Latinas on television and film

Exploring the limits and possibilities of inclusion

Authored by: Angharad N. Valdivia

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955


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Sleep Dealer, the 2008 futurist film co-written and directed by Alex Rivera, focuses on a Mexican young man who sells his labor across the border and forges a transnational Latino alliance with his metaphorical counterpart, a US Latino soldier. Both men operate in a cyborgian hybrid of technology and the body (Haraway 1991) in which their labor is virtually transported across borders to accomplish geopolitical and economic goals. Crucial to the plot, although nearly erased from this narrative, is Dolores Cruz, the woman who brings the young men together through treachery and love, a classic situation in which the Latina character serves the internally contradictory role of translator and traitor. In this sense, she is like Malinche, an iconic figure in Mexican and Chicano history—a woman who acted as translator/interpreter between the Spanish conquistadores and the Aztecs, but also betrayed the Aztecs (see Alarcón 1989). The sci-fi film plays widely in the film festival circuit, and it deserves wide circulation for the novel and trenchant manner in which it treats its themes: exploitation of the Global South for both its labor and its natural resources; border crossing; incorporation of technology into work and into the human body; and the quotidian militarization of space. Departing from narratives such as Spanglish (2004) that depict feminized border crossers as safe, consumable, and docile (Molina-Guzmán 2010), Rivera provides a traditional portrait of domestic, troubled, and submissive women in general and the Malinche/Dolores character in particular; the latter contributes to the story as the connecting thread, bringing the men together through seduction, betrayal, and, eventually, romantic love.

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