Mi Vida Loca Essay, Research Paper
Mi Vida Loca
Mi Vida Loca means my crazy life (as a girl). The movie documents the phenomenon of female gangs in the early nineties in Los Angeles. It is written and directed by Allison Anders, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to UCLA. She uses personal experiences to help influence her story writing. In Echo Park, a group of young Mexican-Americans show what it means to live in the inner city. The film looks at gang lifestyle from a woman s point of view to uncover relationships, conflicts, gang loyalty, and identity. The homegirls portray their female friendships through their daily lives of survival in Echo Park. It is a rough life with almost every homegirl having a baby by the time they are twenty-one and almost every homeboy being handicapped, killed, or in jail by the time they reach their early twenties. The girls try to become autonomous from the men in their lives by forming their own female gang. The gang culture of Mi Vida Loca reflects and constructs culturally understood gender roles.
The basic plot is based around two Chicano girls and their childhood lives. The movie is split up into three episodes. Maribel Mousie and Mona Sad Girl were childhood best friends that become enemies over a boy, Ernesto. Sad Girl is the main narrator of the movie. This drug dealer first falls for Mousie, but then gets Sad Girl pregnant also. He spends most of his money on his two babies and his prize possession, Suavecito, his mini-truck. The two young mothers arrange a fight one-on-one for a bloody confrontation. Neither of them gets hurt, but Ernesto is shot by one of his Caucasian clients on the same night. With Ernesto out of both of their lives, they can move on and earn back each other s friendship.
After Ernesto s death shadow takes over his brother s drug dealing business with the help of Shadow, a female gangster that was shot with Ernesto. Meanwhile, Anhenica Giggles is released from a four-year sentence in prison for the crimes of her deceased boyfriend. As an older homegirl , the girls look up to her and ask for guidance. Giggles and the girls discuss the future of Sauvecito and agree selling it. But the men have already decided to enter it in a car show that Ernesto was looking forward to. Giggles has decided on changing her lifestyle to be an independent, working woman. The homegirls are disappointed that Giggles wants to pursue a career in computers instead of lead them in their gang affairs. Giggles doesn t need or want a man to be dependent on anymore. She warns the girls, By the time our boys are twenty-one, they are either in prison, or handicapped, or dead! She rejects Big Sleepy s offer of becoming his partner after she has sex with him. Big Sleepy is an older generation gangster who has his own business as a mechanic and detailing cars.
Sad Girl s sister, Alicia La Blue Eyes , is a college girl who is infatuated with a prisoner (tercido) named Juan Temido. She constantly writes him love letters and doesn t socialize much with her sister s gang. Juan is actually El Duran , the cross-town rival River Valley gang who claims ownership of Ernesto s mini-truck. When he becomes a free man, he crushes Blue Eyes heart by never writing to her again.
One night when walking home, Shadow finds his inherited car missing and immediately assumes that El Duran stole it. His gang drives to a rival gang party to execute El Duran. Little Sleepy fires the deadly shot. At this same party, La Blue Eyes realizes that El Duran is Juan, who was just a sweet talker the whole time. The next day, a young boy in the neighborhood admits that he borrowed the car and crashed it on the steep streets of Echo Park during a joy ride. In retaliation, El Duran s followers the little girl standing by Little Sleepy on the sidewalk the next day, thinking she s his. But that little girl was actually Big Sleepy s daughter. The movie ends with the females becoming independent and starting their own operations. Sad Girl says, Women don t use weapons to prove a point. Women use weapons for love.
Gender roles are very evident in the movie. The boys are very young, yet they display manliness to the best of their ability. From a young age this group of friends have been trying to fit the gender role of the machismo male. In the gang, the tougher, meaner one is, the more respect his homies give him. As French agrees:
Manliness, as defined by patriarchy, means to be or appear to be in control at all times. But remaining in control prevents a person from ever achieving intimacy with another, from ever letting down his guard; it thus precludes easy friendship, fellowship, community. Men may have buddies, acquaintances with whom they can engage in the ritual competition of banter, sport, or game, but they rarely possess intimate friends. (French 144.)
Ernesto isn t truly intimate with either girl, for if he was, he would not be cheating on them. He has to fulfill these manly roles of taking the girl. If he can have two at once, it is seen as all the better. His homies back him up on this because they have the same values.
Ernesto has both Mousie and Sad Girl under his control and trust at the same time. He reflects the gender role of defining masculinity through controlling women. French reasons why men feel the need to control women:
Men do not attempt to establish control over women because they hate and fear them; rather, men hate and fear women because they must control them, because control over women is essential to their self-definition. Forced to demonstrate superiority, they can only do so by cheating, stacking the deck, by imposing on women deprivations which imprison them in a condition seen as inferior by the male culture. (149)
The female gender role of being independent to a man is shown many times. After Ernesto s death, the girls complain about not ever having money. In one instance, neither mother could afford a juice for their kids. Whisper then gives them money, but it is actually Shadow s drug money. This points out that the role that men take care of their women. Whisper, who is a better drug dealer than Shadow, assumes that she cannot start her own business because of the role that she sees herself in. She sees the glass ceiling because she can be Shadow s partner, but not work on her own. At the end of the movie, she finally realizes that gender roles aren t set in stone and the female gang start to deal drugs themselves.
The male gangsters agree on selling Suavecito without ever consulting the females. They don t feel the need for any input from the weaker gender. This machismo attitude reflects the gender role of the powerful male. Decisions on the car are made swiftly in the gangster lair one afternoon. The girls wouldn t even have known this happened if it wasn t for Giggles hearing it from Big Sleepy.
Big Sleepy demonstrates the gender role of a male well. His mate left him for an unknown reason, and he assumes it was his gansta life. French comments on men and love, They [men] imagine that success, or the demonstration of manliness, will bring them love, instead it alienates those they love. They feel cheated: and they blame women (144). Giggles initiates the female role when she sleeps with him. She is on top of him during sex, not in the missionary position. This means that she is almost serving him because of his dominance over her. When he tells her he will take care of here, she immediately withdrawals back. She remembers the last time a man said that to her. That person is the same man who was killed and caused her to serve four years in jail. Giggles wants to break the stereotypical gender role by becoming independent.
La Blue Eyes constructs a gender role. She is the day dreaming girl that yearns for a prince charming. Her prison pen pal is the man of her dreams, except that is just on paper and in her mind. He wins her heart, but then crushes it by never writing to her once released from prison. El Duran is a romantic man that just plays with her feelings. Those were not his true feelings in his letters because real men do not have soft, intimate thoughts, like that.
One female gangster admits sleeping with a rival gang member in order to have access to his car. At first, the homegirls disagree and say, That s fucked up! But after taking a second to think about it, they see it as perfectly acceptable behavior. This reflects the gender role that women can have power over men and get what they want through sex. She is using him for the car, and he is using the car for sex.
Gender roles play a huge part in Mi Vida Loca. Growing up, the kids had nowhere else to turn, but to each other. This is a factor in deciding the roles that they will become. As dropouts of high school, they have to survive on the street. For the boys, that means becoming tough to gain respect and leadership from other boys. For the girls, it meant finding someone to provide for them.
These roles can be broken as shown through Giggles independence and eventually the female gangsters creating their own complicated operations. Giggles friend who took care of her baby demonstrates independence, strength, and intelligence by living on her own and becoming mature. Also, at the end Little Sleepy is shot by one of El Duran s girls. Her taking the initiative and resorting to murder goes against the female gender role.
Anders, Allison. Mi Vida Loca. Cineville Inc. 1993.
French, Marilyn. Gender Roles. One World, Many Cultures. Ed. Stuart Hirschberg. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995. 143-152.