Pedro Pascal and Jenna Ortega should be no exception in Hollywood.


The way corporate America treats Hispanics as a monolithic group, rather than as a diverse demographic, has perpetuated stereotypes of Hispanic authenticity for decades. These stereotypes disproportionately depict Hispanics in television and film as Hispanic Hispanics who share a distinct Hispanic “appearance”.

In Hollywood, this narrative reinforces the idea that we are a niche market separate from the mainstream that can be served by importing programs that are cheaper to produce in Latin America than programs produced in the United States.

That’s why it was so exciting to see Jenna Ortega and Pedro Pascal make history at this month’s Emmy Awards. It was the first time two Latin American actors were nominated in the Main Actor category in the same year for the hit shows Merlin and The Last of Us.

While Hispanics make up 19 percent of the US population, they barely make up 5 percent of the lead roles in the nation’s highest-grossing films. In addition, the overall representation in the media industry is only 12 percent, and most jobs are service-oriented, such as cleaning and security services. These numbers have remained the same for decades, which is shocking when you consider that they make up almost half of Los Angeles County’s population.

Why is the media industry so unwilling to recognize and cater to this growing demographic of potential viewers and consumers?

The creators of Latinx told me that many Hollywood executives don’t understand why they are outraged that there are so few Hispanics in movies and TV shows. After all, there is already a wide variety of streaming offers from Latin America and Spain. But there are profound differences between these markets.

We will not confuse the experience of the native Mexicans living in Mexico with the experience of the fifth generation Chican. This is why many in the industry self-identify as Latinx (a term that signals gender inclusion and recognition of our racial and ethnic diversity) to draw attention to the exclusion model of Latino writers and creators who represent the American experience.

The globalization of the Spanish language has only widened the gap between the strong development of films and shows produced in Latin America and the limited opportunities for Latin American writers, directors and writer-producers in the United States. In recent decades, Latin American media companies have benefited from investments from US streaming conglomerates such as Netflix, lower production and import costs for programs in Latin America, and investments from the region’s governments that support its film industry.

Although streaming platforms offer a large number of series and films from Spain and Latin America, they under-represent stories written by Latinos and reflecting their experiences. While Latino actors and writers have had the opportunity to fill their resumes with credits from global series produced by platforms like Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max, Latino actors and viewers have fewer roles to choose from. The protagonists of such series as “Merlin” and “The Last of Us” are a rare exception.

Research shows that in the United States, Hispanic actors often appear as lower-class characters, criminals, or immigrants. The gap is even larger in the case of African-Latino Americans. In shows produced in Latin America, most of the actors who play the main characters and heroines are blond and white, while dark-skinned actors are often given secondary roles, such as housewives or criminals, if they appear at all. In addition, Latin American writers face additional hurdles as they try to become part of a shrinking industry, as evidenced by the writers’ strike.

Several productions written or created by Hispanics that represent our communities in a real and personal way have been canceled after a few seasons. When shows like “Gentefied”, “Vida” and “Las crónicas de Cucu” were canceled despite positive reviews, writers and fans alike wondered why. In the era of streaming, algorithm-based solutions make it difficult to clearly define success, especially when algorithms are biased against new content.

The Latin American audience remains an active consumer of films, television and other media, even if they do not see them as a reflection. Some may wonder why media conglomerates should switch and invest in original content and programming, or hire Latin American actors and screenwriters, if the cheaper import-based model is so lucrative and seemingly successful. However, they must evolve because historically these formulas have reached a small Hispanic audience. There are generations of talented writers, producers and filmmakers that have gone untapped, and countless valuable stories and ideas that go untold. Films and television that chronicle the experiences of Hispanic communities in the United States enrich the media ecosystem by offering a more accurate representation of American demographics.

In addition, we must address the negative impact of the media import formula on Hispanic audiences, which limits opportunities and perpetuates the perception of Latinos as foreigners rather than compatriots deserving equal attention on TV and movie screens.

It should be noted that Hispanics are not the only group excluded due to the globalization of streaming. The fact that Ortega and Pascal received this recognition raises the question of whether we have reached a decisive turning point. It is worth considering how we can use the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA union strikes to also address issues of representation and investment in productions that offer employment opportunities for Latin American actors, writers and directors, as well as equal pay issues for workers. , MASS MEDIA.

Finally, it’s time to take into account the global appeal of entertainment featuring Hispanic actors. I want to see more roles for actors like Ariana DeBose, the first Afro-Latino to win an Oscar, for her supporting role in Amor sin barreras and in productions directed by and MacArthur grant holders Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, among many others. famous creators.

I often wonder what Hollywood would be like if it dared to admit that Latino talent is no exception.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

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