I remember being introduced to “The Dirty Girls Social Club” by my sister-in-law when I was an undergrad. Being an English major, I was obsessed with reading books in general, but especially novels written by Latin-American authors. Once I started reading Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez‘s novel, I was hooked. The colorful narrative features six Latina women who form close friendships after attending Boston University. Now in their late twenties, they are faced with their own personal hurdles and critical moments that test their resilience and perseverance. The strong themes of sisterhood, strength, acceptance, and inner growth inspired me to recommend the book to all of my close girlfriends from high school. For the first time, I felt like I was reading a fiction novel that mirrored my own cultural identity.
I personally admired the character who was a writer for a Boston newspaper as much as I looked up to Alisa’s brilliant career. The Mexican-American author began as a freelance writer at The Boston Globe and interned at the Village Voice. She would later publish cover stories for mainstream magazines including RedBook and Glamour. The huge success of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” led to Alisa selling the film rights in 2003. The story is now being adapted into a television series for NBC spearheaded by Ann Lopez, George Lopez’s ex-wife.
One would think that one of our own would try to develop an authentic pilot honoring the creativity and cultural context of the piece, but that just hasn’t been the case. The educated and successful characters I previously mentioned have been transformed into (in Alisa’s words),
“a story about four Latina whores in San Francisco, their white friend who is being abused by her ‘hot blooded Cuban’ husband, and their black friend who is fat-n-sassy.”
The truth is Latinas have always been stereotyped in Hollywood. From Rosie Perez’s performance in “White Men Can’t Jump” to Carmen Miranda’s fruity headpiece and “tropical” dance. These pop culture trends have continued to manifest despite a growth in Latina actresses. Why are these stereotypical messages still being reproduced in 2011? Penelope Cruz may have won an Oscar, but that doesn’t mean that Hollywood’s perception of Latinos has completely changed. It appears to be a formula that works for the masses. Popular culture has become the arena in which we struggle to know ourselves and to make ourselves known, but creating more Sofia Vergara characters leads to a one dimensional script lacking the substance that even one of Alisa’s characters carries on page.
Alisa has decided to write her own pilot, just in case Lopez’s falls through the cracks. Let’s hope that a more honest and authentic version of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” gets picked up. In honor of Alisa’s voice and our story.