The Emasculation of the Latino Actor

Gael Garcia Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal  (EFE)

The Latino male seems to be a huge threat to Hollywood; so they’re reduced to playing secondary roles or worse, as only comic relief or the usual animalistic suspect of gangbanger or ghetto fabulous savage. Not to mention the passive and extremely humble gardener; never three-dimensional characters but stereotypical caricatures. Heroic? Never.

Our women enjoy more leading roles but they’re usually matched up with white or black leading actors. To Hollywood, there are no Latino A-listers. No big audience puller. Not one to bring a return, supposedly, but some of us know better. We know the emasculation is real. It exists but hardly mentioned.  

The phenomenon is so insidious that even in “prestigious shows” such as the Golden Globe Awards you’ll see few of them or none. During the ceremony we spotted Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, Salma Hayek and only one male but he's not even an actor: Tony Mendez. Wait, he's actually the greatest actor of them all. He was a CIA agent. There you go Latino male actors. Join the armed forces and maybe then you'll get a chance to be invited or nominated — but he doesn’t see himself as Latino, so there goes that.

We know the emasculation is real. It exists but hardly mentioned.

- César Vargas

Mexican comedian Louis C.K. made an appearance but it’s OK. He’s white people friendly. He doesn’t “look” Latino and Ben Affleck won’t be able to pick him as one out of a line up.

We’re so conditioned to see ourselves as simple beings that even we make and elevate films that portray us as either confused about our sexuality, the jester, or the thug coming to terms with his gay son. But where is the Latino gunslinger? Where is the Latino Superman? Where is the lothario who ends up with the beautiful damsel in distress at the end of the film? Wait, scratch the last one. There isn’t a shortage of cinematic papi chulos. But they’re always one dimensional. You will get a complex one once in a while, but who will the role be given to? Johnny Depp, of course. He’s got that Don Juan DeMarco swagger. If anyone is going to play an endearing gigolo, it ain’t going to be one of us. White boys do it better. Disque.

There is a cure for this, however, and the thespians are not going to like it: Try to get roles as superheroes, as dark and complex figures, as fantastical characters, as kickass and astute martial artists who can pick up a sword and slaughter bad guys to rescue their delicate and spoiled wives and daughters. Everyone who’s a “somebody” in Hollywood had to go through it first. They paid their dues and continue to do so. 

Those pay the bills and bring a return to the puppet masters. Stop looking for roles that will nominate you for an Oscar for a little while. That’s the last bastion of white male superiority. Yet, for every Syriana, Clooney has to give the studios 10 Ocean’s Eleven. We’re giving the studios 10 Syrianas and not one Ocean’s Eleven. And what’s worse? They’re not even of the same quality.

So there you go, my brothers. Go audition for those roles even though they might  not be looking for a Latino to play them and if they tell you they won’t make any money with you then let them know that those films are not character driven. You want to change the way Hollywood sees you, then take the initiative to not be portrayed as an emasculated caricature or an emotional brute. 

César Vargas is a producer, writer, director, and social media strategist. He founded UPLIFTT (United People for Latinos in Film TV and Theater) and is president of Burning Ones Productions. You can reach him on Twitter at /CesarVargas365.

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