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The Negative Portrayal Of Latino Women In American Films

2608 words - 10 pages

The Negative Portrayal of Latino Women in American Films

From the early ages of American film, Latino women have been portrayed in a negative light. Has this image changed over the years? The answer to this question is left up to the viewer, but there is one thing that has not changed in the portrayal of Latino women in American film. That is the clear distinction between two stereotypes of Latino women; the "innocent, passive Madonna" and the "hot blooded, fiery, sexy whore". In the case of the hot-blooded tamale, these images date back to the 1930’s in Lupe Velez and to the present Rosie Perez. Dolores Del Rio and Maria Montez represent the virgin Senorita. (Rodriguez 75-7) These are just some of the actresses that have portrayed characters that fit into these two stereotypes. Other actresses include Carmen Miranda, Natalie Wood, and Rita Moreno. These actresses are featured in the following films, West Side Story, Flying Down to Rio, Mexican Spitfire, and White Men Can't Jump. These two stereotypes have been carried out in American cinema from the thirties to today and are a common theme in many films.

The stereotype of Latino women in American film has always been one of two; "(1) Madonna- the innocent, passive, virginal Maria; or (2) Whore- the hot-blooded, fiery, sexy Anita." (Rodriguez 75) Rodriguez refers to the characters, Maria and Anita, in the musical West Side Story, which chronicles the happenings inside a Puerto Rican gang. Maria, played by Natalie Wood, is the sister of the gang leader. Natalie Wood was not a Latina actress, but born an American in California to Russian parents. She is a very naïve, beautiful Latina, who can not help falling in love with a rival Caucasian gang member.

Maria, the name which was derived from the European Virgin Mary, represents virginity and purity. Gary Keller explains,

The moral Senorita is faithful to her Anglo love interest. Moral in this context does not refer to sexual behaviors, she may have or not have physical love with her Anglo. Moral refers to fidelity to Anglos from ethnocentric, Anglo expectations: fealty to the Anglo race, the United States and its symbols such as the flag, the sheriff, or the cavalry, or to American culture or mores. Because morality is adherence to Anglo-Saxonism, to America and its values, the Senorita in these films often has to display the behavior of a turncoat, a traitor to her culture, above all, to her family. Perhaps she must turn against a member of her family- a brother, as in Chiquita, the Dancer, or a father, as in A Spanish Love Song, thus demonstrating both her loyalty to the hero and her allegiance to ‘the land of the free’." (Keller 42)

Keller explains, almost exactly referring to Maria, how one could turn his/her back on his/her own brother. When Maria’s brother Bernardo is killed by Tony, Maria turns the other cheek a happily accepts her that her lover killed her brother.

The girlfriend of Maria’s brother, Anita, is the...

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