Jun 22, 2007
Real Women Have Curves: a feminist narrative of upward mobility.
The film Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrera, was generally well-reviewed and achieved modest box-office success for HBO Films in 2002. What many may not know is that the film is based on Mexican-American playwright Josefina Lopez's play by the same name. Set in the year 1987, and first performed in 1990, this two-act autobiographical play features a character named Ana, who works temporarily in her sister Estela's tiny sewing factory with three other women: Pancha, Rosali, and Ana's mother Carmen, all of whom are described as being more or less overweight. The factory is the sole setting, and the action takes place across one week of work in September, from Monday to Friday, during which time the five women struggle to complete an order of one hundred dresses. There is an extreme urgency to complete the order; Estela desperately needs to submit the finished dresses to the manufacturer so she can get paid, pay her workers, and catch up on the loan she took out to purchase the sewing equipment. Also hanging over Estela's head is the fact that, unlike the other women at the factory who have recently become documented, she is still in the country illegally.
At the beginning of the play, we learn that Ana is biding her time until she is able to go to college; she must wait a year before becoming eligible for financial aid. Ana self-identifies as a feminist, and her desire to achieve class mobility via education is inextricably tied to her critiques and rejection of the traditional gender norms and roles for women in both mainstream, Anglo culture and in her Mexican-American working-class community. Though the play opens with Ana expressing resentment at having to work in her sister's factory, and though there is significant conflict and disagreement among the women, by...