Content material warning: The next story accommodates temporary point out of sexual abuse and drug abuse.
Premiering Feb. 27 on the Spanish-language streaming service Pantaya, the brand new thriller “Señorita 89” dives deep into Mexican gender norms, utilizing the 1989 Miss Mexico magnificence pageant as its fictional setting. Stuffed with medicine, intercourse, and violence, the present has loads of drama, with its fundamental concern being female energy, outdated magnificence requirements, and its love-hate relationships with magnificence total.
It begins because the 12 months’s 32 contestants sequester themselves within the pageant organizers’ distant property, “La Encantada.” It is a mansion combining the vibes of the homes in “Mexican Gothic” and “The Bachelor.” There, the facility imbalance is instantly clear. The “women,” as everybody retains calling them although they’re of their early twenties, must signal super-intense contracts, making a gift of their authorized rights as a precondition to taking part. The pageant organizers, headed by Ilse Salas’s Concepción within the a part of the madame, use these contracts as cudgels, selecting when and the way to implement them. Primarily, they’re instruments to get the “women” to characterize the pageant’s perfect of female attractiveness — no medicine, infants, or opinions. The pilot ends by revealing simply how hypocritical this complete system is. One of many stipulations of the contract is that the “women” haven’t got cosmetic surgery, however there is a secret working room hidden beneath La Encantada. And Concepción’s husband is the surgeon! He selects the procedures for the varied contestants and he or she will get them to agree as a part of their participation.
One thing comparable occurs round drug and alcohol use. Dolores (aka Miss Guerrero), performed by Bárbara López involves La Encantada with a severe substance abuse downside. Dolores has been abusing substance as a method to flee the compromising conditions she’s in, equivalent to brokering sexual favors with highly effective males to remain secure and get forward. When Concepción finds out, she agrees to maintain Dolores evenly dosed to cease a full withdrawal and a possible scandal. Not precisely the assistance a younger lady within the thrall of habit wants.
Ángeles of Oaxaca, performed by Coty Camacho, is lactating, and Concepción cannot have that both. This time, Concepción is cautious of showing racist as Ángeles is extra Indigenous-appearing than lots of the contestants (though nobody is Black Latina, so clearly there’s a race downside). Concepción has her assistant meet with Miss Oaxaca to stress her to cease breastfeeding. In the course of the assembly, Ángeles agrees however she’s not so simply intimidated. As a substitute of complying, she units up common, secret rendezvous together with her youngster to maintain her milk manufacturing up.
The competition is exploitative, which has lengthy been a feminist critique of magnificence pageants. However “Señorita 89” would not go away it at that. As a substitute, it offers the contestants company and humanity. For instance, Isabel of Yucatan, performed by Natasha Dupeyrón, pushes again on a trainer (Ximena Romo as Elena) who offers her “Miss Dalloway” to learn. Miss Yucatan has already learn it and rejects its thesis. “I additionally decide flowers and throw feasts, and I would like a wonderful home, youngsters, and a husband,” Dupeyrón says. “However you are flawed in the event you suppose meaning throwing my life away. As a result of I would like that, however I additionally wish to work. I desire a house, however I would like a spot on the earth too. And I do not suppose the 2 are mutually unique . . . I feel you are the one trapped in a jail, pondering a lady cannot be free and female on the identical time.”
The contestants are there not out of self-importance, however as a result of the pageant guarantees them a uncommon path to energy. It guarantees them the possibility to alter their lives — if not by garnering a direct fortune, then by assembly the highly effective and having affect with them. Within the second episode, Chihuahua’s Jocelyn, performed by Leidi Gutierrez, makes use of a press convention to garner consideration for her lacking teenage sister. She is aware of one thing unhealthy has occurred and with out her pushing, everybody will overlook about one lacking Chihuahua woman. And she or he retains pushing, utilizing her place as probably the most lovely to attempt to shield her sister.
The factor is, magnificence — and significantly the idealized variations of magnificence that pageants promote — is fraught. It’s bought like a path to girls’s energy. Research present that being enticing makes you extra more likely to get forward at work. Hell, even simply carrying make-up will make folks extra more likely to suppose you are competent at your job. However magnificence is a restricted path to energy. The identical examine that confirmed make-up may also help girls at work revealed it might additionally be a detrimental in the event you put on the flawed sort of make-up, an excessive amount of, too apparent, or too outdoors of the male gaze and what it deems perfect. And there is science on how folks suppose magnificence and intelligence relate — primarily that if a wonderful lady is in cost, many imagine she should not have gotten there on her skilled deserves.
“Señorita 89” is aware of audiences tune in to see lovely folks, and gives a lot to gaze upon. However it additionally interrogates our concepts of what it means to be the item of all that wanting. It reminds us of magnificence’s racialized nature, as Miss Oaxaca’s indigeneity takes middle stage repeatedly. It confronts our concepts about magnificence’s ties to intelligence, significantly with trainer Elena absolutely studying as a lot from her pupils as they’re from her. And it exhibits the methods skin-deep magnificence can perform as a betrayal, as Concepción exploits the ladies arising after her. Two episodes in, it is clear “Señorita 89” is a present with considerate questions on girls rooting their energy of their look and why the causes and penalties of “magnificence” are nonetheless value exploring.
“Señorita 89” premieres February 28 on Pantaya.