LATINO/A REPRESENTATIONS

Latina/o representation in today’s society has become a major controversial issue. Latino culture continues to be poorly portrayed throughout multiple media platforms. Due to vulgar interpretations and overdramatized stereotypes, most Americans have classified and judged Latinos within these existing assumptions. The most common stereotypes of Latina/o culture include: the greaser, the lazy Mexican, the sexy/feisty Latina, the maid/babysitter, drug addicts and gang bangers (Angharad 2010). These portrayals of Latinidad are far from valid, yet they repeatedly appear on big screens with greater dramatization of Latino stereotypes.

In the 2006 comedy Nacho Libre, actor Jack Black plays a Mexican man named Ignacio who financially struggles to achieve his dream of becoming a “Luchador,” in order to support his Catholic monastery. Jack Black, a non-Latino, plays a poor Mexican man who goes on a journey to become Nacho Libre with his friend, Esqueleto. The film undeniably depicts Latino stereotypes, which may be offensive to those without a sense of humor, or any knowledge of Mexican culture. According to the introduction in Latinas/os in the Media, Valdivia Angharad states, “Puerto Ricans and South Americans are most likely to say they are proficient in English; Mexicans are the least likely to say so…” (Angharad 2010). Language is significant in connecting with one’s heritage and culture; however not speaking English in society creates a catalyst for discrimination and judgment. In Nacho Libre, Jack Black contributed to the stereotype of a Mexican man who cannot speak proper English, by speaking with an accent throughout the film. Jack Black also exaggerates on the pronunciation of certain words to support the false assumption of how Latinos “speak” English (Angharad 2010). The mainstream media creates perceptions of Latina/os as not being proficient in English, are of working class and are not as intelligent. Jack Black’s character, Ignacio, also portrays a level of deviant behavior and social rebellion in order to succeed as a famous and rich Luchador. Although Nacho Libre is not a crime movie as Carlito’s Way, the example given in Ana Liberato’s “Latinidad and masculinidad in Hollywood Scripts,” Ignacio’s masculinity in trying to reach his dreams of success, brings out the “Latino sense of bravado and fearlessness” (Liberato 2009). Ignacio’s involvement with Luchador wrestling and strong desire of wealth and superiority (Liberato 2009) went against his own beliefs and the Catholic Church. His internal conflict supports the negative assumptions of the “Catholic religion” and Latino culture stereotype (Liberato 2009). As stated by Liberato, Jack Black’s character “views dignity as a function of toughness and material exhibitionism.” During a scene, Ignacio chooses to buy a pair of brand new boots and clothes instead of food for the orphanage, which boosts his self-worth and reassurance of success. In the film, Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera, who accurately depicts the stereotypical “sexy Latina,” portrays Ignacio’s love interest. Ironically, she plays a nun who is not feisty, nor promiscuous, yet calm and very passionate about the orphanage and her religion. Ana de la Reguera also contributed to the stereotype of not speaking English very well throughout the film.

The entertainment industry and popular media both continue to portray Latina/os inaccurately in every suitable way. They continue to attach overdramatized stereotypes and false assumptions in which society has played a great part of. It is unfortunate for any culture, especially Latina/os, who are the biggest minority group in America, to be misrepresented in so many ways without any accuracy or resepect.

Short clip of scenes from Nacho Libre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5k8sx7C5gg

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.

 

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