Crossing over can refer to crossing the physical border into the United States, and how this is negotiated differently by different people, and also to the notion of crossing over in music (from the purely-Latino market to the mainstream market), as many artists do. We wanted to dig into what the music of crossing over is, and what it entails. Something we wanted to dig into was the way some mainstream crossover music ignores the struggles of crossing over (in the other sense of the term)–music that assimilates–versus music that acknowledges it–music of revolution.
The opening lyrics of “Jenny from the Block” are: “Children growin’, women producing/ men go work and some go stealin’/ Everyone’s got to make a living.” Opening this song(s) with this verse acknowledges struggle of crossing over and of migrant workers. It is a presencing of struggle.
“Jenny from the Block” is a song that lives in place. The message of the song, as I interpret it, is that Jenny intends to maintain grounded and rooted in the Bronx as she crosses over, walking red carpets and garnering worldwide fame. Jennifer Lopez sings to reclaim her roots, proving that she’s still Jenny from the block, despite the rocks (jewelry) she wears.
Apart from music, another form of presencing is J. Lo’s butt. “As Bakhtin argued in his case study on Rabelais, showing ass is also a sign of getting even. ‘The rump is the ‘back of the face’…Constantly speaking about big rumps in the American media is also a way to ‘lower’ the discussion away from the self-importance graned to celebritydo(o)m and the upper stratum of breasts, straight noses, blonde hair, and [white] faces” (Negron-Muntaner 187). White mainstream culture has a strange fetish for the Other, and particularly for the Other’s body. Black bodies, and Latina bodies too, are up for consumption by the white gaze. After playing Selena in a biopic film, conversation began about the Puerto Rican actress’s rump, and it continued on. The only butt’s I can think of being fetishized and photographed in pop culture belong to non-white actresses. This speaks to America’s parading of colored bodies – a sexualized objectification.
Like Carmen Miranda before her, Jennifer Lopez has been able to manipulate her public image so that she isn’t merely object of desire and spectatorship, but it is troubling that this pattern is so obvious and repeated. “Carmen Miranda's star matrix reinforces typical negative stereotypes of ethnic women by enacting a nurturing earth-mother clichir. By taking as her costume enormous flowers, fruits, and vegetables intermixed with exaggerated traditional Brazilian dress becomes the image of an overflowing cornucopia of South American products, ripe, ready, and eager for picking by North American consumers...these exaggerated qualities contribute to negative conceptions both of "foreign" Others and of women. On the other hand, Miranda's appeal resides in the parody of these stereotypes. Because Miranda so exaggerates signifiers of ethnicity and femininity, her star text suggests that they exist only as surface, that they do not refer, and in this way Miranda can become sheer spectacle” (Roberts 14-5).