A tale as old as time, true as it can be, the story of a minority kid on the big screen. Growing up, many kids are told they can be anything they want to be, but they see in movies that the main character — the hero or the princess or the commander or whatever else — is usually white. This is no trivial matter; whether intentionally or unintentionally, film has a powerful impact on its audience and how they view minority groups. By having unrealistic ratios of ethnicities portrayed, film becomes a proponent of white superiority and children of color are left to wonder where they fit in.
In the film industry, as found in UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report , only 13% of film directors less than 10% of film writers were people of color iin 2019. That means that normally, the creation and execution of characters of color is lead by individuals not of that ethnicity. In addition, only 5.2% of all film roles in 2017 were Latino in comparison to the 77% that were white. Of those roles, most were supporting or minor characters.
All of this plays into the fact that the sense of complexity given to white characters in film isn’t extended to the few characters portrayed by minorities, who are oftentimes comedic relief or simply aid the main character in their journey. These characters, played by Hispanic actors and actresses, play up tropes that reduce them to one-dimensional figures. Over time, this leads to stereotypes that are accepted as the norm.
Stereotypes, as explained in an article in The Conversation, allows your brain to make a snap judgment based on exterior qualities such as skin color, eye color, hair, height, built, clothing, and the likes thereof. When these negative stereotypes dominate the stories told of Hispanics in film, it is easy for individuals to (even subconsciously) refrain from acting or speaking a certain way out of fear of confirming negative perceptions of their ethnic group. Shows and film that perpetuate negative stereotypes include “Queen of the South,” where Teresa Mendoza is a drug empire ruler with blood on her hands, and “American Me,” which is about gang life.
Representation, wherein people of color are depicted in important positions, is critical to meaningful engagement with and the empowerment of young children. It helps erase unconscious biases that have formed through the help of entertainment media. Diversity of identities enable self-empowerment and a sense of connection and inclusion. It is pivotal for the entertainment industry to grow in its number of Hispanic roles in order to correctly exhibit how multicultural and multiracial America is and in order to foster an environment where Hispanics can feel pride when looking at the big screen.