Entertainment

Is Jennifer Lopez Really The Only Latina To Be Featured On Screen In The The Past Few Years?

You would think since Latinos have one of the highest moviegoing rates in the United States, we’d see more of our lives and communities reflected on Hollywood’s big screen. However, that’s far from being the case. According to a report released last year by the Motion Picture Association of America, Hispanic-Latino filmgoers went to the movies an average of 4.5 times in 2017. 

Even then, a new study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that was published this week, shows that Latinx representation in film is significantly lagging. 

There’s something inherently wrong when the Latinx community, who represents 18% of the total U.S. population and 24% of frequent moviegoers, is nearly shut out from the big screen.

In partnership with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment, USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released the report, titled Latinos in Film: Erasure on Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,200 Popular Movies. The report looked at the 1,200 top titles at the box office from 2007 to 2018 as well as about 47,268 Spanish speaking or named characters. 

One of the report’s biggest findings, however, was that within that time frame, only two Latina lead roles were played by an actor over 45. Both were the multi-hyphenate Jennifer Lopez, and with her upcoming role in Hustlers, she’ll be breaking her own record. 

While the study by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative mainly focuses on the state of Latinx representation in the past decade of Latinos working on screen and behind the camera as directors, producers, and casting directors, it also focuses on how underrepresentation and stereotyping “are the hallmarks of Latino portrayers in popular movies.” 

(Photo Credit: NALIP/USC Annenberg/Wise Entertainment)

The study found that in the 12 year research period, 4.5% of all speaking or named characters were Latino, but only 3% were leads or co-leads. More findings included that in the films that were studied, 4% had a Latino director and most of those filmmakers (71% to be exact) were from outside of the U.S. And that’s not the shocking part. Out of 1,335 directors, only one of those was a Latina woman. Among producers, only 3% were Latino. 

Latinx filmmakers, creators, and actors took to Twitter to express their frustrations over the findings of the study.

One Day At A Time co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett called upon Hollywood to increase the inclusion of the Latinx community by “demanding a 20% increase in representation both in front and behind the camera.” 

A Twitter user replied to the One Day at A Time co-showrunner and shared how joyous she feels when she sees Latinx folks credited in the acting and also production roles.

The Twitter user also added that we need more stories from more than one Latinx point of view as well and that “casting needs to diversify as well, since we come in all shades, hair textures, etc.” 

Actor, producer, and director Eva Longoria also took to her Instagram to comment on the story, she said: “Only 1 Latina directed a top film over 12 years & 1,200 movies. Studios, why are you erasing Latinas?”

In her caption, she also noted that Latinas are leading as grassroots organizations in many different fields but even then, Hollywood fails to notice their talent and potential. 

Latinx Actress Dani Fernandez brought up another important point that we fail to outwardly discuss and that’s agents and acting coaches allegedly telling white actors to change their last name to a Latinx sounding one. 

Twitter user Benita Robledo replied to Fernandez’s tweet and recalled a time when someone she knew told her they’d been thinking of changing their name because being “Latina is so so big rn.” 

Film critic Alonso Duralde further drove the point home about Latinx people playing a huge part of the moviegoing demo, yet still continued to be overlooked by Hollywood. 

“But studios insist on leaving this particular money on the table,” he added. 

Superstore actor America Ferrera also took to Instagram to express her thoughts on the study and its findings. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1owszXh7S0/

“It’s easier to accept the mistreatment and dehumanization of Latinx people when they are invisible in our culture,” Ferrera wrote in her caption. Like Longoria, Ferrera demand that Hollywood take responsibility for the “stories you reinforce & perpetuate.” 

We hope this report shakes things up and causes Hollywood to really look closely at how it not only portrays but also casts Latinx actors, directors, and producers in the future. 

Of the report’s findings, Dr. Stacy L. Smith said in a statement that “at a time where Latinos in our country are facing intense concerns over their safety, we urgently need to see the Latino community authentically and accurately represented throughout entertainment.” 

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