When was the last time you saw a well-developed Latinx character in a television series or film? In fact, when was the last time you saw a Latinx character, at all, being represented in your favorite television show or movie?
When I asked myself these questions, it took me a few minutes to think of a show with Latinx representation, and in case you’re wondering, “Jane the Virgin” was the first that came to mind.
Limited Latinx representation in the media is a major issue because it does not accurately reflect the Latinx community.
According to a report by Columbia University when there is Latinx representation, it consists of stereotypical roles such as hypersexualized beings, criminals and cheap laborers.
The media needs to include more positive and meaningful representation of the Latinx community to show that they are more than just stereotypes.
In an article by NBC News, Felix Sánchez, co-founder of the National Hispanics Foundation for the Arts, said, “If the casting continues to portray a very singular look for Latinos, then that means women continue to be overly sexualized and [men] equally have to be the dominant, macho role.”
The depiction of constant stereotypes in the media is detrimental because it limits Latinx potential. It gives Latinx individuals the false impression that they are not capable of achieving great things. Limited representation promotes the false idea that Latinos are confined to fit into the categories of drug dealer, immigrant, maid and other common stereotypes.
“On-screen, we [Latinos] were never portrayed as the doctors and lawyers,” actress Gina Rodriguez said in an article published on Google Arts & Culture.
Director of the Center for Equality and Justice Cynthia Duarte said Latino stories are much more diverse than the very predictable stereotypes depicted in the media.
“There’s many places in the U.S. where people do not have any meaningful interactions with people from this [Latinx] community,” Duarte said. “Therefore, the media…are the only place they’re getting this information from and they’re not getting a true, dynamic picture of this community and the contributions we make.”
I do not think we need to prohibit all future depictions of Latinx stereotypes because the truth is that, yes, some Latinx individuals are immigrants, housemaids, etc. and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there needs to be representation that is all-encompassing and accurately reflects the nature and power of the Latinx community.
Representation is especially important considering Latinos play a large role in media consumption. According to the same report by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, compared to other racial or ethnic groups in the United States, Latinos attend the most movies.
Since the Latinx community is such a vital role in media consumption, there needs to be representation both on-screen and behind the scenes. According to Vogue, aside from composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, there was not a single actor, director, producer, or writer from the Latinx community nominated for an Emmy this year.
“The entertainment industry needs more representation at every level to add perspective,” Duarte said.
I agree with Duarte. Adding perspective is important because it sheds light on important issues and experiences that are pertinent to minorities, but are overlooked by the majority.
The truth of the matter is that the entertainment industry is lacking diversity. In order to have more positive Latinx representation in the media it is crucial to include diversity behind the scenes to produce well-developed Latinx roles that reflect this beautiful community in a genuine way.