidates the argument I wish to make about the images and representations

offered Latinas in the contemporary cultural discourse. Therefore, I would like to ask, as bell

hooks articulates in her book black looks: race and representation:

From what critical perspective do we dream, look, create, and take action? For those of us
who dare to desire differently, who seek to look away from the conventional ways of
seeing blackness and ourselves, the issue of race and representation is not just a question of
critiquing the status quo. It is also about transforming the image, creating alternatives,
asking ourselves questions about what types of images subvert, pose critical alternatives,
and transform our worldviews and move us from dualistic thinking about good and bad. (4)

This work represents a "political struggle to push against the boundaries of the image, to find

words that express what I see... when I am seeing things that most folks want to believe simply

are not there" (hooks 4). Moreover, even as I struggle with ambiguity of images of U.S

Latinas/os, I suggest that such images can be negotiated with, in order to suggest alternate ways

to look at Latina identity and subjectivity. To do this project, I will employ a cultural studies

framework to analyze and offer my interpretations. As such, in the three chapters which follow, I

will offer possibilities of understanding and in engaging with the images of Latinas in cultural

texts in broadly historical, political, social and economic ways.

Tiger Woods and the Creation of Cablinasianism: Struggling with Identity in the Media
Spotlight.

The question of representation and identity within cultural studies is a difficult one, not

always easily explained, analyzed or understood. Even those within the same ethnic, gender, or

class group, often find themselves struggling with the intersections between those positions. A

clear example of this is how we engage with images of stars in Hollywood, often asking them to

posit one identity above the other. As Frank Proschan argues:









despite the malleability of ethnic identity, the permeability of ethnic boundaries, and the
fluidity of ethnic group membership, people nevertheless live and act as if distinct ethnic
groups really existed, as if other's ethnicity determined behavior (and thereby offered a
guide to interpreting and predicting it), as if one could abandon one's 'natural' ethnic
identity and assume another and as if one's natal ethnic group and temporarily or
permanently become a member of another. (92-93)

This is the case with both popular golf pro Tiger Woods and singer Mariah Carey. Eldrick

"Tiger" Woods finds himself having to constantly clarify his identity to and for the world. So

important is the question of his identity, that when Woods first began successfully playing golf,

he made a public media statement to clarify (or defend) his identity. As he states:

The purpose of this statement is to explain my heritage for the benefit of members of the
media who may be seeing me play for the first time. It is the final and only comment I will
make regarding this issue. My parents have taught me to be proud of [my] background.
Please rest assured, that is, and always will be the case,- past, present and future. The
media has portrayed me as African America [n]; sometimes Asian. In fact, I am both. Yes,
I am the product of two great cultures, one African American and the other Asian. On my
father's side, I am African-American. On my mother's side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel
very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African American and Asian! The
critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background and/or composition should NOT
make a difference. It does NOT make a difference to me. The bottom line is that I am
American... and proud of it. That is who I am and what I am. Now, with your cooperation,
I hope I can be just a golfer and a human being. Signed, Tiger Woods. (1)

There is so much to consider in examining the statement above. First, that Woods would have to

define himself, before symbolically being "allowed" to play is interesting in itself, but that

Woods would believe he would have to do so only once, in a world consumed by the

clarification of racial, ethnic and gendered determinations, is impossible (otherwise he would not

have to continually reaffirm his identity with press releases). Therefore, it comes as no surprise

that Woods continues to identify himself over and over again, recently as "Cablinasian" on an

Oprah Winfrey show, a name he himself created to explain his multi-ethnic background, which

includes African-American, Chinese, Native American, Thai, and Caucasian. Second, it is

interesting to note his "escape" into the transcendental identification of American, above his









specific ethnic identities. And, as if that term in itself was not enough, he soon escapes into a

more transcendentally-based "human" identity.

Audre Lorde argues that this positioning is brought on by the constraints of society. As

Lorde states, "as members of such economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the

human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three

ways: ignore it... copy it... or destroy it" (115). Moreover, critics note that Woods' identity is

often framed by his success in the sports field, as well as the ways in which he is marketed. As

Andrew Billings notes, "when Woods won, he was not portrayed as Black, but when he was not

as successful he was more likely to be characterized using traditional stereotypes of Black

athletes" (1). Also, one critic asks us to consider the way in which Vin Diesel has been marketed

for mainstream audiences. As Rob Walker notes:

when the action film XXX opened this summer, with relative newcomer Diesel as the star,
the media from People to GQ to Charlie Rose to Jet couldn't get enough of him.
Diesel was consistently described as a mysterious figure that, among other things, refused
to discuss his ethnicity. He was happy to let his handlers spin this as a marketing plus:
Supposedly, Latinos think Diesel is Latino, blacks see him as black, Italians identify him
as Italian, and so on. (1)

Similarly, Mariah Carey became the ultimate contestation of identity for me, when I first spotted

her on the cover of a Latina magazine I subscribed to. I knew, because her identity has been

framed by her multi-ethnicity (by her Irish mother and her African Venezuelan father) that Carey

is indeed of mixed race, but when I first saw her on that cover, I began to question why I felt

encroached upon. Why did she feel the need to identify as a Latina? I will acknowledge, because

I frame my own argument here, the ambiguity of my own feelings about these issues, I would

never suggest that Carey had to pick one identity above the other. Nor would I suggest she deny

any aspect of the identity she chooses to adhere to. However, I do suggest that we critically

engage with our ambivalence about these issues of identity and how the intersections between









race and gender frame our discussions of the images of Latinas in popular culture and why we

are so often forced to choose between one or the other or set aside one for the other, dependent

on where we are, to whom we are speaking to and what we are trying to accomplish. Therefore,

as I suggested above, I find myself defending Jennifer Lopez to Latinas, as often as I do with

white Americans.

Stuart Hall argues in Questions of Cultural Identity, "identities are never unified and, in

late modem times, increasingly fragmented and fractured, never singular but multiply

constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourse, practices, and

positions" (4). Identities and representations of those identities are always subject to a significant

amount of considerations based on ethnic, classed and gendered concerns, if not more (religious

considerations, for example.) As Hall further argues:

actual identities are about questions of using the resources of history, language and culture
in the process of becoming rather than being: not 'who we are' or 'where we came from',
so much as what we might become, how we have been represented and how that bears on
how we might represent ourselves. Identities are therefore constituted within, not outside
representation. (4)

Therefore, the analysis of representation becomes the basis of understanding how images are

produced, reproduced, disseminated, constructed, created, and understood. I am interested in

how and why those representations offer sites of resistance, denial and complicity. This is a

project Stuart Hall articulates as an essential space:

which individuals as subjects identify (or do not identify) with the 'positions' to which
they are summoned; as well as how they fashion, stylize, produce and 'perform' these
positions, and why they never do so completely, for once and all time, and some never do,
or are in constant, agonistic process of struggling with, resisting, negotiating and
accommodating the normative or regulative rules with which they confront and regulate
themselves. (14)

It is important to explain that the project I am working on is not a film studies or sociological

project. It is a cultural studies project interested in the dissemination of images across a number









of interrelated fields and discourses. As such, I will occasionally "draw from whatever fields are

necessary to produce the knowledge required for a particular project" (Hall 2). Therefore, there

are instances when I will draw upon film studies and the like to fully actualize an argument.

Similarly, as necessary, I will draw upon a number of theoretical positions to articulate the

significance of the experiences of Latinas in mainstream popular culture texts, including, but not

limited to feminist, Marxist, and psychoanalytic studies. Moreover, it is important to

acknowledge that this is not an ethnographic studies project; however, I will occasionally draw

upon the experiences and responses of individuals (usually Chicana/Latina women), as bell

hooks often does in her cultural texts, to articulate the relevance of their experiences in the

cultural discourse and the importance of critical engagement that will give Latinas voice in a

world which often threatens to silence them.

Additionally, an important aspect of disseminating images of oneself or one's group in

popular culture is a discussion of one's own gendered, classed and ethnic make-up. Therefore, as

the founding fathers of cultural studies often had to do, it is important to identify myself

throughout the essay, including my own histories, stories and representations to understand

something significant in the readings of the materials used. As the text Introducing Cultural

Studies states, "one key example is the feminist slogan 'the personal is political' which sought to

put a range of questions about personal identity, personal lives and personal conduct onto an

explicitly political agenda" (224). It is my position, as a Latina, that makes my critical

engagement with the cultural texts significant. As bell hooks states in black looks: race and

representation, "without a way to name our pain, we are also without the words to articulate our

pleasure" (2). Therefore, it is important to articulate that I am looking at my analysis through the

eyes of a gendered lens (as a female), through an ethnic lens (as a Latina woman), and through a









classed lens (working class background). However, as I do so, I do not wish to privilege any one

particular identity above any other. Rather, I would like to look at each position as

interconnected and interrelated with the others.

Moreover, what I find significant are the tensions produced by the above delineations. It is

true that at times one position is set against the others in struggles for representation and self-

identity. For example, in Chapter Three, when I discuss the representations offered by a popular

ethnic collectible, my ethnicity becomes strained by my gendered identity and places me in an

ambiguous position which may never be fully finalized. As Audre Lorde articulates in Age,

Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference:

traditionally, in American society, it is the members of the oppressed, objectified groups
who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between the actualities of our lives and
the consciousness of our oppressor. For in order to survive, those of us for whom
oppression is as American as apple pie have always had to be watchers, to become familiar
with the language and manners of the oppressor, even sometimes adopting them for some
illusion of protection. (114)

Do I accept the ambivalence of the images (from a gendered perspective) or do I negotiate with

the images (finding the positive in the ethnic), even if it means denying that position? The

oscillation between the two, which produces the tension I speak of above, is part and parcel of

the cultural analysis I strive for in this work. Moreover, I am asking that we consider as well the

connections between those identities. What are the intersections between the two which produce

the ambivalence I speak of? As Teresa McKenna discusses in her discussion of how Cherrie

Moraga portrays struggle in her texts, "many Chicana feminists privilege economic, social

struggle over gender issues. How to manage the interstices of this conflict is the subject" (33).

One final note, I will not speak for Latinas everywhere. I am not a Latina spokesperson for

Latina representation and attempts to position me as such (as the Jennifer Lopez example attests)

will ultimately set me up to be excluded as a voice of agency. My analyses are mine alone; but









they are capable of imbuing possibilities for both resistance and collusion with the cultural

products offered Latinas. My ambivalence with these cultural products may speak to an

ambivalence others feel, but I offer only one possibility of understanding. As Brian Longhurst et

al. in Introducing Cultural Studies state,

identities, too, then, are relational and contextual... Cultural Studies undertakes the much
more difficult project of holding identities in the foreground, acknowledging their
necessity and potency, examining their articulation and rearticulating, and seeking a better
understanding of their function. For some identities would be seen as fundamentally
harmonious and unitary, threatened only by large-scale social schisms; for others, identities
entail contagious antagonism at every site of difference. For some, identities are the
inevitable product of history; for others, the illusory product of history, or even individual
psychic history; for still others, the site of real struggles, real attempts to forge historical
unity out of pervasive fragmentation and difference. But none of these perspectives,
located within cultural studies, would take any given identity for granted. (18)

Another significant aspect of this project is what texts I chose to analyze and why I chose those

texts. According to Stuart Hall, the goal of cultural studies was "to enable people to understand

what [was] going on, and especially to provide ways of thinking, strategies for survival, and

resources for resistance" (2). What kinds of texts are worthy of analysis is a question which is

often discussed a great deal in the field because cultural studies comes from a space where what

is being analyzed is not as important as why it needs to be analyzed. Because popular culture

frames the way individuals look at and perceive the world around them, understanding

representations within that framework is as important. As Longhurst et al. in Introducing

Cultural Studies states,

cultural Studies is thus committed to the study of the entire range of society's arts, beliefs,
institutions, and communicative practices... Cultural Studies is both an intellectual and a
political tradition... is simultaneously the ground on which analysis proceeds, the object of
study, and the site of political critique and intervention. (5)

Therefore, I am engaging with cultural texts that are popular, because it is important to examine

how those images and belief systems are widely accepted, enforced and regulated.









To Be or Not To Be: That Is the Latina Question.

Latinas are not passive spectators, readers or individuals. It is true however, that often

Latinas are left out in the cold when it comes to "authentic" representations of themselves. Often

we are in a difficult position of either adhering to a pan-Latina identity (controversial for its

effacing of national and historical identities for a more universal identity), accepting the negative

images of ourselves (dominant readings) or denying and negating the image through what bell

hooks calls an oppositional gaze. Though hooks' argument is based in black female subjectivity,

I would argue that Latinas fall into the same pattern of negating images they feel need to be

denied in order to "reject negation" in mainstream cultural images (121). As hooks argues in

black looks, race and representation,

responding to this assault, many black women spectators shut out the image, looked the
other way, and accorded cinema no importance in their lives. Then there were those
spectators whose gaze was that of desire and complicity. Assuming a posture of
subordination, they submitted to cinema's capacity to seduce and betray. They were
cinematically 'gas lighted.' Every black woman I spoke with who was/is an ardent
moviegoer, a lover of Hollywood film, testified that to experience fully the pleasure of that
cinema they had to close down critique, analysis; they had to forego racism. And mostly
they had to forget racism. (120)

However, I feel that this oppositional gaze always positions women outside of the text, in a

critical framework that works to protect the psyche from denial and negation. As Latinas from a

number of different contexts, I argue that we have to find ways to engage with the images of

ourselves in popular culture in more prolific and significant ways. In order to take on this often

difficult and tenuous struggle for representation, I will primarily engage with the framework of

feminist cultural studies and specifically with the work of Stuart Hall. Specifically, I will work

within two of Hall's concepts. The first begins with a look at representation as a signifying

practice, which Hall defines in his seminal text Representation, Cultural Representations and

Signifying Practices as "the production of meaning through language, discourse and image" (10).









The second is found in Stuart Hall's Popular Culture, Production and Consumption and

examines the terms "encoding/decoding" as useful for determining sites of resistance to the

dominant discourse.

Signs and Signifiers

In Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Stuart Hall and

others engage with the question of how we construct meaning in cultural discourses. Concerned

with the production and exchanges of meaning in cultural texts, Hall asks us to consider how

signs, signifiers and the signified become representations which individuals use as symbolic

practices to create a sense of subjectivity and agency. As Hall argues, "the more we look into this

process of representation, the more complex it becomes to adequately explain.. .to help us unlock

secrets" (10). One of the frameworks I am interested in is the examination of objects and peoples

and their meanings or more accurately, their shifting meanings. As Hall asks, "are meanings

constantly shifting as we move from one culture to another, one language to another, one

historical context, one community, group or subculture, to another?" (7) I would argue that yes,

meaning does change and it is dependent on a number of social, political and economic factors,

as well as ethnic, classed or racial ties. In other words, as I discussed above, I am interested in

the delineations and tensions produced in my (and other Chicanas/Latinas) interrelated identity

positions, as classed, raced and gendered subjects. Because representation is always a difficult

concept and the task to understand representations are equally as difficult, an important goal of

this cultural framework and indeed my project as well, is to understand the complexity of

representations and the ambiguity they often offer. As Hall articulates, "representation is neither

as simple nor transparent a practice as it first appears and that, in order to unpack the idea, we

need to do some work on a range of examples, and bring to bear certain concepts and theories, in

order to explore and clarify its complexities" (7).









One such theory includes working from the perspective of those representations as signs in

a constructionist approach to understanding and framing representations within discourse. As

Hall articulates, "things don't mean, we construct meaning, using representational systems-

concepts and signs" (25). I am interested in how Latinas "make the world meaningful" (25). As

such, I will incorporate Hall's concepts about how signs and the semiotic process work to signify

representation within discourse. This will be especially significant when I tackle the

representations offered in ethnic collectibles in Chapter 3, Are You My Homie?, Looking at

Ethnic Collectibles in a New Cultural Playground. Moreover, I am interested in how signs carry

multiple meanings within different identity positions. Therefore, what I am looking for is how

we use those multiple meanings to articulate difference and how we use difference to articulate

signification.

Encoding/Decoding Strategies

A second critical framework for understanding how Latinas can engage with images of

themselves in mainstream cultural texts as cultural critics is found in Stuart Hall's

"Encoding/Decoding" article, I argue throughout my work that without any possibility of

changing the image by oneself then we are in an ambiguous state, where we struggle with our

feelings about the images. I will employ the usage of the theoretical framework of encoding and

decoding, which Stuart Hall theorizes is a strategic way in which to strip the negative and often

controversial images offered up by mainstream cultural texts and find something positive in their

negotiations with those images. As Stuart Hall states in his influential article, if the consumption

of information is constructed through the eyes of production, the relationship between meanings

and messages is about the delicate relationship between the spectator (the decoder) and image

(the encoder) (125).









According to Hall, messages are constructed with specific ideologies in mind. The

message itself does not stand alone from the discursiveness of its meanings. As Hall states "it,

too, is framed throughout by meanings and ideas: knowledge-in-use concerning the routines of

production, historically defined technical skills, professional ideologies, institutional knowledge,

definitions and assumptions, assumptions about the audience and so on frame the constitution of

the programme through this production structure" (124). However, what informs this knowledge

is presumed knowledge of who the spectator is, because "if no 'meaning' is taken, there can be

no 'consumption' (123). Therefore, the spectator is as much a part of meaning as the intended

meaning itself. As such, the spectator is a powerful force behind the construction of the images

constructed by encoders for decoding.

Following this stance, it is this idea that as decoders, spectators have the ability to encode

the messages with their own individualized positions that becomes the focus of this work. I am

interested in how Latina spectators choose meanings, based on their own intricately designed

encoded beliefs. It is this choice of encoding/decoding where meaning is found and

disseminated. It is where power and ideology intermingle for subjectivity. So although there may

be a dominant meaning or message encoded in a particular structure or production, the spectator

can and will negotiate with it, within limits. It is within these limits that Hall posits three

positions from which decoding of discourse may be constructed.1 In Stuart Hall's second

position, referred to as the "negotiated code" (131), spectators have the power to negotiate with

the image and create agency and subjectivity at the same time with the encoded message

produced by popular culture. Here Hall argues that audiences understand the way in which a

1 See Stuart Hall, "Encoding/Decoding," Popular Culture: Production and Consumption, eds. C.
Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2001) for further
information regarding the Hall's three hypothetical positions regarding the encoding/decoding of
discourse.









message has specifically been encoded by the modes of its production and with that knowledge,

the spectator confronts, disseminates and challenges the discourse offered by the produced

message. As Hall states, "it acknowledges the legitimacy of the hegemonic definitions to make

grand significations (abstract), while, at a more restricted, situational (situated) level, it makes its

own ground rules-it operates with exceptions to the rule" (131).

Though I may not specifically use the terms above while disseminating images and cultural

products throughout the work, I am constantly and always asking that we engage with images

from popular cultural texts as works in progress, which always need to be examined and

reexamined, in a decoding process, in order to situate ourselves as political, economic and social

critics within a local and global discourse.2 I believe it is within our decoding of the systems of

representation that we allow the possibility of a personal level of representation which may

possible lead to political level of resistance and therefore possible power. Am I certain that this

ideological process will succeed? No, I am not. But am I certain it is possible? Yes. As the

authors of Introducing Cultural Studies tell us, "forms of visual culture are intimately connected

to changes in society-moreover such shifts are themselves part of the re-ordering of power

relations, especially in respect to their gendered dimensions" (364).

Real Women Have Curves: Ambivalence in Pan Latino/a Identity.

Let me begin explaining the significance of the work above by examining two different,

but related moments in the articulation of experience and representation for Latinas (and to some

extent Latinos) in mainstream cultural moments. The first begins with a look at a film entitled

Real Women Have Curves, produced and distributed by HBO in 2002 starring Lupe Ontiveros

2 1 am engaging with the term as a reference to systems of representation and the production of
knowledge. As Hall references, "by 'discourse', Foucault meant 'a group of statements which provide a
language for talking about-a way of representing the knowledge about-a particular topic at a particular
historical moment... Discourse is the production of knowledge through language (qtd. in Hall et al. 44)









(Lupe will become important in a later analysis about representations of Latinas in film as maids)

and America Ferrara. This film, produced by Columbian born director Patricia Cardoso and

written by Josefina Lopez (based on her own life) and George LaVoo, is the story of a Mexican

American family living in East Los Angeles and follows a young woman named Ana (played by

Ferrera) who is soon to graduate from high school and has to decide between staying home with

her very traditional Mexican born parents or leaving for Columbia University and exploring a

whole new contemporary world in New York City. Additionally, the film is about the lives and

experiences of Mexican women as they negotiate their roles as daughters, mothers, friends, and

co-workers in a sweatshop factory.

When I first went to see this film with a white female friend, I remember walking out of

the film expressing my joy over what I had seen. Their experiences, from an ethnic, gendered

and classed perspective seemed real to me. I felt that I had finally seen a movie that articulated

my own frustrations as a working class Latina woman. (I come from a long family of factory

workers, as my grandmother once worked for a Gordon's Shrimp plant and both my mother and

aunt worked in a children's clothing factory in Miami, Florida. I still remember the sweat, smell

and dark look of the factory floors and walls.) In the film, this Latina is trying to break out of the

oppressive world of the larger assimilating (often white) community, as well as the oppressive

nature of the Latina community which often excludes or silences the voices of women, while

strengthening the position of the Chicano/Latino man. What I felt was a connection to

experience, even as the women in the film were Mexican women in East Los Angeles. I thought

to myself, how could any Latina watching the film not understand or feel a connection to the

narrative?









For now, it is important to remember, in the articulation of this argument, that there is still

a significant gap for representations of Latinas in mainstream film, television, and other popular

culture texts. While there have been many strides made throughout the years, we still have to

acknowledge that representation is still lacking and that those representations in themselves

come with a fair amount of criticism. As an article entitled "Our open letter to Holly\ 1,1,f' in an

October 2005 issue of Latina magazine attests, "what's the point of pushing roles in new

directions when you continue to have Latinos live by the same old cliched and stereotyped rule

book?" (152). Moreover, there are only so many films with Latino/a characters or Latino/a

narratives. America Ferrera, the actress for Real Women Have Curves, articulates her own

frustrations over the images produced in Hollywood of Latinas, as well as expectations for her

own acting in a USA Today article. She says:

'There's a label on you when you're going out for auditions,' she says. 'The part I was
always going out for was the gangster girlfriend, all these really negative stereotypes of
what a young Latina is. It was really disheartening.' And she couldn't exactly look to other
Latinas for career guidance. 'There are not many Latin-American role models in the
entertainment business,' she says. 'You can count them on one hand. I would never see
myself reflected.. All I had was Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek as role models, but I
don't look anything like them'. (1-2)

It is interesting to note that Ferrara is articulating similar frustrations I have myself, as a

spectator watching films that purportedly claim to represent my experience or me. It is also

telling that Ferrara points out the lack of images offered in Hollywood representations, which

often leave spectators in an ambiguous position of desiring representations of themselves so

much, that they are willing to forego the accuracies of those representations, and arguably are

forced into adhering to a pan-Latino/a identity instead. As Frances Negr6n argues in Boricua

Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture, "given the current political

economy of representation for Latinos in mass media, Puerto Ricans, with less institutional clout,









general population, and numbers on Hollywood's home turf, identifying as a 'Latina' expands

boricua agency and accrues additional value" (230).

Additionally, as I will mention in later chapters, there is a reality that many Latina

actresses have often played Anglo characters or a generic unidentified ethnic individuals, to

avoid being stereotyped in negative Latina representational roles. As Negr6n states, "in Out of

Sight, L6pez played the generically named Karen Frisco, a vaguely Latin-sounding name that

come from either Italy or Argentina. In fact, Frisco's father was white, touting L6pez's career

objective. 'The day I can make a movie and nobody is thinking of me as a Latina person-I'm

thought of as just a person-that'll be a big thing'" (245). As an example of this, in Lopez's most

successful role to date, as Mary Fiore in The Wedding Planner (2001), Lopez is playing an

Italian woman. Similarly, we often have Anglo characters hired to play the stereotypical Latino/a

roles as well. Moreover, each of the positions above becomes part of my thesis that in order for

us to use the images produced in a less ambiguous manner and into a more possible realm of

agency and subjectivity; we have to negotiate with the images to produce alternate readings. As

we do so, we do have to acknowledge how the images may be negatively disseminated as well.

Therefore, to return to my previous question, when a film surfaces that is directed by a Latina,

written by Latinos/as and includes Chicana/o and Latina/o actresses (Ontiveros, Ferrara and even

George Lopez), I wonder if all Latinas everywhere shouldn't be at least a little happy?3





I am not naive about the production aspect of filmmaking. It is significant to the marketing of
the film that we understand the directors; stars and writers are Latino/a in order to understand our
positions in Hollywood. As Frances Negr6n-Muntaner states in Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the
Latinization of American Culture, "marketing Selena to Latino audiences required the cast, director, and
producers to be available to the Spanish-speaking media, which mostly cater to recent and older
immigrants. This inevitably created the context for each key player to show their fluency in Spanish, and
hence their 'realness' in relation to their respective national cultures" (233).









However, while researching on the Internet, I found to my surprise and eventual

understanding, that there were many Latinas who watched the film Real Women Have Curves

and felt the exact opposite way.4 It was interesting to find out that many felt that the film was too

encompassing, conflating divisions of Latino identity. As such, many Latinas dismissed the film

as amateurish and problematic. On a website entitled OFF OFF OFF film, one Latina argued, "if

I were to state how I, as a Latina categorize this movie, I would have to say that it was a

falsification of a movie that created false assumptions of whoever watched the movie of a 'Latin'

family or style of living.' Further, she states "this movie was an offense to the Latin culture".5

Self-identified as "a Latina coming from an immigrant family", what is interesting to me is the

tension produced by her opinions. It is a tension that derives from the struggle between wanting a

desirable image of oneself in film and having to criticize one of the only representations offered.

Similarly, others are torn between these intersections as well. As one Chicano identified male,

Jesse, responds, "there is nothing believable--not the characters, story." In response, Cecilia

(whose racial make-up is unidentified) states in defiance, "I am glad for you that you believe the

movie or characters are not realistic. This means that you do know "ZERO" about Mexican

culture. Otherwise, you would think different. The movie, could not possible (sic) be more

realistic." I would like to point out that the responses I selected were fairly tame responses. The

amount of anger elicited by the issue of whether or not the film "accurately" represented images

of Latinas was overwhelming and serves to illustrate the significance of identity formation in



4 As an important issue, I think it is interesting to explain that the white female friend I saw the
movie with, enjoyed the film immensely, articulating that she enjoyed the film from a gendered
perspective, arguing that she understood the struggles and issues women had to deal within their familial
relationships, as well as their relationships as friends and co-workers. As her project revolved around
Marxist analysis of films, she identified with the working class perspective of the narrative.

5 It is important to note that screenplay is based on the story of Josephina Lopez's real life.









society. It explains why I am so interested in the how and whys of those formations, as well as

their ambiguities. This returns us to the example articulated by bell hooks earlier in this

introduction, about the frustrations of African-American students engaging with African-

American-produced and directed films. Should they support the endeavor without criticism or

can they engage in a healthy criticism that opens the gaps and fissures which allows for a clearer

understanding of the workings of race, ethnicity, class, gender and more ideological standpoints?

Is the criticism more effective than the appreciation of the images?

I offer my own feeling that the film was about taking pride in the very similarities that

make us Latinas struggling for representation and voice in a local (familial) and global discourse.

I realize that as such, I may situate myself in a controversial pan-Latino/a stance. Negr6n argues

in Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture, about what she

believes is the real reason behind a pan Latino/a identity:

Selena went from being a Tejana (a territorialized "regional" identity) to being a Latina (a
national "ethnic minority") "Latino" here refers less to a cultural identity then to a
specifically American national currency for economic and political deal making, a
technology to demand and deliver emotions, votes, markets, and resources on the same
level-and hopefully at an even steeper price-as other racialized minorities. It is also an
appeal to ethno-national valorization, a way for diverse groups who are similarly racialized
to pool their resources. (231)

Negr6n-Muntaner steeps her analysis in the financial reality of a pan-Latino/a identity,

suggesting that universalizing Latino/a experience is done to position products as more

marketable to a more generic "Latino" audience. Yet, even as I understand that this is a political

hotbed, I argue that without perfected images of ourselves, specifically, that of myself as a

Puerto Rican working class woman, I am in that delicate position of either simply denying

psychically (metaphorically) that I exist (at least with representations of cultural texts) or I find

myself engaging with any text that offers me some possibility of existing. This is the process of

negotiation. Therefore, I struggle to find something or perhaps anything that I can in the texts









offered. As such, a pan-Latino/a identity leaves me with a space in which I can actualize my

existence.

In From Bomba to Hip Hop, Juan Flores articulates a possible way to engage with the

concept of the pan-Latino/a identity. As Flores argues:

the pan-ethnic approach.. .has the distinct advantage for the study of Latinos centering
analysis on the dialectic between the parts and the whole, the discrete national groups and
the 'Latino' construct. The focus is necessarily on interaction, while the hypostasized
social group itself, along with its 'discourse, 'is understood as process rather than as a
fixed entity or meaning. (150)

In other words, we can negotiate with the term pan-Latino/a, as we do with culturally produced

images, to examine our constructs as well as our disseminations of the constructs, without

necessarily universalizing experience or negating individualized ethnic nationalities in the

process. This does not necessitate a homogenizing of experience. It necessitates finding

commonalities. As I will elucidate later, I am negotiating with the cultural texts I have, in order

to find some semblance of representation.

Therefore, I acknowledge that even though I am a Puerto Rican woman, I could still relate

culturally and even, sociologically, as a Latina woman often oppressed and silenced, to the

experiences of Mexican American women in this film. After all, we spoke the same language

(even though our dialects may differ), looked somewhat the same (even if our features were

somewhat different) and had similar life experiences (even as they lived in East Los Angeles in a

nuclear family and I grew up in a broken home in Miami, Florida). I neither wish to negate the

differences that make us different individuals, nor will I pretend that there is not some validity in

seeing commonalties. I am (even against criticism) articulating a desire to strengthen the bond

between Latinas, Chicanas and ethnic others through our experiences.

Similarly, there were other women online who articulated their joy that the film was strong

in its complicated notions of identity for Latina women, issues they had been struggling with for









decades. For example, Erin G. states, "I am Mexican-American who knows several people who

live life exactly like Ana's. This movie was so true to life culturally for many Mexican-American

women, so much that it could have been the basis for an ethnographic documentary". Jerry

Weinstein on Culture Vulture.net states, "few American filmmakers have explored Latino lives

with authenticity and intimacy" (2). The term authenticity is certainly questionable, as the

responses above indicate, but what I would find interesting here, is how the critics are using the

term to conflate Latino/a experience. Ultimately, the examples above explain how truly

complicated viewing experiences are for all women, specifically women of color. What I

understand now, is that all our positions came from our different positions as historical, social

and economic subjects. We were not all ideologically the same; therefore, our understanding of

the ideology of the film was not similar. As Jacqueline Bobo argues in The Color Purple: Black

Women as Cultural Readers, "when a person comes to view a film, she/he does not leave her/his

histories, whether social, cultural, economic, racial or sexual at the door" (281). This is why

identification and audience studies are such tricky analyses.

And as I suggest above, even more interesting is the discussion of the film among national

newspaper and magazine critics, who themselves seem determined to unify the experiences of

ethnic others watching the film. In doing so, they often examine the film through the lens of the

American Dream, and presumably everyone's (I myself taught a course on the deconstruction of

the American Dream) universal desire for it. Additionally, they sidestep issues of ethnicity in

order to universalize the experience, as one about families that everyone in the society can relate

to. I wonder if the engagement with such a strategy is to make the film less ethnic and more

palatable to a traditionally white audience. As Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times states in

his review, "Ana is a Mexican American, played by America Ferrera, an 18-year-old in her first









movie role... .Her battle with her mother is convincing in the movie because the director, Patricia

Cardoso, doesn't force it into a shrill melodrama but keeps it within the boundaries of a plausible

family fight" (1). As James Berardinelli states in his review, "for Ana's part, living with her

mother is stifling her... She sees college education as the way to broaden her horizons... One of

the reasons the film resonates is that the final break of independence is something every

individual must face, regardless of the family relationship" (2).

As I struggle with their reviews and the universalizing appeal in them, I fall back into the

ambiguous position I have throughout this work. I do not wish to perpetuate this film as only

capable of imbuing ethnic identification, nor do I wish to fall back on the precept that all Latinas

should identify with the film, but I need to be able to say something significant about the film,

something which needs to be identified, and I refuse to give credence to film reviewers who wish

to deny the specific ethnic relevance of the film. As Jeremy Heilman on moviemartyr.corn

suggests, "Cardoso's direction isn't particularly distinguished, and like most movies that cater to

minorities, there seems to be a bit too much underlining of the specific details that distinguish the

minority portrayed" (2). Ultimately, I feel as if I am being positioned, as a Latina, to re-think or

re-consider the relevance of this film, both in my own life and to others in their lives. I still

maintain however, that there is much to be gained in the representations offered by this film,

especially as we consider it one of only a few films that delve into issues that U.S Latino/a

Americans are in the process of engaging with.

Dame Edna Pisses off the Masses and Salma Hayek Too: Examining the Use of Satire in
Popular Culture.

The second example I offer, as an analysis of how we negotiate with culturally produced

Latino/a images, is a Vanity Fair "Dame Edna" column in February 2003. In the column, Dame

Edna responds to this question: "I would very much like to learn a foreign language, preferably









French or Italian, but every time I mention this, people tell me to learn Spanish instead. They

say, 'Everyone is going to be speaking Spanish in 10 years. George W. Bush speaks Spanish.'

Could this be true? Are we all going to have to speak Spanish?" Her response was as follows:

Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a
quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that. There was a poet named
Garcia Lorca, but I'd leave him on the intellectual back burner if I were you. As for
everyone's speaking it, what twaddle! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk
to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study German or French, where there are at least a few
books worth reading, or if you're American, try English. (116)

Attached to her response is a photograph of an (I can only presume) Anglo individual in a

Mexican hat speaking to an armadillo. When I first read the question and response, even though I

knew it was a satire, I was incredulous and my first response was negative. I began to articulate

my frustrations by arguing to myself that her dismissal of both Spanish literature and music is

problematic because it excluded the wonderful contributions that Hispanics, Latinos and Latin

Americans had made to the world. I argued that her dismissal of the language as being only

significant to talking to the help is what succeeds in marginalizing Latinas/os as part of a society.

It threatened to exclude Latina/o discourse and make invisible the harsh realities of a system of

class and ethnic oppression.

However, as I was thinking about the response, I thought about the column itself and its

purported purpose in Vanity Fair, which is to satire worldviews and belief systems.6 Vanity Fair

is a high-end magazine which caters to individuals who are often educated, wealthy and white.

Again, I will acknowledge that Dame Edna's column is a satire and its goal is often to shed light


6 Dame Edna is a character in drag played by Australian comedian Barry Humphries. It is
important to acknowledge how Humphries articulates his persona. As Wikipedia.com online informs us,
"while Humphries freely states that Dame Edna is a character he plays, Dame Edna consistently denies
being a fictional character or drag performer, and refers to Humphries as her 'entrepreneur' or manager.
Indeed, Dame Edna has frequently said that the thought of a man dressing up as a woman for
entertainment purposes in repulsive" (1).









on bourgeois, upper-middle-class society's hypocrisies.7 As the Editors of Vanity Fair argued

(after the Salma Hayek debacle) on Whiteprivilege.com, "Edna is a caricature of a certain type of

small-minded, socially ambitious, vaguely upper-class person. Those familiar with Dame Edna's

performances understand that her politically incorrect and often insulting utterances are meant as

a parody of backward attitudes Humphries finds irritating or offensive" (1). Similarly, Myriam

Marquez states in Hey, Amigos: Chill about Dame Edna, "seldom is satire respectful. It can be

hurtful. But, ideally, it exposes the underbelly of human nature" (1). Satire can be painful, but it

can be argued that it is especially painful for the disenfranchised that have no voice.

However, I argue that the Dame Edna's response is unfortunately conflated with the reality

of a society which necessitates the use of Latino/a servants as conducive to maintaining its image

of upward mobility. As Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A states, "the cheap domestic labor of

women of color is one means by which white middle-class women escape oppressive aspects of

their domestic roles. Their liberation is achieved at considerable cost to poor and working class

women of color" (29). Therefore, I struggle with what Dame Edna said, because although it is

satirical in notion, it is reality as well and we still have to understand the realities of our

positioning as ethnic others in society and the daily discrimination we often face in light of the

work we do.8 As Adriana Lopez points out, "although Edna's xenophobic jab was intended as a



7 Thousands of Latinos/as responded in full force to the comments made by Dame Edna. For
weeks after the magazine came out, a number of articles about the controversy appeared in major
newspapers, internet sites and Latino/Hispanic based magazines. It is a significant aspect of spectator
studies that so many Latinas/os, whites, and other ethnicities responded to the Vanity Fair article. The
controversy has spanned a number of Discussion groups online and on one individual search on
Yahoo. corn over 1400, replies were found about the Dame Edna controversy. Many were angry about her
comments, however, just as many found the controversy itself problematic as they argued in defense of
Dame Edna's articles which they stated were a satire of upper middle class values.

8 Many of these immigrants come to the United States daily for work in farms, private households
and factories. According to Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A. "only the vaguest statistical data on
Chicana private household workers are available, for the most part these workers remain a doubly hidden









joke, it was hard for Latinos to muster a laugh. There is little positive representation of Latinos in

the media to begin with, despite the recognition of the growing Hispanic population" (1).

I want to make distinctly clear here that Latinas/os are not ignorant of satire or its workings

in society. As such, I am more offended and frustrated by Marquez's need to teach us the true

meaning of satire. However, I can see using the fervor surrounding this column (especially that

created by Latinos/as who responded to Dame Edna's column with a bombardment of letters) as

a way to further perpetuate negative images of Latinos/as as constantly confrontational, and

ignorant of real Latino/a issues and concerns with more significance and relevance to our

community, being unable to detect satire when they see it. As one anonymous reader of Hispanic

magazine states:

what boggles my mind is not Dame Edna and her foul attitude-it's us. For years and years
we've been ignored and maligned.., and we, the Latinos of the U.S.A., have, for the most
part, acted as if we could have cared less. Instead of speaking out, too, may of us chose to
stand by undisturbed, uninformed, apathetic, and always ready to seek excuses for not fully
engaging. (1)

Furthermore, the reader continues by saying, "now, all of a sudden, one tired drag queen gibbers

on about God-knows-what and surprise, we've got ourselves a revo-freakin'-lution" (1).

Forget for a moment that the individual negates the political activism of Latinos/as in

society for the past sixty years (if not more). Forget for a moment the slap in our attempt to

articulate our frustration with yet another moment of political punning. What is significant is the

articulation of anger for Latinos/as everywhere. Everywhere I looked it was Latinos/as who were

policing Latino/a responses. Richard Rodriguez comments on "Ask 'Dame Edna' What

happened to Humor? in the Pacific News Service, "it's truer today that humor is having a hard


population" (10). It is important to note as well that In May 2006, the US Senate approved the building
of a wall between Mexico and the United States to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.









time of it in America these days when we can't tell the difference between a joke and the deadly

serious" (2).

What I found interesting as I looked over the varied responses to the Vanity Fair issue is

that it was mostly Latinos/as who were attacking other Latinos/as, about their frustrations over

the comments. As Jose Ruiz states, "you've done well, Vanity Fair, in unleashing one immigrant

against other immigrants and their descendants" (2). Many online used the controversy to do

exactly that. Marquez goes so far as to tell Latino/a audiences to calm down and not take the

comments seriously. As she chastises, "learn to let hurtful comments slide. Pick your battles and

know when to laugh... [Latinos] seem to miss what satire is supposed to be about... let's not go

overboard, mis amigos, because we squander our energies and look like hypersensitive

crybabies" (1-2). That this response comes from a Latina woman comes as no surprise. That she

does not understand the controversy does. What positions have we been placed in when

articulating our frustrations over the column? Why are the very individuals we hope understand

our angst and anxiety about the relevant issues silencing us?

In the end, I believe that Dame Edna's article, although satirical, ends up failing in its goal

to satirize upper-middle-class value systems; instead, it becomes a validation for those who are

searching for a way to negate or efface Latina/o cultural discourse.9 Therefore, it is telling that

although this article is arguably a satire, even Salma Hayek herself, the featured cover that

month, responded to the letter with her own "disappointed with Vanity Fair" response, "Not-so-


9 As an important side note framing the context of this discussion, Salma Hayek was dating
fellow actor Edward Norton when the Dame Edna column came out in February 2003. Norton's past
romantic relationship was with singer Courtney Love. Who was once quoted as saying that Norton would
"never marry Hayek-for one he can barely understand half of what she's saying". The context of what
Love stated (even in joking) frames the analysis above about the role of Latinas, language, and class
within societal discourse.









dear Damn Edna oopss! My English is not so good) I'm sure you think that you're funny-maybe

sometimes you are, but I wouldn't know... However, your humor in the February edition of

Vanity Fair brings me to the conclusion that you are only funny looking".10 Vanity Fair itself

apologized to its audience in their April 2003 issue (although a quicker apology came on

February 15, 2003 of that year), perhaps elucidating the fact that satire is only as significant as

how it is understood in the realm of real issues of immigration and identity politics (which we

should admit to ourselves, may not be what all readers of Vanity Fair are struggling with). An

overwhelming amount of responses by Latinas/os acknowledges what defenders of Dame Edna's

neglected to politicize. In a society where white middle-class value systems require the necessity

of Latina/o workers, her column serves to reinforce the belief that white superiority is a given.

However, whereas there is arguably room to make fun of white stereotypes and politics, the fact

that Latinas/os are dealing with the reality of being servants and maids, the satire reinforces

stereotypes where it should instead bring light to such. There is simply not enough satirical

difference.

What Is in a Name? Defining Terms in Culture.

The question of identity and naming is the most elucidated by the previous example of

Tiger Woods in this introduction. Frustrated by society making claims on who he is and how

should or could identify himself, Woods hoped he could disseminate that anxiety by creating a

new word "Cablinasian" to identify himself within all of the racial, ethnic, social histories of his


10 The April 2003 issue of Vanity Fair included a letter of response from Salma Hayek, which
states: "as for your statement that there is nothing in our language worth reading except 'Don Quixote,'
and that Garcia Lorca should be left on the intellectual back-burner, you could not be more sadly
mistaken.. .What belongs on the backburner are your ridiculous fake eyelashes, which are clearly keeping
you from reading Nobel-prize winners such as Gabriel Garcma Marquez, Octavio Paz and Camilo Josi
Cela".









family name. As Suzanne Oberler tells us in The Politics ofLabeling Latino/a Cultural Identities

of Self and Others, "characterizations of the self necessarily evoke those of the other, and there

are many 'others' to be portrayed, recreated and redefined in the process" (19). Although I argue

that Woods is naive in hoping that discovery of this new word would silence society's claims on

his identity, I understand the difficult position in which Woods frames himself in this particular

discourse. One's identity frames a particular political, social and economic discourse as well. As

Jose Calderon argues in "Hispanic" and "Latino ": The Visibility of Categories for Panethnic

Unity, "Latinos interviewed at the city council and administrative levels owned property and had

a stake in the local economy, and they were unwilling to affiliate with a political identity that

might jeopardize their positions... Those at this level who preferred to use the term Hispanic

submitted that it was politically safer and more acceptable to the mainstream than others" (41).

Therefore, as the above example makes clear, individuals who position themselves as "Hispanic"

frame themselves behind a particular classed identification marker. At the same time, there are

others who deliberately do not use the term "Hispanic" because it threatens to position them in

those classed identities which they resist, along with situating themselves against a generically

devised term created by a government, which they feel is trying to pan-identity all Latinos within

a similar rubric which simplifies matters for them. As Oboler tells us, "informants rejected the

term Hispanic as a self-identifier, but this rejection took many forms and was particularly

differentiated if terms of social class" (22). As Oboler furthermore informs us, the threat felt by

Latinos was the fear that the term "Hispanic" was a "homogenizing label" (24).

Similarly, imbuing the term "Chicano" or "Latino" positions oneself with a more political

framework. The term, Chicano, is historically a term associated with the Civil Rights Movement

of the 1960s and is specifically used to frame one's identity (generally Mexican-American









identity) from a political, social and occasionally economic standpoint. As Eduardo Del Rio

states, "Mexican-American is the preferred term for many people of Mexican origin who do not

like the political implications associated with the term Chicano" (4). The term Latino, generated

in the last 20 years is a term accepted in a more academic environment, associated with defining

oneself outside of a connection to Spain and more defined within Latin America, including the

Caribbean. Therefore, many Puerto Ricans often employ the term as a way to define oneself

under colonial oppression and as a term which was created by themselves and not a government

agency which threatens homogenization.

Whether employing the term "Hispanic", or "Latino" or "Chicano", many feel that to use

any of the terms positions them within the political, social and economic framework of that

word; as such, the danger is accepting one term above another is the danger of losing a particular

Americanized identity (along with national and class distinctions) which threatens to exclude

them from an American discourse. As Antonio Darder and Rodolfo D. Torres tells us in Latinos

and Society: Culture, Politics and Class, "this is particularly the case with US Latino populations

whose different national, class, gender, and sexual identities have been homogenized in terms of

public policy under the all-encompassing categorical label of 'Hispanic' which, not surprisingly,

is divided in terms of 'white' and 'non-white' subcategories" (10). Additionally, the term by

which to accurately define oneself becomes more complicated by factors which include

nationalistic principles, divisions in color, country and language to name just a few. Ultimately,

because this project is grounded within politically gendered, classed and ethnic intersections and

divisions, it is important for me to employ what I believe are more political terms. Therefore, I

use the terms Latino and Chicano to examine images in popular culture.









Bringing down the House: Examining Images of Latinas in Mainstream Cultural Texts.

Ultimately, this work is about representation and identity. My goal in looking at the images

of Latinas in popular cultural texts is about how those images are used to position Latinas in the

cultural discourse. Additionally, it is about how we can and should negotiate with the images in

order to position ourselves within that discourse as critical agents with voice and subjectivity. I

am interested in the ways in which Latinas are framed by both Latinos/as in themselves as well

as within the discourse of dominant white culture. For the reference of this work, I will use the

term discourse as the conversations, discussions, and arguments and such which often determine

the political, social and economic positioning of individuals within society. Additionally, I use

the term ideology to discuss collections of ideas in society.

The first chapter of my work entitled "Made to be a Maid?: An examination of the Latina

as maid in mainstream television andfilm" focuses on the Latina maid as a necessary component

of American films in the last twenty years and examines how the Latina as maid is often used to

complicate, problematize or situate white middle-class or upper-middle-class value systems. I

argue that the Latina maid or servant functions in very specific ways for white audience

members; from clarifying for the audience the class status of the often Anglo protagonist of a

film, to showing the protagonist as a good and earnest individual who is worthy of the respect

and admiration given to them by their servants, to showing them as revamped spitfires, which

threaten the security of white familial and economic ideals, and finally to showing the

protagonist as conscientious of culture and ethnicity in the changing world around them. Why

have images of Latinas, as maids, servants or workers, offer white culture the fact that they have

become a staple of that culture? Additionally, through our position as critical agents capable of

negotiation, are there ways to engage with the images in positive ways; for example, looking for

the ambiguity in these images in order to find a way to re-appropriate the images?









The second chapter entitled "The mammy mythology: Mammyhood revamped for the

Latina %e, v'iint" examines the mammy figure in television and film as this figure is connected

with, yet distinct from, that of the Latina maid. The analysis of the Latina maid or servant, as a

new mammy figure of comfort for the Anglo protagonist, needed its own dialogue because it was

in and of itself a complicated concept which also includes the discourse and relationship between

Anglo women and women of color throughout the last two hundred years. Because white culture

if predisposed historically to imagine a mutual relationship between black women mother

figures, I argue that white women today need the discourse of a relationship between them and

their servants (most often women of color), which is mutually beneficial and important for the

white woman to feel good about her own identity. Moreover, I argue that it is the desire to be

mothered by women of color that makes white women create a fantasy of friendship about that

relationship. I argue that the Latina maid, as reconfigured mammy figure, works in a number of

ways, which include the Latina maid as a figure of comfort, as a surrogate parent, as a body or

site of difference, and as an individual who helps to accentuate privilege.

The third chapter entitled "Are you my home ?: Examining ethnic toys and collectibles in a

new financial playground' examines a relatively new cultural product on the market-Homies

and Mijos-in relationship to how and why they are consumed by the general population.

Homies and Mijos are small 2-inch plastic Latino/a dolls sold in vending machines across the

country. I examine why they were created and how they serve to represent Latino/a or Chicano/a

ideals and values. It proves an interesting analysis which further complicates notions of Latino/a

identity in United States consumer society. I argue that these collectibles offer Latinos/as

nationality, a bonding community, a history, an ethnicity, a sense of identity and an affirmation

of their significance in the multi cultural world around us. Additionally, I examine homes









through the lenses of ethnic collecting, making ties to the historical collecting of black

memorabilia. Why are Latino/a collectors collecting versions of themselves? What ethnographic

desires are embedded in this collecting? What is to be said about the controversy surrounding the

collection, of what some argue, may be problematic images? From a gendered framework, I am

interested in the tensions between my gender and racial identity, in my desire to engage with

these cultural products. What intersections are created? Which ones are become more divided?

As always, it is the ambiguities of these tensions which engage with in the chapter.

I hope in the articulation of my experience, as well as the experience of other

Chicanas/Latinas, we are able to understand that Chicanas/Latinas are engaging with cultural

texts and becoming a part of the critical process, instrumental in finding voice and subjectivity in

a society which often excludes ethnic women in the cultural discourse. As bell hooks says in

Yearning: race, gender and cultural politics:

cultural critique is particularly relevant to black artist and/or intellectuals who see
ourselves as committed to an ongoing black liberation struggle with a central emphasis on
decolonization. Education for critical consciousness is the most important task before us.
Working in the academy, as many of us do, it is through a liberatory pedagogy that we
make useful critical intervention. (5-6)









CHAPTER 2
MADE TO BE A MAID? AN EXAMINATION OF THE LATINA AS MAID IN
MAINSTREAM FILM AND TELEVISION.

I was watching films one day when I noticed something similar throughout them that I had

never noticed before. I wondered how this similarity spoke to the way in which narratives are

complicit in perpetuating a negative image of the Latina experience. Each of the films I was

watching had a Latina maid. A few of these films, in just the last twenty years, include Goonies

(1985), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) and Maid in Manhattan (2002).1 A few television

shows include Designing Women (1986-1993), Veronica's Closet (1997-2000), and Will &

Grace (1998 present). Many Latina maids appear in guest roles in different shows like Who's

the Boss, Sex and the City, CSI.'Miami, Seinfeld, Bones, and a plethora of other television shows

and film. This trend is so prevalent that Mexican maids even crop up in Mexican films like

2002's Y TuMamd Tambien and Latino films like 2003's Chasing Papi.

Like a computer background setting, which individuals often use to express some

creativity on their part (their own photography, family photos, various graphics) and which often

affirms something about their identity (fun-loving, adventurous, bold), these background Latina

maids often serve to say something ideologically about the family or individual they work for in

the film. Since I maintain that these Latina maids in film are not there simply by chance, it is

1 A more inclusive list of Latina maids in films is as follows: The Incredible hi, iking Woman
(1981), El Norte (1983), Troop Beverly Hills (1989), Regarding Henry (1991), Cape Fear (1991), Leap of
Faith (1992), Universal Solider (1992), Clueless (1995), Ransom (1996), First Wives Club (1996), As
Good As it Gets (1997), Liar, Liar (1997), Enemy of the State (1998), Dr. T and the Women (2000), Don't
Say a Word (2001), Storytelling (2001), Two Weeks Notice (2002), Big Trouble (2002), Mr. Deeds
(2002), Big Fat Liar (2002), Mr. St. Nick (2002), Hollywood Homicide (2003), The Last Shot (2004), Win
a Date with Tad Hamilton (2004), Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), Spanglish (2004) and Crash
(2005). Just a few television shows include Charlie's Angels (1976-1981), I Married Dora (1987-1988),
21 Jump Street (1987-1991), Designing Women (1986-1993), Dudley (1993), Veronica's Closet (1997-
2000), Pasadena (2001), Will & Grace (2003-Present), Curb your Enthusiasm (2000-present), Ed (2000-
2004), Reba (2001-2006), 24 (2001-2006), O. C (2003-2006), Whoopi (2003-2004) and Arrested
Development (2003-2006), shows (both parodies), as well as a new television shows on HBO and
Showtime called Entourage (2004-present) and Weeds (2005-present).









essential to discuss the many ways in which the Latina maid or servant functions for the

mainstream white-and sometimes Latino-audiences.2 Understanding how the Latina maid

functions leads to an understanding of the politics of racial relationships and the politics of

Hollywood discourses. My goal in taking a closer look at the representation of Latina

representation is suggested in Krin Gabbard's Black Magic: White Hollywood andAfrican

American Culture, an academic text which examines the complicated politics of African-

Americans in films. Gabbard's book sheds light on the ways in which whiteness or white people

remain in "unquestioned centrality" in American films (7). As Richard Dyer argues in White,

"research-into books, museums, the press, advertising, films, television... shows that in Western

representation whites are overwhelmingly and disproportionately predominant, have the central

and elaborated roles and above all else are placed as the norm, the ordinary, the standard" (3).

It is in recognizing how whiteness is presented as a standard and in analyzing it which

allows us to understand how racial others are constructed. As Gabbard further argues, "there is

no better way of looking at how whiteness is constructed in movies than by examining how

blackness makes these constructions work" (8). Looking at the image of the Latina maid allows

us to understand how the role of the marginalized Latina continue to play in Hollywood and the

racial myths that continue to perpetuate themselves in American racial mythology about the

nature of the Latina. And although it may seem a mere coincidence that there are a number of

Latina maids in film and television, it is the overwhelming number of them which is suggestive

of an ideological need of mainstream white audiences. It is a racial invisibility which needs to

become a visible reality.


2 For purposes of this essay, I will employ the use of the term Anglo--which means white--when
defining individual actors or actresses, to define their ethnic make-up in a film. However, for the audience
I speak of, I will employ the use of the term white as a general make up of audience spectators.









The image of the Latina servant or maid in film and television, from the beginning of the

1980's to today, performs a number of different narrative purposes, some of which have been

fulfilled by different groups of people throughout the years. Each, however, speaks to the way in

which the Latina maid is a necessary character for the Anglo characters. First, the Latina maid or

servant often clarifies the generally Anglo protagonist as a classed individual. She often clarifies

the progress that the Anglo protagonist has achieved, through obvious hard work and

determination. For example, in the 2002 film, The Banger Sisters, the Latina maid serves to

illustrate just how much Susan Sarandon's character Lavinia Kingsley has come up in the world.

In Veronica's Closet, she serves as an indicator of the wealth Veronica has achieved throughout

her modeling years.

Second, the Latina maid serves the function of allowing white protagonists and characters

to see themselves as good and altruistic individuals, who are worthy of care and devotion from

their servants. This shows the true nature of the protagonist, even in light of obvious character

flaws. In First Wives Club, Teresa, the Latina maid is rewarded for good and loyal service by

Cynthia (an upper class woman played by Stockard Channing) who gives the maid an expensive

pearl necklace as thanks for loyalty throughout the years, right before Cynthia jumps out of a

window. This indicates that Cynthia indeed cares for the servant, even as she is preserved as a

martyr for first wives everywhere. In Maid in Manhattan, the Latina maid serves to foreground

in the male Anglo character Chris Marshall (played by Ralph Fiennes) his true dedication to the

cause of the working class, his worthiness as an individual as he struggles against a political

system which threatens to abuse individuals like Jennifer Lopez's character Marisa Ventura. It is

Marisa's ideas about class oppression that makes Fienne's character the hero of the story, willing

to fight for the underdog, represented by Marisa. In this way, not only does the Anglo









protagonist gain the loyalty of his constituents, specifically those minority constituents in the

working class neighborhood he visits, but he is also able to do so by employing her value system,

without acknowledging her contribution.

Additionally, the function of the Latina maid serves to allow the Anglo protagonists a

sense of altruism in a larger global and philosophical world, as they help Latinas/os gain

employment and provide for their own families, thereby solidifying their care of humankind and

their neighbors. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the Anglo protagonists often posit themselves

as "good people" who have helped the underclass minority to achieve greatness, both as maids

and gardeners for their homes, but also as factory workers in Mr. Whiteman's hanger factory. On

Will & Grace, Karen Walker often forces Rosario, the Latina maid, to acknowledge all that she

has done for her, from giving her a job to getting her a green card. Although I must acknowledge

that Will & Grace is a comedy television show. As such, we often have characters who, through

satire and parody, reflect our misconceptions of the stereotypes we have about certain

individuals. Therefore, Rosario is often cheeky and Karen often looks the fool for the harshness

of her outlandish behavior, which is also reflective of the parody being offered.

Third, the Latina maid serves as ethnic flavor for the Anglo protagonists. Ethnic "flavor" is

how we understand that the main characters are hip to the world, understanding culture and

ethnicity in an ever-changing society. As such, having a Latina maid helps them gain a global

sense of perspective. In Down and Out in Beverly Hills, for example, Carmen provides Spanish

language lessons and food lessons to Mrs. Whiteman, the mother of the family. In this example,

the Whiteman's prove that they care about the social welfare of Latinos/as; at the same time that

an exclusive relationship can exist, which is mutually beneficial for both the employee and the









employer. Mrs. Whiteman helps Carmen with a job and Carmen, in her gratitude, helps Mrs.

Whiteman prove her dedication to a global sense of "culture".

Finally, Latina maids are often sexy servants (a throwback to the 1930's Latina "spitfires")

who threaten the status quo of the white upper middle class and middle class. Their exuberant

sexuality is both an ethnic threat to the assumed purity of sexuality within the Anglo household

(specifically that of the white woman), and also a threat if she uses that sexuality to break up the

marriage, and hence the value systems of the Anglo household and, further, white society. In

both Big Trouble and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the Latina maid threatens that seemingly

secure and untouchable status. These Latina maids are used by Anglo male protagonists of the

films as sexual relief, from the hum drum reality of their suburban lifestyles. Additionally, they

are used by the Anglo female protagonists, as the reason their marriages fail within the same

suburban life. These maids serve as a displacing option for the white middle class, who would

rather blame the Latina maid for their descent from privilege than blame the political, economic

and social realities of a particular time.

It is important, however, to explain that these roles are often conflated with one another.

Therefore, a Latina maid like Carmen in Down and Out in Beverly Hills provides cultural

lessons, provides us with a visual marker of the class status of the Anglo family, at the same time

that she serves as the sexy Latina temptress who threatens the Whiteman's marriage. The Latina

maid Marisa in Maid in Manhattan reaffirms for a white audience and the Anglo protagonists the

position of the ethnic other, at the same time that the Latina maid offers resistance and upward

mobility for the ethnic spectator. All of this happens within a universal love story which tries to

appeal to all in a racially charged world where our differences could melt away.









Ultimately, my analysis strives to explain and understand how these individualized

classifications of the Latina maid are used to complicate, problematize or situate white middle

class or upper middle class value systems, as well as their own identity politics and

individualized experiences. As I tackle this examination, I will also connect the historical and

traditional employment of ethnic help, in both film and in modern society. Beginning with an

analysis of the film The Banger Sisters, which addresses the ideological process of denial that

under grids a classed sense of "whiteness" in these films, I will work my way through Down and

Out in Beverly Hills, in order to show how one character in one film embodies all of the

classifications of the Latina maid; finally I move on to an analysis of Maid in Manhattan, which

purports to escape the traditional placement of the Latina maid, but which merely serves to

reinforce traditional stereotypes and finally to the television show Monk, in which Latina maids

are unusually placed to challenge some assumptions and reaffirm others.

The Banger Sisters: The Most Visible of Maids.

Let me begin by explaining a moment in a recent 2002 film starring well-known actresses

Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon. The Banger Sisters has a scene in which Hawn plays Suzette

(no last name given); a woman whose real life has never met up with the expectations of her

experiences in the 1960's when she "banged" well known rockers for a living. She seeks out her

left-it-all-behind friend Lavinia Kingsley (played by Susan Sarandon) an upper middle class

conservative, who neither acknowledges her old life nor the reality that her life today is

monotonous and suburban. As Suzette becomes frustrated by what she imagines is Lavinia's

pretend existence, she questions Lavinia's abuse of history, her entrapment as a woman and her

views on class oppression. One crucial scene serves to explain both Suzette's superiority as a

working-class woman who understands "true oppression" and explains the taken-for-granted

system of the upper middle class whose work is built on the backs of invisible servants. Suzette









lectures Lavinia's spoiled children Hannah and Ginger about dishes they do not want to clean.

As they argue about the dishes, the young girls point out to Suzette that it is Rosa who normally

does them. Suzette then asks the girls if they know Rosa's last name, to which they reply no.

Suzette then says, "you have people wiping your ass and you don't even know their names."

After the confrontation, she calls them spoiled brats and they begin to clean the dishes.

Implicit in the scene is the moral of the film that privileges are not deserved, but rather

earned, and without hard work, one is destined to become the irrelevant (as designated by her

daughters, husband and friend), oppressed mother Lavinia, who lives in a daze and mechanically

goes through life everyday doing what is needed, but not what she desires. This scene examines

how radically Lavinia's life has changed and how complicit she and her daughters are in a world

that oppresses "workers." In other words, the philosophical question of the film becomes, "When

did I become the person who oppresses? When did I turn my back on real work?" Lavinia's

realization and self discovery are the discourse of the film. Rosa, the maid, spoken of, but never

seen, explains much about the invisible presence of a narrative that excludes Latinos/as from the

daily discourse of life. The narrative had made her, her history and her subjectivity invisible. The

maid could have been anyone; however, we assume, without having to see her that Rosa is

probably an immigrant and she takes care of this family out of loyalty or love.

It is easy to understand that the purpose of the film The Banger Sisters is not to explain or

individualize the experience of this Latina maid. However, the film chooses her subjectivity to

emphasize an abusive white upper middle class reality. It is her abuse, by the daughters, that

frames the discourse of the film. Therefore, her subjectivity is significant, especially as we

consider its momentary purpose to clarify a white upper middle class whose achievements take

for granted the hard work of ethnic others. However, her subjectivity and her abuse are quickly









displaced onto Suzette. We are to understand, through the physical invisibility of the Latina

maid, that she is no longer the focus of the discourse; that focus is shifted to Suzette and her hard

work as a bartender, which has been taken for granted throughout the years by people like

Sarandon's middle class character. Therefore, the invisible Latina here was never significant to

the narrative, so why is she Latina? Simply put, the Latina maid is necessary in order for the

white spectator audience (and sometimes ethnic audience as well) to understand the Anglo

family in the film as classed individuals and at the same time to understand the family as good

and altruistic individuals who have helped employ others in need.

The Banger Sisters is not different from other typical films, which produce the same

narrative. Another such film which includes remarkably similar dialogue and narrative purpose is

the film Clueless, with Alicia Silverstone in the role of a clueless young girl named Cher

Horowitz whose discussion with the Latina maid serves to foreground her discovery of her

taken-for-granted system of oppression. In this film, Cher asks Lucy (played by Aida Linares) to

parley to Jose the gardener that they got a second notice to fix the bushes. Lucy tells Cher to tell

him herself and Cher replies that she does not speak Mexican. Lucy replies, "I no a Mexican,"

and Cher is then admonished by her stepbrother, who clarifies for her that Lucy is from El

Salvador. Implicit in the scene, like in the film The Banger Sisters is the fact that Silverstone's

character Cher comes to the realization that she is part of a system of oppression; and as with The

Banger Sisters, this realization paradoxically displaces the servants' oppression onto the white

female protagonist. Therefore, it is Cher's growth in the film which is significant and not the

Latina maid's ethnicity, politics, or heritage. It does not escape my notice either that Jose the

Gardener is probably Latino as well. Most of these narratives, which include a moment with a

background Latina maid, usually foreground the subtle politics of the film that the Anglo









protagonist is either simplistic in nature or capable of great change, using the politics of the

Latina maid as a superficial discourse for the growth of a white consciousness. It is also

interesting to note that of a variety of movie critics who analyzed this film in the popular press,

none discussed the moment of the Latina maid either, even though it is at a critical juncture of

the film which foregrounds its politics.

Whether subconscious or not, the choice to position these maids, as Latina, becomes an

ideological one which reinforces the image of Latinas/os as "background" to certain social

questions. Clearly, they are such a necessary prop in films that Mary Romero, in Maid in the

U.S.A., states these are "shadow figures, walk on props in films and TV programs celebrating

family life among Texas oil barons or Wall Street executives" (2). In addition, this concept of the

Latino/a worker continues to efface the Latina in Hollywood, where the assumption, for the most

part, is that the Latina can only be seen in the role of the maid, not in the role of the lead. It is

therefore telling that Latinas in films often do not play Latinas at all, as they might not want to be

caught up in these typecast roles. This is why the film Maid in Manhattan, starring popular

actress Jennifer Lopez, is an interesting film to analyze, because her subjectivity is clearly

framed within the concept of upward mobility, a new trend for the Latina maid in contemporary

film. It is this sense of an arguably false agency that positions the Latina spectator in an

interesting dichotomy between the image they want to disenfranchise and the only image that

allows them any agency or possibility of upward mobility

Fictional Servants: How Necessary Are Latina Maids?

As Mary Romero in Maid in the U.S.A states:

While shadowy figures of Latina maids and nannies serving in homes being groomed by
Latino gardeners are still common media images and fixtures in urban and suburban
landscapes across the country, real life has intruded into the American consciousness as
well. The importance of the role that the Latina domestics play in the lives of the well-to-
do has become unmistakable. (2)









Additionally, Romero argues that actual Latinas are necessary because she fulfills a specific

economic need in the white upper middle class. She argues that, "the intersection of statuses

constitute Latina immigrant women as ideal candidates to fulfill the needs of the American

families. Not only are they less expensive than employees hired by agencies who pay benefits,

but they are easily exploited for additional work" (6). Furthermore, Romero argues that this is

more than simply hiring a domestic worker for inside the home; it also includes a variety of other

positions. She states, "citizenship, race, ethnicity, class and gender continue to mark the

boundaries of domestic service-an occupation that extends from the rare household staff that

includes butler, driver, cook, maid, and nanny to the day worker who cleans four to nine hours

for a different employer each day..." (3).

However, the financial necessity of hiring the Latina maid is often constituted as an

unselfish act for that white upper middle class necessity, as whites situate the act of hiring as an

altruistic one, in which they help the underclass minority, while helping their own financial

bottom line. Because white employers understand both the financial need of their Latina/o

employees and the "hard work" value systems presumably inherent in ethnic identity (as a

necessity of being allowed to stay in the country and prove one's ability to achieve the American

Dream), they use this to their advantage in hiring ethnic employees. Romero's argument

acknowledges a changing culture that threatens white security. Without servants, there is the

threat of being positioned as part of the underclass themselves (a subtle ideology which plays out

in the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills). Without servants, they have to fulfill the obligations

of childcare and housing duties themselves.

Therefore, in hiring ethnic help, white people are subtly able to assuage their liberal guilt

over their exclusion of Latinas/os as part of the culture around them, as they create a myth









around the concept of hiring ethnic labor and re-creating the hiring as an altruistic act. As a real-

life example of this mythmaking, Mary Romero tells us in her book of Linda Chavez, who was

the former nominee for Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. Chavez claimed "the two

years she provided shelter and cash to Marta Mercado, an undocumented Guatemalan, was not

an employment arrangement, but rather an act of charity and compassion" (14). Thus, Chavez (a

conservative Latina) solidifies the relationship as a personal one (regulated by kindness and

altruism) and not a public one which should be regulated under the law.

The background Latina maid in real life and in film is no new pattern. For years, servants,

field hands, caretakers and others have fulfilled the purpose of clarifying quickly the classed

position of an Anglo character in the narrative and indeed in real life. Furthermore, they serve to

clarify and reaffirm hierarchal societal realities that are necessary for the upper middle class to

feel good about their wealth and success. They also allow individuals to feel good about helping

the ethnic, who needs the altruism of the employer in order to be a successful part of society.

This is true for both mainstream film and television productions and social reality. The wealthy

individual today needs the ethnic servant. And I believe that the ethnic individual may feel

she/he needs the Anglo patron for real life economic realities, as well as her/his upward mobility

growth, which may not happen without the altruism of the Anglo majority in the world today.

Additionally, there is a vital connection necessary between the white characters (white spectators

looking for positions of relation) and the servants (played historically by black characters and not

Latinas/os) which speaks to the legacy of the relations between whites and people of color in the

United States, one that is occasionally built on the ideology of friendship and mutual co-

dependence, but which often forgets a legacy of racism and gender inequalities.









The Historical Legacy of the Ethnic Maid in Film

It is necessary to situate the representation of the Latina maid in context with other ethnic

maids throughout films of the twentieth century, so as to elucidate the connection between the

past and the present and the ways it seems the maid is necessary (or at least a preferable trope)

for the structuring of a white classed identity. In the early decades of film (1910-1930), the

visible servant was often an Irish immigrant. According to Faye E. Dudden in Serving Women:

Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America, "when the famine immigration poured into

the United States from Ireland in the late 1840s and early 1850s, it began to look as though every

servant was Irish, at least in the major seaboard cities" (60). This trend of hiring Irish women

continued throughout the 19th century and found its way into the twentieth century. Hiring Irish

women was often convenient for white women who found the fact that the Irish spoke the same

language, unlike Russian, German or Scandinavian workers, a helpful necessity to the household.

As Dudden states, "facing no language barrier, they could find ready acceptance as servants, and

entering service solved the problem of finding housing..." (60). The trend then to hire Irish

servants makes its way into early cinema, because of what is commonly seen in individual

households. Therefore, the stereotype of the Irish servant also makes its way into early cinema.

However, it was the early concept of the "Irish Biddy", which saw Irish immigrant women as

helpless and problematic, that becomes more significant to the way in which the servant is

structured for the white spectator audience on the cinematic screen:

The Irish domestic, stereotypically referred to as 'biddy,' which dominated the labor
market at mid-century and therefore drew the blame for servant problems, tended to make
an unsatisfactory servant. She carried to extremes what were, in the eyes of the employers,
the characteristic faults of domestics. Among 'faithless strangers' the immigrant woman
was most faithless, not just personally but culturally. (Dudden 65)

This reinforced for upper middle class women, both in reality and in film, their altruistic sense

that they were helping (or rescuing?) immigrant women with their inability to take care of









themselves. At the same time, they were able to reinforce that they were continuing their

individual responsibilities to their families, therefore not feeling the guilt of not maintaining their

roles of motherhood. Therefore, the domestic servant allowed the white upper middle class

woman to "welcome the prospect of more elevated activities than constant domestic drudgery"

(Dudden 47). Nevertheless, because of immigrant and economic realities, the Irish biddy is the

visual servant of early cinematic films. However, Irish immigrant women became increasingly

unwilling to work for low wages, in addition to religious differences and often saw domestic

service as a temporary working condition before marriage. This is a fact we can contribute to an

assimilation of white cultural values. According to David M. Katzman in Seven Days a Week:

Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America:

whatever effects the cultural matrix had on the Irish-born womans propensity for domestic
service, the next generation-the first to be born in the United States-had adapted
sufficiently to the American experience to avoid household labor .... Clearly, for Irish
immigrants service had provided the vehicle for entry into American society and for
upward mobility. (70)

Therefore, as Irish woman began marrying and moving into middle class circles, black servants,

who have always been commonplace in the south due to slavery, became commonplace further

north and indeed in television and film. David Katzman explains, as the number of white women

servants, including Irish women decreased, the number of African-American servants began to

increase. Katzman states, "at the same time black women were migrating from the South into

Northern cities, they began replacing whites in the nation's largest cities, where they formed an

urban servant population. Soon black women comprised nearly a majority of servants and

laundresses nationally" (72). Additionally Katzman argues, "unlike white women, for whom

household labor provided a bridge between leaving their parents home and getting married, many

urban black women could expect to be wage earners most of their lives, regardless of whether or

not they married" (72). Therefore, in the 1930's and throughout the 1950's, the servant in film









was more often than not African-American. Mary Romero argues in Maid in the U.S.A., "it is not

surprising to find that the pre-civil rights movement image of the African American woman

toiling in the kitchen, cleaning the house, and caring for white people's children has largely been

replaced by images of immigrant women speaking Spanish and living as undocumented workers

in the U.S" (2). Implicit always in the trends is the concept that the hired hand will be ethnic.

Only in rare exceptions is the servant not Latina. For example, the hiring of au pairs and cooks

tends to lean toward whiter servants, suggesting a division between work and ethnicity.

The 1930's servant is most typified by actress Hattie McDaniel who was the first black

woman to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mammy, Scarlett O'Hara's

servant and friend in the 1939 film Gone / i/h the Wind. In fact, Mc Daniel was widely

successful in portraying the mammy figure in over 82 films. According to Carlton Jackson in

Hattie: the Life of Hattie McDaniel, at the end of her career, during the 1950's, McDaniel

refused to play the mammy roles; for this she was boycotted (or blacklisted) by producers and

left, ironically, to become a real maid in order to support herself. It is interesting here to note the

conflation between the real Hattie McDaniel and the roles she played all her life. I am almost

certain that most spectators felt McDaniel was "naturally" inclined for her role as a maid.

The changes in the ethnic makeup of help on film and television, from African-American

to ethnic others, came from a changing economic structure in African-American families. As

Carlton Jackson states in Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel:

by the mid-point of Hattie's career, the late thirties, things were changing. Black
newspapers had grown in quantity, and many of their reporters were young, sophisticated,
and educated, and would not follow what they considered to be the meek, fawning ways of
their ancestors. The liberalism engendered by World War II furthered this feeling of black
independence. Anything that smacks of 'Uncle Tomism,' or 'Mammyism,' came under
attack by the black activists. (95)









Similarly, Patricia A. Turner tells us in Ceramic Uncles & CelluloidMammies: Black Images

and Their Influence of Culture:

starting in the late 1950s and through the 1960s and 1970s, a window was broken in the
kitchen to which African-American women had been confined. Suddenly they had
increased opportunities to seek work outside their own and other people's homes.
Educational opportunity grants afforded access to higher education, and employers were
eager to display their liberal credentials by hiring African-American employees. (56)

As African-American families began their upward mobility into the middle class, new

immigrants again filled the opening for domestic servants in the home. As Mary Romero states:

the occupation in the United States not only involved class differences between employer
and employee but racial and ethnic differences as well. In South Carolina, employers
typically expect to hire African American women as domestics; in New York, employers
may expect their domestics to be Caribbean immigrants; however, in Los Angeles and
Chicago they can expect to hire undocumented Latin American immigrants. (101)

Therefore, as soon as new immigrants arrived, they were displaced as working class or poverty

class individuals. Because of a lack of education, language barriers, and ethnic discrimination,

they often found themselves working as servants in white households. According to Women

Immigrants in the United States:

the U.S immigration peaked in the first decade. .picking up speed again immediately after
World War II and accelerating exponentially after the 1970s... the figures indicate that
immigration in the first half of the century was dominated by immigrants from Europe
(more than 80 percent) while the contemporary era is dominated by those from Latin
America and Asia. (Zhou 23)

Thus, it is important to note that this system of hiring has also been grounded in geographic

realities. What often helps to frame the discourse of the Latina maid is the geographic setting of

the film or the television show. For example, films like Forrest Gump, Clara's Heart, and

Corrina, Corrina more often feature African-American servants, as those films are set in the

South. Whereas films or shows set in eastern New York City such as Will & Grace or Miami

such as Big Trouble, often feature Latina or South-American workers, films set in California,

like Hollywood Homicide or Big Fat Liar often feature Mexican maids. Also, it is important to









note that the film's decade or century may also necessitate a certain background as well. Films

situated historically during the Civil Rights movement more often feature African-American

servants. Implicit always, no matter what the decade or geographic setting, is the concept that the

hired hand will always be ethnic. However, as I suggested previously, au pairs and cooks tend to

be whiter, more educated and of unidentified European lineage, suggesting a division of labor

according to ethnicity. The darker one is, the more inclined that individual is to being the

gardener, the maid or the chauffeur. As in the times of slavery, the lighter one's skin, the more

likely she/he were to be found inside the house as opposed to outside toiling the fields.

Nevertheless, today, in a politically correct world, the servant is no longer African-

American. Although it is important to acknowledge the non-descript background of most

servants in films, I argue, as always, that this phenomenon has not entirely been replaced, as

evident in the film Maid in Manhattan in which most of the maids working with Jennifer

Lopez's character Marisa Ventura are African-American and Latina. In fact, the background of

the film often shows a majority of ethnic maids. A white maid here would be problematic,

because it would threaten the safe status quo of an Anglo world confidant it its knowledge as the

ones capable of upwardly mobility; therefore, the only white maid who appears is one who is

grossly overweight and who lacks subjectivity. She is silent and insignificant, especially in the

politics of the film Maid in Manhattan, which specifically tries to politicize the ethnic maids as

part of an upward trend of mobility.

The Sexy Latina Maid and the New Latina Spitfire

The sexy Latina maid is a segue from the Latina spitfire roles of the 1930's through the

1950's. These roles, best exemplified by actresses Lupe Velez, Dolores Del Rio, and Rita

Hayworth, are often dominated by sensuality and frivolous behavior. The spitfire has a specific

role in early Western films. She functions as a temptress who tempts the Anglo male protagonist









from his life of conformity and rigidity or his threat to leave behind their (read=white western)

moral value systems. She often threatens the basic moral values of the Anglo male, which

include honesty, hard work, and a valiant need to help the helpless and to save their towns and

communities. In the story, the temptress is set in direct contrast to the white female heroine who

will redeem the white male protagonist by re-directing his value system to the correct path.

These spitfires are often superficial characters, generally not developed beyond their basic sexual

desires and needs, whereas Anglo characters, set in direct contrast in the film, are often fully

fleshed out with clear moral ideals and an honest and obviously correct ideology. The function of

the spitfire was obvious; for the Anglo male protagonist, resisting those treacherous "spitfire"

women often redeemed him, indicating to the audience that his moral virtue was beyond

reproach and that he stood for the honest values of hard work, compassion and upholding good

white moral values of justice, honesty and fidelity.

Today, the Latina spitfire has been transformed, but is nonetheless still evident in many

films, within the role of the Latina maid, including 1986's Down and Out in Beverly Hills

starring Richard Dreyfess, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte and 2002's Big Trouble starring Tim

Allen and Rene Russo with Sofia Vergara as the Latina maid Nina. In fact, in a recent television

show Bones titled "The Woman in the Garden" the Latina maid is killed by the manager of the

household (a Latino man) who feels that she had tempted the young Anglo man of the house

with her sexuality. Upset that she has overstepped her bounds, he argues that he has killed her to

maintain the status quo in the relationship between employees (the Latino men and Latina

women evident everywhere in the garden and inside the house) and the Anglo employers.

Implicit in the television show is that the Latina maid has somehow corrupted the innocence of

the young Anglo male and that she threatened to redirect the correct path of this family. As such,









the Latino manager was simply saving the white upper middle class family from their dissent in

upward mobility and therefore, preserving their virtue and their place.

Elizabeth Pefia plays the Latina maid Carmen in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and

provides the most memorable role of a revamped spitfire in contemporary films. Set up (by

producers, screenwriters or directors) as a temptress who threatens to break down the protagonist

Anglo family and their upper middle class value system, Carmen is a reconfigured Latina

spitfire, re-producing the ideology that a white male protagonist who falls does not fall alone.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills sets itself up as a satire of upper middle class and bourgeois value

systems. It is a comedy of reaction, to the attempt of one Anglo lower class male to achieve those

prized values. We are supposed to understand the characters as satires of themselves,

exaggerated figures who represent ideals which are set up to fail as unreasonable value systems.

Therefore, some critics of my argument may argue that the Latina maid in this film is not worthy

of recognition, as she is simply set up here as an attempt to perpetuate the inherent silliness of

the Anglo protagonists in the film, who clearly do not believe their own ideological rhetoric or

are set up as hypocrites of that rhetoric.

In truth, most critics do not understand the role of the Latina maid in this film at all.

Rather, most casually read the visibility of the maid, as I have suggested above, as simply

clarifying the wealth of the Anglo protagonists, as they have enough money to afford a maid.

Additionally, as I also suggested, they may read the hiring of an ethnic maid as the altruism of

Anglo protagonists who are generous enough to help an underprivileged minority. These

arguments reaffirm my analysis, but critics may dismiss them because of the satire suggested by

the film. This negation of the importance of her character continues with the fact that most critics

seem obsessed with her representation as a sexy Latina maid. For example, Pauline Kael from









the New Yorker calls Carmen "the Whiteman's hot live-in maid" (105). Later, she further negates

the character by talking up the maid's physical attributes, rather than any social significance she

may have to the politics of the film. She states, "Elizabeth Pefia plays Carmen as tantalizing and

sulky; she has a bedroom mouth, and when it says no to Dave the rejection is brutal, because that

mouth looks as if it were made to say nothing but yes" (106). None of the critics which I have

looked at, however, spoke to the maid as a significant character worthy of our analysis.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills, directed by Paul Mazursky is actually a re-make of a 1932

French film by famed director Jean Renoir, Boudu sauve des eaux translated in English as Boudu

Saved from Drowning. Renoir was a well-known humanist, realist and naturalist filmmaker who

wished to understand what motivates people, especially those separated by class politics. He had

an intricate way of examining the problems and absurdities of bourgeois class structures. Though

not necessarily didactic, Renoir's films explore the ways in which individuals cope with trying

economic times. The Renoir film Boudu sauve des eaux (1932) follows the story of Boudu, a

tramp, who jumps into the Seine River and is rescued by Mr. Lestingois, a bookseller who gives

him shelter and hopes to redeem the man who the tramp once was. In the film, the goal (both by

Mr. Lestingois and the individuals making the film) is to reinstate the depressed French man into

an economically stable livelihood. The maid in the film (played by Severine Lerczinska) is

clearly positioned as the lower class and is also pressured by the head of the household, Mr.

Lestingois, into sleeping with him. What is important is that she only sleeps with him in

exchange for the possibility of upward mobility. In fact, she makes it clear that she will not sleep

with him if he does not provide her with a way to escape her lower class existence. Later, she

sleeps with the Tramp, situating her struggles as easily forgotten in the presence of the real

struggle: the Lestingois family's goal to make the Tramp part of society and of the middle class









again. In fact, in some ways she allies herself with the Lestingois family in their attempt to make

the Tramp a respectable member of the community. The fact that the Tramp ultimately decides to

forego the acceptance of the family's ideologies, as he throws his bourgeois given hat in the

Seine River and swims, both literally and metaphorically, away from the Lestingois and all they

believe, is important to understanding this film as a class criticism. The tramp ultimately wants

nothing to do with the compromise associated with living for and up to society's expectation of

the upper middle class.

The 1986 re-make of Renoir's film is a re-make which fails to stay with the class critique

of its predecessor. Whereas the maid in the original attempts to change her class status by

seducing Lestingois in Boudu Saved from Drowning, the re-make has the Latina maid in a

position of less power, as she is not so much seducing her employer as much as she is being

seduced for his pleasure. What has changed in this updated version is that the maid is now

dependent on her employers for her green card, suggesting an interesting analysis of the fears of

international immigration in the 1980's; an unstable economic environment where the country

felt its first recession in years. Struggling with the real possibility of downward mobility, films

made a point of reassuring individuals struggling financially by promoting a facial uplift (a

visible uplift) to the situation, often showing middle class or upper middle class families as

secure, while also reaffirming the idea that the ethnic immigrant was not out to get their jobs.

This is a technique common to film. In the early 1940's, films directors, screenwriters and actors

felt the need to reassure audiences of a tumultuous time at war. Therefore, films often promoted

uplifting images of individuals eager to defend their country; such is the case with the film

Yankee Doodle Dandy.









Being a Hollywood film, Down and Out in Beverly Hills falls into this trap and backs

down from any attempt to explore or negotiate complicated class politics, even though it sets

itself up to do so. As Jerry the bum (the tramp of this film) ends up successfully entering the

prized value system of the film in a heartfelt ending sequence (in complete negation of the

original's ending), in which he and the family are reunited, both on the screen and in the

metaphorical world of the Whiteman's ideological bourgeois reality; thus any satire of the

prevailing middle-class values which might have been suggested is eliminated. As Janice

Morgan argues in From Clochards to Cappuccinos: Renoir's Boudu is 'Down and Out' in

Beverly Hills, "though at first the rebel had promised liberation from the relentless cycle 'work

produce consume work produce consume' we are lead to the cynical conclusion that he has, in

fact, only eliminated the first two terms of the above three "(8-9). Morgan continues by arguing,

"properly defused, stripped of any revitalizing potential to change or to challenge the social

order...the Outside is more than welcome to be co-opted into the system. Whatever promise,

threat, or possibility Jerry's presumed otherness might have represented has, for the price of a

cappuccino, been overruled" (11). What Morgan argues is that the film, in true Hollywood style,

never follows through on its promise to satirically understand that Jerry's opposition to the

Whiteman's is an opposition of greed. When he joins the fold, he joins their ideology. As

Andrew Kopkind of The Nation states, "Mazursky exploits the myth but never exposes it" (252).

Essentially, the film never follows through on its promise satirize and therefore expose problems

inherent in class systems. Therefore, it is the analysis of the Latina maid Carmen (played by

Elizabeth Pefia) which will prove fruitful towards an understanding of class and racialized

politics that ultimately makes this film worth watching.









Initially, I must explain how it is that we know Carmen is Latina. First, she speaks Spanish

and has a clear accent throughout the film. Second, she is often in her room watching Hispanic

television shows and news. Third, she is often positioned as ethnic by the Whiteman's

throughout the film, as Mrs. Whiteman constantly asks Carmen to correct her Spanish and Mr.

Whiteman prophesizes often about his helping of the poor minority. Carmen is first seen in the

background of the film, cleaning and cooking for the Whiteman's. The name of the family does

not escape my analysis either. (Is this a pun about how truly white their value systems are or a

mere coincidence?) As she cooks, she helps Mrs. Whiteman with her Spanish and they talk about

the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. The fact that Carmen is invited to share the dinner with the

family serves to situate the family as a kind and generously liberal family because they allow the

servants to dine with them.

However, here is where the narrative becomes more complicated. As she dines with the

Whiteman family, her function as the maid is never forgotten, as she continually serves them

food throughout the dining experience. Moreover, as she serves them, there is a moment when

one of the diners asks, in a familiar tone, how her family is doing. Although it may seem that the

interest is genuine and seemingly purports the idea that the white upper middle class is

concerned about the real problems of the Latina servant, what occurs when she responds (that her

family is not doing well and that her brother, a sugar cane worker, is out of work) is that others at

the table laugh at the misfortune of a brother who cannot be a productive worker in their societal

framework. It is clear by the response offered, that "there's not much of a call for that in Los

Angeles" is a way of re-affirming the concept that the Latino does not want to work. What is

perpetuated is that Latinos/as do not really want to be successful, and as a result, they are

displaced from acceptable society.









The function here is complicated. At the same time that the character is clearly seen as one

of the family, allowing the middle class audience (which is the target of this film) to assuage

their guilt as employers, as they see themselves as generously helping out, they can also see

themselves above the very obvious stereotypically abusive character who neglects and mocks the

real life subjectivity of the Latino. As Bonnie Thornton Dill states in Notes from Our Mothers'

Grief: Racial Ethnic Women and the Maintenance of Families, "racial ethnics were brought to

this country to meet the need for a cheap and exploitable labor force. Little attention was given to

their family and community life except as it related to their economic productivity" (15).

Therefore, the moment in the film is quickly glossed over and we forget that Carmen and her

family have difficult financial constraints.

What is important in the narrative of Down and Out in Beverly Hills is the problem of the

family dynamics, and it is clear that the Latina maid, Carmen, (like the spitfire of the 1930s) is

one of those problems. As I have initially argued, often the stories of these films are about the

breakdown of upper middle class value systems, and in the film that breakdown is quickly seen

in the initial scene in which the couple is positioned far from each other in bed. Following that

moment are allusions to a sexually ambiguous son, an anorexic daughter, an obsessed with the

unnecessary (a middle class attribute of shopping addiction) wife and a confused male

protagonist feeling occasional guilt about his success. This capitulates in a moment early in the

film when Dreyfess's character Mr. David Whiteman asks his wife, in the privacy of their

bedroom, whether she is happy and she responds, "I'm content."

As clear as the allusions are of the breakdown of this family, the reasons for the breakdown

are more elusive. Are they in a middle class rut, like Lavinia in The Banger Sisters? Are they

tired of marinating in the American Dream? Or, as I might suggest, does the film deliberately set









up a destructive pattern of their ideology at the beginning, because the recompense of that pattern

at the end of the film is what builds up the spectator in the 1980's to believe that everything

(upper middle class traditional value systems) will regain its normality? What is clear is that the

breakdown is not helped by the Latina maid, who is then positioned as sleeping with Mr.

Whiteman (Dreyfess), who again functions as a character ambivalent about his role in this upper

middle class "oppressive" system, in which he constantly feels guilty about having made so

much money. His acknowledgement of the guilt, an upper middle class preoccupation, is used in

such a way as to convince others that if he could change it, he would, and he does by helping the

underprivileged minority. One wonders, therefore, if sleeping with the maid assuages his guilt

because it allows him to feel he has saved her from a life of drudgery as a maid and if he feels his

saving her, and by extension the Mexican workers in his plant, is necessary to viewing himself as

altruistic and a guiding force in their presumed upward mobility.

This sets up the plot of the story that has Richard Dreyfess's character Mr. Whiteman

helping Nick Nolte's (Jerry) troubled homeless character. The narrative again situates itself

within the dynamics of white America, especially the problem of a white America which does

not value the very system created for their benefit. Jerry, and his placement in direct contrast to

the upward mobility of Mr. Whiteman, is seen as the more prominent problem of the film.

Although the film is a comedy, the serious implication of a white man who is unsuccessful is

seen as further perpetuating the downward fear of the particular class dynamic. It is clear in the

film that what scares the family more is the possibility that they can become this bum that they

can and still have the possibility of one day being in the same position, as Mr. Whiteman states,

"there by the grace of god go you and I". Therefore, Carmen and her brother's obviously similar

situation (seen earlier in the film) is negated by the more serious situation of the white man out









of work, who threatens their status quo, while reaffirming the fact that Latinos are in the place

they should be and are because of their own lack of motivation. In fact, throughout the film Mr.

Whiteman is obsessed with finding out how this has happened to Jerry in order to reinforce his

superior position in society.

Nevertheless, remember that as this family becomes obsessed with correcting a system that

neglects the Anglo man's struggle, again represented by both Jerry and Mr. Whiteman, it has

again sacrificed the real problems of the maid and her family. Moreover, the film carefully

positions Carmen as part of the oppressing system (which the Whiteman's know they are a part

of, as indicated when Mr. Whiteman expresses his anxiety and guilt about how much he has)

when she refuses to clean up after Jerry the bum. It is clear that she feels comfortable cleaning

for the upwardly mobile but has the same disregard for Jerry's situation as Mrs. Whiteman has,

therefore subtly placing herself in the same subjectivity as the white woman of the house, later

reaffirmed by both of them sleeping with Jimmy the bum.

As the role of the past spitfire indicates, part of that role was about positioning the Latina

temptress in direct contrast to the morally upstanding white female character that the male

protagonist has to choose between.3 Here, more than 50 years later, that function is still evident

in a multitude of films which feature a Latina maid. Furthermore, the Latina, set up as the sexy

maid, reinforces the idea of the immorality of Latinos today, who neither understand nor help

middle class oppression by staying out of those problems. Their sexiness, their individuality (set

off by her often biting comments) is inconceivable and therefore problematic. As such, she must

be and is punished for her indiscretion. Therefore, she is the maid and the maid is there for the


3 See Gary D. Keller, Chicano Cinema: Research, Reviews, and Resources, (New York: Bilingual
Review/Press, 1985) for a further examination of early spitfire roles and their function within historical
films.









use of her patrons. Second, she has no individual identity. Rather, she serves the narrative

function to examine white family suburban crisis today, which is occasionally displaced onto the

Latina maid. That crisis involves a realization that the domestic bliss of the family is not blissful

after all.

In the film Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Mr. and Mrs. Whiteman have become

dysfunctional in their relationship. This is due to Mrs. Whiteman's preoccupation with

maintaining the image of wealth. Mr. Whiteman, however, is imbued with a sense of superiority

that perpetuates itself in the idea that he can and will take whatever is his (body ownership of the

Latina body). Again, the primary function of the Anglo protagonists as generous and inherently

altruistic replays itself with Jerry being the foundation that serves to facilitate the maid's journey

to bettering herself and becoming more politically powerful. What is made evident in the film is

that the Latina maid is incapable of coming into this agency on her own. She needs the guidance

and direction of the Anglo world in order to gain any subjectivity.

Similarly, in the past, Anglo employers were often able to see themselves as altruistically

generous individuals when they gave maids time off, clothes, even support in order to facilitate

their growth or individuality. However, Carmen's agency within the film Down and Out in

Beverly Hills continues to be irrelevant, as the real goal of the film is to reinforce the goodness

and honesty of the Anglo characters in the film. This is also reinforced by Mrs. Whiteman often

reaffirming to her and others, including the maid Carmen, that she is a generous and giving

individual who understand the difficulties of the impoverished and the ethnic others she

constantly hires to maintain the facade of her generosity. Additionally, the fact that we find out

that Jerry is a scam artist and that he has lied about all that he has done in the past, and tells

Carmen that he picked up the Marxist books at a bargain store, negates any agency she creates









from the texts. And we are to understand that his lies, which are accepted at the end of the film

by both Carmen and the family, were not as important as the allegiance they have created

amongst themselves and the fact that they have saved Jerry from an Anglo man's world of

possible drudgery.

Therefore, the maid's subjectivity is never relevant and is displaced onto the subjectivity of

the Anglo protagonist, who struggles to make the imperfect world a little better for ethnic others.

Not only is her subjectivity displaced, but so is the subjectivity of the Mexican immigrants

working for Dreyfess, who only further situate his goodness and kindness at the expense of the

real economic, social problems of ethnic others. In fact, a subtler dangerous element in the film

is the fact that Carmen is an immigrant who is dependent on Mr. Whiteman for a green card.

Therefore, she is positioned in the film as a prostitute, by the fact that she is selling her body to

Mr. Whiteman for the possibility of staying in the country. Subtly, the film postulates the good

morality of the white woman and degrades the morality of the Latina woman, which is again a

characteristic of past spitfire roles. Furthermore, we can argue that Carmen sleeps with Mr.

Whiteman in order to reaffirm her loyalty to the Whiteman's, which is brought into question later

when she sleeps with Jerry the bum and Mr. Whiteman feels betrayed.

It is important to analyze the situating of Mr. Whiteman as a good moral person who is

constantly seen as bettering the lives of Mexican immigrants in the film, by hiring them to work

in his clothes hangar factories, and by reminding them of his generosity in giving them yearly

bonuses. Lest one should forget, we must remember that this generosity is often overlapped by

his concern for the welfare of the white male character, Jerry, as it is the breakdown of the white

male that most threatens his upward mobility. He is only showing Jerry the Mexican workers in

order to get Jerry to understand that his success can somehow be transferred onto to Jerry. In









fact, there is another moment in the film when a black homeless man, who is a friend of Jerry's,

approaches them while they are dining. Mr. Whiteman is clearly upset by the man's inclusion

into his private discussion with Jerry. Again, his concern is not with the struggles of the black

man whom he dismisses with a statement that he seems crazy; it is Jerry, as the white man, who

is the most significant because of the possibility of white downward mobility. It is interesting

then that Jerry, who sleeps with Mrs. Whiteman, is actually regarded as the savior of the film,

unlike Carmen who sleeps with Mr. Whiteman, who is seen as the moral breakdown of the film.

She is vilified by the film's structure while he is idolized. Her lack of morals, again re-affirming

the moral ambiguity of ethnic workers, is then situated in the moment when she sleeps with

Jerry, further making her problematic because she has now become responsible for the moral

degradation of two white males.

In the end, we are left with the negated subjectivity of the Latina maid in Down and Out in

Beverly Hills. It is the subjectivity of whiteness that is significant for the film. What is ultimately

important is how the Latina maid functions for whiteness and not how she may function for

herself. Her problems are never truly resolved. Carmen is offered no upward mobility to escape

her position and she continues in her world of oppression. If in fact she is allowed to escape her

role (suggested but never fully realized), it is because the white protagonist allows her to. In fact,

Carmen becomes part of the white upper middle class struggling to save one of its own, as the

last scene shows Carmen, together with the family, asking Jerry to stay and help them out of the

fallible upper middle class world that they have become a part of. The white homeless man is

saved, which is really the narratives true intention from the beginning.

Maid in Manhattan: A Revitalization of the Latina Maid

The Latina maid in film which leaves itself open to one of the most significant analysis is

Jennifer Lopez's maid Marisa Ventura in Maid in Manhattan. Following the tradition of many









actresses, including famous black actresses like Dorothy Dandridge who played African-

American stereotypes in the 1950s, Lopez takes on the challenge of reversing and subverting

stereotypes in a film in which she plays a maid. Maid in Manhattan is a film about a Latina maid

who struggles between her fears of upward mobility and her desire for it. Playing a single mother

in charge of a rambunctious ten-year-old, Lopez's character Marisa meets a single Anglo

politician named Chris Marshall (played by Ralph Fiennes).

This pairing also parallels many earlier 1930s films in which Latinas played for an Anglo

love interest. Additionally, it also lays out the possibility of the Latina temptress, who can

represent the potential downfall of the Anglo male. This is situated by the fact that his second in

command continually tells him to leave her alone and to think about the repercussions of his

decision to get involved with a Latina maid. Furthermore, she is even set up, as temptresses of

the past, as part of a triangle love interest with another Anglo woman in the film Caroline Lane

(played by Natasha Richardson), who his second in command feels is more suited to his position.

The film follows Marisa Ventura's struggle to free herself from the fears of her position in order

to take over a management role in the hotel. It follows her struggle to stave off a romantic

interest in the politician she met while pretending to be a rich socialite, in a moment when she

wears one of the wealthy patron's outfits to try on the mask of wealth.

I have no doubt that Lopez was initially intrigued by the idea of playing the Latina

Cinderella, one who is able to have all wishes come true after a life of abject poverty and

disillusionment. I have no doubt that Lopez felt that she would imbue the character with a new

sense of Latina pride that says I can make vmethigii of myself ifI really try hard enough. Lopez,

no doubt, felt that she was capable of subverting any ideological possibilities of the Latina maid









that I argue have played out in a number of different roles throughout the years. Indeed, the film

is touted as reversing the idea of the invisibility for the maid. Even the trailer for the film states:

At Manhattan's Barrister Hotel, where the rich and famous can always be seen .. it was
Marisa Ventura's job to go unnoticed but when you least expect it, fate can open the
door. the girl that was invisible. is all that he can see. if only he could figure out
who she is. .no matter who you are, destiny will find you. (trailer)

It is important to acknowledge the statement "no matter who you are" which implies a necessity

for the minority to work that much harder to be noticed. Additionally, let us not forget gender

construction in fairy tales. We have to be conscience of what fairy tales reinforce in society. As

Katherine E. Bartnett states in Destructive and Constructive Characterizations of Women in

Disney 's Mulan:

fairy tales originated as stories passed down by word of mouth. They were a way of
providing meaning to the experiences of a community... They continue to send messages
that reinforce ideology that textual critics refer to as patriarchal oppression-in other words,
a society in which men dominate women. In fairy tales, typically, a woman is neglected,
isolated, silenced, or generally treated with disdain by some male figure or group of
people, until another male comes along and saves her from desperate circumstance. (185)

So, in fact, there is a double edged sword here, wherein the Latina maid is both constrained by

the gendered fairy tale aspect which negates her and her ethnic perspective, which does the same.

The truth is that in some small part, Lopez does exactly what she sets out to do, challenge the

stereotypical belief of society of the difficulties Latinos have in becoming upwardly mobile, as

the character does manage to escape her life of poverty and become a manager of maids.

However, her mobility does stop there; while her love interest (played by Fiennes) goes on to

become a Senator.

As a spectator, however, I am torn by the realization of her visual marker of success and

the price she pays for that success. It does not escape my notice either that Jennifer Lopez has

been darkened for the role. Considering that Hollywood has made quite an effort to lighten her

up in films like The Wedding Planner and commercials for her Glow perfume, it is interesting to









see how visibly darkened she is for this role.4 However, it is her pseudo success in the film

which presents a more interesting problem. Clearly, this film wishes to play for all audiences.

For Latinas, she is the possibility of success, and for white women, she is the reaffirmation of

maintaining her place. Therefore, the film strives to not alienate any possible audience, and in

doing so, threatens to reaffirm certain stereotypes.

The problems begin with her success in the film, which comes only after her absolute

humiliation by the hotel employers, the press and the main love interest, Fiennes' character. It is

only after she has been stripped of all self-confidence that Chris Marshall comes in to rescue her

at the end of the film, therefore reinstating her into the possibility of upward mobility. Like

Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the white man of the film allows for the Latina's upward

mobility. In this way, he is seen as a good and moral figure that truly cares about the problems of

the ethnic help. In addition, it seems that the way in which Marisa is seen as good and moral

herself, in comparison to the white character (played by Natasha Richardson) manages to

validate the white audience member, who can manipulate the images by letting themselves seem

virtuous by comparison to the white woman.

It is important to acknowledge Marisa Ventura's resistance, throughout the film, to the idea

of applying for a manager's position in the hotel. We see her yelling about her frustration with



4 Although it may seem coincidental and some may argue she may have spent a little time out in
the sun, what should be understood is that Hollywood is visual. For film, overt stereotypes of ethnicity are
often subsumed under the color of one's skin. One merely has to examine the controversy surrounding an
earlier Latin film entitled The Perez Family (1995) and the hiring of Italian Marisa Tomei to play the role
of a Cuban woman who travels to the United States to experience freedom. After an exhaustive search of
2000 women in Miami, Florida, where many Cuban Americans live, director Mira Nair defended her
choice (against criticism from Hispanic/Latino organizations threatening to boycott the film) by arguing
that she couldn't quite find someone in Miami who embodied the specific traits, characteristics and talent
which Tomei offered. However, after hiring Tomei, Nair proceeded to have her tanned daily and asked
the actress to gain 20 pounds in order to look more authentically native. As such, Nair emphasizes the
necessity here to have Tomei attain a visual marker of ethnicity.









her co-employer Stephanie, who secretly turns in an application for Marisa. Later, in a

conversation between her mother and herself, Marisa reaffirms that she is not stepping out of her

place by wanting to apply for this position. Her mother worries that she will be a threat to the

status quo by becoming uppity enough to want more. Their fight is indicative of the struggle of

Latina upward mobility in the light of a society who would have her maintain her place.

Therefore, it is only after Chris Marshall "saves" her, by charging in on his mythical white horse,

that she is able to achieve any success in the film. It is his prompting, and not her mother's that

makes her desire the managerial position. Moreover, when she is fired for having appropriated a

wealthy patron's identity and she begins to work at yet another hotel as a maid, it is Marshall

who tells her to value what she has to offer. It is his prompting that gives her subjectivity and

makes her attempt to better herself. Likewise, the son Ty in the film, who has a problem with

speaking in front of his school, is able to speak out only after Marshall shows him how to, even

though his mother gives him advice as well.

The subjectivity of the Latina maid here is also displaced onto the white man in the film,

for it is his realization that there are individuals in the world who are oppressed that frames part

of the discourse of the film. However, I must acknowledge that she is able to re-direct his

passions in the false direction of the charity dinner he is going to; from it being beneficial to his

campaign to his understanding that it is beneficial to the hundreds they will be helping with the

money. Furthermore, she also re-directs him from a speech in the projects, where he suggests he

is about to shed light on the problems of the ghetto and she makes him realize that in order to

shed real light onto the situation, he has to understand the real problems of the people who live

there. Moreover, she does make him change his belief in what is the right thing to do. The film

threatens, however, to displace all the good that she has done by reaffirming again that it is more









important that he realize his faults than she realize hers. It is more important that he save her than

she save herself. It is ultimately more important that we wrap up the real differences between

them in a happily ever after-no race, gender or class hindering-ending for the movie. It is

complete with pictures of their gaiety in magazines and it ends with the political success of Chris

Marshall and the financial and seemingly ethnic American Dream success by Marisa Ventura.

Maids on Monk: Making Their Way in the World.

It is on the show Monk that we have the most interesting possibility for the subjectivity of

the Latina maid. In the show Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation, Monk, who is an obsessive-

compulsive out-of-work detective, goes on vacation somewhere near the coastline of California.

While there, his assistant's son witnesses a potential murder. As he searches for who might have

killed someone, he begins, through his own superior knowledge of cleanliness (think the literal

whiteness of Mr. Clean) to suspect the maids who are the only ones capable of cleaning up a

murder scene so perfectly. Inherently problematic is the assertion here that the duties of cleaning

up are an essential part of the make up of women of color or of any woman for that matter. The

maids, of course, are Mexican or of some non-descript Latin American background.

There are a number of issues of importance in this show. The maids on this show, who, by

the way, are guilty of murdering one of their own, are espionage aficionados as well. Using the

cover of the maid, and manipulating the system, which often makes them invisible, and of little

concern, these maids have been stealing information from the briefcases of businessmen who

stay in the hotel. They have been taking digital pictures of papers about corporate takeovers,

high-end investments and stock market options and investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds,

therefore reversing their positions by working their way up the class mobility ladder, without the

direct help of an Anglo individual prompting them to better themselves.









This juxtaposition of the maids as criminal, the maids as capable of murder and the maids

as capable of corporate espionage is a fascinating subject for analysis. Because it threatens to

reaffirm the stereotype of Latinas/os as criminal, it nonetheless portrays them as reversing the

tables of oppression, and manipulating their invisibility in the hotel and in society, to support the

very families that make them oppressed individuals in the first place. In fact, in one crucial

moment during the show, Monk directly questions the maids about their criminal activities, and

in a moment which appears to crystallize the ethnic politics of the moment, the Latina maids

respond in affront, asking Monk if he believes that being "white" (a significant and underlying

idea here is his encoding as a white individual when Monk, played by Tony Shaloub, is clearly

ethnic or "other") allows him to believe that Latinos are criminals, or allows him to assume that

the ethnic help will always be the criminals. The humor and irony of the moment is significant to

the politics of representation, as we know that these maids are indeed criminals. The Latina

maids here reverse the politics of the moment, subvert the ideology of white superiority and then

reverse all of that potential by making sure that the Latina maids are caught.

As a spectator, I find myself intrinsically placed in the position of liking the Latina maid

image as represented in this segment of the show. After all, these are powerful women who are

actively conning and manipulating the very system which positions them "invisible" in

discourse. Thus at the same time, as a complicated individual subject defined through many

possibilities (ethnic, gendered, religious etc.), I find myself upset by the essentialism that allows

women to be seen as inherently cleaner than me; after all, it is implied, an essential part of a

woman's programming is that she be able to clean better than a man. This is important here

because Monk is obsessive about cleaning.









One of the more noteworthy aspects of the show is that it takes Monk a significant amount

of time to figure out how the women have committed the crime. It usually takes Monk only five

to ten minutes of every show to figure out who has committed the crime. The rest of the time is

spent on Monk trying to figure out how the crime has been committed and it is usually his

obsessive-compulsive behavior that allows him to figure it all out. So, at the same time as we are

presented with Latina figures who outsmart Monk for a full 35 minutes before he figures out who

has committed the crime, we pay the price of confirming the essentialism of the Latina maid as

able to clean better than Monk himself, the obsessive compulsive cleaner. He is only outsmarted

by a woman's (an ethnic woman's) inherent ability to clean. Therefore, as a spectator here, I am

pulled two different directions: I am given a false sense of comfort about the ability of Latinas to

outwit a criminal investigation while having confirmed for me my inherent ability to commit a

crime. It is an interesting dichotomy and one that speaks to the ways in which we must position

ourselves as extracting what is empowering in the moment, and decoding the intricacies of

ideological representations.

In the end, when Monk finally discovers how the women were able to dispose of the body,

by hiding them in a suitcase in the front lobby, I find myself actually hoping that this is the one

crime that Monk will not solve. Because the Latina maids here were positioned as using their

invisibility to become upwardly mobile, I want them to succeed because I want to see the

possibility of agency in their characters. Unfortunately, Monk solves the crime as its necessary to

understand that no one, not even those oppressed, get away with murder. Nevertheless, for a

moment these maids made me as happy as I ever was with the representation and the possible

agency they offer.









What we ultimately have to acknowledge about the Latina maid is that she is a necessary

character in film and television today and not simply because she positions the family that she

works for as classed. In addition, her figure is necessary because she is intrinsic to structuring the

economic and class privilege of "whiteness" in multiple ways. She is important as a signifier for

white privilege, wealth and superiority. It is important that she exist in order for their ideologies

to exist in a number of ways, including seeing themselves as altruistic, as good moral

individuals, as caring of their communities, as individuals worthy of all the privileges they are

entitled to. My purpose here then was to visualize the un-visualized in film. As Richard Dyer

states, "in a visual culture-that is, a culture which gives a primacy to the visible as a source of

knowledge... social groups must be visibly recognizable and representable, since this is a major

currency of communication and power" (44). As such, I hope I have given us the power to look

more closely at what certain representations offer people of color, even if those images were not

intended. My purpose here was to make ideology visible for the unseen and unheard, the maids

and servants who are not allowed to speak, but whose representations in media say something for

both people of color and white America.

I leave this analysis with two examples of how the Latina as a maid continues to be

circulated and widely considered as normalized. The first is a Call for Papers I saw for a

conference on racial constructions and considerations. The call asked that we examine the

Whoopi show and the nature of her character and her Persian valet/handyman, and the questions

which rose about racial constructions that abound in our society. However, there is no mention of

the equally problematic nature of the relationship between her and the Latina maid who cleans

the hotel. The truth is that her role may be seen as natural, while his appears stereotypical. It is









the subtle difference between what is necessary to maintain the status quo and what needs to be

problematized or subverted.

The second is an advice column letter sent to Latina magazine in March 2006:

Dear Dolores: I was wondering if you could help me. About two years ago, when I stayed
at the Homewood Suites in Lewisville, Texas, I met a nice maid by the name of Gabriela. I
never caught her last name. She didn't speak much English, so she might have been an
immigrant or a guest worker. We both had fun talking in broken English/Spanish. She had
a real pleasant disposition. I would like to track her down, and I thought that maybe you
know her? (48)

Dolores's response:

Dear Traveler: You must be kidding... This may come as a surprise to you in Nebraska but
all Latinos don't know each other. We don't even look alike or eat exactly the dame food.
For all I know, Gabriela could be the CEO of Homewood Suites by now. I don't keep track
of hotel maids or facilitate dating services, but if I were you, I'd contact the Hollywood
producers association. Judging by the abundance of Latina maids in movies, I'd say they
are true experts on the subject. Just tell them what your dream maid looks like: Paz Vega
in Spanglish? Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan? Elizabeth Pefia in Down and Out in
Beverly Hills? Lupe Ontiveros in... oh, God! You have some nerve! D'. (48)

There is simply much to discuss with the above statement to delve into fully and truthfully, I

wonder if the person who initially wrote the letter was not being slightly facetious (although my

argument to this point is that I believe people are not). Ultimately, it is important to examine the

conflation of Latino identity, the language question and the reality of a society or world that

mandates or desires Latinos/as as servants in order to maintain its position of privilege. As Mary

Romero states in Maid in the U.S.A, "in the U.S., it [maid's work] remains women of color's

work, and it is never done" (22).









CHAPTER 3
"THE MAMMY MYTH":MAMMYHOOD RECONFIGURED FOR THE LATINA
SERVANT.

The racial history of the United States is a complicated one, embroiled as it is in slavery,

oppression and hardship. Within this history, the relationship between women of color and white

women in the United States is deeply complex. As Talmadge Anderson argues in Comparative

Factors Among Blacks, Asian, and Hispanic Americans: Coalition or Conflicts?, "race, ethnicity,

and color are catalytic social factors in the United States, causing class antagonism, controversy,

and conflict among its diverse population" (27). This divisiveness is one embedded in centuries

of inequality, witnessed in history's literary and popular culture images of black women as

mammies, jezebels and Aunt Jemima's, and to depictions of Latina women as spitfires, harlots,

female clowns, and Dark Ladies. This inequality is seen today as women of women of color

continue to make less than white women and continue to suffer from stereotypical

representations.

This relationship between white women and women of color is complicated by notions of

race, ethnicity and gender and this is more evident in the relationship between white women and

African-American woman throughout history. As Adrienne Rich states in On Lies, Secrets and

Silence Selected Prose 1966-1978:

the mutual history of black and white women in this country is a realm so painful,
resonant, and forbidden that it has barely been touched by writers either of political
'science' or of imaginative literature. Yet until that history is known, that silence broken,
we all go on struggling in a state of deprivation and ignorance. (281)

However, the relationship between white and Black women is almost always perpetuated and

represented in film and television as one of bonding and friendship. In these representations, the

relationship between white women and women of color is often presented as helping each other

to break through doors of inequality together.









For example, one interesting film which illustrates this perpetuation is the Universal

Pictures 1934 classic Imitation of Life starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, and which

was re-made by Universal again in a 1959 version starring Sandra Dee and Mahalia Jackson.

These films tell the story of two women (one white and one black) who bond together over

family, life, womanhood and business. The promotion of the original 1934 films states, "two

women with young daughters who build a life and a fortune together". Imagined in the film is the

way in which these two women bond in ways which negate color or ethnicity as a factor, both

understanding each other's oppression (as the white woman's husband dies and she is left

without financial support and the black woman is abandoned by her husband and left to raise her

young daughter by herself) as women in a society where female economic survival is most often

contingent upon the presence of a male.

This film, along with others in the same vein, perpetuates an understanding and bonding

over mutual oppression by men or, more generally, by a patriarchal society. What the film

forgets or conveniently neglects to explore in detail is the inequitable relationship between the

two, although it hints at that inequality within the context of the film itself. When, for example,

in the 1934 version we see Aunt Delilah and Beatrice "Bea" Pullman in the physical interior of

the house, Aunt Delilah lives downstairs in the basement and Bea lives in the upstairs portion of

a grand mansion. The size difference is a visual and subtle message of the film. It allows

spectators to believe in the relationship based on their close proximity to each other (they decide

to live and raise their children together) and yet it firmly maintains the status quo in the physical

division of the household. Yet, those subtleties did not change the reception of the film in 1934.

As such, the film and its desired ideology were re-made in 1959, 25 years later.









In Ceramic Uncles and Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture,

Patricia A. Turner discusses the film Imitation of Life as it is ingrained in the white imagination,

arguing, "movie audiences cried when a rare urban auntie proved unequal to the challenges her

own child heaps upon her... A good-humored, stocky, asexual, dark-skinned black woman, Auth

Delilah unselfishly helps make her white employer rich with her secret pancake recipe" (52).

Turner tells us that audiences loved the representation of the "unselfish" black woman who loves

her white employer above all else, that she is willing to let her use her pancake recipe to achieve

a level of financial success. Moreover, throughout the film, she clarifies that it is not necessary to

"pay her back" for that recipe and its eventual success. Ultimately, what is solidified in the

imaginations of white audiences is the reciprocity of that relationship as one of a "true"

friendship that transcends racial and economic issues; however, it does not overtly acknowledge

the inequality of that relationship, nor the white woman's subconscious desire for that necessary

mammy figure whose central focus is her white charge, which is evident in the depiction and

actions of Aunt Delilah.

In an earlier chapter, I discussed the varied ways in which Latinas as maids played into the

imaginary of white middle or upper middle class value systems in both film and television. I

argued that the Latina maid or servant functioned in very specific ways for Anglo audience

members: clarifying for the audience the class status of the white protagonist of a film, showing

the white protagonist as a good and earnest individual who was worthy of the respect and

admiration given to them by their servants, and finally, portraying the protagonist as conscious of

culture and ethnicity in a changing world. However, it seems to me, in viewing many films

which depend on a Latina maid or servant, that we also need an analysis of the Latina servant as

a new mammy figure of comfort for the Anglo protagonist needs its own analysis.









Therefore, this chapter analyzes the Latina maid as another component necessary in the

imaginations of whiteness--that of the Latina maid as a new "mammy" figure. Historically, white

women have often, consciously or subconsciously, imagined a mutual relationship between

themselves and their imaginings of black women mammy figures. Many white women today

need the fantasy of a relationship between themselves and their maids (most often women of

color); one which is mutually beneficial and important for the white woman in creating her own

identity. In other words, it is the white woman's ability to define herself in contrast to the black

woman (or women of color) in order to more firmly situate her political and social reality and her

image as a desired one. In addition to the way in which producers of film and television continue

to imagine black women as traditional mammy figures, I argue the Latina maid is now being

imagined within the same framework and in some ways has becomes a new, reconfigured

mammy.

I engage with the images of Latinas in contemporary popular culture in order to understand

how racial myths continue to be perpetuated about the place of Latinas in cultural discourse, as

well as in order to understand how those representations serve the desires of white middle or

upper middle class individuals to maintain the status quo. In examining how films and television

have come to depict Latinas as the new mammy figures, I will consider what specific physical,

social and emotional characteristics are maintained from the original belief systems about

mammies and the white women (and children) they cared for, as well as consider what specific

characteristics have been erased, effaced or reconfigured.

It is useful to begin with a discussion of the relationships between black and white women

in film today. I will first examine how they often play out as equitable; yet do not take into

consideration the power plays within that relationship. (For the record, I acknowledge that I am









not talking about every relationship between black women or other women of color and white

women in film. Rather, I speak to the generalizations and imaginings we see most often.) Next, I

put forth my engagement within the critical frameworks of theorist Hortense J. Spillers in

Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Handbook and writer Toni Morrison's

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. These women's work both explore

the idea that whiteness cannot exist without blackness both in the historical past and in the

contemporary imaginations. Using their framework, I will examine the ways in which, I argue,

whiteness cannot exist without otherness. Moreover, I will examine how those historically

determined representations have become reconfigured, yet continue to be perpetuated and

represented in more subtle ways in two contemporary films Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya

Sisterhood (2002) and Monster-In-Law (2005). From there, I will turn to my analysis of the

ways in which Latina women have to some extent replaced (although not entirely, as suggested

by the above examples) African-American women as contemporary mammy figures. I will

examine how the necessity of the mammy figure becomes reconfigured and transposed onto

women of color, most specifically Latina women, and how this relationship plays out in the

contemporary imagination. For this analysis, I offer two other contemporary films (both of which

self-present as ideologically progressive) Spanglish (2005) and Crash (2005). Finally, I will

examine and analyze how ideas of slavery and this re-imagination of the relationship is relevant

in the show Will & Grace (1998-2006) in the satirical relationship between Karen Walker, a rich

white woman and her Latina maid, Rosario, upon whom she subconsciously transposes ideas of

slavery, mammyhood and the and a subconscious desire for mothering.

Here in particular, as I examine the show between Season 1 through Season 5, I will

analyze how Rosario's role, like that of mammies in the past, is primarily to take care of,









comfort, and support Karen's life. I will explain how the relationship is imagined as a co-

dependent one, necessary for the survival of both. As Manhaz Kousha notes that "being closer in

class and culture, operating within a clearly defined system of social and racial

inequality... Southern black and white women developed a kind of mistress/servant relationship

that was psychologically satisfying, to some degree, to both groups of women" (77); to a

strikingly similar degree, Karen needs Rosario's care-taking, mothering and otherness and

Rosario needs Karen for some of the same, including the reality of her financial welfare. The

ways in which the reciprocity in the relationship between white women and women of color is

built and fore grounded through years of slavery, civil rights and identity politic movements, I

argue, is imagined and reconfigured through eight seasons of Will & Grace as a loving and an

emotionally necessary friendship built on years of loyalty and devotion.

I acknowledge here, and will do so in that particular section, that the show plays out as a

satire. However, I will argue that although the show is imagined as ironic, and we, as Latina

spectators, recognize that on one level, we as spectators are also invited to believe that on

another level this relationship is truly one of love and caring, especially when the show turns to

its serious moments in its imagining of the relationship between the two women. Moreover, there

is a conflation between the fictional and the reality that white women most often hire women of

color to work for them; this means that I am as ambiguous in my feelings about the

representation Rosario offers, as I am about Dame Edna and her unwittingly upsetting column.

Therefore, I will argue that the satire of that relationship has to be grounded in more realistic

examinations. I am always interested and invested, as a Latina spectator, on the ambiguity

presented by our understanding of the satire and our understanding of the reality of our positions

as Latinas in societal discourse.









"We Need Our Comfort": The Legacy of the Mammy Lives on in the Imaginations of
Whiteness.

The mammy has a clear historical and economic reality in United States history. They were

servants and caretakers of the white family. They took care of the house, the children and most

importantly their white employers. In the historical imaginations of whiteness (specifically in the

South) the mammy is reconfigured as a woman of great importance to white womanhood and to

the structure of the white family. As Trudier Harris states in From Mammies to Militants:

Domestics in Black American Literature:

she was considered self-respecting, independent, loyal, forward, gentle, captious,
affectionate, true, strong, just, warm-hearted, compassionate-hearted, fearless, popular,
brave, good, pious, quick-witted, capable, thrifty, produced, regal, courageous, superior,
skillful, tender, queenly, dignified, neat, quick, tender, competent, possessed with a
temper, trustworthy, faithful, patient, tyrannical, sensible, discreet, efficient, careful, harsh,
devoted, truthful, neither apish nor servile. (35-36)

Reconfigured in their historical imaginations as women who loved their roles in lives, the

mammy was often seen as wholeheartedly devoted to her white family, even leaving her own

family behind in order to maintain the structure of the white family. As Harris states, "these

women usually compromise everything of themselves and of their connections to the black

community in order to exist in the white world" (23). It is an important reconfiguration about the

mammy that she lived her life for the white family she served. She needs to be seen as a willing

individual who chooses the white family above her own, rather than the reality that she is forced

into choosing one above the other. The mammy of the historical past was also imagined as the

ideal servant who never complained, who maintained her place in society and who functioned to

maintain the white family as successful. As Harris continues, "she was a woman completely

dedicated to the white family, especially to the children of that family... She served also as a

friend and advisor. She was, in short, surrogate mistress and mother" (49).









In fact, so embedded in historical imaginations is the relationship of care between white

women and their mammies that in 1923, the Daughters of the Confederacy asked the United

States congress to allow them to create a monument to honor generations of, what they felt, were

their caring and devoted mammies. As Cheryl Thurber states in the Development of the Mammy

Image and Mythology:

in celebrating the mammy, the increasingly middle-and upper class United Daughters of
the Confederacy were reclaiming and reinterpreting the past in conformity with their own
middle-class, progressive values and shifting the focus away from the veterans and the
war. Having a mammy became a badge of having been 'raised right' as a proper
southerner. In the mythology, the white folks were firmly left in control of the subservient
and dependent mammy who knew her place, and because of the mammy could be seen as
having power with the household. (99-100)

Only because of strong protest by African-Americans, was the plan abandoned. But this

example is indicative of what the mammy image represents and necessitates for white

individuals and specifically for white women. As Thurber continues, "the glorification of the

mammy was intimately connected with nostalgia and the longing to return to childhood days and

a simpler, peaceful life" (104). It is this glorification, desire and necessity of the mammy (as

reconfigured) in the historical imaginations of whiteness that is an avenue for analysis. So, why

do white women continue to imagine a need for the mammy figure in their servants?

Whether acknowledged or not, this mammy figure reverberates still in social expectations

of the relationships between white women and their mammies. White women often recall

nostalgically their relationships with mammies as one based on a mutual sense of friendship, one

that worked cohesively between two halves. As Cheryl Thurber argues, "white society still has a

secret and perverted need for a nurturing Mammy figure, and a desire to keep black womanhood

reined in and relegated to antiquated stereotypes. This is evident in the sustained presence of

these stereotypes, renovated for modern use, but fundamentally unchanged" (5). Melinda Price

agrees, arguing in "lAin 'tch Yo Mamma: The Mammy Myth Uni viler that she sees the









contemporary mammy figure continually incorporated in lauded images of black women in

society. She argues that in Oprah Winfrey, one of the most popular and powerful African-

American women of the last twenty years:

we see the embodiment, literally and figuratively, of the evolution of the Mammy
figure... Truly, Oprah wishes to be a great loving mother, a new mammy with a spiritual
take of life. That is not to say Oprah embraces the mammy myth and accepts it as her
personal archetype; she differs sharply from the representations of her enslaved ancestors.
She has chosen to be a caregiver. (8)

Moreover, Price is hardly the only individual who has made the connection between Oprah as

care-giver for primarily white audiences and their need for a reconfigured mammy figure they

cannot live without.1 Esther Iverem, Editor of SeeingBlack.com states:

decades of "Oprah" and years of Lewis on MTV certainly have shown that a Black host
does not equal a "Black" show. Rather, these women become vehicles for conveying a
staid brand of women's programming aimed at White Middle America... So, more and
more, the Black woman sitting in the host seat begins to look a lot like mammy.. .it is not
outrageous for the conscious Black viewer to be rattled by the TV mammy's new calling to
heal White people and, perhaps, give them some soul. (1)

In fact, Oprah may not be the success she is if white audiences (specifically white middle and

upper middle class women) did not approve of her and need her to guide them into living better

and more productive lives.2 And although the Oprah concept may disturb some, the reality that

white audiences subconsciously desire a mammy figure is evident in any number of other

contemporary films with women of color who are mother-like or mammy-like figures, For

example, in The Warner Brothers 1988 film Clara's Heart, which stars Whoopi Goldberg as a



1 See Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New
Racism, (New York & London: Routledge, 2005) for a further examination of Oprah Winfrey and other
African-American female representations, in contemporary film, television and popular culture.
2 See Janice Peck, "Talk About Racism: Framing a popular discourse of race on Oprah Winfrey".
Cultural Critique, (Spring 1994):89-126 for a discussion of the popularity of Oprah Winfrey and its racial
context.









housekeeper hired to take care of the young white son of a white couple whose marriage is

deteriorating. She, the young son and the mother end up bonding together to make it work out for

all of them. Moreover, this mother-like or mammy-like figure plays out in a number of other

Goldberg films, including the 1994 film Corrina, Corrina.3 It is her mothering that allows the

girl to open up after the death of her mother. The film, which is set in 1959, allows for an

interesting twist, in that Corrina ends up marrying the white father against the disapproval of the

society of the time. However, it is only after she has proven her worth as a mother that she

becomes allowed to be part of the family4. Additionally we see this same figure in Universal

Pictures 1995 hit Billy Madison, who has a black housekeeper Juanita who takes care of him, in

20th Century Fox's 2000 hit BigMomma's House, and in Warner Brothers 1999's The Matrix,

starring Keanu Reaves as a character named Neo, who is guided to his future as the "One" by the

black mother figure of the Oracle, played by Gloria Foster. Moreover, we see this image in past

television shows including Gimme a Break! (1981-1987), which stars Nell Carter as a black

housekeeper who takes care of three white children after the death of their mother.5 All of these









3 See Krin Gabbard, Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. (New
Brunswick, New Jersey & London: Rutgers University Press, 2004) for an analysis of the Black magical
friend in Hollywood films and how that friend or figure serves to "radically transform the lives of white
characters, usually providing them with romance and gravitas... African Americans often appear in films
for no other reason than to help white people reaffirm their own superiority" (6).

41 acknowledge the films progressive possibilities.

5 See Patricia A. Turner in Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and their
influence on Culture., (New York: Anchor Books, 1994) for an analysis of the reconfigured mammy
figure in the show Gimme a Break!.









examples serve to show that the mammy image (and its characteristics) has not disappeared in

modern mainstream imaginations of the black woman.6

Am I Imagining Things? The Theory behind the Reality of White Imaginations of
Darkness.

In Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Handbook, Hortense J. Spillers

articulates an analysis of the African-American woman's development of the psychic self.

Arguing that the gendered self is always fractured by a historical imagination of blackness as

other, Spillers contends that the African-American woman has had to suffer as an object of white

racial imagining and never the subject of her own reality. As such, the African-American female

figure has become irreducible to white knowledge only. It is only when whiteness imagines her

that she exists. Moreover, in her analysis is an argument that the white imagination is unable to

exist without blackness as a factor of its own ideological or idealized reality. As Spillers tells us

"my country needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented" (65). Spillers'

argument comes from the critical framework of examining slavery's implications on the fractures

of the African identity in a contemporary imagination, from an inability to name oneself

metaphorically or historically to fractures of a historical imagination of their own. At the same

time, Spillers' argument entails examining the un-gendered captive body (read slave) as it is

negotiated by whiteness, as a way in which to imagine the gendered freedom of their own bodies.

African-Americans' "otherness" in a variety of ways allows whiteness to be articulated as

normalized. Spillers' seems interested in understanding the way in which whiteness needs and




6 See Lorraine Fuller, "Are We Seeing Things? The Pinesol Lady and the Ghost of Aunt Jemima"
Journal of Black Studies, 32 (Sept. 2001): 120-131 for an analysis of television advertising and the
stereotypical images of black females presented by those advertisers.









desires blackness as a symbolic and physical reality in order to create its own psychical sense. As

Spillers' states:

the captive body, then, brings into focus a gathering of social realities as well as a
metaphor for value so thoroughly interwoven in their literal and figurative emphases that
distinctions between them are virtually useless. Even though the captive flesh/body has
been "liberated", and no one need pretend that even the quotation makes do not matter,
dominant symbolic activity, the ruling episteme that releases the dynamics of naming and
valuation, remains grounded in the originating metaphors of captivity and mutilation so
that it is as if neither time nor history, nor historiography and its topics, shows movement,
as the human subject is 'murdered' over and over again by the passions of a bloodless and
anonymous archaism, showing itself in endless disguise. (68)

The "ruling episteme" that Spillers discusses above is the white historical and contemporary

imagination that continues to perpetuate, consciously or subconsciously, a desire to "devalue"

the presence of African-American gendered identity in the framework of a global discourse.

Therefore, the white historical imagination always imagines an African other in "disguise." I will

argue that the disguise comes in the form of the relationship between white women and women

of color (primarily African-American, but now including Latina Americans) in film and

television. That relationship occurs many times over, and is fore grounded on whiteness as a

superior position of normalcy and the ethnic female other as negated or always framed around

the discourse of white woman's identity. As Spillers argues, "we cannot unravel one female's

narrative from the other's, cannot decipher one without tripping over the other" (77).

Similarly, in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison

also articulates an argument that whiteness cannot exist without blackness. Using American

literature as the basis for her analysis, Morrison examines how images of Africanism or

Africanist identity are deeply embedded, whether consciously or subconsciously, in the

framework for American literature. As Morrison argues, "through significant and understood

omissions, startling contradictions, heavily nuanced conflicts, through the way writers people

their work with the signs and bodies of this presence-one can see that a real and fabricated









Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness" (6). Therefore, Morrison

articulates this Africanist presence in literature, and indeed in other cultural texts, as one that

allows for the possibility of disseminating the discourse of whiteness in a cultural context.7 As

Morrison suggests, "what Africanism became for, and how it functioned in, the literary

imagination is of paramount interest because it may be possible to discover, through a close look

at literary 'blackness,' the nature-even the cause-of literary 'whiteness.'" (9). Therefore, I am

interested in applying Morrison's foundational argument and her rubric for the way in which

whiteness imagines blackness to the relationship between white women and Latina women in

film and television. I am interested in how those imaginations of the ethnic female other (here

imagined as Latinaness) continue to be maintained or reconfigured in ways that allow white

women to keep the necessary imaginations of mammies in the framework of their relationship

with women of color. 8








7 See further Gabbard for an analysis of how the necessity of an Africanist presence is re-
imagined in films as the black magical friend who always helps an Anglo protagonist achieve greatness,
either physically, symbolically or metaphorically.

8 In a number of ways, theorists have explained that their imaginings of the mammy is a way to
alleviate guilt over the historical reality of slavery. As Patricia A. Turner states in Ceramic Uncles &
Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and their influence on Culture, "by suggesting that antebellum
households had been run by smiling, self-assured, overweight, born-to-nurture black women, fiction
writers and journalists began to perpetuate a mythological Southern past removed from all of the heinous
dimensions of slavery" (47). Additionally, such images or such reaffirmations (as argued in a previous
chapter) allow whiteness (specifically white women) to re-imagine themselves as altruistic figures helping
out those who are unable to help themselves. As Cheryl Thurber states in The Development of the Mammy
Image and Mythology, "with the expression of pious devotion and support for mammy, proper
southerners could convince themselves and others of their own goodness. In a sense they were attempting
to redeem themselves for the other wrongs they had done to blacks because of course, 'I loved my old
mammy'" (98).









Case Studies

White Women and Women of Color Bond in Film.

Let me explain the subconscious or conscious necessity for whiteness to maintain women

of color as mammy figures with examples from the recent films Monster-In-Law (2005), starring

Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), starring Ashley

Judd, Ellen Burstyn and Leslie Silva. For the first film, let me briefly note that both actresses of

the film, Fonda and Sykes, are well known for their often-controversial takes on politics, race,

and gender. As www.imdb.com, the Internet film database informs us:

Jane Fonda's professional success contrasted with her personal life, often laden with
scandal and controversy. Her appearance in several risque movies (including Barbarella
(1968) by then husband Roger Vadim was followed by what was to become Jane Fonda's
most debated and controversial period: her espousal of anti-Establishment causes and
especially her anti-War activities during the Vietnam War.

Similarly, Wanda Sykes9 often complicates notions of race, gender and ethnicty in her stand-up

work, often satirizing or turning the tables on black/white relationships. Her current book

entitled, "Yeah, I said it," is a collection of personal essays and jokes about American life and

politics. As the New York Times states, "Wanda Sykes' unique blend of stinging humor and

outspoken honesty has found her moving beyond a career in standup thanks to notable success in

film and television" (1). 10

The reason I mention part of the history of these two women is because of the relationship

that plays out between them in the film Monster-In-Law. Though they are both willing to


9 Wanda Sykes is the only black women to make Comedy Central's Top 100 List of The Greatest
Standups of All Time and has been cited by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 25 funniest people in
America.

10 Her controversial jokes have even found their way into criticism of President Bush. As Wanda
jokes on the Jay Leno Show "I don't think the President should have taken responsibility.... I don't blame
the President. I blame the American people. Y'all knew the man was slow when you voted him in. You
can't blame the blind man for wrecking your car when you're the one who gave him the keys."









elucidate serious questions personal lives, they nonetheless reaffirm those inequitable positions

in the roles they choose and concerns about the oppression of women within society in the

negotiation of their se to take in film, whereby the African-American woman effectively

becomes, like the mammy once was, the reconfigured African-American caretaker of the white

woman in film. And as I argue previously, the inequitable relationship between the two women

in this film is perpetuated as a bonding relationship. In Monster-In-Law, Ruby (Sykes) and

Viola's (Fonda) relationship is imagined as a friendship; yet, Ruby plays servant and caretaker

(in effect a contemporary mammy) for Viola's self-aggrandizing character, who over mommies

her own son. Similarly, the film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002) depicts a self-

aggrandizing character, played by Ellen Burstyn, as the matriarch of an old southern family and a

black woman caretaker Willetta, played by Leslie Silva11 Unlike Monster-In-Law, the black

woman here appears as a servant (at least in the historical past). 12

It is important to examine the way in which these relationships are imagined as friendships

instead of working based or servitude based relationships. In Monster-In-Law, the film often

shows Viola and Ruby shopping together, hanging out together and eating together in

restaurants. Viola often talks about the number of years they have been together and we often see

them discussing the life-altering moments of their lives and the tough times they have lived

through together. In fact, when Viola is fired from her career as a Barbara Walters-type

newscaster and replaced by a younger and hipper version of her, it is Ruby who is there to


Actress Sarallen plays the older Willetta character in the film and Leslie Silva plays the
younger version.
12 This film covers a number of historical decades, as the characters are often thrown into the
historical past to examine Vivian Walker's (played by Ellen Burstyn) life from childhood to life as an
adult. The younger version of Vivian is played by Ashley Judd.









protect and console Viola and it is Ruby who stands by her side against the television station.

The inclination here, like that of the traditional mammy, is to protect her mistress from her own

oppression (symbolically suggested by her replacement by a younger woman) by men and the

patriarchal system.

Similarly, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the characters of Vivian Walker

(Burstyn) and Willetta (Silva) also appear as a relationship based on friendship, loyalty and trust.

We often see Vivian frame Willetta as a confidant, often talking to her about her fears (in raising

her children) and her hopes (that she will develop a friendship with one of the daughters later in

life). In fact, we see Vivian stand up for Willetta when others wish to dismiss her and we often

see Vivian and Willetta, later in life (the film moves between the past, where Willetta is more

clearly configured as the servant, to the present where Willetta is configured more as the friend)

sitting together and discussing, as in Monster-In-Law, the life altering moments of their lives, as

well as their tough times together.

However, neither of the films acknowledges the working relationship between the two

characters. To do so would be to acknowledge the class and racial factors which determine their

relationship. It would mean that the Anglo women of the film would have to acknowledge their

privilege in society and societal discourse. As Adrienne Rich argues, "the nascent antiracist,

class-transcending feminism.. would always be under pressure from the patriarchal strategy of

divide and conquer. This strategy has repeatedly fed on the capacity of privileged women to

delude themselves as to where their privilege originates, and what they are having to pay for it"

(287). As such, in order to maintain some semblance of their own psychical position of power in

society, white women have to maintain the status quo in their relationships with African-

American women (at least subconsciously on film). Therefore, there are moments in both films









where the Anglo mistresses often reaffirm that their friends are in fact their servants, assistants or

caretakers and reaffirm the African-American women as secondary to their own needs.

In Monster-In-Law, Viola often puts Ruby in her place by telling her to stay out of her

business. She also reaffirms Ruby's position as her assistant by telling her to retrieve certain

items, serve her drinks, or more importantly do the dirty work of investigating the daughter-in-

law to be by finding out everything negative about her. Only in the private space between her

and Ruby, does she situate the relationship as a friendship and calls Ruby her confidant. In the

public space, however, she negates their friendship by reaffirming to Charlie (the prospective

daughter-in-law played by Jennifer Lopez) that Ruby is indeed her assistant. Similarly, in Divine

Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Vivian never acknowledges that Willetta is her servant, often

positioning their relationship as friendship to anyone who will hear. In fact, there is a pivotal

moment in this film, where Vivian (as a younger self) defends Willetta against a cousin of her

friend at a dinner in the rich cousin's nouveau riche home. This young boy wishes to situate the

servants "place", as well as his own, by saying "who told you, you could walk your Black

Louisiana ass into our dining room?" A few moments later, he calls her "nigger." In defense of

her friend Willetta (even though Willetta is older than her) Vivian throws a plate of food in the

young boy's face.

When this happens, a second important aspect of the framing of the relationship between

African-American women and Anglo women in films is elucidated. The relationship becomes

reconstituted as a way for the white women to perform altruistic acts. In other words, if there is a

moment when they acknowledge the fact that Anglo women and African-American women are

mistress and servant, it only serves to frame the Anglo women in the film as understanding that

she does not adhere to those demarcations and in effect will stand against all others who wish to









perpetuate that inequality, making her seem aware of the political and social restraints that often

interfere in their relationships with other women of color (as evident in the scene above). In this

way, they alleviate any guilt over that positioning, suggesting they are not at fault and effectively

transfers any fault to another system of power (classed, racial, or patriarchal based) instead. For

example, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, prior to the scene in the dining room, Vivian

finds Willetta crying in her bed at night. She asks her why she is crying, and Willetta replies, "I

miss my children." Immediately after that moment, in what I can only presume is an attempt to

compensate the servant for the loss of her family, Vivian takes on the role of the adopted

daughter and asks her adopted mother to make her a glass of hot chocolate. After Willetta denies

her, the preceding scene in the dining room takes place. There after, we see Willetta bring Vivian

her hot chocolate, telling her how much she cares or her. Ultimately, the scene clarifies the

character of Vivian Walker as strong, courageous, caring, devoted, and one willing to stand up

against those who would oppress her dear friend Willetta. In contrast, Willetta is seen as

somewhat selfish in her denying Vivian her hot chocolate, which becomes a metaphor for

denying Vivian her place and moreover denying Vivian her metaphorical mammy.

In Monster-In-Law, however, no scene like the above takes place because the above

example is set in the historical past, when Vivian is young and Willetta is the hired caretaker for

the southern family. Nonetheless, a metaphorical mammy (reconfigured of course) still exists

within the relationship between Viola and Ruby. After all, Ruby's primary concern throughout

the film is Viola in every possible way. She takes care of Viola when she is fired. She also most

poignantly protects Viola from herself, stopping Viola from drinking herself into oblivion and

preventing Viola from poisoning the prospective daughter-in-law. She even helps Viola hide the

evidence, suggesting a willingness to sacrifice herself along side her friend. Likewise, in Divine









Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, we see Willetta take care of Vivian throughout her life, and even

protect Vivian from herself, stopping her from abusing drugs and preventing Vivian from beating

her children. Ultimately, in both Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Monster-In-Law, we

see imagined are friendships that stand the test of time. In the end, an older Vivian is feeding an

even older Willetta in her bed when Willetta has become incapacitated by old age, visually

cementing for the audience, the relationship between the two women as friends and more

importantly as real family. Similarly, in the end of Monster-In-Law, when the newlywed couple

departs of their journey, the camera frames Viola and Ruby in the last shot of the film, visually

cementing them together forever as real family in the minds of the audience. In fact, there is

another interesting final possibility for reading the above scene in Monster-In-Law. At the end of

romantic films, we usually see parents framed together saying goodbye to their children; here we

see Viola and Ruby. Therefore, is it possible to suggest that Ruby is a substitute parent or

metaphorical mother for Charlie (who earlier in the film is classified as alone in the world) and

Kevin (the son played by Michael Vartan)?13

Ultimately, we never forget, either through the visual (when Willetta baths the young

Vivian or when Ruby brings Viola a drink) or the verbal (when either Vivian or Viola call

Willetta and Ruby friends) that these women are there as their assistants, their servants, their

caretakers and more importantly their reconfigured mammies. The African-American women in

the film are never part of the discourse of the film unless it serves the purpose of framing the

altruism and good nature of the Anglo female protagonists. We find out relatively little about

their desires, hopes and fears. Those are always situated around the Anglo women they serve and



131 would like to thank fellow colleague, Sarah Brusky, for suggesting this possibility.









work for. In other words, they live for them, in the very ways in which the mammies of the past

where framed as living for their white families. We never know who they truly are or indeed how

they might feel about the racial, social and class factors which determine their place as the

servants for Anglo women.

Therefore, this subconscious desire to perpetuate African-American women as caretakers,

and indeed replacement mother-like figures as reconfigured mammies, survives throughout the

centuries and is continually imagined over and over again in contemporary films and television

today. As Adrienne Rich states, "this personal history is not unique; many white women have

been mothered by black women, a connection we sentimentalize at our peril" (280).

Consequently, as Rich argues, the relationship between white women and women of color is

always framed with a more desirable format for the white woman, one where she sentimentally

and nostalgically, looks upon the relationship without any conscious recognition of the inequality

which privileges one above the other. White women need the gendered black figure and

therefore, as Spillers argues, it must exist. Because there is no way to publicly acknowledge the

truth of those relationships or the way in which those relationships play out, white women

subsume those desires and reconfigure them into more acceptable frameworks in film. This now

included reconfiguring the mammy as a Latina. I would argue that this move makes it easier,

ideologically speaking, to bypass the history of that racial pain which determines the

relationships between black women and white women in society. Adrienne Rich notes this

difference when she says, "throughout this text I say 'black' and not 'First (or Third) World,'

because although separation by skin color and class is by no means confined to that between

black women and white women, black women and white women in this country have a special

history of polarization" (280).









Making the Connection: A Shared History of Oppression for Black and Latina Women.

In the argument above, I discuss the historical connections, as well as the ways in which

those historical connections become reconfigured in the present, in the relationships between

white women as employer or mistress and women of color as servants or maids in film. I am

concerned with asking, what common characteristics does the mammy figure of the past have in

common with reconfigured maids as mammies in film and television today? Do the mammies of

the past function in the same way that the Latina maids function today? And although I do argue

that many of the same characteristics of the mammy and mistress configuration still exist in the

relationships between white women and Latina women in films, I acknowledge that there are

elemental differences as well, one of which is in acknowledging that the historical racial pain

(which I mentioned above) that exists between black women and white women is not the same in

the relationship between white women and Latinas; after all, Latina women were not specifically

slaves or traditionally mammy figures for white women (at least not typically within the United

States historical framework). As Talmadge Anderson states:

even the dominant White society's paradigm of ethnicity acknowledges Black uniqueness
in relation to the other non-Anglo-racial-ethnic groups (Omi and Winant, 1986). Indeed,
perhaps because of their forced immigration, experience of slavery, and blackness of color,
Blacks see themselves as unique and incomparable with the other two racial-ethnic
populations. (28)

It is important to acknowledge that the historical pain which foregrounds the relationship

between black women and white women in society is not the same for white women and Latina

women. However, I argue that there are still fundamental connections which can be made

between the social, economic and political oppressions of Latinas by white women both within

social causes and in the feminist struggle, from which women of color have often felt excluded

from in the last fifty years. As Alma A. Garcia states, "Chicana feminists shared a common

experience with other women of color whose life histories were shaped by the multiple sources









of oppression generated by race, gender, and social class" (4). Moreover, many of the oppressive

factors which determine the representations of Latina women are the same factors which

determine the representation of African-American women in society and in film. As Bonnie

Thornton Dill states, "commonalities of class or gender may cut across racial lines providing the

conditions for shared understanding" (138).

However, ultimately, I am not arguing that the Latina maid is a contemporary slave, with

all the historical connections which determine that reality. I am arguing that historical memory of

the mammy and how she functions for whites still exists in the relationship between white

women and Latinas, in film and television, within the character of the Latina maid and her

employers.14 Though reconfigured and unacknowledged, that mammy image has transferred a

number of ideological frameworks for the way in which the image of the Latina maid is used

today. Specifically, the Latina women as maid, becomes the new figure of comfort for white

women. She is the source of their strength, where they allay their fears, hopes and desires.

Moreover, as in the traditional usage of the mammy, by comparison to the dark body, the white

female body becomes a desirable, wanted figure. Additionally, as mammies of the past were,

these new Latina mammy figures become replacement mother figures and mothering figures to

white women and their children.

Nevertheless, there are differences as well which must be acknowledged. One of those

differences is in the issue of silence. These reconfigured Latina maids, much of time, are not



14 See Lorraine Fuller. "Are We Seeing Things? The Pinesol Lady and the Ghost of Aunt
Jemima" Journal of Black Studies, 32 (Sept. 2001): 120-131 and Patricia Hill Collins Black Sexual
Politics: African Americans: Gender and the New Racism (New York: Routledge, 2001) for an analysis
of the ways in which the image of the mammy or the Jemima figure continue to circulate in contemporary
television and films portrayals of African-American women.