Dirty Girls Social Club Update: conflicting accounts and opinions emerge regarding Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez’s allegations

By Arturo R. García

In an interview with Latina magazine, author Alisa Valdes-Rodríguez continued the theme of her holiday blog posts, saying she was misled in the deal to bring her debut book, The Dirty Girls Social Club, to television.

Rodríguez told the magazine that Ann Serrano López, to whom she sold the Dirty Girls developmental rights, had offered her “final approval over every script and final approval over every major change that they made.”

That account was contested by a representative for López’s production company, Encanto Entertainment quoted in Julio Varela’s blog:

As to Valdes-Rodriguez’s allegation that Lopez had “promised” to give her final approval of the scripts, well that is a rarity in Hollywood. In this particular case, Encanto stated no deal was ever established and Valdes-Rodriguez willingly signed off to no creative consultation.

A spokesperson for López told Latina she had “been advised not to comment on this.”

Later in the interview, though, Rodríguez let slip that she went into her deal with López without her own representation, which is curious considering the book had been through the development ringer on three previous occasions:

I was not represented by a TV or film agent—I was represented by a literary agent, who had never done a contract like this. The wording in the contract is “Alisa shall be available as a consultant on every episode.” But what I didn’t realize is that that doesn’t mean that they’re obligated to make me a consultant. It’s just that I’m obligated to be one if they need me. And they did that intentionally—they misled me intentionally.

Varela’s blog quotes from a commentary by writer/producer Nancy De Los Santos Reza on LatinHeat calling Rodríguez’s allegations over Christmas weekend “distressing”:

It is even more upsetting to see a Latina take aim at other Latinas in a public manner, seemingly breaking confidences, and initiating what looks like personal attacks. There are so few of us surviving in this challenging arena. Nothing can be gained by hurling grenades at each other. I’ve worked on a number of non-Latino projects, and have seen room-clearing creative differences in real time, but those heated discussions stayed in the room, and certainly were not touted by one of principals.

Reza, who has written for Latino-centric shows like Resurrection Blvd. and American Family, and served as associate producer on Selena, among her other credits, makes a thoughtful point. But in a situation like the one Rodríguez says she faced, where her characters’ ethnicities and attitudes had been altered to perhaps make them “sell better,” is it really fair to assume that a back-office conversation would have been more productive for Rodríguez than rallying a fanbase that would presumably already be interested in a Hollywood adaptation of her work? And possibly more importantly, can “old media” – television and movies – afford to keep alienating a work’s existing fanbase when it’s not the only game in town anymore?

Indeed, as more authors and creators use social media to promote, describe, and maybe even crowd-source for their projects – on her blog, Rodríguez is asking readers for input on a love interest for the protagonist in her next book – it might not be that long before the web becomes a more profitable home for projects that worry less about reaching “mainstream” audiences and more about extending a work’s themes into another arena.