Latino Stereotypes In Media

Film is a wonderful way for people to connect. Thousands of films and television shows are made per year, allowing for endless hours of content. With today's advanced technology, there are a large variety of films that tend to people of all ages; Toddles watch educational television shows, teenagers go on movie dates, families have movie nights... This surge of popularity regarding media has transformed society into what we know it as today. While these may seem like positive aspects, there are also several negative aspects associated with film and television that can lead to internalized oppression. Movies and television are one of the main outlets of racist stereotyping that subconsciously transmit its way into the minds of youth, further perpetuating harmful stereotypes that Latinos have been affected by for many years -how Latinos are portrayed in the media is how kids will see themselves, and stereotypes on television will become a reality.

Since the first film made in the mid-1880s, stereotypes have been present ever since. The harm with stereotypes in popular movies and television is that they often go unnoticed. Not only is there a lack of representation of Latinos in front and behind the camera, but when Latinos are included, they are often misrepresented. Hollywood has exploited Latino actors, and have distorted the image of what it means to be Latino. While there may seem to have been progressed within the film industry, there has been little to none - in fact, it has gotten worse as these stereotypes have become embedded in the process. 

Many harmful Latino stereotypes arose out of the need for conflict for the Anglo-hero in the films. The movies played in the past often displayed these stereotypes that sadly remain today. For example, the 'Mexican bandit' and 'drunk Mexican' were often roles cast by Latino actors. This became a popular trend among filmmakers, and this trend has clearly transcended to films and television shows today. The bandit stereotype found its way everywhere - even in early advertisements. For example, the Fritos commercial used 'Frito Bandito' as it's mascot during the late 1960s. The 'Frito Bandito' is a Mexican bandit whose goal is to steal Frito chips. There were also printed ads that featured wanted posters of the mascot, warning kids to protect themselves from the bandit. The advertisement may seem harmless to some. However, this could subconsciously affect kids and how they view not only Latinos but themselves as well. A buildup of being exposed to harmful stereotypes will eventually transmit its way into the minds of youth, affecting the way they go about life. 

There are many shows today that include these harmful stereotypes. The movie and television shows today can be more harmful than in the past due to an exponential increase in media's accessibility due to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and others. In addition, the stereotypes often go unnoticed as they have become so deeply embedded in society. For example, the popular show, Modern Family, features Sofia Vergara, a Latina woman. She is a very successful actress, but it has come at a cost. Nearly all of her roles involve her playing the spitfire, sexy Latina woman. She has become highly feminized and her accent is played off as humorous. In addition, she is shown being comfortable with guns, implying that her being Columbian has accustomed her to violence. When kids watch shows that encourage these stereotypes, it becomes implemented into their subconscious that they can only be what they see on television. A lack of proper role models can detrimentally alter how one views not only others but themselves as well. 

Another current show that has received criticism for normalizing stereotypical Latino characters is the show, Devious Maids. The show initially received praise for its all Latina cast, but critics have pointed out how the portrayal of the women as maids further perpetuates stereotypes and is no different than other shows. The issue is not only the lack of presence of Latino characters in media but also the roles that Latino/a actors are cast in. According to an article by Latino Voices, "I think that the bigger problem is that unfortunately because this is consistently the only way that Latinas are represented, this stereotype has become reality for many Americans". Therefore, while this television show may seem like a breakthrough in the film industry, it just continues to do what many other shows do - perpetuate harmful stereotypes that have serious real-life impacts on people all around the world. While Modern Family and Devious Maids are shows that have been publicly criticized for including dangerous stereotypes, thousands of other similar movies and televisions shows remain. 

However, some may argue that television and media do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes and that people are too dramatic regarding this issue. They also may believe that television and movies are another form of free speech, and directors and producers should not be criticized for choices regarding roles and casting. In addition, it could be argued that the facts are wrong, and how Latinos are portrayed is the reality and nothing needs to change. Racism and ignorance drive these opinions and prevent positive change from happening within the film industry. It is important to make others aware of this underreported issue and to give the youth a chance to dream as big as they want to, without subconscious restriction on what they can or can't do with their lives due to stereotypes portrayed in media. 

While that may seem like a credible argument, the effects of this on Latino children are long-lasting. I volunteered at El Espejo, a peer mentoring program that helps at-risk youth at Lennox Middle School. One day my mentees and I were discussing Donald Trump, and they opened up about how they are truly impacted by his presidency. It is very easy for children to listen to people in power, such as the President of the United States. So, when Trump talks about how Latinos are criminals, and how "bad" they are, this ideology begins to sink into their minds. Just like how my mentees were affected by  Donald Trump's negative rhetoric, many other children are subconsciously affected by the stereotypes promoted by media. Due to the media and the racist comments made by people in power, such as Donal Trump, it can become difficult for the youth to picture themselves in a place of power.

According to a study called, "The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in the US Media", "Mainstream television and film present worlds where Latinas make up 69% of maids and 24.4% of criminals, yet government statistics indicate that Latinos comprise 44.3% of maids house cleaners and 19% of the non-federal prison population". So, it is clear that the media over.  exaggerates the reality of Latinos. When children watch shows that feature Latinos in stereotypical roles, it is subconsciously embedded and normalized in their minds, further perpetuating systematic racism. Therefore, it is up to the people in control of the production of these shows to prevent these stereotypes from being glamorized. However, these people are usually white men who are overcome by ignorance and do not care about the consequences of their work. 

In the film "Latinos Beyond Reel: Challenging a Media Stereotype", the children are visibly disturbed watching Latinos being depicted as bandits or thieves, violent drunks, helpless maids, or sexy 'señoritas'. The media tries to justify the lack of resources in the lower class through hate speech, claiming that all Latinos are criminals, generalizing that all Latinos are the same. Ideology is an extremely powerful tool that can either encourage or inhibit growth. The youth won't see themselves as a dean, president, or astronaut, but instead in the way that society portrays them to be - further perpetuating the cycle of systematic racism. 

It is clear that this issue needs to be addressed globally, and change needs to be enacted. However, according to Yuen "Hollywood gatekeepers often lack the cultural knowledge to tell the difference between stereotype and reality". There are going to be hurdles every step of the filmmaking process. In reality, stereotypes make money, and many people are driven by money. Education is going to be vital in addressing the societal issue. This is not only an issue of film, or an issue of representation, but this addresses racism is society, and media is simply an outlet for it.

There is progress being made with movies such as Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther,e but more progress needs to be made. There are several ways to prevent this issue from worsening. For example, spreading the word about this issue worldwide, making sure the youth understand that there are other life paths than what they see on television, and supporting smaller movie projects - since big companies are typically the ones to promote harmful stereotypes since etheier main priority is making a profit. In addition, changing the way Latinos are depicted in media by creating more diverse movie roles, and providing more funding and support for movies that support Latinos. So, be aware of the media you endorse, because, in reality, it has a significant impact on thousands of children!