SUMMARY OF TORTILLA SOUP Tortilla Soup is a film about the domestic and personal life of a former chef, Martin Naranjo. The film centers on issues of assimilation that Martin‟s daughters are facing as first generation Mexican-Americans. Carmen, Maribel, and Leticia Naranjo struggle with trying to assimilate to American culture while still preserving their cultural heritage.
Lindenfeld (2007) states, “US food films tend to construct a touristic experience of cultures outside of white middle-class America. These texts invite the tourist gaze to experience ethnic „„others‟‟ and their food cultures” (p. 304). Many recent food films focus on ethnic families in order to allow the predominantly white audience to experience the “ethnic others” that Lindenfeld refers to, while remaining in the comfort of their own homes where they do not feel threatened by “coming into contact with actual, potentially fear- invoking racialized bodies” (Lindenfeld, 2007, p.305).
Furthermore, this turns ethnicities into safe commodities that white, middle class audiences can consume. An ethnic food film, such as Tortilla Soup, allows the audience to consume traditional Mexican food visually, without having to deal with race, ethnicity, and immigration issues. Culture= commodity in the entertainment business (Lindenfeld, p. 314). “The material culture of food maintains differences, encouraging the consumption of „otherness‟ without promoting understanding of the ways in which US culture configures ethnicity and race” (Lindenfeld, 2007, p.314).
Lindenfeld (2007) utilizes a critical approach to inform the audience that cultural tourism gives a false perception that you can learn about a culture by simply experiencing ethnic others and their food culture. Lindenfeld uses the critical approach to study the film because “ the methods preferred by critical scholars are usually textual analyses”(Martin and Nakaya, 2010, p.66). Lindenfeld focuses on the film Tortilla Soup, the film‟s website, and other ethnic food films.
Because ideological beliefs often go undetected it is common for ideologies to construct identification. When an audience overlooks ideologies, the media is defining race, locking in cultural ideologies, and upholding racial stereotypes. Lindenfeld (2007) suggests that “food culture frequently exoticizes and commercializes ethnicity and race” (p. 305). The film presents detrimental stereotypes that use racial generalizations that oversimplify an entire race.
Lindenfeld (2007) states, “ contemporary marketing efforts often lump large ethnic groups into racialized categories, eroding difference and distinctions among them” (p.306). This erases Latino‟s concept of individuality and culture because the audience creates a skewed perception of what it means to be Latino. Latinos are encouraged to blend their cultural identities with white, middle class values.
Why is it important? So What? Reinforces preference for Maintains hierarchies of light- skinned Latinos race, class, and gender (Lindenfeld, 2007, p. 311). (Lindenfeld, 2007, p. Latino women strive to 313). conform to US standards Places Latinos as a of beauty (Lindenfeld, commodity (Lindenfeld, 2007, p. 311). 2007, p. 313). Reaffirms hegemonic ideologies about Latinos ( Positions Latinos as Lindenfeld, 2007, p. 304). objects to be consumed (Lindenfeld, 2007, 314
“Contemporary Latina stars, especially Jennifer Lopez, often find themselves caught in a trap in which their hybridity and „„otherness‟‟ mark them as commodifiable while they also strive to adhere to mainstream US standards of beauty. The most recent construction of Lopez‟s stardom presents her as „„ambiguous enough to be „any woman,‟ yet different enough to suggest an appropriate consumable exotic Otherness” (Lindenfeld, 2007, 311). Do you think Latino(a) stars are setting a good example for young Latino(a)s, or are these famous individuals helping to maintain dominant ideologies about Latinos? What is the appeal of being an exotic/ethnic other and still assimilating to white beauty standards?
“Pressures to assimilate to mainstream culture are tremendous, and the film purports to demonstrate how those who have been marginalized can become part of the American dream. Its rhetoric suggests that those exploited ethnic minorities can have a piece of the proverbial cake and eat it, too” (Lindenfeld, 2007, p. 313). “Positioning fusion [cuisine] over traditional cuisine also suggests that Mexican Americans, like Asian Americans, can become „model minorities‟ if they blend their identities with white US value systems” Lindenfeld, 2007, 310-311). Is it possible for Latinos to assimilate to American culture, but still remain faithful to their cultural roots?
In society today, media is the dominant form in whichaudiences construct stereotypes. The media allowsaudiences to categorize groups by defining stereotypes ofdiffering races, leading to insider and outsider groups thatbecome the foundation of race identification. Specifically,Latino representation in the media is problematic becausethese depictions create false beliefs about race. The mediacreates stereotypes that are repeated, which becomenormalized in film. These racial norms then become beliefsthat audience members regard as true, which leads toaction and prejudice against Latinos. According toLindenfeld (2007), the film, Tortilla Soup supports negativeLatino stereotypes that erase individuality and culture.
IMPLICATIONS CONTINUED . . .Negative stereotypes do not occur just in film, butcarry into society, which causes discrimination,oppression, and prejudice of minorities. In otherwords, Hollywood cinema is responsible for overtlyportraying entire races in a negative way, whichlegitimizes bias against minorities. When minorities,specifically Latinos, are presented in a negative light itaffects the economic, educational and political futureof the entire race.
Lindenfeld, L. (2007). Visiting the Mexican American Family: Tortilla Soup as Culinary Tourism. Communication andCritical/Cultural Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3. 303-320.Martin, J.N., & Nakayama, T.K. (2010). Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 5th edition. Boston, MA. McGraw-Hill.