‘Real Women Have Curves’ highlights body positivity

By Marilyn MacLaren, Staff Writer

Real Women Have Curves is a coming-of-age comedy film, directed by Patricia Cordoso, that tells the story of Ana Garcia, played by America Ferrera, a first-generation daughter of a Mexican immigrant family who navigates becoming an adult and embracing her identity. 

The film stars Lupe Ontiveros as Carmen Garcia, the matriarch of the family whose stern traditional values collide with Ana’s ambition, as well as George Lopez as Mr. Guzman, Ana’s high school teacher who encourages her to follow her dreams and apply for Columbia University despite her family’s precarious financial situation.

Considering the time of release, the body positivity shown in the film as a central theme was not yet as prevalent in the media as it is today, especially with women of color. Shedding light on this topic and the impact it can have on not only self-esteem, but family dynamics and unrealistic standards from long-standing cultural traditions, gives the film the emotional depth in portraying Ana.

The struggles Ana faces with her body image, as well as family expectations and social mobility coming from a working-class family, to attending university, are all experiences that help audiences relate to her character and root for her development as she realizes her own path. Ana learns to accept herself and understand what does and doesn’t define her, especially considering the influence of her mother and breaking away from those harmful traditional values. 

A particular scene that highlights this is when Ana is helping her family in the factory and takes off her blouse because of the heat. Her mother scorns her for her weight, as she has multiple times throughout the film, but Ana stands her ground and explains that her body is a part of who she is and she shouldn’t feel pressured to change it for anyone else. The other women in the factory, as well as her sister Estela, played by Ingrid Oliu, stand with Ana by taking off their clothes to compare cellulite, stretch marks and other aspects of their bodies society has deemed as flaws. 

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The generational and cultural rift Ana has with her mother is a completely relatable experience for many mother-daughter relationships. Carmen sees her critiques as constructive and in the best interest of Ana’s future as well as honoring the traditions and expectations of her heritage and the culture she was raised in as a Mexican immigrant. 

Yet Ana, who has been raised in American culture, seeks the American Dream by making her own way, not limited to finding a husband, starting a family or measuring her worth based on her size. Through this cultural clash, Ana and Carmen have heated conflicts that bring to light many underlying customs passed down through generations that can be harmful and are challenging to change. 

In the end, Ana decides to do what is best for her future with the support of all except her mother, whose stubbornness even prevents her from saying goodbye to Ana when she leaves for New York. Ana achieves seeing past the negative traditions that have been passed down in her family, learning from how these cultural pressures have affected her mother in viewing her own body image and limitations. 

Overall, this film presents a realistic reflection on finding your identity in the balance of culture and ambition, being connected with your family but still staying true to your own dreams and aspirations. 


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