Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Modern Woman in Relaciones Peligrosas

Relaciones peligrosas is astounding in how it breaks with stereotypes of representation. In my representation and identity essay, I discussed how the novela presents relationships in many different forms besides the traditional "one handsome man and one beautiful woman" romance.

Another way that Relaciones peligrosas excels in regard to realism and variety is its representation of women. Not only are there are a plethora of female characters, but each of these women is presented with believable strengths and flaws. Any woman who watches Relaciones peligrosas will certainly see herself reflected in one of the characters, whether it's the free-spirited Yesenia, the awkward Patti, or the shrewd Ana.

One important aspect to note when looking at a female character is the way she expresses her sexuality. A common critique of the characterization of women in the media and society is that they are expected to fit within a false dichotomy of being either virgins or whores. That is, woman are either perceived to have no sex drive except as it serves their partner, or they are excessively promiscuous. In Relaciones peligrosas, we see women on every level of this spectrum, and all of them are presented in a positive or neutral light. They are simply women making their own choices.

On one extreme, Yesenia and Elizabeth are extremely casual about their sexual escapades. They have multiple partners throughout the series, and they are confident about their choices.

Patti falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. She is interested in sex but also incredibly awkward about it. Her story plays out comically at first, but it eventually develops into something deeper as her aversion to sex is revealed to be more complicated than simple embarrassment.

On the other side, we have Sofia. She is not interested in sex. She doesn't think she's better than anyone else for choosing abstinence, nor does she feel like she "should" be giving in to the pressure from her boyfriend. What is important to her is that she does what she wants on her own terms and in her own time. She is confident and assertive and strong.

This strength is reflected throughout the female cast in different ways.

Ana Conde wants to be the principal, and she is determined to reach that goal. She is manipulative, and this often gets her into trouble; however, she is not demonized simply for being a strong woman. Although many characters within the show dislike Ana for her blunt personality and harsh actions, she also has moments of weakness that endear her somewhat to the audience.

Teresa is the principal. She is the head of the school, and I think it says a lot about Relaciones peligrosas that they cast a woman in this authoritative role. She is the boss, and as such, the audience can infer that she holds a great deal of power. On top of that, however, she demands respect from the other characters, both men and women. The audience is not only told that she is a strong character, but we get to see it demonstrated through her interactions with the other teachers.

In a more traditional display of female strength, Relaciones peligrosas presents several women whose resilience manifests itself in their roles as mothers. For example, Gonzalo's mother had to leave him in Mexico while she came to the U.S. in order to fight for a better life for her son, who she eventually brings to Miami to live with her. This character may, upon first glance, seem to represent women in a negative light because she is very submissive to her husband; however, there is a quiet strength in what she does. She is not just submitting to her husband; she is choosing to submit to her husbands requests in order to achieve a goal.

Another way Relaciones peligrosas tries to be more inclusive in the representation of women is in physical appearance. The novela does not handle this aspect as well as the others previously mentioned, but I think an attempt was made to be more inclusive than usual. The cast of the novela is still full of slender, traditionally beautiful women, but we also have Patti: thin and blonde, but wearing bulky glasses and outdated clothes. We also have Teresa: older, but still presented as attractive to men in the show. We also have Violet: chubby, but confident in her curves.

Relaciones peligrosas tells a huge number of stories about strong woman, and it has been amazing to watch it all unfold. It almost feels as if the writers are just trying to be as thoroughly representative as possible.

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