Friday, October 18, 2013

Topic: Representation of Latinas in Film/Television

According to Hollywood films and television shows, Latinas are hyper-sexual, “spicy”, and curvaceous. There aren't that many Latinas role to begin with and the few that are portrayed usually come with the stereotype. While some Latinas may chose to describe themselves with those adjectives, it eliminates the notion of us being a person when its the only media roles available. Instead it explicitly makes Latinas sex objects and not only limits the roles for Latina actresses, but effects how Latinas are seen in society. The mainstream representation of Latinas are so obscure from reality that there is also the issue of almost completely excluding Afrolatina roles. In Hollywood, Latinos are almost always light or olive skinned and black Latinos are just non existent. Actress Gina Torres, an Afrolatina, has spoken about her experience in Hollywood saying "When I became an actress I quickly realize that the world liked their latinos to look Italian. Not like me. So I wasn’t going up for Latina parts. I was going up for African American parts. Regardless of the fact that I spoke the language better and understood the culture better, those [stereotypical latina] weren’t the parts that I could take seriously. Suddenly you have to explain why I look how I look. And then it gets complicated. And nobody wants complicated.”

When Latinas are misrepresented in the media it creates an unfair and unrealistic expectation from Latinas. We are expected to be loud and always “sexually on” at any given moment. Latinas are not only misrepresented but have a skewed view of who they are and what they should be. Unlike white actresses, Latinas aren't usually offered the opportunity to portray different roles. Latinas aren't seen as quirky to have a show like New Girl or enough to be included in “normal real girl” shows like Girls.

For my final project I would like to create a video where different Latinas are interviewed and are able to discuss their views/personal stories of their representation in film and television. This idea is inspired by HBO's segment Habla Women, where women share their stories from a Latina perspective, and Bell Hooks' The Oppositional Gaze where she examines how black female spectators view their representation in the media. My project time line isn't certain yet as my schedule has been unusually erratic lately, but I would like to start filming the interviews late this month.

Habla Women promo poster: 

Afrolatinos in Hollywood


  1. After I watched "Drive," I Google and IMDb searched the movie. Apparently it's based on a book by James Sallis. In the book, the character of Irina is Latina; in the movie, the director took the creative liberty of changing her to "Irene" and casting a white English actress, Carey Mulligan. According to the A.V. Club article with the director, Nicolas Winding Refn (,61788/), "And of course, the biggest strange situation was Carey Mulligan, because in the book, [Irene] is Latina, because [The Driver] moves into a Latino area." So, Refn consciously whitewashed the character, all because "The minute [Carey Mulligan] came through that door, it was just me and my assistant in the house, I was like, 'You’re it.' There was something for me that said, 'I want to protect her.' And that is what The Driver does." Refn reached the conclusion that Mulligan could be "protected" despite being "...from England and she was blonde and completely the opposite person that I was searching for" and before watching any of her other performances. He cast her based on an existing narrative about protecting white womanhood, and what he heard about her from one of his producers.

    This is really striking to me because I don't often see representations of Latinas, except as background characters in stereotypical roles, like you wrote. Here was a great opportunity for a Latina role in a major feature film and it was whitewashed. Perhaps this example can help in your project.

  2. I think your topic is very interesting. There are definitely hard felt latina stereotypes that keep being perpetuated in tv and in movies. Rebecca's point of the movie Drive's character or Irina transformed into a white Irene is significant and so relevant. You cannot watch anything with a Latina in it without seeing one or more of the stereotypes you mentioned in play. Do we remember Salma Hayek's sexy Mexican character from Fools Rush In, JLo's maid character in Maid in Manhattan or Eva Longoria in Desperate Housewives? And more recently, the maids of Devious Maids or Sofia Vergara as Gloria in Modern Family? Still, I think the point of Latinas only looking like Italians is a strong one and should be given more focus. Where are our Afro-Latinas and also where are our lighter Latinas? My friend who is born in Uruguay and looks "white" is constantly offended when other Latinas ask her to defend her Latinidad. Likewise, my Dominican friend is always asking why people assume she is black. Also, I thought it might be interesting to integrate the concept of language and the way that it serves the hierarchy. (When Sofia Vergara speaks in Spanish in modern family, it is merely used to show how crazy she is, she's yelling again but what she says doesn't matter). For this, see Gloria Anzaldua's book Borderlands, especially "How to Tame a Wild Tongue"

    Here are other things I found: