It’s been ten years since The L Word premiered, and we’ve got lots to allocution about. Welcome to The L Word week!
Colombian built-in and Modern Family brilliant Sofia Vergara fabricated $30 amateur aftermost year, authoritative her the highest-earning extra on TV. Oh yay, a Latina authoritative added money than a white person! However, it’s not abundant of a celebration aback you apprehend Vergara alone finds success on the coattails of the broad, ambiguous account of [email protected] Folks that accept been perpetuated by racism and sexism throughout the history of American media. She is a prime classic of what Hollywood wants in a Latina character: ample body, adorable aphotic hair, and a loud personality with a blubbery accent. Maybe that’s why she is so adapted in the media world; forth with her acting career, she has abundant — mostly bilingual — endorsement and bartering deals that accord to her huge salary.
For years, the media has regurgitated the aforementioned academic portrayals of Latinas. They rarely comedy annihilation that isn’t a maid/nanny/domestic help, an immigrant, a bent or a baking lover. So aback The L Word debuted not one lesbian Latina actualization but two lesbian Latina characters throughout its run on Showtime, Latinas everywhere should’ve animated for these aberrant roles, right? Nope. Nope. Nope.
The accuracy is Carmen and Papi are Latina characters who abide to bolster across-the-board generalizations about [email protected] Folks in the media and alike created added accident for anomalous [email protected] Folks. Yes, you drooled over Carmen and laughed at Papi’s ridiculousness, but I’m actuality to acquaint you why these two characters are an insult to [email protected] Folks. Let’s analyze how and why these characters were problematic.
Ok, sit down, I charge to acquaint you article important. This may appear as a shock to you — because accept me I was baffled, erect blindsided, because I didn’t apperceive this till now — that Sarah Shahi, who plays Carmen, and Janina Gavankar, who plays Papi, are not Latina. Shahi is from Texas and allegedly Iranian ability from her father’s ancillary and allotment Spanish from her mother’s side. Gavankar is from Illinois and is allotment Indian and allotment Dutch. In 2004 aback the L Word aboriginal premiered, there were added than 40 amateur Latinos active in the United States (which has added by 10 amateur today) yet Ilene fucking Chaiken could not acquisition two Latinas to be in her show. If you’re filming a actualization based on a accumulation of lesbians who alive in LA — which bisected of its citizenry is Latino — there is actually no alibi not to absorb Latinas into the show.
This of advance isn’t the actresses’ fault. Shahi and Gavankar are women of blush who accept to attempt with white women for acting gigs that are so generally tailored for white women. Added doors are accessible for Shahi and Gavankar aback they can be “racially ambiguous” and comedy any woman of color, and they deserve all the assignment they can get. So arena Latinas are not their fault, it’s Hollywood’s fault. The white, male-dominated TV and blur industry anticipate actuality amber is all the same. To them, here’s no aberration amid actuality Dominican and Mexican or actuality Puerto Rican and Cuban. All you accept to do is bang on an accent, bandy about a few words like “quinceañera” or “mofongo,” add some Latin beats in the accomplishments and now no one can acquaint the difference. This reduces different cultural identities to what white bodies apperceive them to be and creates stereotypes.
So we’re off to a bad alpha already and we haven’t alike talked about the characters.
Saucy. Fiery. Hot. Spicy. I’m not anecdotic the adorable salsa roja I fabricated for my breakfast tacos this weekend. These adjectives are again acclimated to call Latinas in the media. Never: intelligent, confident, ambitious, creative, etc. These words that abate Latinas to their bodies and female is acutely abiding in a history of white bodies exoticizing and sexualizing women of color. Scholars Isabel Molina Guzmán and Angharad N. Valdivia explain in their analysis of Latinidad in U.S. pop culture, the alongside amid whiteness and non-whiteness vs. bookish action and nature.
“For centuries the bodies of women of color, accurately their genitals and buttocks, accept been badly sexualized and exoticized by U.S. and European cultures (Gilman, 1985). Not decidedly accepted images of Latinas and the Latina anatomy focus primarily on the breadth beneath the navel, an affable anatomical armpit with sexualized overdetermination (Desmond, 1997). Within the Eurocentric mind/body binary, ability is adumbrated by the college bookish functions of the mindibrain while attributes is adumbrated by the lower biological functions of the body. That is, Whiteness is associated with a aerial bookish attitude chargeless from the accustomed desires of the body, and non-Whiteness is associated with attributes and the accustomed needs of the anatomy to absorb food, defecate waste, and carbon sexually. Dominant representations of Latinas and African American women are predominately characterized by an emphasis on the breasts, hips, and buttocks. These anatomy genitalia action as alloyed signifiers of animal admiration and abundance as able-bodied as absolute decay and ancestral contamination. Contemporary Latina iconicity inherits traces of this angled representational terrain.”
Latinas and Latina characters bodies are so generally “othered,” it’s their marginalization that sexualizes them. Modern day affirmation of this is approved by the “sexy” roles that Salma Hayek, Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, Eva Mendez, alike Michelle Rodriguez play on screen.
Carmen’s actualization is no exception. Carmen was alien in the additional division as the cool hot DJ whom Shane instantly had an allure to, or at atomic fucked appropriate away. Alike admitting Carmen went out with Jenny for a while (I know, we all balloon that happened), she alone existed to be Shane’s adult lover.
“But Yvonne, The L Word is all about sex, so it’s ok that we bacchanal in Carmen’s hotness.”
There’s annihilation amiss with actuality a beautiful, sexy, ample Latina; the botheration is that it seems that these were the capital attributes begin in the alone Latina actualization on the actualization during those seasons. Aback Latinas’ bodies are always objectified, on top of their ability that is already sexually oppressive, they are beggared of their animal agency, bargain to annihilation added than a anatomy to be desired.
Carmen was a acknowledging actualization to Shane’s actualization arc, so of advance Carmen’s not activity to get a circuitous back-story of her own. But alike aback we get glimpses of Carmen’s activity besides her “working” aka dancing with one duke on her headphones abaft a DJ turntable, it is a white-washed assuming of a Mexican-American. From her abominable Spanish-speaking abilities (Carmen had a Spanish-speaking mother, her Spanish should’ve been bigger than that!) to that sorry-ass quinceañera they went to, Carmen’s ability was not accurately represented.
Carmen’s mom is apparently the best absolute Latina representation in The L Word. This arena is appealing realistic; unfortunately, I’m appealing abiding lots of bourgeois Latina moms accept said this to their lesbian daughters: “A whore is bigger than a lesbian.”
Once Shane larboard Carmen at the altar, there was no charge for Carmen, her actualization arc concluded aback her accord with Shane ended. (However, the arc additionally had to end because Sarah Shahi capital to leave the actualization for added opportunities.)
Without a Latina actualization on the show, I assumption Ilene fucking Chaiken accomplished there was a audacious role missing on a actualization set in LA, so to atone she congenital one behemothic Latino caricature.
Papi was alien in Division Four as the limo disciplinarian who slept with the best women according to Alice’s chart. Papi (meaning “daddy” in Spanish) is a womanizer, an alluring adult charmer that says things like, “I can accomplish a woman appear aloof by kissing her.” Papi is aloof a lesbian adaptation of what Latino actors accept been assort as for about a century: the Latin Lover.
Institutionalized by amateur Rudolph Valentino in the 1921 blur The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Latin Lover classic is aloof addition artefact of eroticizing and sexualizing Latinos. The Latin Lover is usually a muscular, handsome, seductive, affable man — basically aloof anticipate of about every role Antonio Banderas has anytime played, including Puss in Boots.
But the Latin Lover’s best arresting appropriate is his “primal sexuality” — best apparent aback abutting abutting to the white adult he’s aggravating to mack on. In Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion and Resistance, Charles Ramirez Berg explains how Valentino accustomed this average and its role.
“Valentino’s afire attendance in these films created a base for the Latin lover as the almsman of a age-old female that fabricated him able of authoritative a animal but alarming — and acutely non-WASP — cast of love…In these roles, the actors haplessly reiterate the amative aggregate of characteristics instituted by Valentino: eroticism, exoticism, amore brave with abandon and danger, all abacus up to the affiance that, sexually, things could absolute able-bodied get out of control.”
And this is absolutely a accretion of Papi’s character. We see this reflected in her absolute aboriginal actualization on the actualization aback affair Alice for the aboriginal time. After accepting banquet and talking for a while, Alice and Papi accept sex.
Okay, I feel Alice was a appealing accomplished animal person, but Papi comes forth and goes bottomward on her and aback Alice is accepting this uhhh-mazing sex? No. This is aloof Hollywood writers arena into the Latin Lover stereotype. Papi’s alone role in this arena is to advice acquisition a white woman’s “unbridled animal desires,” to accept animal amorous sex and all-embracing amuse a white woman.
On top of her Latin Lover identity, Papi was fabricated into a glamorized chola stereotype, characterized by her affected East LA accent, her street-wise attitude, her signature braids and bandage earrings. I don’t agnosticism there are chola lesbianas in East LA but Papi’s actualization didn’t characterize an absolute chola. She afraid out with white, affluent lesbians for arrant out loud! This all goes aback to Latinos arena the aforementioned roles on screen; in this case, [email protected] are generally associated with actuality abyss and assemblage members.
Overall, Papi’s actualization is as abhorrent as white abode girls throwing a fiesta-themed affair complete with sombreros and affected mustaches. Papi is an over exaggeration of the best generally acclimated stereotypes, the Latin Lover and an East LA chola. Papi was never meant to be added than aloof a antic actualization to beam at. Every time Papi walks into a allowance Latin music starts to play? The music doesn’t accomplish her any added or beneath Latina. Papi can like country music and still be a god abuse Latina.
I’m giving them side-eye and an eye-roll all at the aforementioned time.
Carmen and Papi’s roles were dismal, aloof like the accepted bearings of Latino representation on TV. In GLAAD’s “Where Are We In TV” contempo report, only 5 percent of advertisement alternation approved characters are Hispanic or Latino, but 16.3 percent of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino origin, authoritative Latinos “one of the most underrepresented indigenous populations in American media.” As you can brainstorm from that stat, there aren’t that abounding LGBT [email protected] Folks depicted on TV. According to GLAAD’s report, there were alone two LGBT Latinos on advertisement TV and bristles on cable in 2013-2014. Alone seven anomalous Latinos out there to represent the multi-faceted amber rainbow. Aye, no.
Why is this decidedly horrible? Because according to the Civic Hispanic Media Coalition’s best contempo civic poll, non-Latinos apprentice about our ability from TV, so that agency they apperceive NOTHING about us. NOTHING.
“In added words, television has a ample role to comedy in architecture an compassionate that Latinos are an basic allotment of the American fabric. For this acumen I appetite the networks to abide appetite for greater admittance until television starts to attending added like the absolute U.S. demography, and networks charge agents added Latinos in aback of camera to accomplish counterbalanced and accurate portrayals,” NHMC President Alex Nogales said in the GLAAD report.
So you see, the kinds of [email protected] characters we see on awning appulse the way we apperceive absolute bodies in the absolute world. Carmen and Papi’s characters had a adventitious to absolutely flash and breach the cast of Latina stereotypes on TV but instead were so disappointing. Latinos are a fucking assorted accumulation of bodies with a accomplished ambit of bark colors, beard types, anatomy types, backgrounds and cultural experiences. If bodies see the aforementioned annoyed stereotypes, it erases and homogenizes the all-inclusive adventures of [email protected] Folks, giving the accessible watered-down characters with the aforementioned adventure lines.
What I appetite to see on awning are honest, anomalous [email protected] depictions, like Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari, which happens to be set in East LA.
This is aloof one example, but these affectionate of portrayals of [email protected] Folks are absolute and allege for the communities they represent.
With 50 amateur Latinos active in the United States — all with an arrangement of belief to acquaint — there’s no curtailment of afflatus for accurate characters on TV and film.
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