Made in Manhattan: A Look Into the World of the Working Hispanic Woman

12 May

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 Ventura, played by Jennifer Lopez, with her son, Ty Ventura, played by Tyler Posey.

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.

Works Cited

Maid in Manhattan. Dir. Wayne Wang. Perf. Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. Columbia Pictures, 2002. DVD.
“Maid in Manhattan.” IMDb. Web. 12 May 2013.
Ruíz, Vicki. From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-century America. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Made in Manhattan: A Look Into the World of the Working Hispanic Woman

  1. harveymr

    May 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    My group actually had a discussion centered around Jennifer Lopez and the racially ambiguous roles she has played in many films. One of the movies we discussed in comparison to Maid in Manhattan was The Wedding Planner. In this film, JLo plays an italian wedding planner who falls in love with the blonde haired, blue eyed Matthew McConaughey. Interestingly enough, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar were the top two choices for the role of Mary Fiore. Both dropped the role due to conflict which gave Lopez the spot.
    In this film, JLo’s butt is definitely played down. Throughout most of the film, she wears aline pencil skirts and dresses that help hide her backside. Negron-Muntaner quotes Jennifer in saying, “All the other movies I’ve done, it always seemed like they’re trying to hide it or they think I look fat” (Negron-Muntaner, 188-189).
    Jennifer’s Butt by Frances Negron-Muntaner, 1997

  2. varanass

    May 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    That’s so interesting that you mention that, Mary Reagan. I had no idea that a JLo was the first choice, let alone the third choice for the protagonist role of Mary Flore in The Wedding Planner. When I was first drafting my blog post, I was thinking about adding a bit about Jennifer Lopez’s role in this movie as an Italian professional woman, trying to balance her family and culture, with American ideals. Playing an ambitious Italian woman in the film, Lopez is, as you said, dressed in aline pencil skirts and more conservative clothes in an attempt to ‘hide’ her backside so to speak, and shield viewers away from reminding them that she is a Latina. Because of Mary’s mind is wrapped up in her career, her father tries to set her up with one of her childhood friends, Massimo, to which she responds with disgust. Her father says that he and her mother had an arranged marriage and they grew to love one another; this talk with her father causes her to re-evaluate the situation and finally (almost) go through with marrying him. This situation reminds me of Ruíz’s book in which she describes that in tight-knit minority families (she uses Mexican families as her example) tend to make decisions and do what they believe is best for their child, when, in fact, in this movie, the viewer sees that in the end Mary is much happier with Steve Edison (played by Matthew McConaughey) than she would be with her father’s choice.

    “The Wedding Planner.” IMDb. Web. 13 May 2013.


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