Title

Género, sexualidad y la renegociación de la masculinidad latina en los Estados Unidos : cuatro ejemplos filmicos (2002-2012).

Date of Award

5-1-2014

Document Type

Thesis

School

College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts

Abstract

U.S.-Latino films of the first decade of the 21st century have challenged the rigid parameters of masculinity for Latino males by portraying more diverse, fluid possibilities of gender expression. Male Latino characters living in U.S. urban spaces are positioned at tense intersections between the more traditional Latin American standards of masculinity and the cultural, social, and political realities of evolving U.S.-Latino contexts. Through bicultural frameworks, the four films analyzed in this thesis renegotiate Latino male identity to be understood as multifaceted and complex rather than as fixed and restricted to absolutist notions of gender. These movies highlight changing attitudes towards issues of gender identity, sexuality and gender expression, and directly challenge stereotypes about Latino masculinity. In Raising Victor Vargas (2002), teenager Victor performs his masculinity based on his perception of his absent Dominican fathers machismo. His hypermasculine performance fails to impress Victors crush, Judy, and also causes friction between Victor and his traditional grandmother, who is raising him. Victor must thus reconsider the viability and liability of his gender performance, which the film underscores to counter dominant, often stereotypical conceptions of Latin American masculinity and representations of urban Latino males. In Quinceañera (2006), Carlos is portrayed as a tough, stereotypical Latino cholo. However, this stereotype is challenged when it is revealed that Carlos is gay. Estranged from his conservative family, but also objectified by two upper white class men with whom he becomes romantically involved, Carlos explores the tensions and freedoms granted by biculturalism. Highlighting Carloss sexual awakening and his ethnic identity, the film stresses that masculinity and homosexuality are not incompatible but rather that the two can coexist without compromising Carloss authenticity. In doing so, the film dismantles the caricature of the Latino urban thug while also challenging the stereotype of the effeminate gay. In La Mission (2009), ex-con Ches machista attitude, culturally ingrained in his personal understanding of masculinity, prevents him from accepting that his son Jesse is gay. No longer able to view his son as an extension of himself, Che view Jesse as less masculine and, in fact, as feminine. Che violently kicks Jesse out of his house, but is ironically one of only a few people who cannot accept Jesse's sexual orientation. With Che as the exception, it is only when he realizes that he embodies the same rejection and violence that ultimately become a threat to Jesse's life that Che reconsiders his rigid ideas about gender and sexuality in light of his fatherhood. In Gun Hill Road (2011), another ex-con and father, Enrique, returns home to discover that his son Michael is transgender and has a new identity as Vanesa. Unable to look past the fact that Vanesa was born male, Enrique tries to force her to be a man based on his rigid personal understanding of what constitutes masculine expression, and ultimately ends up deeply damaging the person he loves most. Enriques understanding of masculinity is not only absolutist but also completely incompatible with the realities of his female child. Enrique must ultimately undergo his own self-transformation, reconciling his past understandings with his present circumstances if he wishes to have any real chance at a relationship with Vanesa. All four films explore the socially-constructed gender roles assigned to males, and reevaluate them in order to create a greater understanding of the complexities of gender expressions (and identities) for young urban Latino men in the 21st century, regardless of sexual orientation. The films appropriate stereotypes and dismantle them, drawing attention to the complexity and diversity of Latino masculinity. By doing this, recent Latino films seem to be challenging viewers to reconsider traditional notions of gender, asking them to consider what exactly is meant by the term masculine and what markers or traits identify someone as being masculine.