By: Claudio Alberto Cortés
Latino – a term invented during the Napoleonic era by Napoleon’s PR team to create a sense of comradery among the people of the “Roman Empirical diaspora” to soften the blow among the Mexican people caused by the invasion of Mexico by Napoleon’s brother Max. In other words, it was the French telling Mexicans, Hey! Spain was a part of Rome and so were we, and they “made” you therefore we are the same. Using this original definition of the term Latino is a very very very large umbrella, one can argue that notable Canario Javier Bardem falls under the shadow of this umbrella, but then again…so do notable latinos Judi Dench, Hugh Grant, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The 94th Academy awards AKA The Oscars are just around the corner and once again we find ourselves having a conversation about just how culturally tone deaf these awards are, despite taking place in, and celebrating an industry located in, what used to be Mexico. Yes, the statue is named after a Mexican, and Yes since 2006, 8 latinos have been nominated for best picture with 2 winning (Birdman & The Shape of Water), since 1985 7 latino directors have received best director nominations 5 of which won, 3 actors have been nominated since 1950 with only a single win in 1950, since 1988 4 Latinas have been nominated for best actress, but none have ever taken the trophy home, the list goes on and on and on, all pointing out one thing. Despite how it may appear, Hollywood does appear to know that Latinés exist, and furthermore they seem to be aware that we come in different flavors, so the big question for 2022 is one that has appeared in myriad articles over the last few months. In what world does Javier Bardem look like, sound like, or even act like, famous Cuban, and patron saint of all Latinés who marry WASPs, Enrique Alberto Ricardo IV AKA Ricky Ricardo?
From the sunny room in Milwaukee that this writer is exorcizing his demons from, the rather simple answer to how this came to be struck me. The very same industry that expects you to differentiate between the 17 twinks that play Spiderman, the various Olson sisters, and the various blonde man named Chris actually thinks that all Latinés look alike. Don’t believe me? Here is a short list of “sure…you’ll do” casting calls made since the 1980s, when as we know… Latinés were invented.
- Selena (Selena Q – Mexican-American) – Jennifer Lopez (Puerto Rican)
- Stand and Deliver (Jaime Escalante -Bolivian) – Edward James Olmos (Mexican-American)
- And Staring Pancho Villa as Himself (Pancho Villa -Mexican) – Antonio Banderas (Catalonian)
- Desperado / Once Upon a TIme in Mexico (El Mariachi – Mexican) – Antonio Banderas (Catalonian)
- La Llorona (Mexican Folk Monster) – Marisol Ramirez (Panamanian)
A Lot of ink has been spilled throughout the years over the casting of non-latiné people as Latiné characters and the general miscasting of Latiné people when casted, in fact I even compiled and published a list some time ago. To what end? To start semantic arguments, anti and pro colonialism arguments, and purity tests in the comment section? Simply put, No, but hey any and all interaction is welcomed. A single mildly annoyed Brown guy in Milwaukee pointing out absurdities in an industry mostly propped up by an underrepresented ethnic group will do nothing to stop casting directors from having Michael B. Jordan, or some Australian guy play El Chapulín Colorado in the upcoming gritty reboot. All is not lost, what that very DILF can accomplish by pointing out that the American film industry has a major problem identifying, differentiating, and casting Latiné people is to inspire anyone who reads about it to 1. Acknowledge that it is an issue 2. Call it out when you come across it, even if it’s just to your homie. By identifying and making noise about it, we can increase our chances of seeing people that look like us in the films and shows that have us glued to our couches and theatre seats on Saturday evenings in the future.
So, what about the Javier Bardem and “Being the Ricardos” of it all? If Javier Bardem wins the best actor trophy, he will prove my theory right, Hollywood does indeed think that we all look alike. As for “Being the Ricardos”, well, that film was poorly casted from the word go, in what world does Nicole Kidman make a better Lucy than Deborah Messing? Re: Ricky, If you are going to play a Cuban guy speaking English, at least make an effort to get the accent right, a Spaniard speaking English sounds different than a Cuban speaking English, additionally, are we to believe that Aaron Sorkin didn’t have a budget for a prosthetic nose?