Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Diane L Shoos


This dissertation seeks to contribute to film, feminist and Latino/a studies by exploring the construction and ideological implications of representations of Latinas in four recent, popular U.S. films: Girlfight (Kusama 2000), Maid in Manhattan (Wang 2002), Real Women Have Curves (Cardoso 2002) and Spanglish (Brooks 2004). These films were released following a time of tremendous growth in the population and the political and economic strength of the Latina/o community as well as a rise in popularity and visibility in the 1990s of entertainers like Selena and actresses such as Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek. Drawing on the critical concepts of hybridity, Latinidad, and Bakhtinian dialogism, I analyze these films from a cultural and historical perspective to consider whether and to what degree, assuming changes in the situation of Latinas/os in the 1990’s, representations of Latinas have also changed. Specifically, in this dissertation I consider the ways in which the terrain of the Latina body is articulated in these films in relation to competing societal, cultural and familial conflicts, focusing on the body as a site of struggle where relationships collide, interact and are negotiated.

In this dissertation I argue that most of the representations of Latinas in these films defy easy categorization, featuring complex characters grappling with economic issues, intergenerational differences, abuse, mother-daughter relationships, notions of beauty, familial expectations and the very real tensions between Latina/o cultural beliefs and practices and the dominant Anglo culture of the United States. Specifically, I argue that narrative and visual representation of Latina bodies in these films reflects a change in the Latinas offered for consumption to film viewers, presenting us with what some critics have called ‘emergent’ Latinas: conflicted and multilayered representations that in some cases challenge dominant ideologies and offer new demonstrations of Latina agency.