Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media. Isabel Molina-Guzmán. New York: New York University Press, 2010. 256 pp. $70 hbk $22 pbk.
Latina/o Stars in U.S. Eyes: The Making and Meanings of Film and TV Stardom. Mary C. Beltrán. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009. 222 pp. $65 hbk. $25 pbk.
Latina/o Stars in U.S. Eyes: The Making and Meanings of Film and TV Stardom and Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media join other recent books about Chicano, Hispanic, and Latino issues and contribute to research about class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation in different but important ways.
These books by Mary C. Beltrán and Isabel Molina-Guzmán, as well as others - including Latina Teens, Migration, and Popular Culture by Lucila Vargas (Peter Lang 2009) and Latino/a Communication Studies, edited by Angharad N. Valdivia (Peter Lang 2008) - represent a continuing interest in the portrayal of people of color in global popular culture. Latina/o Stars in U.S. Eyes and Dangerous Curves, which complement and reinforce each other, belong side by side on the bookshelves of media scholars committed to making sense of proliferating images of "Latinidad" in the United States and abroad.
Marketed primarily to those interested in women of color and popular culture, both of these books are organized around the Uves and careers of individual entertainment and news celebrities. They deal primarily with American texts and audiences, but refer often to international issues, and both inform and advocate for social change. Although the titles might indicate otherwise, the authors refer to both female and male icons.
In each of their works, both Beltrán and Molina-Guzmán employ aesthetic, cultural, historical, sociological, and textual criticism. Both books include extensive analysis of the Ufe and career of actress and entertainer Jennifer Lopez, and Dangerous Curves addresses the media representation of sexual orientation in discussions about Lopez, America Ferrera (the star of Ugly Betty), and the 2002 film Frida.
Latina/o Stars in U.S. Eyes is divided into seven chapters that feature Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio, who became a star during the sUent film era; Desi Arnaz, actor, musician, and television producer best known for starring in 7 Love Lucy (1950-1957) with his wife LucUle Ball; and Puerto Rican performer Rita Moreno, who was celebrated for her film roles during the 1950s and 1960s. Freddie Prinze, the Puerto Rican and German-Hungarian actor who played Francisco (Chico) Rodriguez in Chico and the Man (19741978), is the focus of this chapter. Also featured in subsequent chapters include Edward James Olmos, star of Stand and Deliver (1988) and other 1980s films; Jennifer Lopez, who has starred in films as diverse as Selena (1997), The Wedding Planner (2001), and Angel Eyes (2001); and Jessica Alba and other recent examples of "racial hybridity" in contemporary film and television.
Because the book covers developments from the 1920s to the present, it necessarily reUes upon summary and broad brush strokes. The encyclopedic nature of the study suggests that numerous celebrities may be omitted and that discussion of themes may be secondary to the development of a timeUne. For example, the popularity of figures such as Antonio Banderas, Benjamin Bratt, Penelope Cruz, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek and Jimmy Smits may ecUpse that of other stars featured in each chapter; although these and other significant figures surface in the study, the author does not analyze their impact on cultural attitudes. It might be that consideration of their Uves and careers would either reinforce Beltrán' s arguments or lead to different conclusions.
Some opinions in Latina/o Stars in U.S. Eyes would benefit from further support. Examples include claims that Jennifer Lopez's relationship with entertainer Marc Anthony "has appeared ... of less interest" to American audiences than her marriage to Ben Affleck; that "backlash" against Lopez and Affleck resulted in some of their projects "faring poorly," and that Alba "notably has had many doors open to her that are still not available to other Latinas, in large part because of her offwhite appearance and image. …