Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Desperate for Culture

Recently on desperate housewives, Mexican american family Gabby and Carlos Solis discovered that their child Juanita was actually mistakenly switched at birth and their true biological child had been placed with another Mexican family. This story line has been one of the most interesting to me, not simply because of the sheer emotion and drama the situation has induced but also how it brings to light some interesting sides to the Solis family. The contrast between Gabby and Carlos Solis and Hector and his wife are striking; the new couple highlights the Mexican culture for the Solis family and the extent of its importance. In once scene, Gabby brings home groceries for a ‘Mexican’ oriented Thanksgiving dinner for Hector’s family and hers. The exchange between Gabby and her husband is worth noting.

Gabby: (rummaging through her grocieries) : tamales, frijoles, chorizo stuffing, jalepeno cornbread,...

Carlos asks : where are the cranberries sauce and yams?

Gabby: I wanted to make some of their favorite foods and since they’re used to their mexican dishes..

Carlos: That was very nice of you!

Gabby: I know...Now get to cooking!

Carlos: What??

Gabby: You’re the one who knows about mexican stuff! You roll your r’s, you call soccer “futbol”

Carlos: your mocking me because im proud of culture

Gabby: no im celebrating it..theres two bags of your culture right there! get cooking!

and later in the episode:

gabby: i made margaritas!

Carlos: she is very proud of her culture

This episode, among others, highlights Gabby’s disconnect with her Mexican heritage. This is contrasted with another Mexican couple, who appear to be very in tune with their Mexican background. I wonder, does culture become distilled with wealth? As people move into the higher, upper echelons of 'white' encrusted society, do the roots of culture become less visible and important? I don’t think so- the wealth and luxury of living clearly hasn’t effected Carlos’s attachment to his heritage. I believe that Gabby’s distance from her Mexican heritage has a lot to do with her heritage itself; in past seasons, we’ve learned that she came from a poorer family and that shes always dreamed of ‘making it big’ and escaping her situation; she wanted to very much be a part of that society where jewels, fame,wealth and grandeur were commonplace and jimmy choos were the token of exchange, not tamales. The distance with her culture that is visible on screen, i think, is rooted in personal and emotional conflict and it is that very turmoil she sees manifested in her biological child- a beautiful young girl, stuck in a poorer family, who longs for finer things. Gabby’s detachment from her culture is not necessarily a distaste for her Mexican upbringing but rather, a separation from her past and all things associated with it. It is for this reason that I don’t find her aloof superficiality or nonchalant generalizations about Mexican Culture offensive or demoralizing; rather, I find it a product of her own personal journey. When she very poignantly gives Grace an expensive necklace, it’s not materialism or a disregard for hollow and meaningless she is promoting; rather, it is a tangible part of her that she is giving without words. I just hope that through the course of the season, she can come more to terms with her heritage and past in ways that extend beyond Chanel and Prada.

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