5. Selena (Part II)

September 20:
FILM: Selena
READ: Negron-Muntaner, Frances. “Jennifer’s Butt.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 22.2 (1997): 181 – 194.

Selena II Powerpoint



29 Responses to 5. Selena (Part II)

  1. sorariku says:

    In this article, Jennifer’s Butt” it is said that Selena was from Mexico but was born in the United States and Jennifer shouldn’t have done it because she is from Puerto Rico. However, I think that both Selena and Jennifer had the same body when they were younger and there is nothing wrong playing a person who is suppose to be from the same country. Also Jennifer Lopez quote is right about what other people think or others found to speak about how “Latinas” are constituted as racialized bodies, what kind of cultural capital is associated with these bodies, and how the body surfaces as a site of pleasure, produced by intersections of power, but not entirely under its own control.

    A lot of people talks about how Latinas butt are suppose to be because a lot of people see that some Latinas butt are suppose to be curvy and needs to be well-shaped. Jennifer Lopez does exercise to maintain her body, which is fine because she is taking care of her own body by doing healthy exercises. Even people in contests said that even that the contestant doesn’t know how to sing, her body is hot, which that’s how they get famous only by their beauty instead of her talent. I guess people shouldn’t focus alot about a person’s body, instead they should look for people who work hard and have beauty in the inside and outside. This is also related to the Bronze movie that we watch in the classroom because it shows that Latinas are being judge only in their beauty and how they should change their image to make them look more appealing to the viewers.

    • morgankamm says:

      The Bronze Screen does discuss a lot about how Latina actresses get famous by changing their look to be more Americanized. And they do it because they know it will bring them more popularity and more money in the industry. Since then, it has been hard for Latinas to uphold their true Latina image because so many actresses conformed to American norms and went against their Latin roots. Some even changed their name to resemble the American name. Actresses like Jennifer Lopez helped change that image somewhat, by showing her curves and embracing her Puerto Rican roots. She started this trend by starring as Selena.

    • alexismruiz says:

      Jennifer’s body in general was and is her moneymaker. She is famous for that infamous butt that she sometimes embraces and sometimes plays down. She knows when to market it and when to not. Her talents have come to light from the shadow of her butt. There is nothing wrong with utilizing her assets (no pun intended) and making that her selling point. Everyone in some way does that very same thing. When anyone goes shopping, you buy things that flatter the parts that you like and hide the parts that you don’t like. For people in Hollywood, they are sometimes forced by society to choose what is actually okay to “flaunt” since you have an audience that you have to appeal to. This is neither right now wrong. It is simply the way things go when you perform for the acclaim of others.

      • sorariku says:

        It is true in Hollywood, an actor or specially an actress must use either their beauty and their skills to get into the business show and it is difficult to get a part in a movie. So Jennifer had to play the part of Selena because Jennifer was the best option to be Selena because of how she was.

  2. morgankamm says:

    In the article, “Jennifer’s Butt” there is a lot of controversy over Jennifer Lopez not being Mexican and shouldn’t have played Selena. However, the article did mention how Jennifer Lopez and Selena did have similar body types and features such as their dark hair and dark skin. At the time the movie was made, many Latin American actresses were trying to fit the American Hollywood stereotype of light hair, light skin, and skinny body types, such as those of Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch. Selena did not fit that stereotype. She had dark hair, tan skin, and a curvy body with a butt. Jennifer Lopez had a similar figure and on top of that, she could sing and dance, and happened to be the hottest rising Latina in Hollywood at the time. This qualified her to play the role and I think she did an outstanding job. Acting is about playing someone that you’re not, so why can’t a Puerto Rican play a Mexican? Maybe the controversy was over the fact that the movie was only made two years after Selena’s death, which I could understand why the Mexican community would feel this way.

    • alexismruiz says:

      I love you bringing up the point that at the same time that Jennifer was defying the commonalities of becoming mainstream and embracing her Latina background, other actresses were forced to conform to the blond haired, pale skinned roles of mainstream society. I definitely think that the type of film it was (commemorative) as well as how soon after her death this movie was made had a huge impact on the initial negative responses to Jennifer’s playing the Selena character. I do that Hollywood was very strategic in doing it relatively soon after her death because it definitely was a major source of revenue because everyone was still “in love” with her.

    • rserreti says:

      Your post is exactly how I feel. Many Mexicans did not feel that Jennifer Lopez was the right pick for the part because she was not Mexican enough. Like you said, Jennifer Lopez was able to play the role well so why should it matter if she was Mexican or not. For these reasons as well as your own, this is why Jennifer Lopez was a good fit.

  3. alexismruiz says:

    After reading the article and discussing Jennifer Lopez’s role as Selena in class, I feel that Jennifer Lopez did in fact execute her character well. My favorite idea in the article was when it stated that “In fact, Selena’s butt was, from a Puerto Rican perspective, one of the elements that made her not specifically Chicana, but “Latina,” and hence more easily embraced as one of our own.” This point to me was extremely interesting because everyone was very much concerned with Jennifer Lopez not being Chicana but in certain ways, neither was Selena. It is hard to decide how to go about casting someone for a role when the character is as demanding as Selena. There were not very many women that look as similar to Selena as Jennifer did.

    Considering the direction that Selena’s career was taking (more Americanized), I think that a more mainstream actress was not a horrible thing. Selena’s persona and energy needed to be portrayed by someone who can channel similar experiences. Therefore I do not necessarily think that ANYONE can play her role because there are just certain emotions and/or behaviors that only a true Latina can execute effectively. It may be my own personal feeling but I definitely think that the Latina background definitely helped Jennifer in her role. It may not have been the most perfect representation but it was pretty good.

    Kudos to you Jennifer! Job well done.

    • sorlyz says:

      I agree with your statement completely. It is truly unfortunate that people were engulfed in the fact the Jennifer is not Chicana but was still allowed to played Selena. Whether or not she was Chicana, they shared similar lives because of how they were raised. Yes, they are Latinas but they were born and raised in the United States. If it weren’t for our society being so strung up on race, no one would have had a clue that J-Lo is Puerto Rican and Selena was Mexican. She looked the part and she played the part well. Great casting on their part.

      • Skylar Smith says:

        “If it weren’t for society being so strung up on race…” This statement nails it on the head. It is as if even though an actress performs at an incredible level, at least one aspect of the performance has to receive criticism and in this case, it is Jennifer Lopez’s ethnicity. Jennifer Lopez played the part of Selena almost flawlessly. One concept everyone has to get in their head, is that no one can even represent someone to the fullest extent, ever. Each individual has something about them that can never be represented by someone else but Jennifer Lopez gave it all to look the part and to represent Selena the best she could.

        Another thing I would like to bring up is Selena Gomez. Selena Gomez is of Mexican ancestry and was in fact named after Selena because of how big of a role model Selena was for Mexicans. In an interview with Elle Magazine, Selena Gomez described Jennifer Lopez’s performance in Selena as a “life-changing moment.” Selena Gomez was born around the same time that Selena died but the fact that she was named after her had to mean something to her on a personal level. The fact that she said how moving the performance was by Jennifer Lopez supports my opinion that Jennifer Lopez was one of the best, if not the best choice to represent the wonderful Selena.

    • Mariah Monroe says:

      I too think Jennifer Lopez did a nice job of portraying Selena. When it comes down to it, Jennifer and Selena were both Latina musicians who led crossover careers in the Latin and American music industries.

      In terms of casting, I think Jennifer was the great fit. We have to remember that directors and casting agents are trying to make a movie. Obviously a popular mainstream musician who happens to be Latina would bring in more money than any unknown Latina musician ever would.

      With that said, was it the most perfect representation,who can really say? But in my opinion Jennifer did a great job, hats off to her.

  4. haileyrosa says:

    One of the most interesting points made in Thursday’s discussion was in regards to the picture debate between Selena and Jennifer playing the role. JLo was alarmingly white, not only in comparison to Selena, but her naturally tan skin. A good observation was made about the light used in the picture, this was a main source of her paleness (in addition to massive amounts of makeup). However, the lighting was no accident, but a tool in which the photographer whitewashed Jennifer. This westernizes the movie and actress in attempt to reach a wider (and whiter) audience.

    This is a sad realization, that such a culturally significant story and widely loved Latina would have to be altered in order to make it in Hollywood. A more shocking fact? It is still going on today. While looking for examples in movies today, I stumbled upon an enormous amount of articles, with tons of examples. Hollywood not only uses its tricks to make ethnicities look lighter, but roles are created (or remade) specifically for white actors. In the highly successful Batman movie, just released, the character Bane is supposed to be South American, yet Christopher Nolan cast a British man, and in Prince of Persia white actors were cast to play middle-eastern roles. In Ben Afflec’s new movie Argo, he plays the role of Tony Mendez, and in Extraordinary Measures Harrison Ford’s role is based on a Taiwanese doctor. These true stories that are played by white actors rob other cultures achievements and make it seem like white people are the only ones who contribute to society.

    Although Selena does not go as far as these other examples, whitewashing is clearly a problem in our society and it is time Hollywood react:

    The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi Attacks Hollywood’s ‘Whitewashing’ On CNN

    Is Hollywood Whitewashing Ethnic Roles?

    Angelina Scores Cleopatra Role, Is Hollywood White Washing?

    • Ernie Abreu says:

      I completely agree with this statement above. However, as discussed in class, Hollywood’s main and only concern is to make money. It doesn’t matter to them if they are whitewashing and they do not care if they have to westernize Selena’s story to make it more profitable. This is a sad realization and I hope to see Hollywood react as you say. But the sad truth is that money speaks in volume and it does enough to persuade people into changing their images and sometimes their own beliefs and culture.

      • carolynluby says:

        The concept of the power of money that you are talking about is one that I think about often. You are right, Hollywood is sending a message that if you are willing to give up or hide certain parts of your identity that are not “marketable” you will be paid off in the end. This goes for appearance, race, accents, and so on. There is an expression that says being in show business is like selling your soul to the devil: and I think that is a powerful analogy. How can you put a price on something that is supposed to be priceless such as self identity? Does everyone have a price they would sell out for and are some just higher than others? and I pose this question to more than just movie castings and film but to political and social relations across the world today as well. To make money you must be successful, to be successful you must be not only good at what you do but often you must have the approval of others who control the flow of that money to you. In Actors and Actress’ case that means producers, film companies, etc and the general public: which all together is not the easiest group to please.

  5. carolynluby says:

    In this weeks article and in this weeks class, the controversy over Jennifer Lopez’ heritage as it differs from the real life Selena’s was a hot topic. Both Latinas born and raised as Latinas in the United States, many film viewers and critics found Jennifer to be a good fit for the role of Selena, a famous Mexican American singer whos life came to a tragic end very early on in her promising career. To the casual observer, Jennifer was a dead wringer for the late Selena, with a voluptuous body, voice, and performing presence that so clearly mirrors Selena’s. However, when the true heritage of both women was also compared, many film viewers did not show the same support for Jennifer as Selena. Many Mexicans believed that Jennifer Lopez, being that she is Puerto Rican, did not deserve the role and furthermore did not do the role justice in her representation. Both sharing a Latina Identity was not enough, her being a non- mexican stirred up an intense controversy attacking the actress for her misrepresentation. An interesting question that was raised in Thursday’s class was if Jennifer Lopez had been a man, playing the lead role of a Latino who he did not share the same exact heritage with, do you think she would have been under fire so much? I believe that Jennifer’s role as a Latina, and as a woman, causing controversy here cannot be overlooked. An example I will use to further explain this is the casting of Benicio Del Toro in the 2008 film Che, a movie about the life and history of Che Guevara.Though the movie has received mixed critical reception, Mr. del Toro won top acting honors at Cannes that year. There was controversy over the movie content itsself, but the casting of Benicio as Che Guevara is commended. Che Guevara, an Argentinian who played a key role in the Cuban Revolution with Fidel Castro, is one of the most famous Latinos of all time. And yet the fact that he is portrayed by a Puerto Rican actor seems to be overlooked. “Del Toro is spectacular in the role of Che, not only in his physical resemblance but also in his brilliant interpretation,” wrote Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. “After more than five hours of screening, the Cuban public gave its endorsement with a strong ovation.” In this example Del Toro is commended for his acting and his role as a Latino playing a Latino, and he gains praise and recognition for playing this role well. He is not openly criticized by Argentinians for misrepresenting Argentina by actually being from Puerto Rico. He is not overtly criticized by Cubans for never having lived in Cuba or never experiencing the revolution first hand and yet still acting as one of the greatest revolutionary symbols of all time. So why is it so different for Jennifer Lopez playing Selena? Attention needs to be drawn to the gender relations within Latinidad. Part of being a Latina is your race and heritage, but also your identity as a woman combined with those characteristics.

  6. Ernie Abreu says:

    We have stumbled upon many topics. However I would like to bring up the topic of how much or how far are Latin@s willing to go for money? We have seen various examples of how many latin@s change their image, downplay their accent, basically do whatever it takes to get a role in a movie. But, when is it taking it to far? Where do we draw the line when Latin@s are considered to be putting down their culture or being what they are not, just to get the role?

    • morgan radin says:

      This is a very interesting question to consider, however I wondering what this really has to do with Latinas as a group. All women who are hoping to enter the world of entertainment are doing the same thing, they are pushing their values and ethics to the wayside in order to make it big and make that money. So how then is this different for Latinas? Your last question about Latinas changing who they are for a role is very thought provoking. It is hard to say for sure if women should step away from their culture to break into the business, and then once they are successful step back into their ethnicity and culture. Or, if it would be better for them to stick to their ground and work only as a Latina throughout their career. I guess Latinas in the media’s history shows us that this second idea isn’t really possible.

  7. I feel the conversation of Jennifer Lopez embracing her ethnic background by taking on this role is where I’d like to point something out, and then pose a question. Yes, she does, in fact, embrace her culture by taking on this role, but she has been gradually exploiting her upbringing or completely masking it in the various movies, commercials, and music she has done. She had coined the “Jenny from the Block” nickname for herself, but her movies and music are Americanized and pop. Now here is my question: would you attribute that to the fame and success and the demand of Hollywood, or if not, to what?

    • joserfigueroa says:

      I believe Jennifer Lopez career followed that of Selena’s. Selena grew up knowing english and as a fan of Donna Summers. She then conformed to her Mexican culture in order to gain fame and success. Before her death, once she had conquered the Spanish community and had enough power on her own career, she began working on an english album and becoming a mainstream artist. In the same way, Jennifer began by conforming to her culture. She was a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, and the norm was to be street wise and “hood”. As her career grew, and she gained more power, she began becoming more Americanized. In a way, you can say that Lopez conformed because of money and fame, but you can also say she expanded her brand. She made decisions to attract all types of fans and is now a brand known worldwide. It comes down to decision making, and who are we to judge someone for the decisions they made for their lives?

    • Caroline/a Nieto says:

      When you become part of hollywood, many people are driven by one purpose- success. How is success defined- by how big your paychecks are. So to answer your question, yes, I think that she did Americanize herself and used her background to make it where she is. Honestly, the girl played the card she was dealt and it only got her everything she wanted- fame, success and money. She may have exploited herself throughout the way but I don’t think she minds…

  8. joserfigueroa says:

    The bodies of Latina’s such as Selena or Jennifer Lopez have been influential in opening up the door to women who are not stick skinny. But it also has brought along an idea that all Latina’s are born with curves, a big butt, and long hair. This focus on body image hurts people, specifically young girls. Selena, whose body was indeed incredible must have felt the pressures of looking a certain way as she got liposuction done. When is enough enough? Yes, Jennifer Lopez opened doors for women such as Beyonce, and Kim Kardashian in a industry where only skinny white women were accepted, but now the standard is to look like these women. When will society realize that the human body is unique, and beauty doesn’t mean looking like the latest celebrity. There should be less focus on a person’s body and more on their contributions to society.

    • yininghe says:

      @Jose: I completely agree with you. While there is much cause for celebration that Jennifer Lopez helped to broaden the idea of beauty, and reaffirm the ‘butt’ as a site for Latino identification, this has actually created another problem. Now the industry typecasts latina actresses to look this particular way – curvy and with a big rear end.

      This seems yet another yet Hollywood has managed to simplify and pigeon-hole women, their ethnicity, and their beauty. Now when latina actresses look anything less like Jennifer Lopez or Shakira, they do not seem ‘latin’ enough. The stereotype becomes a problem where women are not given enough diversified role models in the media to look up to. Those without the same body type end up feeling alienated from their own ethnic group, by realizing that they do not live up to images reflected back to them in the media.

    • Caroline/a Nieto says:

      I completely agree- body image in Hollywood is a never ending evolution of unattainable and unrealistic traits. Young women everywhere are haunted by what is considered perfect- but to be fair perfect has a personal trainer, a personal chef, a nutritionist, etc. I think it is important for Hollywood and the industry to start diversifying the idea of beauty and making something that doesn’t exclude the majority of the population. I know that some strides are being made to change these ideals- Vogue doesn’t allow models that are too thin in there magazines anymore- maybe we will start to see more change in the future.

  9. rserreti says:

    After the discussion and reading the article, I do believe that Jennifer Lopez did a good job at portraying the role of Selena. One of the main arguments was that Jennifer Lopez was not Mexican and was not Chicano enough to play the role of Selena. Even though Jennifer Lopez was not Mexican, she was able to pick portay who Selena really was. An argument brought up in class was that Jennifer Lopez did not look like Selena. It is nearly impossible for someone to look exactly like Selena. Even though Jennifer Lopez did not look like Selena, similarities between the two were very present.

    Also, after the discussion and reading “Jennifer’s Butt” I felt that people were being very critical of Jennifer Lopez. People thought she should not play the part because she was not “Chicano” enough. In my opinion, Selena was not Chicano enough either. Throughout the film, the audience is able to see that Selena was more Americanized than Mexicanized. Because of this, she had to transform herself to fit the Chicano role.

    • veeoletka says:

      I think a good point was made with you saying Selena was not chicana enough. She was one of the few Mexican women at the time in the mainstream media and they idealized her to be more chicana than she actually was. We are forgetting that spanish was never her first language and in order to connect with her Mexican fan base, she had to try even harder.
      In regards to have Jennifer Lopez play Selena, I feel like they are bringing issues of race and nationality into this instead of focusing on Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal of Selena. Jennifer Lopez’s job was to portray Selena in the best way she can and in my opinion, she did.

      • You are right. Selena was not Chicana enough. She had a lot “gringa” tendancies and had to go the extra mile to reach out to her Mexican audience. Jennifer related to Selena in this way as well, which I believe made sufficient qualified to accurately personanify her. Also as mentioned earlier Jennifer also had a similiar body to that of Selena. They made it possible for Latinas embrace their curves and have a celebrity to look upto. The downside was that it also had a reverse effect. Not every Latina is curvy or “vuluptious.” Stereotypes are formed either way.

  10. Caroline/a Nieto says:

    I think, after reading the article, watching the film and the in class discussion, my opinion on JLO and her playing Selena has been solidified. I think it was the best move she could have made as a actress and as a performer. Of course, she was not Mexican… but she also had so much else in common with Selena besides that. She was a Latin women who had grown up in the States, that had probably gone through similar trials and tribulation that Selena did. Esthetically they were not supremely similar, but JLO had enough physically in common to play the role. Plus, that is what acting is… taking on a PART. If they were the same exact person, then it would not be acting… and then what is the point? Either way, JLO did what was best for her career and her wallet. That is what Hollywood is, right??

  11. After reading the article and doing part of the Selena presentation, I do think it was bold choice for the Director to cast Jennifer Lopez a Boricua to play a Selena a Chicana. Yet it is still no surprise since both Jennifer and Selena had similar physical attributes and background. Both of them used to struggle with the Spanish language and assimilating into the culture of their parents. According to Jennifer they had similar identities, and both of them were Americanized as well. However, I can see how it was truly controversial for the Mexican people to see their star, their Paisana, portrayed by someone who is not even close to being from the same country. Which is why I feel like the underlying issue was pride. At least Jennifer is Latina, but most of all she captured the essence of who Selena was. That is the most important thing. I rather have someone from a different ethnicity play me in a movie, then another some Latina who can’t accurately depict my behavior and seize my charisma. What I care about is, who made whom famous?

    In the article of Jennifer’s Butt it said, “When I came into the stadium, the fans started screaming,’ recalls Lopez. They were saying “Selena!” But they were saying “Jennifer,” too.” To me this means that Jennifer could’ve had a part in making Selena known or that Selena is what helped Jennifer become famous. Had Jennifer not played the role of Selena Jennifer and Selena would both had a smaller fan base in my opinion. Either way the Directors casted whoever could make them the most money. Jennifer already had dance experience so that saved them money as well. When it comes to show business that is what matters, but the game changer is when you are trying to pay homage to someone. There is a new goal, and that is to provide as much authenticity as possible.

  12. Lucia Parisi says:

    Jennifer Lopez did an amazing job at playing Selena. Even though JLo is not a Tejana, she was very charismatic and went through similar situations while growing up. You don’t have to be a Tejana to play one and JLo proved this in her performance. Selena’s fans should not have felt disappointed because JLo’s job as an actress is to portray Selena’s character and she successfully did this. It is unfair that they judge JLo for not being a Tejana. Would they rather have a bad Tejana actress play Selena?

    People who play serial killers on movies are not schizophrenic in real life. The point of acting to play someone that you are not. As long as the you can see the character that being presented through the actor, they are doing a good job. The ethnicity or personality of the actor/actress is irrelevant as long they know how to play their character.

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