Adult and Continuing Education Womens Biopics in Recent Hollywood Selena Paper

Adult and Continuing Education - Cleveland Extension

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I’m working on a Film question and need guidance to help me study.

Women's Biopics in Recent Hollywood – Selena (1997)

Biopics, which relate the life of an important person or group with varying degrees of accuracy and fictionalization, are popular genre films. Biopics about female singers are more common than those about women in other professions except maybe queens. Look over the Women's Film List in Canvas Files for all the titles I could think of. Of course, most are about Americans.

Biopics about Latinas, of whatever profession, are extremely rare: Evita, Frida, Dolores, Chavela, Mercedes Sosa. I want you to watch a relatively recent Hollywood treatment of a very popular Mexican-American singer who died young.

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (1971-1995) was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson (for MAC cosmetics), model, actress, fashion designer. Called the "Queen of Tejano music," she brought Latin cumbia and Tejano music into the American mainstream and cracked the male-only barrier for Tejano music. She was idolized by her fans, even by the one who shot her to death at the age of 24.

Like I said about Queen Christina, women's biopics are often a subgenre of drama and epic. But like that film and Madame Curie, they also often contain elements of romance and romantic comedy as well as melodrama. So many biopics about women singers dramatize a work-life-balance conflict—what's more important to her: her family life? Love life? Career as an artist? What devices are used to express those conflicts, as well as the public's adoration of her? Does she still have to choose only one path in the 1990s?

Again, ask these basic questions to come up with common elements of the biopic of a Latina singer:

  • Why and how is the childhood of the subject introduced, if it is?
  • What is the subject's legacy (family and ethnic origin, parental issues, previous tragedy, socioeconomic background)?
  • What stage(s) of the subject's life does this biopic emphasize most?
  • How is the subject's appearance, and maintenance of it, significant to the film?
  • How does the film show that the subject is remarkable, different from the rest?
  • Is the subject cursed or burdened by some recurring force?
  • What is the role of music in the woman's life, whether it's a defining element or just used in the film?
  • What is the basic plot of this biopic? How are the events of her life narrated into a story?
  • Who are the most important members of the subject's inner circle (family, friends, associates)?
  • What is the subject's relationship with her public, if there is one?
  • What objects, symbols, animals, people, words recur in this biopic?
  • What is the role of romantic love in the subject's life? The role of sexuality?
  • Does the film trace the subject's transformation? If so, what kind?
  • How do other characters fight over the subject, and for what reasons?
  • What is the takeaway about this woman's life?
  • How strong are traces of other genre films—epic, war, romantic comedy, romance, melodrama—in this biopic?

NOTE: I understand that Selena: La Serie (the series) will be available on Netflix streaming soon.

Watch Selena (USA: Gregory Nava, 1997; Amazon Prime Video, YouTube$, DVD2035Reserve)

A) Ask 3 discussion questions of your own regarding the film. The questions can be about specific techniques used in specific scenes, the characters, what being an entertainer entails, the plotline, the way musical performances are rendered, unexpected outcomes, montage sequences, the ending.

B) Answer 3 discussion questions posed by other students.

C) Respond to at least one other student's post with polite agreement or disagreement, giving evidence for your point of view.

D) Read: "The Musical" chapter in Introduction to Film Genres. Comment on something in this reading that would pertain to an interesting discussion of Selena.

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Part B( peer’s post): A. 1. What characteristics does Selena share with the lead females of the previous women’s biopic films we have viewed? How is she different? 2. Do you think Selena resented her father or appreciated his toughness? 3. What is the dual focus in this film? Is there more than one? D. The Introduction to Film Genres text talks about how the musical genre is devoted to creating the couple: “It fashions this couple out of paired opposites, using music and dance to visualize and thematize the romantic coupling and the overcoming of opposition of personalities” (218). This is somewhat true in Selena because she falls in love with Chris who comes from a rougher background and her father does not approve. I feel like this idea could also be applied to Selena’s relationship with her father since they have clashing personalities but eventually come together in the end. However, since this is a biopic the film is more focused on Selena’s life than it is bringing a couple together through song and dance. Part C (peer’s post): A. My Questions: How does Selena’s and her father, Abraham’s, relation to music help them with adjusting to accepting their Mexican-American heritage and experiences? 2. How does sexism play such a large role in Selena’s career and life? 3. What kind of music plays in the background a lot outside of Selenas music? 1. D. The textbook says that “for a film to qualify as a musical, the music itself must be integral to the plot… the music must advance the plot in some fashion or be reflective of a character’s desires, goals, and state of mind” (212). In Selena, the song “Como La Flor” is written after Selena’s and Chris’ first pizza date, a song literally about eternal love. It’s also the first song we as an audience see Selena and Chris play together. Albeit Selena may not fit into the mold of a traditional musical, where a song expresses the thoughts of the person singing it, it does foreshadow her and Chris’ feelings for each other. ...
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Final Answer


Running head: SELENA


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My Questions
1. What is the significance of musical elements and music itself throughout the film?
2. Jennifer Lopez was a famous person back in 1997, and is successful until today. Did
she fit the role of Selena? How and why?
3. How can parents learn from this movie? Can they approach their children’s
relationships differently from Selena’s Father?
Answering three discussion questions- Peer B
1. Selena shares different characteristics with previous biopic films. She dies when she
is so young...

Ambrosius (2098)
New York University

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