I have been in a funk lately (EVERYBODY: Who hasn’t?!), which has meant that other than for work, I have not been able to process new content. I often eat dinner with my kids while we re-watch (and re-re-watch) Bob’s Burgers episodes, and my bedtime routine currently includes at least one episode of Schitt’s Creek (watch “Moira’s Nudes” or “Lawn Signs” tonight and call me in the morning). The only new programming I’ve been able to handle is WandaVision and, to be honest, I think it’s because it’s just new enough for me to look forward to every week, but familiar enough that I don’t get anxiety about what will happen. Like Wanda, I am coping with all of my feelings with the comforts of sitcom formulas.
So imagine my surprise when what got me out of my pop culture (and writing) funk was not a TV show, but news of a film deal. America Ferrera is set to direct her first feature with the adaptation of Erika L. Sánchez’s YA novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. I got out of my pop culture funk because it’s been a long time since I have been looking forward to a movie, and because I am hopeful about what America Ferrera will do with the source material. For those of you who have not read the book, here is the plot per the story in Variety:
“The YA story is about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican American home. It follows Julia Reyes, a strong-willed teenager to first-generation Mexican immigrants. She often argues with her parents, who wish Julia were more like her sister Olga. However, when Olga unexpectedly dies in an accident, Julia tries to hold her family together.”
I’ve had this book since I had the pleasure of meeting Erika L. Sánchez’s at a Latino book festival in 2019, but I’ve not read it (hangs head in shame). It’s not because I’ve not wanted to--I have a lot of stuff to read for my day job, OK? So instead of reading for fun, sometimes I watch TV for fun, and as a literature professor, I am not always proud of that! But. You can bet your ass that I am finally committing to this book tonight. First of all, I’ve always been jealous of that chingón title--raise your hand if you relate because you were not a perfect Mexican daughter and/or you wish you had come up with this title! Also, I am a sucker for a good book opening line:
“What’s surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering smirk on her face.”
Who wants to start reading with me?!
But going back to the film, I am really excited for America Ferrera (and Erika L. Sánchez--¡felicidades!). I am curious about what she will do with this work (along with Linda Yvette Chávez, who is writing the script). I first loved Ferrera as Betty Suárez in Ugly Betty, I enjoyed her work in front of and behind the camera on Superstore, and have followed her growth as an activist in the past few years on social media. But the work that makes me most curious about Ferrera’s directorial debut is her first film role ever--as Ana in Real Women Have Curves, a film that did not get the mainstream attention that it deserved back in 2002. I can’t not mention that I still like the source material better--Josefina López’s play of the same name, which along with the film, has been on my syllabi for my literature classes over the past few years. I know that Ferrera has done a lot since Real Women, but I wonder what lessons she learned from making that first film, and how she feels about how long it’s taken for the narrative of another young Latina to make it to the big screen. I think Ferrera is gonna tell some stories. I look forward to that press tour almost as much as I look forward to the movie, even without knowing how I will get to see the movie when it’s out, or if that press tour will look like all my zoom meetings do now, because this pandemic makes it so that I can’t imagine anything beyond tomorrow.
And because I cannot help myself and give you flashbacks, here is an Ugly Betty scene I love to watch for Vanessa Williams’ killer delivery (begin at 40 seconds but please wait for the quip at 2:40):
And here is the trailer to Real Women Have Curves. Let me know if it reminds you of another movie that got all sorts of accolades years later.