Mexico Unmanned

The Cultural Politics of Masculinity in Mexican Cinema

By Samanta Ordóñez

Subjects: Latin American Studies, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Latin American Cinema
Hardcover : 9781438486291, 248 pages, December 2021
Paperback : 9781438486284, 248 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


1. Old Macho Mythologies in New Mexican Cinema—Y tu mama también and Rudo y Cursi

2. Demystifying Machismo in Batalla en el cielo and Post tenebras lux

3. Manufacturing Malformed Masculinities in Heli

4. Neoliberal Masculinities between Romance and Realism in Te prometo anarquía

Works Cited

Demonstrates how transhistorical myths of masculinity are both perpetuated and challenged in recent Mexican cinema.


Iconic images of machismo in Mexico's classic cinema affirm the national film industry's historical alignment with the patriarchal ideology intrinsic to the post-revolutionary state's political culture. Filmmakers gradually turned away from the cultural nationalism of mexicanidad, but has the underlying gender paradigm been similarly abandoned? Films made in the past two decades clearly reflect transformations instituted by a neoliberal regime of cultural politics, yet significant elements of macho mythology continue to be rearticulated. Mexico Unmanned examines these structural continuities in recent commercial and auteur films directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Cuarón, Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, and Julio Hernández Cordón, among others. Informed by cinema's role in Mexico's modern/colonial gender system, Samanta Ordóñez draws out recurrent patterns of signification that reproduce racialized categories of masculinity and bolster a larger network of social hierarchies. In so doing, Ordóñez dialogues with current intersectional gender theory, fresh scholarship on violence in the neoliberal state, and the latest research on Mexican cinema.

Samanta Ordóñez is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Wake Forest University.


"Samanta Ordóñez offers a lucid critique of complex issues such as machismo, race, class and their representations in contemporary Mexican cinema … Ordóñez contributes to the study of masculinities by exposing the power structures that are constantly seeking control over the bodies of middle- and lower-class racialized men. Her analysis of malformed masculinities promotes the questioning of unfair, biased, or silenced representations of different minorities in Mexican cinema: another indicator of a defective modernity whose archetypal models have repeatedly failed to adequately represent Mexico or Latin America." — Bulletin of Spanish Visual Studies