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Film / Real Women Have Curves

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I love you, that's why I'm making you miserable.
Carmen García

Real Women Have Curves is a 2000 American comedy-drama film directed by Patricia Cardoso and starring America Ferrera. It is based on the play of the same name by Josefina López.

The plot revolves around Ana García (Ferrera), a Mexican-American teenager who turns 18 at the start of the movie. She attends Beverly Hills High School, helps her sister Estela (Ingrid Oliu) in her dress factory and has to deal with her über-critical mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), who wants her to be more like Estela. Ana is expected by her parents to help out at the factory instead of going to college. When Ana’s high school teacher Mr. Guzman (George Lopez) recognizes her academic potential and urges her to apply to universities, Ana becomes torn between family expectations and the need to spread her wings.

The film was heralded for its portrayal of Los Angeles and was was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Carmen does love her daughters, and much of her beliefs stem from her poor, uncultured upbring, but this doesn't change the fact that she doesn't respect them, she keeps shifting between the Manipulative Bastard and the The Bully, and when they stand up for themselves, she sees it as an insult against her. Not to mention how she undermines Estella's authority on the job, while berating Ana for being overweight, over and over.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Carmen has parakeets in too small of a cage. She also lets them outdoors unsupervised, which isn't recommended since predators can still get to small birds even while caged.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ana becomes more confident in herself and her body and inspires a similar change in her friends and family. She gets to go to school in New York City on a scholarship. However, this requires leaving her family behind in Los Angeles, and ultimately she does not reconcile with her mother before she leaves, and her mother is seen visibly upset when she realizes she missed her chance to say goodbye to her daughter before her departure.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    Ana: Mama, I do want to lose weight. But part of me doesn't, because my weight says to everybody, 'Fuck you!' How dare anyone tell me what I should look like or how I should be, when there's so much more to me than just my weight?
  • Coming of Age Story: The film is about Ana’s personal growth as she tries to assert her independence and forge her own path in life.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Guzman encourages Ana to think about college and helps guide her through the admissions process.
  • Culture Clash: Ana, a second generation child of immigrants, clashes with the culture of her old-fashioned parents, particularly the wishes of her mother who insists on Ana working in her sister’s business, finding a husband, and starting a family.
  • Defiant Strip: On a hot day at the factory, Ana decides to remove her shirt to cool off, against the protests of Carmen. Carmen criticizes Ana’s weight, but Ana proudly embraces her body and urges the other women to celebrate their bodies as well. Soon all the other women have stripped down to their underwear, defiantly embracing their imperfect body types. They continue working as Carmen leaves in a huff.
  • Defiled Forever: Carmen sees her daughter’s virginity as something to be protected and is furious when she learns Ana slept with her boyfriend.
  • Education Mama: Averted with Carmen, who prioritizes helping out with the family business over Ana’s college ambitions.
  • Family Business: Estela’s dress shop.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: The very domineering Carmen is not supportive of her daughter’s quest for higher education and leaving home. Raúl, Ana's father, is more amenable.
  • Fat and Proud: The characters in this movie consider themselves beautiful even though they don’t fit the ideal body type.
  • Female Misogynist: It is Carmen, Ana's mother, who tries to force Ana into what she sees as a woman's role: a life of marriage, children, and work in Estella's dress shop. The men in her life (her father, her male teacher, her boyfriend, and - to the extent they say anything at all - her brothers) are much more supportive.
    • She's also shocked and offended by the "indecency" of the women in the dress shop (which is staffed entirely by women) stripping to their underwear to beat the summer heat.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: A lot of them. For instance:
    Carmen: You are a puta!
  • Hypocrite: Ana and Estella's mother is this to them.
    • She doesn't approve the fact that Ana is overweight, pointing out this trope whenever she can. This would almost be reasonable if it wasn't that Carmen's reason for wanting Ana to lose weight is only for her to be, in her opinion, more attractive and so more likely to find a man, as Carmen herself is overweight, but she feels justified, being already married.
    • She keeps berating Ana also for not being like Estella, but the truth is that she sees the latter as a failure as well for not having got married.
  • Idealized Sex: Played with for Ana and Jimmy. Their First Time is handled like, well, two teenagers having sex for the first time. That said, it is very tender, affectionate, and good for Ana's self-image to have someone so genuinely attracted to her.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Carmen is so ignorant that her character's role can be seen almost as comedic, despite the film being a drama with her acting de facto as the antagonist.
    • Her views of life are so outdated, especially regarding the future of an 18-year-old girl living in the 21st century United States, that many other characters struggle to truly argue with her, knowing how she truly can't understand why Ana's academic ambition is normal.
    • In her fifties, she realizes she is out of her period. Her conclusion? She is pregnant! It is necessary to argue with her daughter and a visit to the doctor to accept that she is not and to learn something about menopause.
    • She is convinced that Ana would learn much more from her than from any university, as Carmen believes that what matters is to learn to work and be a proper wife and mother. This makes the situation even more ironic, as Carmen is far from being perfect in both things.
  • It's All About Me: Carmen wants her daughters to behave... so to not embarrass her; and just after she finds out she can't be a mother to any more children, she quickly declares that Ana should... so she can be a grandmother, much to the girl's chagrin.
  • I Want Grandkids: Because Estela is unmarried, Carmen believes she will be an Old Maid and thus believes the responsibility to bear children and continue the family’s legacy falls to Ana.
  • Miss Conception: Ana's mother mistakes menopause for a new pregnancy. While a simple misdiagnosis like this wouldn't normally fit the trope, Carmen is sufficiently ignorant of her own biology that she needs her (male) doctor to explain what menopause is.
  • My Beloved Smother: Carmen up to eleven.
  • Parental Favoritism: Her mother often says that she'd like Ana to be more like Estela.
    • ...but for all that, Carmen doesn't really treat the dutiful Estela very well, either. As an employee at Estela's dress shop, she comes in late, distracts the other workers with gossip and talk about telenovelas, and undermines Estela's authority (probably already tenuous since it seems likely these women are all family friends who have known her since she was a baby) with dismissive little remarks: "Si, mi general."
  • Secret Relationship: Ana keeps her relationship with Jimmy a secret from her mother.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Carmen wants her daughter to stay with the family and not go to college on the other side of the country.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: The employees of Estela’s dress shop are women.