Is this proof of racism or an overreaction?

A recent article in the news caught my eye. It is on NBC News about the relatively low number of Hispanics who appear on camera in Hollywood. Numbers behind the camera not included.

“Lights, Camera, Struggle? Hollywood Latinos Speak Out” (emphasis mine)

Lights, camera, struggle? A recent study from the University of Southern California made headlines after concluding Latinos continue to be the most underrepresented group in Hollywood films. The report only confirms what Latino actors, producers, and advocates already know: It is tough to make it in Hollywood, but it is even tougher for Hispanics.

The study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that diversity on-screen lags far behind that of the U.S. population. Researchers looked at films over a six-year period and found that Latino characters accounted for only 4.9 percent of all speaking roles. In contrast, Hispanics are 17.1 percent of the population, yet are 25 percent of the moviegoing public.

Najera observed that prime Latino roles still go to non-Latinos. “Look at “Argo,” the main character was Tony Mendez, a Latino from Colorado… and the part goes to Ben Affleck,” he said. “And if you are not seeing Latinos on camera, that means there are probably few Latinos behind the camera, or writing scripts.”

The USC study also found that Latinas were the mostly likely of any group to appear on film partially or fully nude. Hispanic males were the most likely to be shown in tight or revealing clothing.One reason that Latino performers struggle to find work is that Latino-themed films have a mixed track record at the box office. “La Bamba” (1987) and “Selena” (1997) were successes, and last year’s “Instructions Not Included” became the top-grossing Spanish-language filmof all time in North America. Yet the more recent “Cesar Chavez” film was a commercial disappointment.

I do not want to use this space to complain about racism because that would imply that few Hispanics are being chosen because of discrimination. It could be (I don’t know) that Hispanics are less likely to go into acting than other ethnic groups. But it seems ridiculous to have Ben Affleck playing a Hispanic character in a movie. Though, there was a time, and still is for some, where it is debated as to whether Ben Affleck should be in any movie at all.  I’m Not saying that he’s a bad actor, because as of late he has made a few better performances, but he has made some fairly bad movies (remember Gigli? If not, be glad).

That said I am not surprised that most scripts include few Hispanic characters unless it’s J-Lo, Selma Hayek, Michelle Rodriguez, or Eva Longoria showing a little extra for the camera. Certainly few book adaptions feature prominent Hispanic characters so Hollywood probably just does not see a need for us.

Do you think there is racism in Hollywood or is this an overreaction by some Hispanics in Hollywood?

Side show:Also a college friend of mine is challenging me to the ALS Ice bucket, where I have to dump a bucket of ice cold water on my head and post it to show support for ALS research. Once the video is filmed I will get it up here, probably tomorrow or Friday.


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