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Rags to Riches for Hispanics

January 27, 2012

From Prada to Nada is based on the Jane Austin novel, Sense and Sensibility. The premise is simple: two rich, young women lose their father and money, and have to learn to deal with life like every other working class person trying to make it in this crazy, mixed-up world. I was actually very surprised (and pleased) to see that not only were two women cast as the leads in this film, but their characters were Hispanic.

Try as I might, though, that’s the nicest thing I have to say about this film.

Right off the bat we have underlying messages about weight and standards of beauty. The two rich girls, Nora and Mary, are thin and petite with light skin. Their Hispanic cook, Carmina, is plump and dark skinned. What does this tell us? Thin and light are beautiful and successful, fat and dark are good for the servants. When Nora and Mary move in with their Hispanic family in East LA, we see a lot of dark-skinned fat women who speak Spanish, and are loud and proud of their working class status. What I find interesting is the use of fat characters to portray working class minorities. As if in some way the filmmakers are giving us a visual to help us distinguish between desirable and undesirable.

There are also subtle messages about race. The white woman is the villain, yet her white brother is the love interest. As this film was made for women, and more specifically, Hispanic women, we can only assume that the filmmakers were pandering to the notion that Hispanic women feel threatened by white women. Make a white woman a villain and you have a hit film.

Not only does this pit two races against each other, but it also reinforces the racist notion that white women and Hispanic women are incapable of mutual respect. Seeing a film that tries to promote that garbage is racist and sexist. Don’t filmmakers understand that we deserve better than that?

Lastly, why, in the name of all that is holy, would the film makers make the living room of Mary and Nora’s Hispanic family into a sweatshop?! My jaw literally dropped when I saw that. Look, I’m a Hispanic woman who was raised in a neighborhood exactly like East LA. I never once saw a sweatshop in someone’s living room. Never.

I wanted to like this film so much, I really did. I wanted to enjoy a film about two Hispanic women without being bombarded with messages about weight and race. All I wanted was to sit back, eat my buttery popcorn and lose myself in pretend for two hours. The filmmakers couldn’t even given me that. I feel jipped.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 1:10 pm

    I normally like modernizations of Austen (I though Clueless was adorable) but this one, well it was just weak. I’d rather watch the ’95 version- can’t go wrong with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet., and Alan Rickman!

  2. Duckie Graham permalink
    January 27, 2012 2:50 pm

    In the interest of enlightenment, please note that the word “jipped” (not sure of the spelling on that – but that’s how you spelled it) is a racially derogatory slang against the Roma people. You clearly don’t like racism, so I hope you’ll appreciate the education. Thank you for your thoughtful blogs.

    • osufem permalink
      January 27, 2012 11:13 pm

      LOL! Well, I guess you caught me on this one. I had NO idea that’s where that word came from. I simply thought it was slang for being ripped off.

      Thanks for enlightening us. 🙂 Good conversation.

      • January 28, 2012 6:42 pm

        Thank you, Duckie and thank you Osufem for two truly awesome comments. This is how progress is made. Internets, pay attention! lol You two rock. 🙂

  3. Fab@54 permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:29 pm

    Just for conversation sake;

    It’s spelled “gypped” or “gyp”. Comes from the word “gypsy” so that’s why it’s pretty much sorta not acceptable — if one considers gypsy a specific term of ethnicity. (many people don’t).
    Example; you can be a Polish gypsy, or a Russian gypsy, or an Italian gypsy, etc; with gypsy denoting a specific lifestyle (nomadic, shiftless, jobless, homeless, etc).
    Granted, it’s not a very positive label, but then again most people agree it’s no longer specifically negative either, nor is it ethnically specific.
    Perhaps those descended from actual Gypsies might see it differently? ::: shrugs :::

    • Fab@54 permalink
      January 27, 2012 10:49 pm

      OK I looked into this because I suddenly realized that the last sentence in my post above could actually be construed as “racist”. Sometimes I am really ‘dumb’ when it comes to racist terminology, because I was raised in a home where ALL racial slurs and or terms were strictly forbidden. I mean wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap forbidden! I was well into adulthood before I even HEARD most of the slang terminology for ethnic groups or minorities…

      Anyway- It seems to be split pretty much 50/50 if the full word “Gypsy” is acceptable or not. Roma people themselves are split on that issue.
      However, using a shortened version of the word Gypsy (gyp, gypped) IS actually considered not very acceptable because it’s always a negative connotation linking gypsies to stealing and other negative actions. Ok, got it now. Sorry if my (honest) ignorance offended anyone.

      • osufem permalink
        January 27, 2012 11:20 pm

        You shouldn’t call yourself dumb. I had no idea the word gypped had a negative connotation either. I didn’t even know how it was spelled! LOL

        When I lived in England, I met a few people who identified themselves as Gypsies so I don’t think the word “Gypsy” itself is a racist one. After all, if they use it then how bad could it be? They didn’t mind one bit when other people called them Gypsies, that’s what they were. *shrugs*

        • Fab@54 permalink
          January 28, 2012 5:04 pm

          Always interesting the things we can learn in the most unexpected places, huh? 🙂

  4. Leila Haddad permalink
    January 27, 2012 10:42 pm

    Actually, the lineage of gyp from gypsy refers to the belief that that the original Roma people, or gypsies as they are refered to most of the time, came from Egypt. Their origin is now believed to be India and as they were nomadic people they traveled through Asia,North Africa and Europe. Although they are from many different areas they share the Roma culture and language

  5. January 31, 2012 4:24 pm

    Looks like more vaccous nonsense from Hollywood, just from the poster, women dressed in short dresses and those huge high heels that much be a nightmare to walk in. Sometimes I beg for the days where we had NORMAL PEOPLE on the screen, of all types-races,, sizes etc but where actually we see some working class people on there, instead of only the wealthy anymore. Why is everyone in movieland rich or ex-rich in this case? One thing I consider is how so few movies are made even about regular average people or what they face in day to day life. I do not relate to any of them anymore.

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