Roma, and the Elephant in the Room

Is the film a heart-wrenching, nostalgic masterpiece? Nostalgic for the boy who grew up to be film director Alfonso Cuarón, whose life was so brilliantly recreated. Nostalgic for those of us who had mother substitutes hired by our middle class parents. A technical masterpiece, yes, and a damning sociological portrayal of the subtle class system based on race. But the Roma film that everyone’s talking about doesn’t seem to have anyone talking about the parallel abandonment experienced by the two female leads.

Male abandonment of women is an elephant in the room of Roma. In an interview, Director Alfonso Cuarón describes the character Fermin’s nakedness in one scene as a kind of vulnerability. Well, I think women viewers immediately grasp how violence and sexual domination were, for this character, woven of the same cloth. I hazard a guess that most women may have preferred a much shorter martial arts scene, when Fermin jiggled his junk just before sex, though it served as a surmise that this man would likely abandon Cleo, just as the middle-class doctor figure would leave his spouse and children, wafting off into the wild blue with nary a whiff of apology, explanation or financial support for his children.

In the film, the right of the male characters to eschew responsibility is as taken for granted as the insidious racism of the class system that makes Cleo both a slave and family member. In such a documentary-style film, judgement is, rightly, left up to the viewer. The public has recognized and commented widely on the portrayal of the class system in the film, but so far, has been silent on portrayal of misogyny. It is not invisible, any more than the proverbial elephant in the room about which a social agreement has been made to pretend it does not exist.

Naming has power. Recognizing and naming how women are treated has to precede a shift in the power system called patriarchy. A review in my local English newspaper here in Mexico makes an unsuccessful stab at naming when the reviewer says,  “..both (female leads)are dealt a similar misfortune and are left having to fend for themselves.” But this  stop-short view of the gender dynamics in the film excuses, buffers, muddles, disguises, avoids and hides the cause of their “misfortune”.

Go view this film that paints more than one era. See what you notice. And notice what you don’t see.

And here’s a petition you can sign for domestic workers in the US.…/sign-to-support-the-domestic…

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