Nov. 8-10. Arts of Writing. Femicide, sex trafficking, violence, media, and Performance Art

This week we considered the ways in which artists such as screenwriters and performance artists represent femicide, sex trafficking, violence, and embodiment in media and Performance Art.  Their questions about gender, mysoginy, disparity, strength, weakness, and violence against the female body in television, film, and on areas of performance art such as body art and earth art guided our discussion.

On Monday, we discussed the works of Ana Mendieta and the matters that her arts of writing represent: self-mutilation, writing with blood, animal cruelty, self-burial, indigenous religious rituals and practices, and how these relate to health and healing.

On Wednesday, we devoted the whole class to holding a dialogue about how the Netflix phenomenon ¿Quién mató a Sara? / Who Killed Sara? represents Latinas, religion, nature (not so much, although I had my opinion about it and we did not have time to get to it), and especially, embodiment.  The screenwriter and creator of the series, José Ignacio “Chascas” Valenzuela, joined us for this fruitful discussion.

For this blogpost, please write your questions, comments, and/or critiques as you would like to pose them for Chascas to read them directly. As we did with Dr. Delgado, I will harvest these blogposts and, unless you instruct me NOT to share it with Chascas, I will make sure he gets them.

There is NO deadline for this blogpost. Make sure you post before the end of classes on December 6.

PS. Chascas was VERY impressed with your questions and comments, and would like to hear from ALL of you, if you wish to share. No pressure, though. But do post your thoughts here.


  1. Hi Chascas! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and life to come talk to us. It was a pleasure to have you and be able to pick apart your brain about Who Killed Sarah. My question for you is I remember one of the first things that struck me about you was that you said writing was your form of catharsis for things that you are unhappy about, and my question for you is has Who Killed Sarah done everything that you hoped it would? Did it alleviate your frustrations with societal issues? Did it start a larger conversation on embodiment and self harm? What do you feel like Who Killed Sarah did for you personally? Because I know for me it opened a conversation in my home about a multitude of different things such as gender, sexual orientation, and even self harm. Lastly, how do you hope Who Killed Sarah will continue the conversation on embodiment and how will it continue to influence how male and female characters are written?

  2. Hola Chascas (that is, unfortunately, the extent of my Spanish, jaja)! I was enraptured with your show and could not stop watching it until I realized I had reached the last episode. I am so interested in the idea of performance, embodiment, and storytelling, particularly the ways in which the actors in your show are narrating a fictional story through performing in different roles, though the stories they tell are extremely true for the Latina/o/x experience. I think that it’s really interesting how these actors portray such a fictional truth, as though through your script they bring to life the performance art aspects of performing. It’s really important for audiences to see how stories like those contained within “Who Killed Sara?” are true in their bases. I would be interested to see how discussions of lesbians within the show would differ from the portrayal of gay men, such as Chema, for lesbians are not afforded the privilege of being cisgender men. Also, how do you understand the differences of religious obligation between straight Latinos and queer Latinx people?

    1. I also have one other thing I want to question: the question of Marifer particularly bothered me because of her portrayal as the huntress, the online character she uses to give Alex the information he needs to solve the mystery. However, she does not have a physical presence as herself in the show, though other queer characters, like Chema, do. I found her character to be queer coded, intentionally or not, and it bothered me that she was hidden within her own sexuality and body. Though Chema is a man and therefore has male privilege, how do lesbianism and queer sexualities that lack the male aspect function in the show? Does it truly reflect Latinidad, or is it that lesbianism/queerness truly go overlooked from the point of a male author?

  3. Dear Chascas,

    Thank you so much for coming to our class and answering our questions! I greatly enjoyed learning about how you constructed the themes of Who Killed Sara? On a global scale based on your fears about the world. While watching both seasons of the show, I could definitely identify the themes of homophobia, the abuse of the elite, and feminism. As I reflect on the show, I notice that religion seems to be portrayed in an extreme way through Mariana cutting herself to appease God after she harms people for the benefit of her family. However, many people practice their religion and their faith has helped them achieve embodiment. Did you present Mariana’s character as an extreme intentionally to call attention to power, religion and hypocrisy? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

    Muchas gracias, and I’m super excited for the third season of Who Killed Sara!

  4. Hola Chascas! Thank you very much for carving out the time to speak with us, and to indulge in such a fruitful and productive discussion about Who Killed Sara? with us. I greatly appreciated, and resonated with your point about utilizing writing as a way of expressing your frustrations about certain societal issues, and thus, it morphing into a form of catharsis for you. I was wondering if you believe that Who Killed Sara? has had the type of social impact that you had hoped it would, and if you believe that it has sparked a larger conversation about embodiment, self-harm, and female empowerment among its audience? As an extension, I am curious if you believe that this series will inspire similar productions around the world, that focus on embodiment, sexual orientation, and gender expression, especially in historically repressive and oppressive countries, such as some in Latin America, as well as in Asia? What are you hoping for the lasting legacy of this show, and of you as a writer and creator of this masterpiece, to be? Lastly, I was wondering if you plan to delve deeper into some of the societal issues that have been illustrated in seasons 1 and 2 of the show in season 3 as well, or branch out to different societal issues?

    I also loved hearing your thoughts on your initial mindset and ponderings as you realized that you were writing Who Killed Sara? for a global audience, rather than a national or regional one, and thus, had to find a way of catering to, and being able to resonate with a global audience with differential experiences, beliefs, views, and thoughts. I certainly believe that the themes that you were striving to highlight in the show including homophobia, feminism, and exploitation by the rich and elite, came across in spades. I also found the illumination of religion being used as a means of justifying self-harm, and in some ways, provoking self-harm, in the series as Mariana cuts herself to assuage God as a means of trying to save and protect her family, to be inspired. Thank you, again, for your time, and your candor! I am very excited to watch season 3 of Who Killed Sara? soon!

  5. There is a lot to talk about with what Chascas presented in class. I really connected to the idea of portraying women as the multidimensional individuals they are. When he was speaking of the lack of a 50 year old female role model, I was inspired by this because I’ve had this conversation with my mom who is going to celebrate her 50th next year and is, to say the least, FREAKING OUT. The media lacks showing how this time period of a woman’s life can actually be the most freeing as you can try to disconnect from the social expectations put onto women. The concept sort of reminds me of the reality TV show “my unorthodox life” where a woman chose to leave her super-religious life and is excelling at this new stage of her life.
    I am also the worst with examining the details in shows and my mind was blown when Chascas started unraveling how each of the kids were defying norms. I had noticed how Rodolfo was the most emotional of the bunch, he just always seemed upset. When it was revealed he had a vasectomy, he really did remove himself from life the moment Sara died. I was interested how the heir to this huge empire was ‘allowed’ to marry a woman who already had a child. I would’ve thought there would’ve been more resistance at least from Mariana who considers herself very religious. How would a high status religious family would’ve reacted to Rodolfo coming together with Sofia? Was she allowed to come into the family because she gave herself to Cesar, who makes (or thought he made) all the decisions for the family?
    I had mentioned in our discussion, this was a hard show for me to watch because of the topics discussed. One of which was hearing Cesar talk because of his accent. I was reminded of people being considered the “highest” being by having the “motherland” accent. The accent in the Latino world can mean so much. On the surface, your accent shows where you are from. Under the surface, it is a way for people to put others in groups, displacing them.
    The concept of family was interesting to see in the show. Latino families are stereotypically known to be quite close despite having toxic features. I didn’t finish season 2 so I’m not sure where Chema and Lorenzo ended up with the conversation about moving to Atlanta. But, I think it was very interesting how Chema negotiated his responses and feelings with how his family responded to him. Was he willing to stay with his family despite his parents’ lack of acceptance? Why is this so reflective of struggles Latinos go through?

  6. Hello!

    First of all, thank you so much for coming to class! I really appreciated your energy and insight into the creative writing process.

    Do you plan on tackling issues of race or incorporating more characters of color? The show gestures towards the socioeconomic implications of White privilege through the Lazcano family, but it does not include a range of racialized perspectives. The narrative covers a lot of global issues like gendered violence and capitalism. Do you think these conversations would benefit from a more intersectional or womanist approach?

  7. Hola Chascas! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to sit down and talk with us. I’d like to say I really enjoyed our conversation. Congratulations on all of your achievements and successes and I wish you many more to come. You are such a genuine person and I appreciate that you are so humble and really use your work to tackle important issues. Your insight on not writing about things you like, but writing about the things that bother resonated a lot with me. I think writing can really be used as an outlet to solve problems whether within yourself, others, or global issues. Who Killed Sara was a wonderful show that I literally could not stop watching, each episode left me crazy to find out what happened next. While I watched, I saw so much symbolism and connection to the topics we were learning about in class of embodiment, violence, machismo, and so much more. However, it wasn’t until our discussion and with the helpful of your input that I was really able to understand the show on another level. I thought it was super interesting that you wrote the show during the Trump administration as your way to cope and used Cesar as a mirror for Trump. I would have never known that had you not said it and it shaped my understanding of the show. Thank you again for your time and I hope we can connect again after the third season.

  8. Hello Chascas, thank you so much for stopping by to speak with us and share your creative process! I am a huge fan of your show, “Who Killed Sara”, and I was amazed by how you were able to tackle such nuanced issues in such an entertaining format. I am curious about how you plan on incorporating nature into your upcoming season. Further, I believe that you did a phenomenal job depicting machismo and Spain-oriented white supremacist attitudes through the Lazcano family as many non-Latinos/as are only very rarely exposed to this facet of bigotry. Most shows which seek to tackle racism exclusively use English speaking whites whereas your depiction of a non-English white supremacist allows the reader to truly see the broader concept of Eurocentric ideology that has embedded itself so deeply within the cultures and religion of both the colonizers and the colonized. I am very interested in whether you plan on tackling the issues of race within Latinidad specifically. I would be intrigued if you were thinking about weaving in the black Latino experience into the backdrop of Spanish colonialism since we are mostly used to seeing this form of racism from an English/American perspective.

  9. ¡Hola Chascas! Muchas gracias por tomar el tiempo para hablar con nosotros. I watched Who Killed Sara? twice because I think it just has so many parts and ideas that one watch wasn’t enough. I feel like when I watched the show, though it was very thought provoking, I still didn’t make the connections that inspired you to write the show and characters so I’m glad that in our conversation you gave us an insight into what goes into putting together the ideas and inspirations. I wanted to talk about how you crafted Sara’s character. The fact that we don’t really know Sara and only slowly start getting clues on what went on in her head was clever since it keeps the show interesting and keeps watchers on out toes. Mental health is obviously a topic that is getting increasing attention especially after the pandemic and it kind of feels like with schizophrenia the show stereotypes the brain disorder in a harmful way since Sara, her father, and Marifer could be seen as problematic people. Do you think this was a tasteful way to portray the people with mental health issues? Were you using mental health as a tool or was there any intent to give the disorder some visibility at all? I also thought it was interesting how this mental disorder is a secret between the family which happens a lot in latinx families I think this was a nice touch since it is realistic. Again, thank you for being so down to earth and engaging our class. Best of luck with your future projects (can’t wait for season 3)!

  10. The zoom meeting with Chascas was incredibly interesting and I am grateful for the experience. I was not expecting for it to be based on life during the Trump administration, but after he said that it was easy to understand. I think it is interesting that he wrote about something the entire world had to endure. Those four years were a rather intense time for a lot of people, especially people of color. During the meeting a lot of my questions were answered, but I was also wondering about the significance of Chema’s relationship with Alex. Chema is viewed as a strong, independent character who is proud of who he has become. But, he is extremely vulnerable with Alex and even tries to kiss him in the present. Is it more than the simple fact that Chema did not have a healthy relationship with his father growing up, or did Chascas have more reasoning?

  11. Hello Chascas! I was so glad that you came to speak with our class, and I really appreciated you taking the time to do so.

    Honestly, you answered the main questions that I had about Who Killed Sara during class, but I would like to comment on how the script is written for audiences all over the world. Do you feel that as a writer and creator your authentic voice had to be diluted in any way in order to make the series more entertaining, drama filled, or relevant to audiences across the world? I feel like this often happens in one of two ways with media, television, and film: either the show completely excludes the actual population it aims to represent or it falls flat with the audiences it is trying to reach. As a young woman who is not a member of the Latin American community, I am curious to know whether Who Killed Sara? was a pretty good balance of both sides, or my positionality does not allow me to fully see either side of this discourse.

    Again, thank you so much for speaking with our class. I truly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next season of Who Killed Sara

    – Imani

  12. I really enjoyed hearing about the behind the scenes of producing such an amazing show as Who Killed Sara. I remember you said you used writing as a way to talk about things that bother you, and I just wanted to ask: How do you view writing about negative things as a positive experience? I guess it might be because I’ve never really enjoyed writing, but I can’t imagine enjoying writing about things that make me angry.

    More directly related to the show, I noticed most, if not all, of the women in the show were shown having sex, or at least being viewed as sexual objects. Latinas being sexualized in media is extremely common in media, and you mentioned how you wanted to break a lot of stereotypes with this show, so I wanted to ask was this intentional? Was showing women in these situations a way of allowing them to take control of their sexuality instead of it being simply for the pleasure of men?

    Thank you so much for speaking to us, and I look forward to watching the next season of Who Killed Sara!

  13. Hola Chascas! What a wonderful experience was hearing from you in class and learning the “backstage” process of writing and producing the show. One of the quotes that struck me the most was about writing in a way that would be understood by anyone in all continents and the great responsibility is to be presenting Mexico and forming people’s opinion on Mexico for people that don’t have a lot of contact or simply don’t know the country. It broke my heart to look back and think about how feminicide and violence against women in part of the “international language.” It is an international experience for women to be sexualized and objectified. After the fire of the Casino, I was wondering how sex trafficking is going to be portrayed in the series, especially because it is an issue that people see as “resolved” or as something very distant from them, and I think its important to call people’s attention. It is also an unresolved issue in the second season, we see the videos and the violence against those women, but there isn’t a clear outcome or a call to action that could be important for the narrative.
    Thank you so much for being so attentive, answering our questions and bringing to life this incredible series!
    Kind Regards,

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