"Reel Latinas? Race, Gender, and Asymmetric Recognition in Contemporary Film." In Politics, Groups, and Identities, 1(2): 180-197 (go to article)

Reel Latinas? Race, Gender, and Asymmetric Recognition in Contemporary Film


This paper argues that idealized portrayals of immigrants prevalent in political discoursemust be scrutinized for their support of gender and racial nationalism and the effects they have on our understanding of (Latina/o) immigrant inclusion and democracy. Through the examination of three contemporary films with Latina leads—Real Women Have Curves, Spanglish, and Quinceañera, the paper argues that these discourses rely on an asymmetric recognition of Latina/os. This form of recognition involves the denial by dominant groups of their inter-dependency with other groups and the imposition on Latina/os an identity that does not threaten their privileged standing. The films offer views of Latina/o culture as overtly traditional; a “culture” that must either be abandoned or appropriated by anti-feminist (postfeminist) agendas in order to assuage anxieties regarding the transformations of the heteronormative middle-class family. The paper concludes by drawing parallels between the positive portrayals of Latinas in these films and prominent arguments in the immigration debate that rely on constructions of deserving immigrants to push for extensions of membership.

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