Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media

Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media

Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media

Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media


With images of Jennifer Lopez's butt and America Ferrera's smile saturating national and global culture, Latina bodies have become an ubiquitous presence. Dangerous Curves traces the visibility of the Latina body in the media and popular culture by analyzing a broad range of popular media including news, media gossip, movies, television news, and online audience discussions.

Isabel Molina-Guzmán maps the ways in which the Latina body is gendered, sexualized, and racialized within the United States media using a series of fascinating case studies. The book examines tabloid headlines about Jennifer Lopez's indomitable sexuality, the contested authenticity of Salma Hayek's portrayal of Frida Kahlo in the movie Frida, and America Ferrera's universally appealing yet racially sublimated Ugly Betty character. Dangerous Curves carves out a mediated terrain where these racially ambiguous but ethnically marked feminine bodies sell everything from haute couture to tabloids.

Through a careful examination of the cultural tensions embedded in the visibility of Latina bodies in United States media culture, Molina-Guzmán paints a nuanced portrait of the media's role in shaping public knowledge about Latina identity and Latinidad, and the ways political and social forces shape media representations.


If the 1980s was, as media marketing professionals declared, the decade of the Hispanics, then Latinas have so far owned the new century. Demographic shifts along with the globalization of deregulated media markets have dramatically increased the number of Latina/o media outlets, advertising dollars, and focus on Latina/o audiences. For instance, while overall U.S. advertising revenue declined sharply after the September 11 terrorist attacks, spending on advertisements in Latina/o media has steadily increased, although it still remains a small segment of the overall market. In particular, advertising and marketing professionals have increased their focus on 18- to 34-year-old Latinas, who are often portrayed by the media as avid consumers of everything from baby diapers to mascara. I begin this book by reaffirming the claim that Latina performers, producers, and audiences are thus an essential part of global media culture.

Along with an increase in media and cultural visibility, there has emerged a vibrant field of scholarship, Latina/o Communication Studies, so named by Angharad Valdivia in her 2008 book by the same title. I situate myself within both Latina/o studies and media studies to answer Valdivia's provocative questions: What are the contemporary politics of media representations about Latinas/os? And what are audiences asking the media to do in their representations? Throughout the book, I map out the symbolic value assigned to Latinas in a media landscape that remains simultaneously familiar and strangely new. Latina lives continue to be represented through media archetypes and tropes that have existed since the birth of popular film in the early 1900s, yet the new century also has opened more complex representational spaces. Latinas are political advocates, global figures, and producers of their own media stories. I unpack the representational stakes by turning to online audience discussions and blogs about mainstream media depictions of Latina bodies. Through online audience writings about Latina media repre-

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