Being Latinx in Hollywood: Media creators talk representation

Wrapping up—why you must take Latinx representation seriously

Yaya DaCosta and Brian Tee in Chicago Med (Elizabeth Sisson/NBC)

The last question in all of my interviews with the interview subjects was this:

“For those who think there isn’t an issue with Latinx representation in the media, what would you say to them?”

Their responses speak for themselves.

Rodriguez: Have empathy. If you’re not Latinx, you may not know or fully understand the marginalized we feel as a community. That’s okay, no one goes into the world knowing everything about everyone or fully understanding the complexities of race vs ethnicity, or the complexities of the Latinx community as a whole. I’m still learning. It’s a process. It takes time and effort.

Make the effort. Make the effort to care about us as a community, to feel empathy for our frustrations with how the media portrays us. The fact that Hollywood would rather cast white actors to play us then cast us to tell our own stories. Support our work and projects. Listen to us when we discuss our marginalization and discrimination. Stand with us when we fight for the betterment of our media presentation.

It’s not an easy task, people are going to mess up, no one is perfect. But I don’t believe in perfection. I believe in empathy first and foremost. The wiliness to listen and learn can go a long way. But if you don’t have empathy for us, you won’t be willing to listen. You may not agree with everything we say, and that can be fine, but at least listen. We’re here, and we deserve to be listened to.

Novondo: I’d say, “Honey, look around—do you see anyone other than you around here?” We’re lacking in every department of diversity. We’re lacking in black, we’re lacking in Asian, we’re lacking in any kind of diversity other than white. There should be more inclusion. If you don’t see that, you’re part of the problem.

Martinez: A part of me wants to say “Where have you been?” but I’ll be honest, a lot of times, when you’re in a specific group is when you realize it yourself versus someone else becauase they just aren’t part of that specific demographic, but I would say to them while you may not necessarily see it as a problem, I would ask that you definitely take a look at some of the films that you’re woatching or shows that you’re watching and really take an honest and open look at the Latinos you’re encountering through these shows and films, if you even encounter any at all, then let’s have a larger conversation.

Latinos are among the least represented in speaking roles, according to a study by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. I think some people do need to see the numbers so that may help them get a perspective of what we’re talking about…[O]nly 5.3 percent [of speaking roles] were Latino. When you have numbers like that, there’s a clear issue. That’s being chipped away at, but we definitely have a long, long way to go.

Maravilla: I would ask them to really think about their resistance to people saying that they don’t feel accurately represented and why they feel that. I’d ask them if they have the same reaction when medical professionals complain about the depiction of their jobs in media, or when historical dramas make flagrant errors. Would they push back on doctors or people who lived through that particular historical period? I’d also ask them about any time in their life they felt invisible to the world and asked about the times in their life that they felt alone. Was there ever a film that lifted them up? A TV show that made them feel better? And did the people who were in that film or who made that TV show, did they look like them?

Hoyos: I would honestly say that I think it’s just a privilege that a lot of people don’t’ have to think about that sort of thing, and it’s something that I think they should educate themselves on and look at beyond themselves and instead look at how Latinos were treated in this last election, for example, or just historically have been treated in this country and around the world. With media, the biggest thing that people who are not in the media don’t understand is that media…overflows in everyday life and serves as the basis for how we treat ourselves and others and how we see ourselves and others. To look at a one-dimensional [representation] of any racial or ethnic or sexual orientation or any marginalized group is to look at a non-dynamic, false vision of them.♦

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