With all our discussions about Jennifer Lopez and exoticism of the Latina body, I can’t believe she didn’t come to mind earlier, but Felicity Schaeffer-Gabriel’s discussion of beauty alongside marriage migration in Colombia immediately made me think of Gloria, from the sitcom Modern Family. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the show, Gloria, played by Sofia Vergara, is a Colombian woman who is married to an older, white, American man, Jay Pritchett. Jokes about her marriage to Jay often play with the idea that beauty, “has become a resource for women to access transnational circulation of goods, lifestyles, marriage, and migration”, the underlying assumption being that Gloria’s decision to marry Jay must be motivated by his U.S. citizenship and his money.
Gloria’s body is also the subject of much attention and commentary. If “a curvy, non-slender Latina such as Jennifer Lopez in 1998 can be viewed as either deficient or threatening”, then Gloria certainly falls on the threatening side. Jay’s adult daughter Claire, who is very thin and blond, occupies a very different ideal of beauty than Gloria. She frequently expresses jealousy with regard to Gloria’s voluptuous body and the male attention it receives. This interestingly places a white woman’s beauty in opposition to and competition with a Latina beauty. While Gloria is highly sexualized and the object of the white male gaze, Claire is generally portrayed as uptight. While the men in the show are infatuated with Gloria’s appearance, the women resent it. The beauty and sexuality of the Latina body are presented as superior to those of a white woman.
Claire’s husband Phil, notes in the following clip about Gloria’s pregnancy that, “anyone could do it with Gloria”, implying her universal sex appeal. In the same clip, Claire is ecstatic about Gloria’s pregnancy because it means Gloria will “get fat”, thus reducing some of that appeal.
P.S. (On a somewhat unrelated note) We’ve talked a little about the perception that beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive, but while I was reading about Gloria I came across another debate: Can women be beautiful and funny? Even restricting myself to normative beauty standards, I can think of plenty of beautiful female comedians. This article names a few:
1. Felicity Schaeffer-Grabiel, “Calenas and Pliable Bodies: Mobility through Beauty and Marriage”, UC Santa Cruz: 6.
2. Mary C. Beltran, “The Hollywood Latina Body as Site of Social Struggle: Media Constructions of Stardom and Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Cross-over Butt’”, Quarterly Review of Film and Video 19, (2002): 82.