There are many different ways in which Hollywood has misrepresented Latinos in the media. In the comedy film, A Haunted House 2 (2014) by Marlon Wayans, there is a small clip that shows the general misconceptions shown in many Hollywood films. The movie is a spoof, so it is known for exaggerating what Hollywood shows in movies. This clip starts off with the main character Malcolm seeing a Mexican man, Miguel, cutting the grass in the house next door and he assumes that Miguel is a simple gardener. It’s a very short clip lasting about a minute, but yet it still shows many classic Latino stereotypes.
When Malcolm first see’s Miguel, he goes up to Miguel and starts talking Spanish, saying “Aye, que pasa mi amigo?” This shows that just because Miguel is a Latino, Malcolm assumes he speaks Spanish. “Latina/os have consistently indicated that language remains a main source of discrimination. Whereas skin color marks African Americans, the Spanish language marks Latinos” (Angharad, 2010, p16). Many people are always assuming that because one is of Latin American heritage, they automatically know Spanish. This stereotype not only happens on screen, but it constantly happens in real life as well. I’ve have had many non-Spanish speakers come up to me at Mexican food places and ask me to translate what Spanish speakers are saying. I do speak Spanish, but if I didn’t that would have offended me. “While consecutive generations of immigrants may not speak Spanish well or at all, Spanish remains a signifier of identity and pride. It also remains a reason for exclusion and prejudice” (Angharad, 2010, p17). Not all Latinos speak Spanish, especially those who may have been born in the U.S. Some people may not practice or even learn the Spanish language, so it can be rude and even offensive to assume they know it.
As the clip continues, Malcolm asks Miguel if he would add his house to his gardening route. Miguel then tells Malcolm that he does not have a route and that he is cutting his own lawn since the house belongs to him. This is a stereotype for two reasons. The first reason is that Malcolm assumes that Miguel works as a gardener because Miguel is a Latino and is mowing the lawn at a house. “Neither physically nor behaviourally do these neighbourhoods represent American prosperity” (Liberato, Ana, et al., 2009, p.955). Sometimes Latinos are seen as economically inferior based on how they dress, look and on what they are doing at the moment. Miguel looks the part of a gardener because he has his lawn mower, gloves and a sombrero, so it’s obvious that Malcolm would assume that gardening is Miguel’s job. It’s not good to judge someone based on looks, but everyone does it unconsciously. The second reason is that Malcolm assumes that Miguel was cutting the lawn for someone else because they were in a nice neighborhood. “Ideas about the inferiority of lifestyles, attitudes and culture of Latino men are conveyed through the criminalization of their place of residence and/or area of operation” (Liberato, Ana, et al., 2009, p.953). Hollywood hardly shows Latinos as rich people who own their own house. It’s very stereotypical to assume that if Latinos are in a nice neighborhood they are simply working for other people. The movies does play around with this stereotype as a joke because Miguel confronts Malcolm about that, but in the end of the clip Miguel says that he is a gardener by “ethnic default”. This idea of ethnic default is what can be seen as a bit racist. It’s practically saying that since he is of Mexican descent, he must be a gardener by default. That way of thinking is from the era of kings, when if you were born as a peasant, then you will be a peasant until you die. The movie practically says that because he is Mexican he has to be a gardener, but that is not true. Everyone has the chance to improve their lifestyle if they choose.
The clip is a great example of basic Latino stereotypes because although the movie exaggerates, it clearly points out how the stereotypes are considered racist to Miguel. It does a great job at making these stereotypes obvious in the clip, but if you think about it, those stereotypes have been used in other Hollywood films. Latinos have to do a better job at making more roles that do not portray the Latino community incorrectly. Latinos have to move into positions where they can make decisions on how to represent Latinos in a realistic view.
Angharad, Valdivia. “Introduction.” Latinas/os in the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.
Liberato, Ana, et al. “Latinidad and masculinidad in Hollywood Scripts.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32:6. (2009), pp. 948-966.
Wayans, M. Alvarez, R. (Producer), & Tiddes, M. (Director). (2014). A Haunted House 2 [Motion Picture]. United States. Open Road Films.