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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Selena is a 1997 movie based on the life of the popular singer who was killed in 1995. Kids may ask questions about the events surrounding her murder. It isn't shown, but one character does hold a gun to her own head. A character says "s--t" and "damn" in frustration. Non-Latinos are referred to as "gringos" in a few scenes. Selena wears some skimpy tops on stage. There's a barroom brawl and a near stage collapse. For aspiring musicians, this movie shows the amount of work, dedication, and perseverance it took Selena and her family to find success. This movie also shows the sexist and racist attitudes Selena had to transcend as a Mexican-American female lead vocalist.
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What's the story?
SELENA, a touching, effervescent, and ultimately tragic biopic, tells the story of the Grammy-winning Tejano singer Selena, who was killed at age 23 by her fan-club president. Jennifer Lopez shines in the title role of the movie, which chronicles the performer's rise to stardom and explores her relationship with her tight-knit family, including a domineering yet loving father, Abraham (Edward James Olmos). The story begins with one of Selena's last performances, a concert that drew record-breaking crowds, then flashes back to Selena's childhood in Texas. Her father, a former singer, recognizes Selena's natural singing abilities and organizes her and her siblings into a musical group. The kids perform at festivals, and Selena slowly develops a following. By the time she's a young adult, she's a superstar in the Tejano music scene. Abraham is proud of Selena but can't accept that she's growing up. This leads to various conflicts, which boil over when Selena falls in love with the band's lead guitarist, Chris (Jon Seda). Just when Selena seems content and on the brink of mainstream pop success, her life is tragically cut short. Selena's death is depicted mostly through TV-news-style reports, although there's a scene of her killer (Lupe Ontiveros) holding a gun to her own head.
Is it any good?
Although it occasionally feels somewhat sugar-coated, this film remains a very watchable, entertaining, and moving tribute to a beloved performer. Selena also includes portrayals of Mexican-American culture and Hispanic families. A great pick for families looking to learn more about the Tejano superstar.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Selena and her father. Why is he so domineering? Does he deny his kids a childhood by forcing them to perform in a musical group? Or is he urging them, especially Selena, to reach their potential?
Selena's father is shown lamenting the difficulties of Mexican-Americans in having to prove that they're as American as any other American but also as Mexican as any other Mexican. Do you think this accurately reflects not only what Selena had to overcome as a performer but also the difficulties of other Mexican-Americans?
How accurately do you think this movie reflects the struggles and successes of a touring band trying to make it in the music industry?
Thousands of young girls idolized Selena. How does the movie depict her as a role model through her personality, her ventures in music and fashion, and her ability to succeed despite ethnic and gender challenges? How does she demonstrate perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?
Kids might have questions about Tejano music, a Tex-Mex genre that blends elements of pop, country, Mexican polka, and other styles. Where could you find more information on this topic?
- In theaters: March 21, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2007
- Cast: Constance Marie, Edward James Olmos, Jennifer Lopez
- Director: Gregory Nava
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and thematic elements
- Last updated: December 17, 2020
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