Molina-Guzman investigates "Latina y Latino" culture normatives re-defined by today's media sources


Courtesy of Vincent Stephens

Jen Lassen

Arts & Life Editor

Media is a force not limited to words in a newspaper or images on a screen. It has the ability to pervade across cultures and backgrounds, portraying people differently than who they actually are and what they truly stand for. Knowing this, Dr. Isabel Molina-Guzman has uncovered the secrets of mass media and how different forms of media skew our perceptions of Latinos.

Molina-Guzman, a nationally recognized critic of Latinos in the media and author of the best-selling book “Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media,” gave a speech in the Traditional Reading Room of the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. Her talk, entitled “Performing Latina Racial Flexibility in the ‘Post’ Media World,” focused on the portrayal of Latin American persons in the media through images, television shows, interviews and online content. She also focused on how these various mediums collectively paint inaccurate pictures of Latinos in a “post” world, one supposedly looking past racial differences and becoming more progressive as a population.

“We’re being told by politicians in media that race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality don’t matter or shouldn’t play a role in our policies. Reality is, we’re living in a United States that is increasingly diverse,” Molina-Guzman said.

Molina-Guzman pointed out how in the United States alone, Hispanic student enrollment has increased year after year. Connecting this to her points about globalization taking force in the United States, Molina-Guzman’s passion lies in critically analyzing values our culture assigns to ethnic and racial minorities.

“Media functions as a normalizing institution. This means that the media reinforces dominant normatives,” Molina-Guzman said.

Basing her presentation off of these “normatives” about Latinos already present in the United States and the stereotypes possibly associated with these people and/or their culture, Molina-Guzman focused on three case studies of Latina women to enforce her argument. These women included actress Sofia Vergara, singer and actress Jennifer Lopez and model and actress Zoe Saldana.

Molina-Guzman focused on how each woman was pressured to conform in different ways to the American normative for Latina women. For example, she highlighted how the pressures on reality television show “Modern Family” forced Vergara into the normative of a Latina “spitfire,” how relationships with white and black celebrities made Jennifer Lopez conform to different Latina racial connotations and how Saldana’s blackness as a Latina pressured her to fit into–and become defined by–a unique group of Hispanic women.

Her three case studies proved her point that media also constantly feels pressure to conform to a certain standard of normatives present in a country.

“Media is under a constant pressure to conform to the same model,” Molina-Guzman said.

Molina-Guzman also pointed out how there has been a significant increase in Latino actors in media overall. She also makes the point how the demand for these professionals has caused most of them to compromise their cultures for profitable gain.

“Media consumption is more partisan than ever before. This highly selective media consumption influences how we see the world,” Molina-Guzman said.

Students had differing reactions to Molina-Guzman’s speech.

“I disagreed with most of what [Molina-Guzman] talked about. We also need to consider other things like the creative team for a celebrity’s image versus just looking at the artist themselves,” Kiara Huertas ’14 said.

“I liked that Bucknell brought a speaker to talk about Latino culture and social problems. I thought that was very important,” Angel Hernandez ’13 said.

Molina-Guzman concluded by discussing how media portrayal of Latinos leaves us blind to how we should view the reality behind these cultures.

“The poverty levels [of Latino culture] in the United States are striking, and the reality of it all is hard to avoid,” Molina-Guzman said.

If there is one thing to take away from Molina-Guzman’s talk, it is that media has the striking power to distort and deceive.

“I argue that post-media and post-gender and post-ethnic notions matter in our ‘post-race,’ progressive world than ever before,” Molina-Guzman said.

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