MediaPortrayal and Representation of Latin
Theissue of socio-cultural stereotyping is arguably one of therace-based sensitive topics in the contemporary society.Nevertheless, it is also worth noting that the issues are not any new— they were commonplace in the America’s history, but thenseveral reforms followed what seemed like a combat against any formsof racial and cultural stereotyping. Several laws were enacted tolimit any form of cultural discrimination. To certain extent now,based on several milestones that have been achieved, it is arguedthat United States is a post-racial society. However, to others, suchan observation is far from the truth because different forms ofdiscriminations are evident. The media portrayals of different groupsof people, especially the minority, are perhaps the common citationsof evidence for opposition. Therefore, the question of particularinterest is whether these forms of discrimination can be evidencedfrom the mainstream American media.
Thepurpose of this paper is to examine the portrayalof Latinos in movies, television and American popular culturefocusing mainly in the underrepresentation and misrepresentation ingeneral.The present essay argues discrimination against certain people in thesociety is still common and is partly exemplified in media portrayalof Latino people, which is often characterized by whitewashing,subjectivity, limited inclusivity, and muting, among other elementsof racial discrimination.
Waysthe Media Stereotypes against the Latino People are advanced
Oneof the most notable ways that the media uses to advance stereotypesagainst the Latino women is whitewashing. In this cases, whitewashingis a slang term that has recently been added to English vocabulary, which refers to the tendency of the entertainment industry`s attemptat portraying ethnic characters in a more “relatable light. Plainlystated, it is an attempt at making characters more appealing in theface of the Caucasian community, altering their appearance to be lessexotic or accurate and more "white." Although this term isnew, the evidence of this endeavor can be followed a while back inthe form of films, pop culture and television in general. Aside fromthe underrepresentation of Latinos in the mainstream media, it isevident that the small percentage who is actually cast in roles onlyserve to create and later reinforce negative representation of Latinoculture through movies such as “Blood in Blood out” and morerecently T.V. series such as “Narcos” and “Queen of the South.”It is only through recognition and the spread of education over thesetopics that society can take steps to remedy the harmful stereotypesthat have been maintained for too long. In the mentioned movies, theLatino characters have been whitewashed. Their outward appearancesand mannerisms have been altered conform to the ideas of the whitecommunity. For instance, their accents are forcedly polished andtheir screen fashion enhanced to appear as if they are actual white.
Theevidence of whitewashing is not only in movies, but in print media.The images of white people are overrepresented in the media at theexpense of Latino people, in which they are also depicted as beingbeautiful, desirable and ideal (Davis 369). One of the notable caseexamples is the cover of Vanity Fair’s 2012 series, which onlyfeatures white women. Although the series also features a cast ofwomen of color and Latino women such as Paula Patton and AdeperoOduye, they are excluded. In other words, the cover design reflectsthe lack of inclusivity of actors from other races. It also reflectsthe common notion labeled on Latino as being undesirable andunattractive — to the extent that the media will not easily featurethem.
Figure1: Vanity Fair’s 2012 series album cover — As much as the seriesstars women from different racial backgrounds such as the Latino, itonly features white women(http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hollywood-cover-rooney-mara-jessica-chastain-jennifer-lawrence).
Distorted‘white washed’ Appearance
Mediafeatures few Latino women as beauty icons. However, when it does so,their appearances whitewashed in the manner that would fit the whiteideals. Images of women with Latino skins tone are commonly changedto appear lighter. Images of women with different hair appearancesare often distorted to appear as white hair. This step is often donedeliberately to reflect the ideals of the white race. The mostnotable example of in which images of Latino characters have beendistorted is manipulation of Jenifer Lopez images to feature on “FlyGirl” on “In Living Color” (see photo image below). The set ofpictures below show Lopez actual Latino complexion (bottom)whitewashed. The manipulation reflects the society misconception ofthe Latino skin complexion as unattractive, non-ideal, and inferiorto white skin complexion, and which must then be modified to alighter complexion for it to be seen as appealing.
Figure2: The set of pictures below show Jenifer Lopez’s (bottom middle)Latino complexion whitewashed
Tocertain extent, media is acknowledging forms of media bias directedagainst people of color, and in response, it is featuring contentaimed at counteracting the effect of such discriminations (Donagherand Liebert 1023). While these directions might reflect revolutionsagainst media discrimination of Latino women, the corresponding mediacontent otherwise hints rampant forms of media discrimination againstthe Latino people. One of the examples of this quote is from JeniferLopez, a renowned musician from a Puerto Rico heritage, that
“Beautyis only skin deep. I think what`s really important is finding abalance of mind, body and spirit.Youget what you give. What you put into things is what you get out ofthem. I judge people on how they smell, not how they look” (Ford246).
Severalelements of backlash against discrimination against Latino aredecipherable from the quote. In saying, “Ijudge people on how they smell, not how they look”, JeniferLopez intended to serve as a symbol of a new perspectives of judgingdifferent groups of people — she seemed frustrated rampant forms ofracial discrimination directed at her, and she probably wanted to be judged by the behaviors, rather than mere outward appearances.
BiasedPresentation and Muting
Inmany cases, the media has a tendency of focusing on the weaknesses ofthe group, rather than their strengths (Fujioka 53). As much asevents of the subject from different races may be the same, mediaalways has a tendency of subverting perspectives to favor one group(the white women) at the expense of minority group (Latino). This hasbeen evidenced in many movie contexts, in which Latino people aredeliberately accorded certain characters. One of the case examples isthe Scandal,inwhich Latino characters are ascribed ‘undesirable’ characterroles. For instance, Jezebel is sexually promiscuous and Sapphire isshort-tempered advances the stereotype that Latino women are deviantsor social misfits. These forms of media negative portrayal of Latinowomen have also been evidenced in other movie contexts in whichLatino women are accorded less powerful roles such as maid, servant,or housekeeper. For instance, Louise Beavers, a Latino woman hasfeatured in many films are mammy stereotype of maid, servant andhousekeeper, for instance, in Scarletand Mammy. Thisuse of the choice of labels goes a long way in delineating agencies,agents, and events, while advancing racial discrimination. In Pan`sLabyrinth, MaribelVerdú, a Latino character acting as Mercedez, is featured as Vidal`shousekeeper. The movie depicts her as confused and emotional girl,which can be seen as a stereotype against leveled at the Latinogroup. Consequently, this depiction determines the role distributionand actors’ responsibility, creating juxtapositions between activepowerful views (from the white women) and passive views (Latinopeople).
Notonly Latinos — all the people of Color
Negativeportrayal of the media is not only evidence for the case of Latinopeople, but all other minority groups, especially the people of color(Dixon 163). This is evidenced from the set off pictures below, whichrepresents how similar events of graduating women breastfeeding theirbabies were reported differently because of their color. As can beseen, both women are wearing graduation gowns and caps. Both are injovial mood and are holding their babies to breastfeed. However, themedia chose to accompany the photos with different headlines. Mediachooses, “Breastfeeding mom’s College graduation photo stirscontroversy’” as a headline for a woman of color breastfeedingher baby. In the contrast, the media chooses, “…Adorable Photo ofa Graduating University Student Breastfeeding is Going Viral” asthe headline for a white woman breastfeeding her baby. Thesedifferences reflect the biased media perspectives directed againstwomen of color.
Figure1: Graduating women breastfeeding their babies — while both aredoing same thing, the media chose to attach different headlines,favoring the white woman at the expense of the woman of color(http://normalizebreastfeeding.org/2014/11/breastfeeding-at-graduation-what-is-so-different/)
Inconclusion, this paper has examined media portrayal of Latinocharacters, focusing on the context of United States. The essay hassuccessful defended the view that discrimination against certainpeople in the society is still common and is partly exemplified inmedia portrayal of Latino people , which is often characterized bysubjectivity, limited inclusivity, and muting, among other elementsof racial discrimination. Indeed, a review of various media contenthas revealed that Latino characters are widely discriminated. Theimages of white women are overrepresented in the media at the expenseof Latino women.
Oneof the most notable ways that the media uses to advance stereotypesagainst the Latino women is whitewashing. In this cases, whitewashingis a slang term that has recently been added to the Englishvocabulary, which refers to the tendency of the entertainmentindustry`s attempt at portraying ethnic characters in a more“relatable light. In this regard, the white characters are depictedas being beautiful, ideal and desirable. Media features few Latinowomen as beauty icons. However, when it does so, their appearancesare often distorted in the manner that would fit the white ideals.Media also uses subjectivity, bias, and muting to discredit theculture and position of the Latino people. In some cases, as much asevents of the subject from different races may be the same, mediaalways has a tendency of subverting perspectives to favor one group(the white women) at the expense of another group (Latino women). Tocertain extent, media is acknowledging forms of media bias directedagainst Latino people, and in response, it is featuring content aimedat counteracting the effect of such discriminations. While thesedirections might reflect revolutions against media discrimination ofLatino communities, the corresponding media content otherwise hintsrampant forms of media discrimination against the minoritycommunities.
Davis,Gandy,. Racial identity and media orientation: Exploring the natureof constraint. Journalof Black Studies,29 (2013): 367-397. Print
Dixon,T. L. Psychological reactions to crime news portrayals of blackcriminals understanding the moderating roles of prior news viewingand stereotype endorsement. CommunicationMonographs,73 (2012):162-178. Print
Donagher,Poulos, and Liebert, Davidson. Race, sex, and social example: Ananalysis of character portrayals on inter-racial televisionentertainment. PsychologicalReports,37 (2012): 1023 -1034. Print
Ford,T. Effects of stereotypical television portrayals of AfricanAmericans on person perception. Social PsychologyQuarterly,60 (2014):266-278. Print
Fujioka,Y. Television portrayals and African-American stereotypes:Examination of television effects when direct contact is lacking.Journalismand Mass Communication Quarterly,76 (2013): 52-75. Print
GraduatingWomen Breastfeeding their Babies. 2014. Web. 9 Decmber, 2016.<http://normalizebreastfeeding.org/2014/11/breastfeeding-at-graduation-what-is-so-different/>
Guillermodel Toro Bertha Navarro (director) and Guillermo del Toro (producer).Pan`sLabyrinth. TelecincoCinema.2006. Video
Scarletand Mammy.2014.Web. 9 Decmber, 2016<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ7r2OVu1ss>
VanityFair’s 2012 Series Album Cover.2014. Web. 9 Decmber, 2016<http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hollywood-cover-rooney-mara-jessica-chastain-jennifer-lawrence>