Despite shared features of history and culture, attitudes towards sex-roles are extremely diverse among Hispanic women. For instance, some Latin women are willing to endorse ” modern” and ” liberated” sex-roles concerning education and employment, while maintaining very ” traditional,” ” conservative” positions concerning sexual behaviors or personal relationships. Others are traditional in all respects and still others reject all traditional beliefs concerning the roles of women. Consequently, it is very difficult to discuss the sexuality or sexual behavior of Latin women without the danger of making some sweeping generalizations.
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You cannot put Chicana sexuality into a neat package. It is what it is today because of it’s history. It started with the conquistadors and native peoples of Mexico- a patriarchal civilization subdued by another, often times strengthen the other’s male originated views on what a woman should and should not be. For example, like the Spanish, the indigenous peoples condemned adultery as well as male homosexuality and divorce. Sexual violence by Spanish soldiers was used to implement subordinance.
Once the Spanish entered the picture, racism and more sexism produced ” the codes of honor and respect” one has to adhere to be called a ” buena familia”. The concept of the macho emerged. ” Although it cannot be denied that our pre-Columbian heritage and the Conquest have had a substantial impact on Mexican culture and on expressions of masculinity, the explanation that appears most plausible is that machismo and the cult of masculinity, in their most extreme and negative form, were introduced to the New World by the Spanish conquistadores.
They provided the model of the figure of the negative macho — daring, arrogant, dominant, insensitive, warring, irreverent, lewd, unpredictable, and lustful men of action who committed numerous chingaderas in the course of the Conquest and in the name of their Christian god. ” Even in recent times, the position of women has not revolutionized much. ” One of the earliest responses to ” the monolithic androcentrism” ( Pratt 1993, 863) of the La Raza movement was the manifesto Chicanas Speak Out. Chicanas called for the destruction of religious and cultural myths that constrain female sexuality.
They also maintained that marriage has to be transformed, as well as the Catholic Church, or it should stand aside. Even so, La Raza paid no attention, never including this Chicana manifesto into the archives of the Chicano history of the La Raza movement ( Pratt 1993, 861). (Kafka, 2000, p. 81) ” Chicana sexuality still lacks research and change only comes with learning from mistakes made in the past. The main cast is predominantly male, but chicana sexuality plays a part through the Mexican urban drama Amores Perros or ” Love’s A Bitch”.
First time director Alejandro Gonzaliz Inarritu has fashioned a gloomy visualization of three overlapping plots and three sets of overlapping characters, all severely affected by a horrifying car wreck. Despite its ominous connotation, it is brilliantly filmed in shades of Mexican colors; scenes of street parties juxtaposed with scenes of seduction, homicide, brutality, and loneliness. This analysis will concentrate more on the how sex and the role of women are portrayed in the film. The audience is thrust into the story through the lens of a shaky, grainy camera, hearing nothing but cursing and frantic male voices.
Two young men around eighteen or nineteen are driving a 70’s black Mercury through a high speed chase dodging cars and the bullets from their assailants, who are careening after them in a red and yellow pick-up truck. The guy in the passenger’s seat is trying to nurse a bleeding Rottwiler sprawled out in the backseat, tongue out. He screams to the driver, ” What the hell did you do to piss those guys off!? ” ” Nothing! ” cries the other, obviously shaken up. They briefly manage to escape the gunslingers but almost as soon as they begin to celebrate they see their attackers back in the rear view mirror.
All of a sudden they run a red light a smash into a small white car with a woman inside. A homeless man with several mutts sees the whole thing. We hear the woman screaming and banging her bloody hands on the window pleading to be let out of the car while her terrier barks in the background. All this before we are brought to the first story, ” Octavio y Susanna”. Octavio we learn is the driver of the car. He lives at home with his mom, his brother Ramiro and Ramiro’s young wife Susanna and their baby. Octavio is obviously in love with Susanna and wants to raise his brother’s baby as his own.
Susanna is still in high school and tries to juggle this with her unplanned motherhood. Octavio’s mother is more maternal towards her daughter-in-law than Susanna’s own drunken mother. Ramiro is a brute. He works as a checkout clerk in a local Grocery store and is screwing a co-worker. He cares little about his son, beats Susanna and often times, to make ends meet, robs liquor stores and small banks with a friend. Ramiro is not ashamed of his behavior at all because the only one who seems to disapprove is Octavio. Octavio starts fighting his dog Cofi to make money for the family, particularly Susanna and her child.
He eventually wants to run away with her. The circumstances are fairly stereotypical with the macho, violent husband and the passive wife all living in a household made up of extended family. In An Examination of Gender Differences in Mexican-American Attitudes Toward Family and Career Roles, Mary Gowan and Melanie Trevino observe that ” A major part of the ” macho” male role in the Mexican-American culture is to provide for family (Gonzalez, 1982); therefore, we would expect males to have the more traditional attitude that the female’s place is in the home, not the workplace. Gowan & Trevino, 1998). “
Susanna does what she is expected to do most of the time. She has no time to be a girl because she is taking care of a baby and finds out later that Ramiro has gotten her pregnant again (” He’s going to kill me! ” she says, as if the pregnancy was all her fault). She makes excuses for Ramiro when she is questioned about his treatment of her. After Octavio pressures her enough, she begins an affair with him and you get the sense she is just going along with it to get him of her back about it.
Even though I liked this movie, I was disappointed to see that Susanna was the same kind of girl I usually see in Spanish films. She does what she’s told or she gets hit and she is only a sex hole. The audience is supposed to feel sympathy toward Octavio’s unrequited love but one could see how selfish his love is. He wants to fulfill some happy family fantasy. He hates his brother and she is an attractive girl within close enough proximity for him to develop an attraction for her. Susanna refuses him and he’ll stop only to return to pushing himself on her to love him.
He simply ignores her refusals longer than his brother would and without beating her but he is still repeating this pattern of not putting himself in her shoes. Amores Perros is darkly humorous at times and ironic. In one scene between Octavio and Susanna, Octavio tells her, ” Know what? A baby in Guadalajara gets a finger up the ass. ” ” Why? ” ” To se what he’ll be. If he kicks, he’ll be a soccer player. If he screams, he’ll be a mariachi . And if he laughs… he’ll be a homo. ” They laugh and Susanna asks, ” What about girls? ” ” We finger them until they’re eighteen,” Octavio replies and they laugh again.
The scene illustrates the prevelant attitude towards a woman’s sexuality. The male child is expected ” to be something” while the girl is at birth expected to be a sex object. Economic circumstances presumably led Susanna, Octavio, and Ramiro to lives of depravity (violence, adultery). Their sense of entrapment keeps them contained (in the same home and in relationships that are doomed to be dysfunctional). The physical space – the squalid and cramped rooms – reinforces feelings of confinement. The characters are hemmed into their surroundings.
As they move about the undersized rooms, they push against furniture and each other, overturn things, etc. They are framed in close-up to extreme close-up so that their images fill and spill over the edges of the lens. Their images are rarely isolated. Bodies overlap. Because of this style there is a heightened sense of their bodies and hyper sexuality. Octavio is highly passionate, even forceful sometimes when he tries to show his love for Susanna. The next story is ” Valeria y Daniel”. Valeria is a supermodel that was the woman in the white coupe.
Before the catastrophe, she was a top emblematic model with a ” for show” relationship with a handsome actor that served to make them both even more popular. Her actual lover is Daniel a married man and magazine executive, who eventually leaves his wife to be with Valeria. Of course, once they are together they fall into characteristic relationship patterns and do not seem altogether as happy as they were throughout the affair. In the scene where it is revealed who Valeria’s true lover is, the wood floor of their brand new apartment ominously cracks and makes a hole as Valeria runs to Daniel.
The car accident cripples the model, ruining her career, her self-image, and her self-esteem. A giant photograph of her on a billboard across the street mocks her as she moves around her apartment in a wheelchair. One day, her little pet dog, a white fluffy terrier named Ritchie, gets trapped beneath the floorboards chasing after a ball. At first, neither she nor her boyfriend knows how to rescue Ritchie. This segment effectively deals with the psychological trauma of amputation and of a career based solely on appearance.
Her love story is also tragic, as the passion and romance vanish from their relationship due to her physical state, her mental anguish and her obsession with freeing Ritchie. The trapped dog only exacerbates the depressing circumstances in her life. The narrative of Valeria serves as a counterpoint to Susanna. She and Daniel are affluent, but have become sexually dysfunctional or desexualized. Money has made them detached from the nuclear family. Daniel has left his family and Valeria seems to have no family. For many of the scenes, Valeria unlike Octavio’s family is all alone in a space that’s far too large.
The space is empty. She’s broken and bandaged. Her physical movement is limited and her general physicality and sexuality is curtailed. She’s cut off from the outside world and is forced to be dependent on Daniel for everything. Daniel’s wife begins calling and hanging up if Valeria answers just like Valeria used to do to her. The wife is also doing the stereotypical thing of begging Daniel to return just to keep the family together regardless of whether his presence or example is really beneficial to his two daughters.
The wife stands as an example of how the patriarchal concept of family values and organization put in place by the colonizers subordinates women to men primarily through normalizing harsh legal and religious rules and regulations (Kafka, 2000, p. 3). Valeria and Daniel continuously put unwanted and unprepared for pressure on each other and they often lash out at each other in the most verbally abusive ways. In one scene Daniel gets ready to go to work after a horrible fight they had last night when Valeria for the millionth time demands that Daniel get out of bed and pull up the floorboards to find Ritchie.
As he walks silently to exit the door, he tells Valeria that he will be back as soon as he can to which she replies without looking at him ” I don’t fucking care if you ever come back” ultimately revealing how fragile their ” love” truly is. For me, true love is being there for someone through the worst and the best of times. A fairly clear parallel can be drawn between her and the dog trapped beneath her floorboard: ” trapped bitch”. A classic virgin/whore archetype is evoked especially when Valeria reveals her family’s disapproval of her modeling career and complete lack of interest in her life since she left Spain.
She informs Daniel not to contact her family about her plight because her father would say she ” got what she deserved. ” The model is punished for her hedonism or the adulterous destroyed (in this case not by stoning, but by the car accident). She is punished more because she is a woman. ” Men are also regulated in how they can express sexual interest in women who are not their mates, although the ” double standard,” token punishment of male philandering versus comparatively severe punishment of female infidelity, is a cultural universal. (Booth & Crouter, 1998, p. 15)”. Essentially, Daniel can break up with her if he wants to without any ties or broken bones.
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She is now lost her left leg, has no career, and feels useless without her perfect body. LeMoncheck theorizes ” feminists have long been suspicious that moralistic rejections of sexual license in the name of restoring social harmony merely reflect a sexual double standard of male lechery and female chastity, by which dutiful women are paradoxically required to be both whore and virgin to men’s promiscuous heterosexual desire. (LeMoncheck, 1997, p. 3).
Enforcing these types of repressive messages over and over again through media such as film eventually begins to brainwash young women into what society expects them to be, not what the woman wants to be. It makes her rethink whether she should respect her body or her ideas. “” Latinas, compared to other ethnic groups, are the least likely to use contraceptives, and have the longest interval between first intercourse and use of contraceptives ” (Fores, Tschann & Marin, 2002). ” The character Valeria is reminiscent of telenovela heroine without the expected happy ending that goes with being attractive and successful.
The fact that her profession is solely based on her looks leaves us with yet another example of how Chicana sexuality is trivialized. The telenovela is a popular form of entertainment among most Latin women and the messages are clear: if you are a young, attractive, highly sexualized virgin you have got it made because not only will you have two or three beautiful men (and at least one is always rich) but in the end it will work out for you no matter who you choose because they wiil take care of all your financial and emotional needs… if you continue to be this dream woman of course.
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with escaping through fantasy. Sometimes you need a fairy tale every once in awhile because for most of us, our real lives are not exactly where we would like them to be. But it is troubling to see that these shows are often not balanced out with educational programming or other shows with more assertive female characters. And in the United States, where there are maybe four or five Spanish-language channels ” telenovelas assist Latinos who reside in the United States in recreating and maintaining a strong cultural bond to Latin America.
Specifically, by seeing the portrayal of key cultural elements in the narrative, including religion and setting, and hearing the language, Latin American culture was sustained for them in crucial ways. (Barrera & Bielby, 2001). ” The third account in the film is treated slightly different than the first two. The homeless man that witnessed the wreck is known as ” El Chivo”. The audience picks up concise glimpses of him throughout the film. He is seen wheeling his shopping cart along with his pack of abandoned animals-his only family now- which he takes good care of.
The man is a killer and an ex-guerilla, occupations that stand in stark contrast to his benevolent treatment of the dogs. The vagabond finds the injured Cofi, Octavio’s fight dog and nurses him back to health which is the only link to the other stories. The only women in his narrative are his ex-wife and daughter who we hardly see. We see a diminutive, embittered conversation between El Chivo and his former spouse. He left his family to go be a guerilla when his daughter was two. He was thrown in jail and instructed his wife to tell their daughter he died.
Throughout the movie he wrestles with his failure as a father and attempts desperately to work up the courage to seek his daughter’s forgiveness. He finally does call her and tearfully confesses his sins into a long message on an answering machine. It is never fully explained whether he is forgiven or not but because he does not expect a reply, it seemed like the phone call was made so he could just stop holding in the truth. It was for his own closure more so than his daughter’s. The film reveals a bit of Mexican culture and sexuality. More than anything, however, Amores Perros is about tragedy, irony, and coincidence.
Tales of lost love, unrequited love, and almost true love are woven throughout the film. While I did enjoy most aspects of the movie, when analyzing its portrayal of women, you can see that Amores Perros offers no new types of female characters. As expected, it spends more time developing the films male characters, leaving the female characters to be used and abused and left with the blame of why things went wrong. We are supposed to ask ” What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she just leave with Octavio? ” ” Can’t Valeria see that Daniel is trying to make her happy? “
” Why doesn’t Chivo’s daughter just forgive him? The title could be taken in two ways: the role of dogs is both integral to the plots and is also symbolic, as Amores Perros shows that ” love is a bitch. ” One of the themes is definitely that dogs offer unconditional love in a way that human beings are simply not capable of. Or ” Love’s A Bitch” could be seen as giving the emotion love a negative female connotation. Love’s a bitch because all women are just bitches who lure you into thinking you’re in love and end up screwing up your life. Pobresito guys, you really have it rough. If only women were that simple, right?