Movies! So much more than a fun way to lose 20-plus dollars! And Latinos happen to go to the movies more often than other groups, which is an important lil’ morsel of information to remember given the state of Latino representation in film.
So if we’re spending more money and time on movies than anyone else, why don’t we get to see more — and more diverse — representations of ourselves on film? (I mean, I have my theories, best left for another post.) Right now, let’s simply focus on the stories we could be seeing:
Credit: Warner Bros.
Noir and Los Angeles go together like Los Angeles and never leaving your immediate neighborhood, yet this genre tends to focus predominantly on the experiences of white, gringo Angelenos, despite the reality that the City of Angels has always had a huge Latino (most notably Mexican) population. In fact, Latinos account for the majority of Angelenos.
Just imagine: A femme fatale, a hardboiled detective, an innocent dame (or is she????), and nefarious-dude-who-looks-great-in-a-hat who all happen to be Latino. Mexicans! Salvadorans! Maybe a Cuban from Glendale! It’d be fantastic.
2. Quirky-Ass Indie Comedy
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
One thing independent comedies have going for them (especially if they’re of the more twee and “quirky” variety) is that they get to showcase people at their most delightfully awkward, which is a far cry from how Latinos are often depicted in film. (One notable exception is Pedro, the Patron Saint Of Awkward Latinos On Film.) Where are the weird Latinos, guys? The awkward? The unsexy (but still pretty damn cute)? The socially inept? SHOW US TO US.
Just imagine: A movie about a group of friends on a road trip, all of ’em Latino, all of ’em with vastly different world views. Will hijinks ensue? YES!
Credit: Warner Bros.
Imagine, if you will, a U.S. horror movie–starring an entirely Latino cast–that isn’t predicated on misunderstanding things like Día De Los Muertos (NO, IT’S NOT “MEXICAN HALLOWEEN”) or La Santa Muerte. So many diverse cultures are united by being goth as f*ck, so why don’t we have a movie that explores that in a truly scary, fun, well-made way?
Just imagine: A moody, heartbreaking look at the origin of La Llorona, without cheesy jump scares cheapening the emotional impact (and true terror) of the story. (Can you help us with this, Guillermo Del Toro? Please?)
4. Romantic Comedy
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Romantic comedies are equal parts timeless and dated because they mostly adhere to a strict formula: Girl doesn’t realize that the perfect-ish guy was Right There All Along, they find love, their apartments are suspiciously large for whatever city they’re living in. Also, with few exceptions, both Girl and Guy are white gringos. Sometimes one is Latino (and usually Jennifer Lopez). But imagine if both leads were Latino? Imagine a Latino couple seated in a Nancy Meyers dream-terior, finding that they really CAN have it all! It’s something we’ve yet to see explored on the big screen.
Just imagine: Two young Cuban men–one second generation, one new to the U.S.–meet and fall in love with the Miami skyline as their backdrop.
5. …And The Nicholas Sparksian Romantic Cry-Fest
In this particular sub-genre, two people–both white, probably both named Taylor–meet, usually on a bridge or beside a barn, always in autumn, and fall in love. The kind love that it can only be torn asunder by someone inevitably dying before the end credits. But you know what other genre features overwrought love stories with little motivation, usually ending in tragedy? Telenovelas. In fact, these genres aren’t so different, and there’s a lot to be mined from combining the blinding whiteness of Nicholas Sparks-inspired movies with the engrossing drama of telenovelas.
Just imagine: Autumn. A rustic bridge. A grandmother gives her granddaughter a locket. Flashback 50 years: Two young Venezuelans clasp hands, tears rolling down their cheeks. “Take this locket,” the dude whispers. “It’ll come into play at the end of the movie in a way that is both moving and romantic. You gon’ cry.”
6. The Ubiquitous And Seemingly Unending Superhero Redux Genre
Credit: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Looking at the recent 10 billion movies DC and Marvel have blasted our way, you’d think that there were no Latino heroes at all (except the dude with face tats who made the love of his life go up in flames). But they exist, many of them are interesting and complex, and it’d be kind of nice to see them do their thing on the big screen. In fact, The Wrap recently featured an in-depth look at why we haven’t seen better Latino representation in this genre, as well as some possible characters that would help skittish white executives green light something different for once.
Just imagine: A Miles. Morales. Movie.
Ok, I know, I know! But stick with me here: A genre unto itself, movies and TV shows about drug cartels and the lovable rascals who run ’em tend to both 1) over-index slightly when it comes to depictions of Latinos in media and yet 2) tell their stories from the perspective of white gringo folks. And they’re not stopping anytime soon. In fact, Jennifer Lopez (hi, again) is set to star in an HBO movie about “cocaine godmother” Griselda Blanco. So we’re not asking for this genre to stop, dry up, or stop existing. At this point, their existence is a given. What we can ask for, however, is a pivot, to see whether this genre can possibly focus on the rise and fall of the drug trade from the point of view of 1) Latinos who are 2) negatively impacted by the real pain, loss, and destruction caused by the drug trade 3) rather than focusing solely on Latino characters who faceplant into piles of cocaine while Rome burns around them.
Just imagine: A movie about drug cartels that actually show the damage inflicted by drug cartels on a human level without using a gringo DEA agent as a de facto stand-in for the audience.
8. Sweeping Period Drama Featuring Big, Fancy Hats
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Merchant Ivory-type movies, filled with gloriously large hats and various people swooning onto various chaise lounges, mostly concern themselves with British people pining for one another on foggy moors or, sometimes (because colonialism) in China or India. Sometimes these movies are adaptations of books by Jane Austen or E.M. Forster or D.H Lawrence. But the U.S. and Latin America also have their fair share of beloved, sweeping novels about people swooning over one another, and it’d be wonderful to see those stories adapted for the big screen.
Just imagine: Literally any portrayal of Latin America that involves a ballroom scene, a nice hat and a fraught political climate resulting in a love torn asunder.
OK, here we’re making some progress, thanks in no small part to the Star Wars franchise and the roles it’s given to Diego Luna and Oscar Isaac (who also deserves credit for being the best part of Ex Machina, even though his character wasn’t explicitly Latino) and the phenomenal Sleep Dealer. But those are but two roles and two stories in a genre that could use so many more Latino experiences and faces. If the future is becoming increasingly Latino, shouldn’t casting choices reflect that? Shouldn’t our view of the future and its possibilities include many, many, many more Rodriguezes and Garcías? (And maybe slightly fewer Damons. I never forget, Elysium.)
Just imagine: A visually stunning exploration of a future Latino utopia called “Pochotopia.” With some robots, maybe.
Basically, we’re asking for two things: 1) More Latinos simply existing onscreen, being a part of the world presented to us in film, and 2) an increase in Latino stories, specific to the (many) culture(s) we’ve grown up with, and the unique experiences and situations that are unique to this ethnicity. Also, a break for Jennifer Lopez, because the woman is having a hell of a time being the sole Latina across so many disparate genres.
What other genre would you like to see feature more Latino stories and actors? Musicals? Erotic thrillers? The next David Lynch film? Tell us!