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Latina Portrayal in Hollywood

While Latinas are constantly growing in success and prominence in the world, their portrayal in Hollywood still tends to be stereotypical. The characters Latinas are asked to play lack depth, and are restricted to being either funny, sexy, or unintelligent. Before you continue, take this poll to assess what comes to your mind when you think of a Latina character. (Answer honestly, even if you feel your answers contribute to a stereotype!)

POLL

Answer Quickly! When you imagine the first Latina TV/Movie character that comes to mind, what characteristics do you associate her with?

Short hair
Long hair
Skinny
Curvy
Light hair
Dark hair
Tall
Short
Loud
Smart
Pretty
Successful
Friendly
Rich
Married
Shy
Religious

life

Now that you’ve seen the results of what Hollywood has embedded into people’s minds as a “Latina” woman, below are four “case studies” between real Latina women and those portrayed in television shows and movies. Regardless of the actresses’ real life success, these comparisons depict just how untrue and unjust characters Latina women are expected to play.

Lifetime Television Show, Devious Maids

Executive producer Eva Longoria says that Devious Maids debunks stereotypes of Latinas by showing that they are more than “just maids.” However, they still play maids, and therefore the show reinforces an overused stereotype of Latinas constantly serving others above them. Similarly to Gloria Pritchett, mentioned above, the woman on the show are over-sexualized, scandalous, and subservient, and their lives outside of their jobs consist of affairs with rich white men, and constant gossip. This represents a major setback for Latinas or anyone else who might watch the show, as it enforces the shallow description Latinas are frequently associated with.

 

Rosalinda Gonzalez

Rosalinda Gonzalez is a Mexican woman, who has been an educator for forty-five years. She began her career as an English teacher, then worked as a high school counselor, assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent. More recently, she has worked for the last fifteen years as an executive officer of a charter school district and oversees the academic programs of over seventy five schools across the United States.

I asked her how she felt about the representation of Latinas in Hollywood. Here’s a video of her answer. (Apologies for the poor video quality!)

As you can hear, Mrs. Gonzalez touches on the fact that Latinas have so much more personality, positive attributes, and history, that should not be eclipsed by a nice body or a stereotypical occupation.

Gloria Pritchett from ABC’s Modern Family

Played by Sofia Vergara

Gloria Pritchett is a “fiesty Colombian” who highlights several Latina stereotypes and contributes to the suggestion that a Latina’s most notable attributes are her exotic “hotness” and aggressiveness. Firstly, Gloria is married to a much older and successful white man. Her accent is an incredibly prominent aspect of her character, and is an object of constant ridicule from other characters in the show. Besides her extremely thick accent, Gloria is known for being loud, moody, and constantly wearing tight clothing showing off her curves. While Gloria’s place on a comedy show is to be funny, and she definitely achieves that, the stereotypes that she embodies and continues to exhibit every episode represents the problematic representation of Latinas in Hollywood.

Damaris Zamudio

Damaris is the president of The Westminster School’s Latino affinity group, Cafe Con Leche. We spoke about Latina women’s Hollywood portrayal.

In addition to the stigma surrounding Latinas in Hollywood, Damaris talked about an essential component to this stigma, that is has a negative effect on young Latina girls by giving them false expectation for how they should look or be.

How Can Stereotypes Be Prevented in the Future?

While there is no possible way to completely alter the stereotypes that are already embedded into society because of Hollywood influence, there are some ways that the Latina stereotype can be improved, or even forgotten.

Recently, Latina actresses have been proposing television shows that feature Latina or Latino characters, but not focusing entirely on their race and therefore avoiding stereotypes and creating new character-norms. For example, Jane the Virgin, features Jane Villanueva, a hard-working writer who is accidentally inseminated and therefore has a child while still a virgin. Rather than being sexy and scandalous, Jane is quirky and extremely relatable. Jane’s character in itself is a complete contrast to the Latina stereotype, and the actress who plays Jane, Gina Rodriguez, has made sure that people know how much her role represents a step forwards. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, she said, “This  award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”

Gina Rodriguez is a perfect example of what Latino culture needs to overcome the stereotypes they have experienced for so many years, and if Hollywood begins to steer from those by promoting shows and movies such as Jane the Virgin, the view of Latino culture and especially that of Latina women will improve, and these cultures will finally be in roles that look past their physical appearances or occupations.

You Make the Difference!

What you say, how you react, how you associate things, regarding Latina women can positively affect their image and future in Hollywood and in society. Here is a “Padlet” that you can pin to to show the positive characteristics that Latinas should be known for rather than their looks and material things. For example, if you know a successful or inspirational Latina woman, pin a photo of her or some information about her life! You can also pin anything positive about Latino culture in general, like if you know a Latino family with great family values, find a picture to associate that with or write something about it.

Click on the plus sign to the right to add your pin! 🙂

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COMMENTS: 9
  1. April 27, 2017 by lucas

    Hi Alexa, what a great page with a diversity of content. I especially enjoyed your interviews. It’s powerful to hear the first words from Ms. Gonzalez as being “it really disappoints me.” It’s an important human element to your story. I’m curious as to how your study of comparative politics informed this project and these ideas in general.

  2. April 27, 2017 by Scott Cotton

    I appreciate you tackling this issue, Alexa – and approaching it in such a thoughtful way.

  3. April 28, 2017 by Kelsey

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “comment_content” *]
    Hey Alexa it’s Kelsey 🙂 Your project is amazing first of all and the poll at the beginning really hit the mark for me, and unfortunately I realized I was an avid consumer of the feisty, long haired, curvy, Latina on television about half way through the quiz. Something I really enjoyed reading about was you accurate perception on Devious Maids and I’d almost take it to the next level of asking what kind of issues does it present when girls (specifically not Latina) dress up as the “Devious Maids” for Halloween? It’d made me want to search how the Latina woman is actually portrayed in Latina television not catered to American viewers and I’m also curious of Latino men’s reactions to how their culture is being portrayed on screen. But this was super well done 🙂

  4. April 28, 2017 by Min

    Addressing stereotypes of women of color in the media is so important, and I believe your analysis of latina portrayal in Hollywood is done very well. The way you start with the survey really helped me think about how stereotypes and biases have been ingrained into my thoughts just because of the media, and the interviews further my understanding of how latina women feel about their culture and image being so generalized and looked down upon. As someone who watches her culture fetishized and stereotyped in the media all the time, I really appreciate your advocating for accurate representation of latinas – a group of people I may not identify with myself, but believe deserve proper portrayal after having been misrepresented for so long.

  5. April 28, 2017 by Kassandra Muñiz

    Hi im from Costa Rica. I really think this project was a success. It makes us understand how little people think about latinas. It is amazing how you interviewed all of this people and made unrecognized how latinos should stand up for their culture and their rights and also the ways they are seen.

  6. April 29, 2017 by Aparajita Kashyap

    Hi! I really like your project – it’s interesting and relevant. I have never seen Devious Maids but upon doing some quick googling, I think that you are absolutely right to call out this show for perpetuating the stereotypes it is trying to break. Do you have any idea how these stereotypes started? Some, I can kind of infer, but others, I really have no clue. Also, is the media that caters to Latinas similarly stereotypical?

  7. April 30, 2017 by Jesús Maldonado

    As a Latin American I really value these kinds of projects. I live in an area of Latin America with a lot of ancestral diversity. Since that’s not really widespread in the rest of the region, it’s not too common for the rest of the world to notice it. These pockets exist throughout so many places and it’s brushed over a lot. Local TV and film industries showcase it, but sometimes always focus on the white, privileged latinos. Being one myself, I shouldn’t complain; but I do feel that work needs to be done on both Hollywood and Latin American media to represent all latino cultural aspects. Doing work like this makes sure that we get there. What other things can we do so that this happens? What results have you been seeing from your survey?

  8. May 01, 2017 by Justin P

    As a latino, I really respect this presentation a lot. As a feminist, I appreciate presentations like this a lot. I’m currently running a feminist group at my school and I’m working on being a male ally without overstepping with my privilege, and a presentation like this would help my group understand the stereotypes set in place on people. Very nice presentation! Thanks for making this!

  9. May 02, 2017 by Clarice C.

    Hi Alexa!
    My name is Clarice and I am from Costa Rica and Guatemala. I just want to begin by thanking you for writing about the issue. Not only do Latinas (all Latinos really) lack representation in film and television, but when we are represented, we are often stereotyped. As a person who wants to become an actress and eventually create my own movies, it is very painful to watch my culture be diminished to something as stupid as “the sexy, loud girl with an accent”. It is important for Hollywood, and the world really, to understand that race and ethnicity may be what make up a person, but they do not define the way a person is. Latinos can be intelligent or creative or hardworking or lazy or shy or loud or quiet. We can be engineers or construction workers or doctors or scientists or artists or maids. We have black hair or red hair or dark skin or pale skin or we can be tall or short or curvy or thin. A single stereotype cannot and should not define a whole region. It is important to show young Latino children watching their favorite T.V. shows or their favorite movie that they can strive to be whatever they want to be.

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