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Film / Selena

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Abraham: We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!

Selena is a 1997 biography about the life of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez. The film details Selena's beginnings as a child performer up to her rise in stardom as a Latino and North American icon, ultimately culminating to her untimely and tragic death at the hands of her fanclub manager, Yolanda Saldivar. Jennifer Lopez stars in the lead role, and Edward James Olmos stars along side her as Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla. This film is notable for providing a Star-Making Role for Jennifer Lopez.

Not to be confused with the 2014 Serena.


This film provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Yolanda is universally reviled by Selena’s fan-base in both this film and in Real Life. Not only did she murder her, but she played her family like a harp out of hell.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: Selena’s cultural impact and altruistic personality was what led her to becoming an icon for the Hispanic community of America. Even though Yolanda kills her, Selena manages to get the last laugh and the candlelight vigil at the end of the movie definitely shows that she will become a legend to be remembered for many years to come.
  • Age Cut: Briefly. The young Selena has an Imagine Spot of performing on stage, where she's fades into Jennifer Lopez.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Yolanda is practically in tears during her stand off with the police, expressing indirect regret for murdering Selena. But given her manipulative personality, she could be crying Crocodile Tears.
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  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Selena's husband was Chris Perez- who had long hair, wore punk clothes, and played heavy metal before performing with her. Subverted when Chris turns out to be a Nice Guy.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The scene in the Houston Astrodome was actually filmed in the San Antonio Alamodome.
  • Artistic License – History: Abraham says that the scene on the beach where Marcela teaches Selena how to do the washing machine dance didn't actually happen - though they did often sit on the beach and talk about life.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Played straight and subverted. Yolanda murders Selena offscreen, but the karma gods aren’t mocked and she ends up getting trapped by the authorities in a long stand off.
  • Berserk Button: Abraham goes into a rage when Selena says she loves Chris. He gets better after the two marry.
  • Blatant Lies: Yolanda tells these when she is confronted by the Quintanilla family about the stolen money from the fan club and boutique. Selena’s family and the audience all know she’s telling lies.
  • Buffy Speak: Abraham disapproves of Selena's bustier, calling it "a bra with little sparkly things on them!"
  • Character Title
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Selena dating Chris against the wishes of her father. He gets over it though.
  • Downer Ending: When the Quintanilla family and Chris are in the hospital and gets the news of Selena's death. They cry slow, painful tears.
    • In Real Life the Quintanilla family still tries to keep her name alive. Selena's father Abraham still manages her estate, image, and musical rights.
  • Faux Fluency: Selena was not fluent in Spanish, so she had to learn her Tejano music phonetically when she was younger (she lampshades how ridiculous the lyrics are when translated to English). However, Abraham pressed the importance of her knowing both languages in order to break through, and after she became popular in the Tejano genre, her English command made it easy for her to crossover to the American mainstream. There's a scene where she holds a press conference in Spanish, and after trying to sum up her feelings in that language, she stumbled and finishes her sentence with "excited", which makes everyone laugh, but with her, not at her. The actual Selena quote this scene is based on is a bit less fortunate, was probably bowdlerized to keep the movie family-friendly. Selena said "estoy muy excitada estar en México" which sounds like it should mean "I'm very excited to be in Mexico" but really translates as "I'm very horny to be in Mexico."
  • Foreshadowing: There was a hint that Selena's father was aware of Selena and Chris' relationship...said hint was her and Chris exchanging romantic gestures before Selena went on the stage to perform.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since this is a biopic of a deceased person, the story's end is sadly inevitable.
  • Gold Digger: Invoked. The reason why Abraham wasn't approving of Selena and Chris' romantic relationship was because he was worried that the later was a gold digger who would ruin everything Abraham worked for.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Selena's father is shown to have anger issues.
  • Hate Sink: Yolanda, for obvious reasons.
  • Important Haircut: Suzy gives Chris a good haircut so he can join the band.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Abraham did go too far by yelling at Selena and Chris about their relationship, he did have a right to feel concerned with what would happen with the band should Selena and Chris were to make their relationship public. Even Chris sees things from Abraham’s point of view moments later.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Abraham may have a temper, but he's a nice guy under it and he does love his family.
  • Killed Offscreen: The fatal encounter between Selena and Yolanda is not shown on-screen, simply cutting to police arriving on the scene with Yolanda in hysterics with a gun to her head, threatening to be Driven to Suicide after shooting Selena as the police and Feds try to talk her down into surrendering and facing trial.
  • Loony Fan: Yolanda, of the deadly type.
  • Man Hug: Chris hugs both and AB and Abraham when he is welcomed into the family.
  • Meaningful Funeral: The film closes on a large candlelight vigil held by Selena's fans.
  • Mexican Standoff: Yolanda did this for over nine hours before she finally gave up.
  • Nice Guy: Chris, AB Quintanilla, and the male band-mates.
  • Nice Girl: Selena, Suzette, and Selena's mother.
  • Overprotective Dad: Abraham towards Selena. While he had good reasons to be weary of Chris dating his daughter, he also just wants to protect her.
  • Playing Gertrude: Constance Marie was only 31 when playing Selena's mother Marcella. She was only four years older than Jennifer Lopez and a couple months younger than Jackie Guerra, who played Suzette. Also, Yolanda Saldivar was 35 when she was sentenced to prison, and she was played by Lupe Ontiveros (who was 54 at the film's release).
  • Secret Relationship: When Abraham rejects Selena and Chris dating and kicks him out of the group, they continue to date in secret before eloping. It stops being a secret when news leaks of the marriage, forcing them to face her family... who approves of the decision to marry and welcomes Chris back to the family and the band.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Abraham has quite a bit to say about the struggles of being Mexican-American. His kids roll their eyes whenever he gets going.
  • Stage Mom: More like "Stage Dad" Abraham was the one who wanted Selena and the kids to become musicians.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy Selena who enjoyed playing outdoors, vs. Girly Girl Suzette who did not want to be a drummer because "girls don't play drums".
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Selena loved pizza.
  • The Tragic Rose: A symbolic example. During the concert where she sings “Dreaming of You”, Selena stops to notice a white rose thrown at her. The look on her face and the scene following quickly foreshadows her ultimate fate.
  • Yandere: Implied with Yolanda being a non-romantic version for Selena. When Yolanda is fired from her job, she loses it and wants to kill Selena, due to the fact that she can't work with Selena anymore.


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