Class, Politics, Y Tu Mamá También
The voice-over interruptions which occur throughout Y Tu Mamá También seem out of place when they are not informing us about the characters. Comments about the poor, or the well-connected, or about Mexican politics, appear to be unrelated to the primary story about Luisa, Julio and Tenoch. But the interplay between these three characters, as wonderful of a story as it is on the surface, also reveals truths about Mexicoís political landscape, ultimately coming to the pessimistic conclusion that Mexico does not have the will to transform their government from the third-world politics of the rich and corrupt to a first-world system like those found in Europe and the United States.
Although Tenoch and Julio represent two different classes, the privileged class and the working class, they share the one central trait of the Mexican political system as presented in the film: selfishness. For example, their clubís most important rule is to masturbate as much as possible, and rules which involve altruistic behavior, such as not bedding down with other club memberís girlfriends, are regularly broken in the same way the ruling elite of Mexico, such as Tenochís father, break rules for selfish reasons. As they travel through Mexico, it is startling the way they ignore the plight of the poor and the injustice of the forced stops along the way. In the same way Tenoch looks down on Julio (wickedly revealed in the way he raises the toilet lid with his foot), both boys look down on the poor, and the social issues raised by those fighting for change through demonstrations, such as Julioís sister, are ignored by these two self-indulgent youths, who, instead, complain about how the demonstrations delay traffic.
Ironically, for two best friends, there is an undercurrent of distrust, and even dislike, in their relationship. They are highly competitive, constantly playing a game of one-upmanship, not only in the normal ways boys do, but in hurtful ways as well. The low point in this behavior is the series of revelations they force on each other about their sexual misconduct. At this point the insults which were only hinted at before (in behaviors like the aforementioned toilet lid lifting) come to the fore, and they now hurl names at each other to truly insult and hurt. The truth of their sexual claims isnít whatís important Ė and in fact they are far less experienced sexually then the image they project; whatís important is the effect their words have.
It is significant that this final, nasty, level of competitiveness begins both when their car breaks down (the car stands in for Mexico) and when their relationship with Luisa becomes sexual (a flirtation with a European-style government). The first is an illustration of a get-what-you-can-and-damn-everyone-else kind of attitude, because, in this mode, when thereís nothing left to grab, you can still hurt the other guy. In the second case, what the boys are demonstrating is how these groups they represent, the working class and the rich, jockey for power and position whenever the possibility for real political change arises. Ultimately they are not interested in change because of the long term effects it promises, but rather they see change only as an opportunity for immediate material gains (here sexual) and bragging rights. The irony of all their sexual bragging is that neither is very experienced, just as, in the grand scheme of things, everyone in Mexico is fighting over a rather small pot. And itís not by chance that both Tenoch and Julio are pretty bad at it.
Jano, on the other hand, appears to be different from the boys. He is educated, well traveled and married, all things they are not. But heís a mamaís boy (mama = Mexico), and his confession about his infidelity is ultimately self-centered (itís about how badly he feels), and just as incomplete as Julioís and Tenochís initial confessions are. The failure of his relationship with Luisa is the failure of his generationís "relationship" to good government, the failure to fix Mexicoís corrupt political system. This is why Luisa is working on boys.
When Luisa takes charge shortly after the big blow-up between the Julio and Tenoch, notice that most of the rules she imposes force her companions to cooperate, stop arguing, keep their hands off her, and to do what she says. The film suggests that this need to get along and subjugate oneself to the idea of good government, to keep your hands off of the "goods," and avoid corruption and kickbacks, lies at the heart of Mexicoís problem. Earlier in the trip, the boys had gone on and on about their club and its rules, and they attempt to convince Luisa of the benefits of their system (which equals their political system). Now Luisa sets the rules. If only these macho boys can allow themselves to be ruled by a woman (the idea of good government), everything could be alright, and they will really get to Heavenís Mouth.
The boys donít believe in Heavenís Mouth; to them itís existence is just a ploy to get a shot at sex. But Luisa does believe in it, and Heavenís Mouth becomes a symbol of this European, or first world, kind of government working in Mexico. In their short time at Heavenís Mouth, all parties get along. Luisa seduces them both now, gets these two boys (these two classes) into bed together (here this political expression is made literal), in an attempt to seal the deal. But in the morning, as soon as they see the other, Tenoch and Julio turn away and quickly avoid each other. They donít want to be in bed together, and are, in fact, nothing short of ashamed to find themselves touching in bed. Their inability to overcome their macho hang-ups is equated with the kind of machismo which results in Mexicoís political problems. Their relationship is over.
I donít think itís a coincidence that between their visit to Heavenís Mouth and the seduction scene, they return to their tent and find everything has been fouled by runaway pigs. The minute their backs are turned, and theyíre focused on political change, a peasantís pigs come and take over. The great fear is that if the working class and the rich give up some political power and create a true representative democracy, the poor will have clout; they have the numbers (the way the pigs outnumber the boys), and even though they are ignored much of time by Julio and Tenoch, and by the people the represent, everyone is acutely aware they are there, like a sleeping giant.
In the end, we find out that all of this was a desperate ploy on Luisaís part (and what she stands for), because all along she knew she was dying, and with her dies a chance at change and reform for this generation. Despite the historic change of government in Mexico, things will continue as they have.
What is most remarkable about this film is the way the layers interact. The story of Julio, Tenoch and Luisa is a beautiful, moving tale about friendship and love and death, and the fact that it meshes with an underlying lesson about politics and class just makes it richer.