An example of the media’s representation of Latina women is through the Puerto Rican actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, affectionately known in Hollywood as JLo. Specifically her Hispanic persona is embodied in the 2002 romantic comedy, Maid in Manhattan. The plot of this movie involves Marisa Ventura, played by Lopez, a struggling racially ambiguous Hispanic single mother who resides in the Bronx, NY, is a maid in a high-end Manhattan hotel. After being mistaken for a socialite by a senatorial candidate, Christopher Marshall, played by Ralph Fiennes, they kindle a forbidden romance.
Her character, Marisa, is seemingly stuck in a stereotypically low-end job for Latina women, cleaning hotel rooms for wealthy guests. In the book, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, written by Vicki L. Ruíz, explains that Hispanic women, particularly Mexican women, encounter decisions about whether or not they want to rebel from their overbearing parents and chaperonage. “Faced with this type of situation, young women had three options: they could accept the rules set down for them; they could rebel; or they could find ways to compromise or circumvent traditional standards” (59); Marisa supports Ruíz’s claim that “[a]s can be expected, many teenage women knew little about sex other than what they picked up from friends, romance, and the local theatre” (61). She chooses to rebel at a young age, by getting married and having a child, only to be left alone with the child, unable to pay for its upbringing. Another example of Marisa’s rebellion is when she tries a socialite’s clothes and attempts to try on that societal role for size (pun intended), which leads to the main source of conflict in the film: the relationship between her and Christopher Marshall, and the termination of her job.
Marisa’s mother plays a pivotal role in her daughter’s life, for example, when Marisa seriously considers applying for a promotion to become the hotel manager in the hotel where she works, she discourages her from doing so and urges her to be happy with her career as a hotel maid. Ruíz describes this behavior using first person saying, “My mother is from Mexico… I am from there also but I was brought up in the United States, we think about things differently” (62). Marisa, talking about her mother, would of course take on the role of the ‘me’/‘I’ in this statement. The movie reinforces the concept that people should remain in their assigned societal roles, and, even at the end, Marisa remains a maid (at another hotel after being fired), in place of her chance at becoming the hotel manager, although she does end up with the man, just as in many other films of this genre.