Selena 1997 is a biopic directed by Gregory Nava and is based off of the life of the famous Mexican American singer Selena Quintanilla. The films leading role is played by a fellow Latina Jennifer Lopez, who is a New York born Puerto Rican American actress, she plays the role of the famous singer and in my opinion nails the part. Because this film is based on a Mexican American person we get to see not only some of the struggles that Selena, like many of us as American born Latinas face in our day to day life, but also the way that a Latinx based film portrays Latinx.
In the film although we do see the singer go through many hurdles in her career specifically related to her being a woman, from not being taken seriously in the Tejano music world because of her gender to having to choose between a career or love, one of the most impactful hurdles that I feel is very relatable to many Latinx American people is the stereotyping she faced. Like so many people of color stereotypes are often portrayed vividly in film and in this biopic that was no different. In the eye rolling scene when Selena and her friend walk into the bougie store to buy a dress for the Grammys we see two white ladies sneeringly tell the pair that they may not be interested in the dress because of the price point. They automatically assume that because she is a Latina she is unable to afford the dress. This type of racial profiling and stereotyping is common to see in the real world and is almost always mimicked by Hollywood as an added drama.
Conversely, casting typically calls for Latinx to play the role of the less fortunate and in this same scene we get to see just that. This time however it is not because of the reenactments of the ordeal with Selena at the store, but with the very specific roles of the fans in the backgrounds. If we look closely at the mob of excited fans who here the news that Selena was in the mall we can see how the stereotypical Latinx were chosen as “the help”. We have the older Latina as the cook, the Latino men as the janitors, the front of the house employees as white while the back of the house are clearly Latinx, and then the only “fan” that speaks to her looks to be white or white passing. These very small trivial touches in the film may have been unintentional however the stereotyping of “the help” being a person of color is an ongoing theme in Hollywood. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see these small types of depictions in a film based on the life of a huge Mexican American singer and directed by a Mexican and Spanish director.
Although I do believe that this film for the most part honored not only the life of Selena but the Mexican American culture as a whole I feel that small stereotypes of Latinx is something that warrants careful examination as roles for us are far and few between. As The climate of our world changes and immigration becomes a hot topic I believe it is most important to remember how these small details effect the bigger picture. As a super fan I can only give the film the benefit of the doubt but as a Latina I wish Hollywood would get it together. As Nericcio, in his essay “Autopsy of a Rat” says, “blood stains of cultures in conflict (often in combat), stereotypes fade, mutate, and evolve but they never really go away” (227).