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From Bananas to Buttocks

From Bananas to Buttocks

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    From Bananas to Buttocks
    Book Description:

    From the exuberant excesses of Carmen Miranda in the "tutti frutti hat" to the curvaceous posterior of Jennifer Lopez, the Latina body has long been a signifier of Latina/o identity in U.S. popular culture. But how does this stereotype of the exotic, erotic Latina "bombshell" relate, if at all, to real Latina women who represent a wide spectrum of ethnicities, national origins, cultures, and physical appearances? How are ideas about "Latinidad" imagined, challenged, and inscribed on Latina bodies? What racial, class, and other markers of identity do representations of the Latina body signal or reject?

    In this broadly interdisciplinary book, experts from the fields of Latina/o studies, media studies, communication, comparative literature, women's studies, and sociology come together to offer the first wide-ranging look at the construction and representation of Latina identity in U.S. popular culture. The authors consider such popular figures as actresses Lupe Vélez, Salma Hayek, and Jennifer Lopez; singers Shakira and Celia Cruz; and even the Hispanic Barbie doll in her many guises. They investigate the media discourses surrounding controversial Latinas such as Lorena Bobbitt and Marisleysis González. And they discuss Latina representations in Lupe Solano's series of mystery books and in the popular TV showsEl Show de CristinaandLaura en América. This extensive treatment of Latina representation in popular culture not only sheds new light on how meaning is produced through images of the Latina body, but also on how these representations of Latinas are received, revised, and challenged.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79501-3
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Embodying Latinidad: An Overview
    (pp. 1-28)

    Despite the promise implicit in the title of this collection of essays, there is no such thing as “the Latina body.” While the words evoke a set of predictable responses (“she” is hot-blooded, tempestuous, hypersexual, and in current manifestations has a big butt), “the Latina body” is a convenient fiction—a historically contingent, mass-produced combination of myth, desire, location, marketing, and political expedience. Mediated through various forms of visual representation and discourse, “the Latina body” functions within a social and cultural taxonomy that registers but an echo of the clamor, complexity, and variety of women who embody Latina identities. Building...

  4. SECTION ONE. Case Studies:: Silent and Classic Film Era

    • CHAPTER 1 Film Viewing in Latino Communities, 1896–1934: Puerto Rico as Microcosm
      (pp. 31-50)

      Today, the U.S. film industry dominates screens worldwide. This may not come as a surprise to some. What is surprising is the degree of this dominance. According to Segrave (1997, 286), in 1993 the percentage of screen time held by U.S. films abroad was 85 percent. In other words, on average, when someone in the world went to the movies in 1993, in 85 percent of cases that person saw a U.S. movie. This film media dominance continues today and is even more pronounced in some countries. The towering position of the U.S. film industry raises questions about the impact...

    • CHAPTER 2 Lupe Vélez: Queen of the Bʹs
      (pp. 51-68)

      She was known as the “Mexican Spitfire,” but also as “Whoopee Lupee,” “Hot Tamale,” and “Tropical Hurricane.” She is often dismissed for embodying the “negative” extreme of Mexican femininity: hot-blooded, volatile, sexually promiscuous—the “tragic prototype of the Latina Spitfire stereotype,” according to Ríos-Bustamante.¹ Born María Guadalupe Villalobos in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Lupe Vélez started performing in musical comedies in Mexico City during the 1920s. In 1926, at the age of seventeen, she left for California, joining three thousand other Mexicans with dreams of making it in Hollywood. Initially playing minor parts in two-reel shorts, Vélez had her big...

    • CHAPTER 3 Lupe Vélez Regurgitated: Cautionary, Indigestion-Causing Ruminations on ʺMexicansʺ in ʺAmericanʺ Toilets Perpetrated While Covetously Screening ʺVeronicaʺ
      (pp. 69-92)

      In the beginning was the Latina bombshell andshe, this term, or this Hollywood trope, at any rate, was made flesh: fleshandblood—fleshandbloodand. . . vomit. More on this “vomit” below.

      Stereotypes, or, better put, meta-stereotropes, like that of the sexy, wanton, Latina spitfire Lupe Vélez, live on in the popular print media and the boardrooms of Hollywood, where actresses and entertainers like J.Lo (aka Jennifer Lopez, aka Jennie from d’block), Salma Hayek, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Eva Longoria continue to prosper and profit off the patents made byhotLatina mademoiselles of...

  5. SECTION TWO. Performing Bodies:: Contemporary Film and Music Media

    • CHAPTER 4 Celiaʹs Shoes
      (pp. 95-116)

      I held a pair of Cuban singer Celia Cruz’s most famous shoes long enough to marvel at the seven-inch, razor-thin platforms that had lifted her solid frame up in the air for decades. I had barely touched the shoes when I felt compelled to put them down as fast as possible, to avoid effacing the awe of the object, the fact that they had belonged to a queen. Hand-carved by Mexican artisan Miguel Nieto,el zapatero de los sueños(the shoemaker of dreams),¹ the one-of-a-kind shoes also felt heavy, as if in their stage life they had carried not only...

    • CHAPTER 5 Salma Hayekʹs Frida: Transnational Latina Bodies in Popular Culture
      (pp. 117-128)

      Given Hollywood’s longstanding and complex cinematic relationship with the Latina other, Salma Hayek’s career might have been relegated to the unidimensional terrain of Latina stereotypes (Lopez 1991): one more emotionally unpredictable, sexually voluptuous, thickly accented Latina appearing in Hollywood movies likeDesperado(1995),From Dusk Till Dawn(1996),Fools Rush In(1997),54(1998,) andWild Wild West(1999). However, with the 2002 release ofFrida, the artsy biopic about the queer-feminist-marxist-Chicana-Mexicana-Latina icon Frida Kahlo, Hayek recuperated her on-screen image and public Hollywood persona. In this essay I argue that Hayek the subject disrupts gendered, raced, and nationalistic borders, while...

    • CHAPTER 6 Is Penélope to J.Lo as Culture Is to Nature? Eurocentric Approaches to ʺLatinʺ Beauties
      (pp. 129-148)

      Contemporary discussions of Latinidad signal the rising importance of Latina/o studies as an emergent interdiscipline. Foregrounding the role of popular culture, media studies scholars explore the location and representation of Latina/o and Latinidad across a wide range of media. On the one hand, we have the rise of Latina/o-themed broadcasting programming and Hollywood film, Latina/o-focused magazines, and Latina/o media and cultural celebrities, each with a specific if in some cases overlapping history whose complexity and difference are erased in a new version of the so-called Latin boom. Yet we also have enduring tendencies that simplify and flatten difference, as demonstrated...

    • CHAPTER 7 Jennifer Lopez: The New Wave of Border Crossing
      (pp. 149-166)

      Jennifer Lopez is the only celebrity ever to have a number one movie at the box office and simultaneously a number one record on the billboard charts. She has moved from stage to television, from films to record deals, from videos to her own clothing lines and perfume labels. Lopez’s rise to stardom raises interesting questions about crossover status, particularly as it involves crossing ethnic and racial borders. This essay considers the ways that Lopez’s ethnic star text is co-produced and adapted by diverse audiences, fans, and Lopez herself. First I consider Lopez’s portrayal of Tejana crossover music star Selena,...

    • CHAPTER 8 ʺThereʹs My Territoryʺ: Shakira Crossing Over
      (pp. 167-182)

      Shakira won me over when she complained about her designer boots. Dressed to shoot the video (2002) for “Underneath Your Clothes,” she sat down for a moment with theMaking the Video“confessional” camera when lunch was announced. Tossing her tangled bleached-blonde mane, she announced, “My feet hurt!” As proof, she held up a frighteningly stylish boot, spanning what looked like five-inch heels with her perfectly manicured fingers, and asked, “Pretty high, no?” Pretty high, definitely. That boot looked like a weapon. Still, she smiled as she added, “It’s fun. It’s been very fun . . . so far.”


    • CHAPTER 9 ʺHey, Killerʺ: The Construction of a Macho Latina, or the Perils and Enticements of Girlfight
      (pp. 183-198)

      It’s like, you’re all you’ve got,” muses protagonist Diana Guzmán (played by Michelle Rodríguez) in Karyn Kusama’s award-winning directorial debut,Girlfight(2000). In a rare moment when words take precedence over bodies, the unconventional Latina character attempts to explain her great passion for testing her mettle in the male-dominated sport of boxing. Words have become necessary only because Diana feels pressure to account for her long absences from her friend Marisol, a peripheral character who lives for romance and exists as a vehemently average “control” to Diana’s experiment. “You let guys hit you in the face?” Marisol asks in horror,...

  6. SECTION THREE. Sensational Bodies:: Discourses of Latina Femininity

    • CHAPTER 10 On the Semiotics of Lorena Bobbitt
      (pp. 201-218)

      After severing her husband’s penis in the early morning of June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt was taken up by the media. The trial of Lorena Bobbitt on charges of “maliciously wounding her husband” was televised on CNN with full-day coverage. She entered a plea of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, the defense arguing that she had “an impulse which she could not resist.” In addition to the televised trial, the print media went into full spin to formulate its own characterizations. This essay considers some of this media spin under the trope of what I call alimit-situation,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Disorderly Bodies and Discourses of Latinidad in the Elián González Story
      (pp. 219-242)

      In the spring of 2000, at the height of the news coverage surrounding Elián González, the young Cuban refugee found floating in international waters off the Florida coast, 78 percent of the U.S. population was actively and regularly following the story (Gallup Poll Reports, April 28, 2000). According to a report by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (2000), the Elián story was the second most reported story in the history of the contemporary general media. (The most reported story was the O. J. Simpson trial.) Few stories in recent U.S. history have so captured the popular imagination and...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Body in Question: The Latina Detective in the Lupe Solano Mystery Series
      (pp. 243-262)

      In her six-novel mystery series, Cuban American writer and former Miami–Dade County private investigator Carolina García-Aguilera participates in the production of a genre of U.S. Latino/a detective fiction that explores Cuban American identity construction in the context of U.S.-Cuba geopolitics. García-Aguilera’s novels—Bloody Waters(1996),Bloody Shame(1997),Bloody Secrets(1998),A Miracle in Paradise(1999),Havana Heat(2000), andBitter Sugar(2001)—feature the glamorously beautiful and intelligent Guadalupe Solano as series protagonist and private investigator in Miami. García-Aguilera uses the mystery fiction genre to explore issues of Cuban (American) history, exile, memory, identity politics, homeland subjective relations,...

    • CHAPTER 13 La Princesa Plástica: Hegemonic and Oppositional Representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie
      (pp. 263-278)

      In the forty-some years since she emerged from her original mold, Mattel’s Barbie doll has become, both as cultural icon and children’s plaything, one of the world’s most ubiquitous plastic objects. The doll’s embodiment of a diversity of feminine images reflects Mattel’s efforts to market to continuously changing and increasingly diverse groups of U.S. and international consumers. But is it true, as some observers have contended, that, given the preeminence and persistence of the image of “rich, blonde Barbie” worldwide, resistance, cultural or otherwise, to hegemonic Barbie culture is futile? Barbie scholar Erica Rand points out that there is often...

    • CHAPTER 14 Chusmas, Chismes, y Escándalos: Latinas Talk Back to El Show de Cristina and Laura en América
      (pp. 279-310)

      The number of Spanish-language radio and television programs in the United States has grown rapidly over the past decade, raising concerns among Latino/Chicano scholars about the effects of this programming on immigrant and nonimmigrant Latina audiences (Noriega 2000, 2003; Subervi-Vélez et al. 2003). In particular, scant information is available on how the largest Spanish-language television networks, Univision and Telemundo, represent women and how Latina audiences interpret these representations. To date, it remains unclear whether the portrayal of Latinas in Spanish-language programming is empowering or whether it predisposes female viewers to accept subordinate roles. In addition, information on how Latinas decode,...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 311-314)
  8. Index
    (pp. 315-323)