How Hollywood Is Fucking Up The Dirty Girls Social Club

Illustration for article titled How Hollywood Is Fucking Up emThe Dirty Girls Social Club/em

Over a year ago, author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez optioned the TV rights to her bestselling novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club. Christmas eve, Valdes-Rodriguez called the TV project racist on her blog. For Christmas she got a cease and desist letter.


Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez sold the rights to her book to Ann Lopez, the soon-to-be-ex-wife of comedian George Lopez. She was not asked to work on the TV show version of the story; Lopez put a writer named Luisa Leschin in charge of the story. When Valdes-Rodriguez got her hands on a script, she was incensed. A character with a good job had become unemployed. The same character, who previously had a fiancé, was now screwing strangers in airport bathrooms. A Mexican-American character whose family has been in New Mexico for centuries is suddenly a Central American immigrant. A black character is no longer a lesbian and possibly no longer black; a lightskinned black character whose mom is Puerto Rican and dad is Dominican is changed into an "African-American" who is described as "a big girl wearing a flowing muumuu…" In an opening scene, she is "enjoying a heavy make out session. She rolls over revealing her pint-size boyfriend, Juan, inside her muumuu." Valdes-Rodriguez found all of this sickening, and became incensed, writing:

I want any DIRTY GIRLS show that ever gets made to SUCCEED and NOT PERPETUATE HARMFUL STEREOTYPES… I'd rather no show get made than to have my name attached to Luisa's bastardizations… She killed off all the black folks in my story.


That was December 23th. After that, Valdes-Rodriguez promptly received a cease and desist letter, "demanding that I stop blogging and Facebooking (but, oddly, no demand to stop Tweeting) about Luisa Leschin, Lynnette Ramirez and Ann Lopez destroying my novel in their racist and sexist bastardization – er, 'adaptation' – of it."

But Valdes-Rodriguez did not back off, and has since posted more angry missives as well as her own version of the Dirty Girls Social Club opening sequence.

Today, Valdes-Rodriguez found out that her agent is no longer interested in representing her. Valdes-Rodriguez had been working on a young adult trilogy set to launch next year, but is now feeling the Hollywood backlash. For what? For complaining that Ann Lopez and Luisa Leschin "took a story about six college-educated, professional Latinas in Boston and turned it into a story about four Latina whores in San Francisco, their white friend who is being abused by her 'hot blooded Cuban' husband, and their black friend who is fat-n-sassy."

What Valdes-Rodriguez wants — to "stop putting Latina whores on TV, [and see] some realistic, likable Hispanic women for once" — is not only a perfectly reasonable request but potentially a game-changer in terms of how Latina women are portrayed on TV. It's sad that her characters are being written sluttier, whiter and more stereotypical. If anything good has come out of the debacle, it's that Valdes-Rodriguez has a new passion for the project. She writes, "I have become motivated to write my own pilot script of the show, just in case the rights ever come back to me."


Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez [Official Site]

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I'm not sure how I feel about this. The changes sound dreadful, and I understand the author feeling that her work has been butchered and being frustrated that her (presumably) nuanced characters have been turned into stereotypes and caricatures. But...

1) She sold the rights and apparently retained no control in the contract - this was the risk she ran, presumably while being well compensated in return. Unless she's really naive and unclear on how Hollywood works, she might've expected that the producers would make changes that she wasn't going to like. Maybe I can see being particularly disgusted that a Latina woman (Ms. Lopez) made changes the author considers racist, but other than that, she really should've known better.

2) We haven't seen the finished product. Again, it admittedly sounds like crap, but at this point no one really knows if it'll be offensive or awesome or somewhere in between. Speaking for myself, I don't even know if the books are all that - I haven't read them.

3) I'm kinda turned off by her obsession with the characters being "whores" - does she mean like, literally? The story now has four prostitutes in it? Or just that she disapproves of the way their sexuality is portrayed in the script? 'Cause if it's the latter, she might want to think of a less inflammatory word. When you're addressing other people's prejudices, it's best not to pop out with your own.