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“Dressed to Kill”: The Danger of Narrative

Depending on whom you ask, Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill is either a brilliant reworking of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) or a cheap style-over-substance rip-off. From IMDb message board shouting matches to painstakingly nuanced scholarly reappraisals, the debate (as part of a larger one regarding De Palma’s body of Hitchcockian films) survives in one form or another 35 years later. Yet what interests me, having viewed Dressed to Kill for the first time only recently, is the relative (not total) and conspicuous silence surrounding what should be a more important cinematic appropriation: the film’s representation of transgender identity.

The Ideal Screen Type

by Gina Balibrera

In 1928, Hollywood film studio artists drew “the ideal screen type.” An amalgamation of the famous disembodied parts of Hollywood stars, the ideal screen type was doe-eyed and fair, holding her willowy arms at a coy akimbo. Beside the artists’ illustration of the composite ideal appeared the remarkable photographic image of the composite ideal’s real-life double: silent film star Anita Page. Born Anita Pomares, in Flushing, Queens, Salvadoran-American silent film star Anita Page possessed a beauty that was uncannily familiar: the eyes of Mary Pickford, the smooth white arms of Clara Bow, and the wasp waist of Bebe Daniels. Had the camera trained its lens more closely upon Anita’s exquisite nose, this shot would have recorded her beautifully-full Latina nose as well.

Of Necessary Mangoes: Color Me Weird

by Gina Balibrera

Christy Turlington, 1990s supermodel and Salvadoran-American, may or may not be my prima. The connection has never been confirmed, and I’m not trying to say I’m as fly as Christy, but her mother’s maiden name, “Parker,” is an apellido shared by some of the members of my family in El Salvador, and she grew up near San Francisco, where I grew up, so it’s not inconceivable to imagine that some of her family came over to the US around the same time mine did, maybe even on the same boat. El Salvador is a small enough place that finding unknown relatives can be as easy as flipping through the phone book.