Film: Life on the Line

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In the documentary, “Life on the Line: Coming of age between nations” by Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin, the life of a young eleven year old girl, Kimberly Torrez, is portrayed in the story to show her family’s hardships in life facing difficulties in two different worlds. This documentary will be aired during Hispanic Heritage Month, in September on PBS.

Growing up is hard as it is, with all of the different changes happening, especially when you have to grow up in two different countries. In the life of Kimberly Torrez, the oldest of three children, she is faced with drastic changes in her life living in Mexico and going to school in Arizona. Each morning she wakes up early to walk across the border to go to school because she does not drive.

At such an early age of only 11 years old, she is faced with many responsibilities, has to wake up extra early, takes care of her little siblings from time to time to help out the parents, and, most importantly, is being brave through this passage of growing up.

As if it isn’t enough, she also has to deal with the ongoing violence occurring in Nogales; from hearing gunshots to police sirens nearby, at an early age in her life, she has many worries at such a young age.

In addition, she also has to cope with her parents going through a rough patch. Her father has Hepatitis C from getting several tattoos, which he later realizes were done with unsterilized needles. In need of a liver transplant, it became difficult for the father to find a reliable job in Nogales.

Because of the father’s sickness, the mother became the only one that could work to provide for their family.  She worked in Mexico because she was never a U.S citizen; she had crossed a long time ago illegally to have her children, but returning was not possible.

Times began to get more difficult, and the father then decides to cross the border and find a job in the U.S, which he did. He found a job in construction in Arizona, which was hours away from his family. He took the job and was separated from his family for months, in order to earn more money to be able to support his family through these difficult times.

After a while Kimberly’s mom got her Visa in the mail, which allowed her to finally cross the border to the U.S.. To add to the good news, Kimberly’s family finds out that a liver became available for their father’s transplant

Growing up is hard, and living in two worlds is difficult, but with Kimberly’s family supporting one another and always trying their best without giving up, they did it, together. For a tale of perseverance and the obstacles that come from immigrant families, this film is a must-see this September.

REVIEW: Instructions Not Included

11175771_800Instructions Not Included is the 2013 directorial debut of Eugenio Derbez. While Derbez also stars as the main actor, the film serves as the acting debut of 9-year-old Loreto Peralta who plays his daughter. In a 115 minute bundle of laughs, anger, and tears, Derbez is successful in entertaining his multicultural audience and providing a different take on the father daughter dynamic.

Warning: the following may contain spoilers.

The movie begins by introducing Valentin (Eugenio Derbez) as a crazy, single bachelor in Acapulco. Throughout his journey, he meets Julie. What he does not know though is that Julie gave birth to a daughter. And sooner than later he finds out that he is the father to Maggie – Julie’s daughter.

This turned Valentin’s world upside down – literally. It so much fun to watch how Valentin was forced to change right away and become a more responsible adult. He began to do more stunt work and began getting more money to give Maggie everything she wanted. This includes the loft in which they live in where a fantasy land exists.

The reason Valentin does this though is because he does not want Maggie to know her mother left her when she was just a baby. He worked tremendously hard on keeping the truth hidden from her. He does this by writing letters to her every week pretending that they were actually from her mother — one letter even said that she knew Batman.

Within each letter Valentin writes to her different things, always making sure her mother is not always doing the same thing so Maggie would not question her mother’s absence as much. He also photoshops Julie into different photos to add to the idea of her being out meeting celebrities and protecting the world.

Thinking about this in real life truly makes your heart break. How would you feel as a mother or father having to do this for your child? How would it make you feel knowing you had to lie to your child every single day?

Even with all the hard work Valentin  put into preventing Maggie from finding out the truth, she grows to become very uneasy with the reality of not having ever met her mom. This comes after a powerful scene at a carnival where a woman confuses her as her daughter that then makes Maggie think about what would happen if she really was this woman’s daughter.

Peralta (Maggie) does a great job at conveying such raw emotion. It so easy to see her heart break right after this scene. This scene really emphasizes the gap Maggie must feel by not having a mother, also bringing out more reasons why Valentin is very important to her.

He will literally do anything for her. This passion and love is greatly seen when Valentin goes out of his way to hold an open call for an actress to pretend to be Maggie’s mother. He was determined to find the perfect actress that most resembled Julie. While that proves to be unsuccessful, Valentin soon after receives a call from Julie out the blue letting him know that she was going to go “see her daughter.”

This however, ends up in Julie wanted to take Maggie back to New York with her and her girlfriend, but Maggie does not want to go. After being raised by Valentin all her life, Maggie does not how to live life having a mother even after she longed one for so long.

While this is where the movie takes a twist that you will not see coming the film, it nevertheless does a fabulous job in capturing the relationship between a man and his daughter. It truly shows you how much a father will do for his daughter just to keep her safe and be able to have her taken care of.

The film’s story line is also one that is not really seen a lot, which makes the film a bit more special.

But I have already told you too much. What happens next in the movie will make your heart ache – be warned. As emotional as it is though, you will be satisfied with this conclusion and the movie as a whole.

My rating for the movie is: A-

Instructions Not Included is available via DVD, Blu-Ray, and Netflix.

Review: Cesar Chávez

Cesar_Chavez_2014_filmIt’s only appropriate that around the time of Cesar Chávez day, that we reflect on the work of Chávez and the strides he made for Mexican American workers. He founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 and supported various worker strikes in California and Texas; his impact is still felt today.

Diego Luna’s film, “Cesar Chávez,” premiered nationwide on March 28th 2014; it is a biographical film that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Chávez. The film stars Michael Peña as Chávez and John Malkovich as the owner of a grape farm who leads the opposition to Chávez. The film includes great Latina and Latino actors, such as America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Yancey Arias, Jacob Vargas, and cameos by Gael García Bernal and Hector Sanchez. The film mainly focuses on Chavez’s efforts to organize farm workers in California, many of them being braceros.

The film screened earlier in the year at various locations in the US but the most noteworthy film screening was in Los Angeles, California. A group of 1000 migrant workers sat in folding chairs and watched “Cesar Chávez” on an inflatable screen outside of the union hall where the first contracts were signed in 1970 between workers and the company owners.

Diego Luna does a great job at executing what he set out to do: he paints a portrait of Cesar Chávez that audiences will admire and respect. Throughout the film we get to view Chávez not only as a pacifist leader, but also as a human being.  The film starts with Chávez in jail explaining who he is and where he comes from. The audience gets an idea of his life and what he stands for and throughout the film we are introduced to his relationships with his wife and his children.

The film captures the time period of Chavez’s life starting with his organization of the United Farm Works all the way to the 1975 Modesto March,which established the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Through the portrayal of events, we get a sense of what Chávez had to endure and the sacrifices he had to make throughout his life in order to achieve his goals. All of the actors do great jobs, especially Michael Peña as Cesar Chávez and America Ferrera as Helen Chávez.

“Cesar Chávez” had a lot of heart touching moments; particularly the fasting scene. Seeing Chávez having to starve day by day in order to get his union to become dedicated to non-violence was a touching moment that moved the audience. It’s important not only to view Chávez as a rights activist but also as a human being with faults. The scenes in which Chávez is seen as a husband and a father displays a different side of his persona that we don’t usually tend to see.

All in all, the film was a great ode to Chavez and his life work. It’s important that a film encapsulates the hard work and dedication of not only Chavez, but his wife and Dolores Huerta.  It is highly recommended to watch this movie; it is a reminder of all the struggles that minority workers faced up until 1960s. Learning about the story of Cesar Chávez riles up all sort of emotions, but it mainly acts as a reminder of Chávez’s inspirational sense of duty and the importance of dedication.  It’s impossible to walk away from this film without feeling motivated to make a difference in this world.

Underrepresentation of Minority Heroines

It is no big revelation that women of color seldom see themselves in powerful positions in the media, oftentimes making them feel homely and irrelevant. But according to some experts, the lack of representation of minorities in cartoons could also be causing a similar effect for young girls of color.

Today’s Youth in Media

Maria O. Alvarez, the Hispanic media consultant at Common Sense Media,  a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, believes the lack of colored girls in youth media leads to low self-esteem among minorities.

“We do know that all these messages have a direct impact in all their behaviors and how they see the world,” said Alvarez. “You feel that you’re in a lower level in society when you see that people like you, your skin color, are not in powerful positions.”

Her thoughts are supported by a 2011 study by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison, which found that minorities tend to feel worse about themselves after watching youth media.

The study found that unlike white male characters, who are often presented as highly educated and powerful, which tends to lift white boys’ self-esteems, girl characters are often simplistic, sexualized beings, while characters of color tend to be more violent.

But this particular study, like many, lacks to demonstrate how youth media represent young girls of color.

According to Hugh Klein, who has been studying the underrepresentation of out groups in animated cartoons for the past 20 years, it is difficult to break down the representations of girls of color in animated cartoons because there are too few of them to analyze.

In Klein’s ongoing study, which examined more than 4,000 cartoon characters, he found that only 3.6 percent of the characters were African American, 1.8 percent were Latinos and 1.0 percent were Asian.  Out of the 27 Latino characters in Klein’s research, only one-third, or 9, of them were Latina.

“In the process of leaving people out of the media, you communicate a message to viewers just as much as if you were portraying them in a positive or negative way,” said Klein. “They’re so few in number probably because they’re unvalued in our culture,” said Klein.

According to his research, because animated cartoons are likely to be among the earliest media types to which young people are exposed to and because they are exposed to these messages on a daily basis, animated cartoons end up being “one of the earliest and most influential sources of negative messages.”

Minority Heroines

Some have argued, though, that with minority heroines like Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Kai-Lan, non-white children are now unburdened by stereotypes and underrepresentation.

But just as mainstream films or music videos feature the token colored gal, Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan are some of the only programs on TV with leading girl cartoons of color.

The halfhearted gesture to include a single leading Black, Latina and Asian cartoon character, according to Alvarez, sends the message that although several little white girls can be pop stars (Olivia from “Olivia”), mechanics (Widget from “Wow Wow Wubbzy”) and mathematicians (Milli from “Team Umizoomi”), there’s only room for one visionary girl of color.

“It’s not just cartoons. It’s all over. And it has an impact on how we see ourselves and how proactive we are,” said Alvarez. “We all have great value to share with the society; we can all be in powerful positions. It’s hard to believe that when the media doesn’t show you like that. But if together, parents and community, can share those messages with kids, that’s going to help.”

Alvarez believes that young girls need role models outside of the media.

“There’s a huge gap in reality and what they see in the media. We need to help them see that what they see in the media is not reality.”

Here are a few tips for young girls from Alvarez and Common Sense Media to help with self-image:

  1. Limit media consumption: Limit the amount of media you expose yourself to every day. Set limits. The earlier you start, the better.
  2. Become a media critic: Pay attention to ads, magazine covers, billboards—and talk to your parents about how these messages make you feel and ask them about their own reactions.
  3. Look for role models that look like you: Ask your parents or older relatives about professionals and community leaders who look like you do.
  4. Find everyday role models: Role models don’t need to be famous. They can be teachers, neighbors or family members. You just need a positive influence to look up to.
  5. Understand your value: Even if you’re not seeing people who look like you in the media, understand that race doesn’t define value. Compliment yourself and your peers on all of your/their wonderful talents, like your/their creativity or thoughtfulness.

Documentary: The Battle for Land

The Battle for Land, the fourth installment in a documentary series directed by Juan Mejia, aims to expand on the complexities of Afro-Colombian displacement. Told through a hybrid of documentary and animation styles, it tells the heartbreaking, but inspiring stories of Afro-Colombians from the Pacific coast of Colombia who have been displaced, as they foster community and organize to fight for their land.

Internal displacement, or the forced removal of peoples from their land to other parts of their respective country, is a growing global concern. While many activist organizations discuss displacement as a result of civil war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing—all absolutely real occurrences—this analysis fails to capture the complex nature of the displacement process. Mejia’s film aims to reveal that behind the  progress, lie the economic interests that see the land Afro-Colombian communities live in as opportunity for profit-making. Mejia works to uncover the darker underside of progress by showing how large corporations exploit the conditions of civil unrest, and how Afro-Colombians have organized and resisted.

At the center of this exploitation is FEDEPALMA, a national palm oil producer featured in the film that uses local farmers, many of whom are Afro-Colombian, to grow its oil palms. Oil palms have a devastating effect on the natural environment. Despite this, palm oil is seen as a symbol of progress by the Colombian government, and is touted for producing jobs and products that will supposedly boost Colombia’s economy. Palm oil is also hailed for its “eco-friendly” biofuel capability.

The film is still undergoing edits, and has only been officially screened twice. This explains why it felt a bit disorganized in parts. Afro-Colombian displacement is an extremely complex issue, and The Battle For Land needs more editing in order to more efficiently narrate this story. Mejia sheds light on an important and tragically overlooked issue. At the end of the screening, an audience member tearfully thanked Mejia for giving Afro-Colombians a voice. The Battle For Land is definitely worth a watch, but its rawness is not suitable for the lighthearted. An official release date for the film has not yet been set.Using infographics, animation, and interviews, Mejia takes us through the lives of several Afro-Colombian community activists, as they battle systematic racism, nurture each other’s empowerment and fight to gain back their land. They have seen cruel and senseless violence destroy their people, and threaten to do the same to their culture. The testimonio-style narrative allows the viewer to become immersed with their struggle, and does an excellent job of bringing light to the strong resistance movement that has taken shape in Colombia over the last several years. Although the subject matter is tragic and difficult to watch in many parts, especially the violent animated scenes, this film is no sob story. The activists are strong and resilient despite the heavy obstacles they have yet to overcome.

For more information on this film, visit the film’s site:

Film Review: “Sleep Dealer”

Award-winning independent film by Alex Rivera, “Sleep Dealer,” takes the viewer to a futuristic, dystopian society through the eyes of oppressed migrant workers. Luis Fernando Peña stars as Memo Cruz, living in Oaxaca and Jacob Vargas as Rudy Ramirez, a U.S. military drone pilot.

The film written by Alex Rivera and David Riker explore a technologically advanced world where water resources are no longer local rights, with corporations controlling its distribution. Memories have also become a luxury in the sci-fi setting. Trading companies buy memories and people sell them through what is called nodes, a digital way to enter networks and work in factories.

Set in mostly Mexico and along the California border, both the lives of Memo and Rudy intersect. Memo helps his father grow crops while he’s self-taught in technology¬— his passion. When his knack for hacking results in U.S. retaliation, Rudy takes control on his first mission and targets unknown “aqua-terrorists,” resulting in the death of Memo’s father.

The plot explores both lives as Memo flees his hometown and Rudy copes with the realization that the enemy has a face. Memo then meets Luz Martinez, portrayed by Leonor Varela, who makes a living by selling her memories. She helps Memo by acquiring nodes illegally to allow him to work. Her friendly gesture has ulterior motives as she uploads her encounters with Memo per request of an interested memory buyer, Rudy.

“Sleep Dealer” approaches immigration on a whole new sci-fi perspective. Drones improve military tactics and also replace skilled laborers. Many migrant workers however, work in factories that power the drones. Nodes are also an example of exploitation, where those who need money, succumb to selling their personal memories for the benefit of others. It resembles unfair labor trades.

Memo’s character endures exploitation, much to the benefit of the interested U.S. audience. Such examples of commodifying migrant labor underlie throughout the film as American television shows amuse audiences with attacks on “aqua-terrorists” — a term given to anyone who threatens their water supply.

It instills the paradoxical thought that both may exist as a result of the other. Similar to present politics, immigration is considered for the labor but the equality is negated. The film resonates the idea that immigrants are very much “othered” by the majority, an idea that translated into the future.

“Sleep Dealer” was released in 2008 and is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned) for sexuality and violence. This film was reviewed for Latinitas Magazine. 

Minorities in “Glee”

The Fox Network’s T.V. show Glee is known for its appreciation for the “underdog” during its past four seasons. Glee has featured members from many different walks of life, including several cast members whom identify with being a minority and being “different.” The cast features the talented Naya Rivera (African, Puerto-Rican and German), Amber Riley (African-American), and Jenna Ushkowitz (Korean) to name a few. While this show is about representing people from different ethnicities and backgrounds it portrays minorities in a way that doesn’t necessarily label their personalities as direct associations with their race.

“The majority of the time they are portrayed in a positive way … [that shows] they are just like everyone else, and even though they may be flawed they should use that in their favor,” 18 year-old Marina Delgado said.

As one of the key characters in the earlier seasons, Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) played a character much like other high-school girls. Her character would occasionally come across situations where she would bring attention to her race, but would also focus on the importance loving yourself and your body. The series portrays Mercedes as a plus-size African-American “diva.” Until the recent season, Mercedes constantly competed with Glee Club’s Spanish-Italian lead singer, Lea Michele (Rachel Berry), for solos. To some she might be considered a diva, but it doesn’t pull focus that she is a talented and driven woman of color who deserves recognition.

“I like the minorities in Glee and I see them portrayed [in a positive manner], but I can see how they can be seen as stereotypical and negative to other viewers because they may be offended more easily. I think they are portrayed that way because the writers are really trying to show diversity in the show and connect with people on a more intimate and personal level,” 19 year-old Monica Lee Manriquez said.

Mercedes Jones ends up being among one of the most talented singers in the Glee Club, along with Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). The show’s minorities are not solely represented by their race. They are given additional traits teens can identify with and it widens the spectrum and diversity of audience members their character can connect to. For teens with a speech impediment, Ushkowitz’s character is relatable. For teens struggling with their sexuality, Naya Rivera’s sheds light as an LGBT teen in a culture that generally does not welcome LGBT youth.

“I do believe the characters are very realistic. With Brittney we can see the typical ignorance that people think blonde Caucasians have, however at the same time Brittany teaches the audiences that there is more than what meets the eye,” Delgado said.

“Inside these ethnicities, the Glee creators have added so many twists to each character by making them posses characteristics that add more to their character from the already established ethnicity background,” Delgado adds.

Portrayal of Hispanics in Glee

Naya Rivera plays one of the only publicly Hispanic characters on the show, Santana Lopez – an outspoken cheerleader who later comes out as a Lesbian. Santana’s sassiness at times crosses the line into bullying, but Delgado argues her character continues to grow with each season.

“It shows how Santana has grown to love this club thanks to their acceptance of her being a lesbian; the Glee Club were the only people who stood by her and showed her it is okay to be different, which was something very difficult for Santana due to her Hispanic roots, as being a lesbian is not acceptable in that culture,” Delgado said.

“I personally enjoy the portrayal of Santana the Hispanic girl. There have been times they have exaggerated her Mexican-ess by having her go off yelling in Spanish, or using stereotypical Mexican terms such as “my Mexican third eye.” I understand they are trying to highlight her roots and show that she is proud of her ethnicity however sometimes by promoting they culture you can make the mistake of being stereotypical and offending the viewer,” Delgado adds.

Glee has incorporated additional Hispanic themed traits into the show. In one episode, the show had a Spanish-themed episode where Rivera and Ricky Martin sing “La Isla Bonita” as a duet while they tangoed with each other.

While the show may promote diversity and the portrayals of different minorities, there have been instances where their effort to promote diversity has backfired.

“In [the Spanish] episode they sing nothing but music from Latin musicians, however in the Bamboleo/Hero duet the Gleeks are dressed up in boots and salsa jackets, which at the moment was very funny however, was very ignorant of them to do for a club that is promoting equality,” Delgado said.

While some viewers may argue that Glee stereotypes cultures, like in the Spanish episode.

One thing is clear: Glee, unlike most shows on Primetime, promotes cultures and the importance of accepting yourself for who you are.

Review: Washington Heights

At first glance, Washington Heights is just another canned MTV docu-reality show starring whiny young adults complaining about “drama,” and saying ‘like’ too much.  However, after a few episodes it becomes clear that this is no Jersey Shore substitute.

Set in the Heights, a mostly Dominican, low-income neighborhood in Manhattan, the show follows seven 20-something-year-olds in pursuit of their dreams. They are mostly of Dominican descent, and all but one of them are pursuing careers in the arts. Jonathan “Audobon” Perez, the primary narrator of the show, wants to be a rapper; Reyna Saldana, a singer; Frankie Reese is a spoken-word poet; Ludwin Federo recently earned his GED and is applying to art schools; Jimmy Caceres aspires to professional baseball; and Rico and Fred Rasuk are brothers who want to become actors and fashion designers, respectively.

What separates this reality series from others is the sense of community it creates, and how relatable the characters are. While Snookie and the Situation were far from models of ambition, Washington Heights seems full of heart and with a focus on real people pursuing real dreams in a practical way.  The Dominican-American culture presented provides a familiarity for Latino viewers, especially when Spanish is spoken. It should be noted that the question of authenticity is an important one on a network with a bad rap of representing minority cultures.

MTV is no stranger to sensation and the first few episodes feature gossip and girls fighting. The content is obviously edited to create drama where there is little, and some of drama that does exists seems staged. If one can get past these obnoxious reality tropes, Washington Heights is watchable, even inspiring at times.

Washington Heights is an important departure from the privilege of The Housewives, or the exploitive nature of Honey Boo Boo. If anything positive can be said about this show, it’s that the issues the characters deal with are real. These kids work hard, have money issues, confrontations with the law, and struggle with their education; all issues people living in low-income areas deal with. Jimmy has been in jail for dealing drugs to make ends meet after his father was sent to prison. He now plays ball in an effort to escape the streets. Ludwin earns his GED and struggles with his little brother who is in prison at only 18. Meanwhile, every character deals with the regular anxiety of growing up, especially in an economy that leaves many with few options.

The jury is still out on Washington Heights.  It is not the greatest thing on television, and it certainly doesn’t challenge its genre. However, it focuses on family, community, art, and culture, all of which are things that thrive in many communities of color, especially in the Heights. It’s a welcome change from the typical excess and ridiculous antics of most reality TV. It’s worth giving it a chance, but don’t expect to be amazed.


Film Spotlight: Precious Knowledge

The Latino population is growing every year in the United States and as a result schools are welcoming a new wave of Latinos students. They come with their own background, culture, language and they bring diversity into the classrooms.  As a Latinita, I feel that the inclusion of my culture in the curriculum could make the class more interesting and might give me more inspiration to go to school. There are many other Latinos who feel the same way and there have been movements to incorporate Latino heritage into the curriculum.  Latinitas, teachers and members of our culture have encountered resistance by groups of people who think Latino topics should not be taught in schools. With the rise in the number of Latino students, there should be classes offered that target the students’ background, heritage and culture.

A problem many students face is dropping out of school.  Annually, over 3 million students drop out and  approximately 17% of these students are Hispanic, according to the Education Week Children Trends Database. Once these students drop out of school the percentage of ending up in prison or committing a crime increases. What then can the education system do to help these students and motivate them to stay in school?

The 2011 film documentary Precious Knowledge directed by Ari Palos shows how Hispanic studies courses in Arizona helped Hispanic students feel more motivated to go to school and how they performed better in other classes. The school district of Arizona created elective courses targeted to Hispanic topics, especially Mexican. The classes discussed the Mexican-American history, culture and promoted critical thinking.  The classes created a community within the schools where it was okay to be a Latino. Many students enrolled in these classes, and as time passed they realized how many of the Hispanic students were graduating and going to the university at a higher rate.  One of the members of the program mentioned, “Everybody knew that the school system was discriminatory, there was an urgency for us to make a statement.”  This statement was greeted by many members of the Latino community, but it received a lot of negative attention by others.

Tom Horne, who during the film was the Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was one of the biggest protesters of these classes. He believed that the courses are “something that is very wrong, which is dividing students up by ethnicity and treating them separately by ethnicity. [He is] calling on Tucson Unified School District  to shut down the ethnic studies program and start teaching kids to treat each other as individuals and not on the bases of what race they were born into.” He had very strong negative opinions about these courses that were being offered, but he never went into the classroom to see what they were teaching. He made these comments on what he believed happened in the classroom instead of what he saw. Precious Knowledge shows how students battled against  what Tom Horne and his followers believed.  This battle is still being fought.

One of the main problems in classrooms it that they at times don’t make enough connection to real life events.  There have been philosophers such as Lev Vygostky, who believe that little of what is known as “living knowledge” enters the classroom. He believed that if we made a connection between students’ daily life and education, then not only was the student going to be more interested, but the education process would be enhanced. If we followed his line of thought, then the Hispanic Studies Program is a great alternative for students who wish to learn more about themselves and their background culture.

As Latinitas, we have to fight for our rights in education. As Latinitas, we have to strive for more. As Latinitas, we have to think about our future and the future of our children. As Latinitas, we have to be strong, powerful and proud women. We Latinitas are the future, let’s teach it to our children and fight for what is right in our schools.

Documentary: Miss Representation

The documentary film, Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will change your life.  Have you ever thought about how much media you take in on a daily basis?  There’s online social media such as Facebook and Twitter, sitcom and reality TV, listening to music, watching movies, and we can’t forget the glossy magazine covers that stare back at you while you wait in line to pay for groceries.  According to the documentary, it all adds up to about 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.

Newsom wrote and directed MR after learning that she was pregnant with her first child.  She feared for her future daughter’s emotional stability in a world where she herself admits to struggling with self esteem, eating disorders and body image issues despite being a successful student and athlete. In the documentary, we learn that 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies and that the number increases to 78% by age 17, eating disorders plague 65% of the female population, and rates of depression among girls and women have doubled between 2000-2010.   Newsom wanted to understand why.  What was going on in our American culture that might possibly be contributing to the lack of healthy self esteems and confidence in the female population? She offers viewers an in depth look into the possible culprit- mass media.  The film contends that today’s media is shaping our society and conditioning young girls to measure their worth by their physical appearance rather than by their accomplishments.

It’s difficult to distinguish what’s “real” in the media when the so called ideal image of beauty has become more extreme and impossible to attain with the use of digital altering and air brushing.  Young men are also exposed to these unrealistic images which can lead them to have certain expectations of what girls should look like and judge them more harshly.  Ever notice how female bodies are in constant display everywhere you look?  There’s no shortage of women in bikinis, mini skirts, and low cut tops in the media, whether it be in the latest episode of teenage shows such as Gossip Girl, a new hip hop video, or even the daily news.  The film contends that this objectification makes it nearly impossible for females to be taken seriously in the workplace and in politics.  Even strong female leaders are disrespected on popular talk shows as well as on news coverage.  The focus is put on how they look rather than what they are saying.  By the same token, media coverage of powerful women in politics is minimal when compared to male politicians.  One of the examples shown in the documentary compared the media coverage of former U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to current SOH, John Boehner.  In his first four weeks as SOH, he was featured on five magazine covers.  Ms. Pelosi appeared on zero.

Violence and oversexualized content in entertainment and advertising would make you think that something would be done to minimize it.  The question is why hasn’t anyone put a stop to this?  Who’s calling all the shots in media these days?  According to the documentary, men are.  Media today is overwhelmingly run by men.  All the big TV networks such as NBC, FOX, Time Warner and Disney have male CEOs with only a handful of females serving on their boards.  Also, according to the film, women own only 5.8% of all television stations and 6% of radio stations.  Women also make up only 3% of influential positions in media.  At the end of the day, lawmakers and media giants are largely male dominated.

As stated in the beginning of the film, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. -Alice Walker”.  If you take anything away from watching Miss Representation, it is this- we have the power to change this and it starts with you as an individual.  The director closes the documentary by calling on women to join forces and be mentors and role models to each other.  Some tips given are to monitor what you read and watch on television.  “Turn off the TV,” says one mentor, “one hour can be fun, four hours can be destructive.”  Tabloids and sensational gossip headlines are the kind of reading that bring women down, so don’t buy them.  Be mindful of the things you purchase.  Ask yourself what the motivation behind your purchases are.  Did advertisers convince you that you are not good enough in any way, shape, or form so that you are now willing to spend your hard earned cash on something you were targeted to buy?  Have your own voice heard. Write a letter to the editor to let them know your thoughts on any negatives messages they send about women. Create your own pro-female media wih your own blog. Most importantly, champion other women instead of criticizing and competing with each other.  Because if women don’t stand by and up for each other, nobody else will.