Content material warning: The next story comprises 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. Full of medicine, intercourse, and violence, the present has loads of drama, with its essential concern being female energy, outdated magnificence requirements, and its love-hate relationships with magnificence general.
It begins because the yr’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 though they’re of their early twenties, need to signal super-intense contracts, freely giving their authorized rights as a precondition to collaborating. The pageant organizers, headed by Ilse Salas’s Concepción within the a part of the madame, use these contracts as cudgels, selecting when and find out how to implement them. Primarily, they’re instruments to get the “women” to signify the pageant’s supreme of female attractiveness — no medicine, infants, or opinions. The pilot ends by revealing simply how hypocritical this entire system is. One of many stipulations of the contract is that the “women” do not have 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 she or he 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 critical substance abuse downside. Dolores has been abusing substance as a way to flee the compromising conditions she’s in, corresponding to brokering sexual favors with highly effective males to remain protected and get forward. When Concepción finds out, she agrees to maintain Dolores frivolously 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 strain her to cease breastfeeding. In the course of the assembly, Ángeles agrees however she’s not so simply intimidated. As an alternative of complying, she units up common, secret rendezvous along with her little one 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 an alternative, 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 choose flowers and throw feasts, and I need a lovely home, kids, and a husband,” Dupeyrón says. “However you are mistaken should you assume which means throwing my life away. As a result of I need that, however I additionally need to work. I need a house, however I need a spot on the planet too. And I do not assume the 2 are mutually unique . . . I believe you are the one trapped in a jail, pondering a lady cannot be free and female on the similar 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 prospect 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 dangerous has occurred and with out her pushing, everybody will overlook about one lacking Chihuahua lady. And she or he retains pushing, utilizing her place as some of the stunning to attempt to defend her sister.
The factor is, magnificence — and notably the idealized variations of magnificence that pageants promote — is fraught. It’s bought like a path to ladies’s energy. Research present that being engaging makes you extra more likely to get forward at work. Hell, even simply carrying make-up will make individuals extra more likely to assume you are competent at your job. However magnificence is a restricted path to energy. The identical examine that confirmed make-up can assist ladies at work revealed it could actually additionally be a unfavourable should you put on the mistaken form of make-up, an excessive amount of, too apparent, or too outdoors of the male gaze and what it deems supreme. And there is science on how individuals assume magnificence and intelligence relate — primarily that if a lovely lady is in cost, many consider she should not have gotten there on her skilled deserves.
“Señorita 89” is aware of audiences tune in to see stunning individuals, and supplies lots to gaze upon. However it additionally interrogates our concepts of what it means to be the thing of all that trying. 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, notably with trainer Elena certainly 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 developing after her. Two episodes in, it is clear “Señorita 89” is a present with considerate questions on ladies 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.