A look at representation of Latinos in entertainment media and the lack of diversity which affects us all
Editor’s note: From time to time Latin Business Today provides a platform to share perspectives on a host of topics which affect Latinos as businesspeople and individuals. Some of these topics included opposing views on immigration, Obamacare (the affordable care act) and even internet tax.
Over the last few years I have noticed a dwindling number of substantial Latino roles on TV and Film, this was made even clearer when I attended Sundance this January and saw only a small number of Latino themed films, directors and writers, many of whom were foreign born.
Several recent studies and reports support my observations – it is true that fewer and fewer Latinos are represented in mainstream English language media. The few Latinos that are depicted do not represents any of the people I know or who are part of my community and daily life.
How Latinos are being depicted
That’s because instead of hookers and drug addicts, Devious Maids, gold diggers like Eva Longoria in Desperate Housewives, gorgeous women who speak with an accent (thank you Sofia Vergara), unscrupulous and sexy villains like Rebeka Montoya from Mistresses or the freak show that is The Real Housewives of Miami and The Bachelor (Juan Pablo Galavis).
I know many extraordinary people who are Doctors, School teachers, Engineers among other respected professions. Just to give you an idea reality vs. media depiction – 69% of Latinos represented are maids – but the reality is according to the US Census only 43% of US Latinos actually are in that profession same thing with every other stereotype that you see in the media. It makes me miss Ugly Betty – at least they had a family and people that most of us recognized.
What does this have to do business?
The lack of positive Latino roles in TV and film is not a trivial issue; it is downright dangerous because Media shapes public opinion. This case of VERY bad PR could infringe not only on our civil liberties, but also on our ability to achieve economic growth and mobility into wealth equality. It is not just annoying that Latinos are unfairly represented and terribly underrepresented in entertainment; it is as NHMC (The National Hispanic Media Coalition) President and CEO Alex Nogales states creating “one of the biggest barriers to achieving equality in this country.”
There are strong and established organizations in place to move the fair representation of Latinos in Entertainment Media agenda forward, but very little has changed in the last 20 years. I am an educated (MBA) Latina from a conservative and educated Cuban family, just like me, there are thousands of other Latinos with similar backgrounds, yet you will rarely see any version of us depicted anywhere in the media. With the exception of Dr. Callie Torres played by Sara Ramirez in Grey’s Anatomy, maybe we haven’t seen any major Latino plot lines since The George Lopez Show and Cane went off the air in 2007?
Today if you want to see Latino roles, you will find that they are relegated to the following categories: maid 69%, 24% criminals, and 23% law enforcement. In the news it gets worse – less than 1% of stories are about Latinos (Source: National Association of Hispanic Journalists, 2005) and of that 1% coverage, 66% is focused on crime, terrorism and illegal immigration.
One answer for this is that Hollywood continues to be a white washed world, a world that ONLY exists in Hollywood and is not an accurate reflection of the multicultural and biracial USA. The current Media establishment is more in tune with the fictional world of The Game of Thrones than the real Latino experience.