Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Carvalho


This dissertation focuses on dominant contemporary depictions of women in order to investigate the related processes of producing and policing physical attractiveness and privilege in mainstream cultural productions. I examine how certain US Latina, Colombian, and Dominican female portrayals fit definite paradigms of ideal beauty and contribute to patterns of power within magazines, films and television, music, and literary novels. I explore the ways in which the majority of dominant representations in all three countries favor specific beauty ideals linked with an Anglo or Northern European archetype, thus limiting the acceptable model and excluding a great part of the racially mixed female population which fails to match this criterion. By studying the relationship between body image and messages that inspire anxiety for those women who fall outside of ideal beauty patterns, my analysis bridges sociological and anthropological studies within literary theories and visual culture and contributes to new perspectives on Latinidad and Tropicalism by including a trans-nationalistic approach. While much work has been done on the connection between the body and identity within the United States, scholarship within this area has been more limited within Hispanic literature and Latin American popular culture in terms of the role of power structures. While one perception of beauty is that it is merely physical, in reality racial classification and the recognition of “legitimate” beauty have tangible impacts on social matters such as access to employment, marriageability, perceptions of education, civilization, decency, and purity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)