Latinas' image on Spanish-language television: a study of women's representation and their self-perceptions
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This dissertation investigates how Spanish-language television networks in the United States represent Latino women and how women from Latino heritage evaluate those portrayals. Facing a paucity of studies about Spanish television programming and the Latino television audience in general, this project constitutes an early step in understanding how a particular group of immigrants and U.S.-born Latinas interact with their own ethnic media. This is a twofold study that focuses on the talk shows El Show de Cristina and Laura en América broadcast by Univision and Telemundo respectively, and on the narratives of 27 women interviewed in the city of Austin, Texas, between 1999-2002. The main objective of the analysis is to see how the categories of gender, race, ethnicity and class are enacted in the television text and in the audience responses. The research is informed by a theoretical blend of feminism, critical and cultural studies, and it is also grounded in Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice. His concept of “field” is used s a theory and as a method to understand the current economic and structural changes in what is labeled here as "the field of Latino television." The overall conclusion of the study is that Latinas have a conflicted relationship with the Spanish-language television. They like specific programming such as news and telenovelas, but they criticize other television genres such as talk shows, humor and entertainment programs and would like to see that Latino networks improve the quality of the programs and women's portrayals. Respondents contested the oversexualized representations of Latinas and criticized the violence enacted in the talk shows. They argued that the images embarrass and offend them. These findings closely follow some of the patterns found by DeSipio (1998; 1999) and Dávila (2001) in their studies of the relationship Latinos have with the Spanish language television. The violence enacted in the talk shows is theorized according to Bourdieu's theory of symbolic power. Class, in material or symbolic terms, operates as the main marker of social distance in respondents' evaluations of the talk shows. Latinas used class to distance themselves from the panelists presented in the shows, to devalue the contents offered by the networks as being directed to others, and to contest the homogeneous definition of Latinos offered by the Spanish-language television.