Yesterday I claimed that I would share my thoughts on class status and my education journey. Time got away from me today, so I will postpone that topic until tomorrow.
Instead I have a quick update related to my post about the politics of Rosario Dawson playing Dolores Huerta in the upcoming film Chavez, about Cesar Chavez. Pocho.com, a site for Chicano news and satire, had its own special post about the casting of a similar (fictitious) movie. Here’s a quote from “Hollywood Spaniards, Puerto Ricans plan ‘ultimate’ Chicano film“:
The film – Mi Familia Bound By Honor For Glory — begins when Hernán Cortés lands in the New World, follows the history of Latin America through colonialism, revolution, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Like Water for Chocolate,” “Destilando Amor,” through the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Raiders moving back to Oakland and to the current struggles of today’s Latinos — like bad cell phone reception.
“I feel like this project is important not only to me, and the rest of the cast, for professional and personal reasons. It’s the first time that we — are a bunch of people who are not Mexican-American but capitalize on pretending to be — have the chance to tell the authentic Mexican-American story,” said Cuban-American actress Eva Mendes, who is starring in the film as United Farm Worker co-founder Dolores Huerta. (She beat out Rosario Dawson for the role.)
Now, I know that the story is meant as a joke, and I do think it’s funny overall. My favorite part is the the fact that Esai Morales will star as himself, and I love the the title of the fictitious film, which makes fun of several classic Chicano movies that I find to be gloriously (if unintentionally) corny.
Looking past the humor, though, I find two elements particularly telling. First is the description of these Latino actors as “a bunch of people who are not Mexican-American but capitalize on pretending to be,” which raises the primary issue many Chicanos have with the casting of Dawson: namely, they feel that Chicano actors should be the first and only choice to play Chicano roles. There’s an oblique criticism here of non-Mexican American actors “taking” roles that aren’t mean for them.
Second is the inclusion of a gorgeous and scantily-clad Eva Mendes, for no other reason that to underscore the apparent ridiculousness of casting someone like her (i.e. non-Chicana) in the serious role of a famous, honorable Chicana labor organizer. By contrast, the included image of Lou Diamond Phillips (honorary Mexican American ever since he played Ritchie Valens in La Bamba) is a run-of-the-mill headshot. Here is the image of Mendes:
Her ass, visible in her see-through panties, becomes a metaphor for the ass she makes of herself in the made up quote (included above) about how important the project is to her and the other non-Chicanos in the film. Again, I get it, guys: This is meant as satire. However, it would have been just as humorous without the knee-jerk sexism evident here.
I will admit that being an academic brings a certain danger: You end up taking a critical eye to just about everything you see and make the people around groan, “Come on, lighten up, lady.” But sometimes, when it comes to popular culture, it’s just too tempting not to analyze, especially when the fruit hangs so low.