A push for the movie and film industry to be more inclusive has prompted a new age of racial diversity in Hollywood. Films are celebrated for having a diverse cast, and many minority actors have risen to stardom.
However, even with this push, many actors of color are limited to playing stereotypical caricatures of their race. The U.S. film industry has committed this offense against Latina women time and time again.
Latina and Hispanic women have three options for being cast in movies: the fiery, sexy hothead, the intimidating but family-oriented abuela and the timid and dimwitted house servant. All these characters most likely have heavy accents or do not speak English at all.
As Latina Media Co. put it, “We are constantly fighting to get representation on the silver screen, despite being 62.1 million strong in the U.S. When we are in films, our roles often perpetuate long-held Latinx stereotypes, such as women only being maids, men only being criminals and everyone not knowing how to speak English or speaking with heavy accents. Movies don’t get how varied we are as a people, don’t show the multifaceted Latinx experience.”
This is not a new phenomenon, but one that is still shockingly taking place. Although inexcusable, older films and series had more leeway when it came to incorrectly portraying different identities. However, these offensive tropes are still rampant in modern-day Hollywood.
One of the most beloved characters in the sitcom “Modern Family,” Gloria Prichett, fits this bill perfectly. Played by Sofia Vergara, the character is extremely loud, brash and wildly sexy. Her heavy accent is often made fun of and nobody wants to get on her bad side.
Furthermore, she often alludes to her “village” and the trials she faced there. Although the audience knows she is from Colombia, she never says where exactly and always speaks of the primitive conditions and dangerous threats. Although very Catholic, her character has a lust for violence and pain.
All these qualities are stereotypical for Latina women. The concept of a fiery beauty from poor conditions is a trope that reflects the white savior mentality and the idea that exotic beauty is desired and even fetishized.
Regarding the abuela trope, even animated movies are not immune. Pixar’s “Coco” and Disney’s “Encanto” both feature a family matriarch who is equal parts family-oriented and feared. They run the entire family and demand respect no matter what. They can usually be found with a sandal ready to throw at a misbehaving family member.
The final trope is perhaps the most damaging. Referred to as “la doméstica” or “la tonta,” the Latina housekeeper is ever-prevalent. She is usually older, speaks no English and is mostly clueless. She lacks a formal education, and the audience often does not even realize she is there. Aside from a crack from her employer, she is in the background. Many movies and TV shows include this character, including “Clueless,” “The Goonies” and “The Maid in Manhattan.”
In addition to misrepresenting an entire community, the most damaging part about these stereotypical tropes in media is forcing ethnic actors to play these roles. There are very few options for Latino actors, and the ones that do exist are misrepresentations. This reinforces the idea that minorities in the U.S. must conform to what society deems acceptable. Casting diverse actors to play stereotypical roles is not enough if the movie industry truly hopes to be more inclusive and accepting.
Alyssa Cruz is a junior studying journalism and Spanish at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Alyssa by tweeting her at @alyssadanccruz.