Dangerous Curves

Latina Bodies in the Media

272 pages

February, 2010

ISBN: 9780814757369



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Isabel Molina-Guzmán is Associate Professor of Communications and Latina/o Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

All books by Isabel Molina-Guzman

With images of Jennifer Lopez’s butt and America Ferrera’s smile saturating national and global culture, Latina bodies have become an ubiquitous presence. Dangerous Curves traces the visibility of the Latina body in the media and popular culture by analyzing a broad range of popular media including news, media gossip, movies, television news, and online audience discussions.

Isabel Molina-Guzmán maps the ways in which the Latina body is gendered, sexualized, and racialized within the United States media using a series of fascinating case studies. The book examines tabloid headlines about Jennifer Lopez’s indomitable sexuality, the contested authenticity of Salma Hayek’s portrayal of Frida Kahlo in the movie Frida, and America Ferrera’s universally appealing yet racially sublimated Ugly Betty character. Dangerous Curves carves out a mediated terrain where these racially ambiguous but ethnically marked feminine bodies sell everything from haute couture to tabloids.

Through a careful examination of the cultural tensions embedded in the visibility of Latina bodies in United States media culture, Molina-Guzmán paints a nuanced portrait of the media’s role in shaping public knowledge about Latina identity and Latinidad, and the ways political and social forces shape media representations.


  • “This compelling study examines the visibility and marketability of Latina actors and characters in tabloids, blogs, “telenovelas,” movies, and music... [Molina-Guzman] argues that deviation from prescribed images unsettles mainstream viewers, whose notions of identity/sexuality reject foreign or exotic representations.”


  • "Dangerous Curves remains an engaging and compelling examination of the conflicting demands placed on Latina bodies in the popular imagination."

    —Magdalena L. Barrera, Camino Real

  • Dangerous Curves is an unswerving look at the flattening out of Latina lives in mainstream media narratives. A must read for anyone interested in understanding why and under what conditions the slightest tear of a stereotype can be perceived as disruptive of the social fabric.”

    —Frances Negron-Muntaner, author of Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture

  • Dangerous Curves is an absolutely essential, central, and most insightful component of Latina/o media studies. Molina-Guzman brings together structural, labor, textual, and audience elements to provide a nuanced analysis whose influence will span across communication, media, and Latina/o studies.”

    —Angharad N. Valdivia, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign