For a few weeks the Internet had been ablaze once again with a new outrage: the lack of African American female comedians on Saturday Night Live. SNL responded swiftly with some self-deprecating humor (it’s a great deflective mechanism) by having Kerry Washington host an episode and hiring two African American female writers as well as a cast member. Wow! But- you know this was coming — and once again: ¡¿Dónde están los Latinos?!
Let’s ask ourselves: why should SNL, networks, and Hollywood change anything if what they’re doing is working perfectly for them? I mean, if we are overconsuming, does that not mean that their methods of exclusion are working?
- Cesar Vargas
I would love to see, for once, a preemptive strike by the networks and the studios. I’m sure you’ve read that we over-index in entertainment consumption and about our $1.5 trillion purchasing power. We know the deal and some of us are, frankly, sick of reading and hearing about it. I keep wondering why we keep toting that around. Maybe to convince ourselves that we matter. We do. The powers that be know this. But let’s ask ourselves: why should SNL, networks, and Hollywood change anything if what they’re doing is working perfectly for them? I mean, if we are overconsuming, does that not mean that their methods of exclusion are working?
Not so fast. A new UCLA study points out that programming with a diverse cast and crew is drawing bigger audiences, higher ratings. So why hasn’t SNL picked up on this? Why did it take this long to cast an African American woman? Better yet, do we have to raise hell as well to get a bone thrown at us? Yes, I know, there was Chilean comedian, Horatio Sanz, and Venezuelan, Fred Armisen, but in SNL’s 38 years, that’s all we got? Seriously, man, that’s inexcusable. For shame, Lorne Michaels.
Now, I don’t want to hear any malarkey about our comedians not being ready or inexperienced for the job. Do you read me, Kenan Thompson? I can point you to several Latinos. Es más, several Latinas who have taken the Internet by storm: Elaine Del Valle (Reason’s Y I’m Single), Julia Grob (East WillyB), Jenni Ruiza and Jesenia (Becoming Ricardo), among a few. I dare you to check them out and tell me their work isn’t better written and executed than a lot of the mediocre stuff we’re being force-fed from the TV landscape. We all know that content is king. But I’m telling you to look further. These are queens of content. No contest.
Please note that the women I mentioned above are not just actors, they’re also writers. It would behoove SNL, TV networks, and Hollywood to not just cast more of our actors, but to hire Latino writers; which seems to be the final frontier for us, the Alamo for old racist heads, and the last bastion of creative supremacy. At least for the sake of drawing bigger audiences; TV’s highest currency.
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There’s also something else that our critics love to resort to. I certainly think it’s a low-hanging fruit. Why bother with SNL? We have bigger fish to fry, right? It’s just entertainment, verdad? My mentor, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the great Felix Sanchez – you might remember him as the man who single-handedly took on the Kennedy Center Honors’ and won – said it best:
The number one issue facing the Latino community – in our estimation – is the underrepresentation of Latinos in all employment areas: federal government, private industry, law firms, Corporate Boards, universities, media and entertainment. These high-profile examples of underrepresentation are a strong reminder to every sector of the economy that they must hire and include Latinos. Further, when we never see Latinos in entertainment, our image is marginalized and it makes exclusion subconsciously acceptable.
Please don’t tell me we’re not ready. We are no longer responding well to red herring. Telling us and yourselves we don’t have experience for the job is a distraction from the truth. The truth is that that’s a lie. We have been ready. Decades ago. Do you read that Mr. Michaels? Do you want more people to watch SNL? Hire more Latinos in front and behind the camera. Punto y aparte.
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.