Why We Can’t Blame Latinas for Their Hollywood Image

Jessica Alba in Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For

When the University of Southern California released the results of its analysis of diversity in Hollywood, it’s revelations were not shocking: Latinas are both underrepresented and underdressed.

What is surprising is that some, as a result, have blamed Latinas for this less than flattering representation. But this is not a problem caused by Latina women; it’s a Hollywood problem.

Out of 3,932 speaking characters, Hispanics only accounted for 4.4%, according to the survey.

Hispanic characters are just not often created.

“There are very few roles where the characters are of Latin descent,” said Zoe Saldana to Fusion. “And the ones that are there are not substantial characters or in substantial content that I would consider a well representative of a culture that I belong to, and I’m so very proud of.”

Saldana plays strong women on the screen and she has dominated the sci-fi genre, but she is hardly ever a Latina in movies.

The Dominican and Puerto Rican actress combats Hollywood’s stereotypical ideas of Latinas by, essentially, looking beyond her ethnicity. And it has worked for her. Saldana starred in the blockbuster hit Guardians of the Galaxy this year, and she has movies lined up until at least 2018.

She also gets to be picky about the roles she chooses, and is in control of crafting her own image.

Still, this doesn’t solve the fact that there are few strong Latina characters. And though she does still get to represent Latinos by being a Hollywood actress, she can’t do it on her own.

Gina Rodriguez is proof that Latinas can represent strong Latinas on the big and small screen.

She starred in Filly Brown as a young woman trying to score a record deal to help her family, and she will also be in the CW show Jane the Virgin. There, she will portray a religious woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated.

Rodriguez has explained why she only takes on strong female characters.

“Our stories have been told, and they’re not unmoralistic, you know, being a maid is fantastic,” she said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “You know, I have many family members that have fed many of their families on doing that job, but there are other stories that need to be told... I became an actor to change the way I grew up. The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen.”

She has taken a stand for what she believes in, and it absolutely makes her inspirational, as well as someone you want to root for. But as Rodriguez herself said, she didn’t choose acting for the money.

Other women do, and that’s also completely fine.

It’s unrealistic to expect Latinas to not go for roles because the roles aren’t positive enough. Sometimes it’s difficult to think of actors as people, but they are, and acting is a way to make a living. It’s very unfair to tell someone not to make money a certain way because it doesn’t fall in line with someone else’s morals.

Each person has the right to determine whether they want to portray these roles. And those who do take them do not deserve to be shamed.

The roles for Latinas are frequently less than desirable, and it’s not just as if Latinas could go out for any role. If it were like that, then there wouldn’t be an imbalance in Hollywood.

Talent can take you far, but what you look like, your name and your culture can be a hindrance.

A casting call for Straight Outta Compton, for example, ranked women from A to D. The As were supposed to be lighter and more attractive than the rest, and the women got progressively darker and less beautiful as the casting memo went on.

Though Universal Pictures has apologized and distanced itself from the Sande Alessi Casting memo, it does show how specific and unwavering casting can be.

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