College of Liberal Arts
Modern Languages and Literatures Department
BA in Modern Languages and Literatures
Karen Muñoz Christian
I started researching possible senior project options with the idea in mind of writing a scholarly paper about the films of Pedro Almodóvar. When I looked at all that had been written about him already, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. It seemed that everything that could possibly be said about Almodóvar had already been said, and what could I possibly have to add? Then I found Sze-man Lam's Master of Arts thesis that she wrote in 2004 at the University of Hong Kong. As I read it, I thought, “This is the paper that I wanted to write!” I had all but given up on the idea of doing my senior project on Almodóvar, and then it occured to me that this paper, which I thought so brilliant, was only available in English. Since it is about a Spanish director who makes Spanish-language films, why not translate it into Spanish? I had already considered doing an English-to-Spanish translation as a possible project, so this seemed a brilliant way to combine these two options and do a project that had, as it were, “the best of both worlds.”
Lam argues that Almodóvar's films, with their socially marginalized characters that include gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transsexuals, pose a challenge to and call into question the binary model of gender that is considered the socially enforced norm, as well as Judith Butler's concept of compulsory heterosexuality. She focuses in particular on his 1999 film All About My Mother. She draws upon the work of literary theorists, philosophers, and other thinkers, such as Butler, Foucault, Bakhtin, Freud, and Derrida to support her arguments. The paper also explores how Almodóvar's films are to a large extent a product of the Franco era, in that his challenge to the binary gender model and compulsory heterosexuality are a reaction against the repressive gender conservatism of the Franco régime. Lam concludes her thesis by making the case for a world free from the repressive notion of a “true sex”. “If sex and gender are merely an act as suggested by Butler in Gender Trouble,” she writes, “are we not free to throw away the script and play whatever roles in the endless course of resignification and reconfiguration?” This is exactly the message that I have taken away from Almodóvar's films, and I strongly believe that it is a message that deserves to reaffirmed in Almodóvar's own language just as much as it does in English.
It is my hope that this project will demonstrate the high degree of proficiency that I have acquired in Spanish since beginning at Cal Poly in Winter of 2008.