The late 90s and early 00s gave us some of the best teen movies ever — I know everyone probably says this about the movies of their youth, but we can all agree on the fact that the era’s teen movies are nothing short of iconic. The über-girly aesthetic mixed in with some grunge were the perfect mix of naughty and nice to empower and inspire a whole generation of young women. They taught us how to be independent, outspoken, and confident young women.
I loved watching Cher Horowitz go through her virtual closet (I still dream about having one to pick out my clothes every day, tbh). I dreamed of being in a band and having the cute Aussie student crush on me, like Kat Stratford. I wanted to be like Torrance Shipman — the head cheerleader who owned a blue WV Beattle (actually, I wanted mine to be pink). And I thirsted after the Halloween parties that Cady, Regina, Gretchen, and Karen went to. These stories felt so familiar but so distant from my own experience at the same time.
Despite the deep love I have for the films of my youth, I can’t help but point out what was always painfully obvious to me: none of the main characters were like me or the women around me. They were all privileged white young women; not one Latina in sight and the occasional POC character was always stuck in a supporting role. The lack of diversity in the casting of main characters of teen films was always something that bothered me, but I didn’t realize just how much until recently. In a way, these movies made me feel like an outsider looking in – they felt like stories and adventures that could happen, they just didn’t happen to people like me.
This all changed when I saw Netflix’ Do Revenge, starring Brazilian-American Camila Mendes — finally, a Latina lead character in a teen movie! I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much when I first decided to watch Do Revenge, after all, Netflix’s teen movies are hit or miss – I never know what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I realized that Do Revenge is the perfect mix of everything my younger self had wanted in a teen movie. It gave us the impeccable outfits, the drama, the intrigue of high-school politics, the perfect amount of nods and references to all the teenage movies of my youth (Clueless, Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, Jawbreaker, Bring It On… and even a minor appearance from the queen of 90s-00s teen films herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar), and a complex Latina lead, who has some depth, personality, and an appealing backstory (as opposed to Hollywood’s traditional way of depicting Latina women as characters who’s only qualities are being a bombshell with a funny accent).
Do Revenge is, quite literally, a dream come true for me. After years of having to watch from the sidelines when it came to teen movie leads and having women like me be cast in supporting roles (if at all), we finally have a well-rounded representation of what modern Latinas are. We get to see the good, the bad and the in-between of Drea Torres’ character and her development. We are offered a glimpse into the rollercoaster of emotions any regular Latina teenager has: we get to see her feel shame, we feel her heartbreak, we see her (very justified) anger, her sadness, her happiness, her desire to fit in and be loved… She’s a Queen B, but she’s also just a human being who just so happens to be Latina (it was honestly refreshing to get a story that features a Latina woman but doesn’t focus solely on the hardships that accompany her Latinidad).
In my opinion, Do Revenge is a much-needed admission of guilt from Hollywood and the film industry. And while, yes, one film is not enough to redeem an entire history of an industry that has consistently denied Latinas their rightful Main Character Moment, it’s definitely a (very colorful and stylish) step in the right direction.