Common Portrayals of Latinas and Latinos in Primetime Television

When it comes to Latinx representation in the media, the numbers are dismal. In 2016, a report done by the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity, said that in both television and film, only 8.5% of Latinos had speaking roles. More Latinx actors can be found on primetime television but even their characters can be victim to bad writing and stereotypes, making their characters quite flat. We complied examples of Latina and Latino characters from four major networks (NBC, ABC, CW and CBS) to see how they treated and fall into stereotypes.

NBC:

Amy Dubanowski, Superstore, NBC

In the NBC show, Superstore, Amy (America Ferrera) is a single mom and manager of the Cloud 9 store at which the show takes place. She had her first daughter at a young age, which is something that commonly happens in Latinx culture. She ends up falling for one of her coworkers and they have sex inside the store. Following the event, she is constantly slut shamed by her coworkers in front of and behind her back for her actions. While the male involved in the situation receives praise from his other male friends.
Amy Dubanowski, Superstore, NBC

Detective Antonio Dawson, Chicago P.D., NBC

As mentioned in the video, “5 Latino Stereotypes On TV || Honest to Gabe”, Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), falls under the law enforcement/ cop stereotype. The video mentions that Latino cops on television are never too dark skinned, which matches Seda’s physical appearance. The video also states that these characters tend to be “hyper-masculine”. Dawson is the caretaker of his family and has the macho job and is the provider, while his wife runs a bakery.

ABC:

Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, Modern Family, ABC

Sofia Vergara’s character, Gloria, on Modern Family plays up the Latina stereotype completely, on all aspects. She is “fiery” and always has a sassy attitude. Verga also has a very curvy body, which is often showcased by what she wears. According to bla, “Dominant representations of Latinas and African American women are predominantly characterized by an emphasis on their breasts, hips, and buttocks” (Guzman and Valdivia 311). She often has on tight, and revealing clothing in order to show off her breasts and bottom. On the show, she uses her sexuality and good looks to get what she wants and often catches the attention of the male characters of the show.

Jorge Castillo, How to Get Away with Murder, ABC

JOn the hit show, How to Get Away with Murder, Jorge Castillo (Esai Morales) is a corrupt former CEO and the father of law student Laurel. Castillo’s character is extremely wealthy, however as following the Latino stereotype, he is heavily involved with crime. He does not run a gang or mob, but uses gang-like practices such as ordering kills on other characters in order to remove “obstacles” in his way. He ultimately ends up in prison, but is still suspected as still calling the shots from behind bars.

CW:

Photo credit: Riverdale Fandom

As a network, CW has made more strides than any other network on this list when it comes to including Latinx representation in their shows; Jane the Virgin has a predominantly Latinx cast, Charmed has a Latina lead and front runner Roberto Aguirre Sacasa’s hit show Riverdale casted Latinx leads as the Lodge family. But, that doesn’t mean they create characters free of stereotypes and problems. Riverdale still experiences issues of gender and race stereotypes despite of its attempts to poke fun at itself and being self-aware. Throughout the show, Veronica Lodge edges on becoming almost like the Latin lover archetype. Opposite of Betty, the white, blonde and presumably goody-two shoes, Veronica is commanding, portrayed as more sensual and well, isn’t white and eventually woos Archie over Betty.

(Hiram Lodge, Riverdale, CW) Photo Credit: Digital Spy

Then there is Veronica’s dad, Hiram Lodge. In Riverdale, he is known as the wealthy crime boss. For the most, there’s no depth to his character other than his ambition to make money by selling drugs and other shady dealings. Much like Jorge Castillo in How to Get Away with Murder on ABC, Hiram conducts his crime in a gang-like fashion usually to not be directly involved. In recent seasons, Hiram has also been seen as a threatening and masculine figure specifically with his relation to Archie.

CBS:

(Luke Alvez, Criminal Minds, CBS) Photo Credit: TVGuide

Luke Alvez is a fairly new character in Criminal Minds 15 year time span. The show is known to have cast shakeup every few years and one of the latest is the character of Luke Alvez played by Adam Rodriguez. For the most part, Alvez is a standard FBI agent with not too much plot. He’s generally friendly and then when he’s in the field, he’s another tough cop.

(Thomas Magnum, Magnum PI, CBS) Photo Credit: geekyrant

CBS has dismal Latina representation. In fact there are no Latina leads in any of their shows with the exception of a future deal with Gina Rodriguez they have upcoming. CBS has been under fire for their lack of Latinx representation throughout the years, and the Latino representation they do have is mostly cop shows and procedurals. This photo shows Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum from their show Magnum PI, a reboot of the 1980s show. In this show, Magnum is a former Navy SEAL and becomes a private investigator. Like Alvez in Criminal Minds, Magnum is an example of roles Latinos are often put in to satisfy the ideal masculinity.

As found, on several shows across primetime television, the Latinos mentioned typically fall under their stereotype regardless of the gender. The women tend to be thought of in a sexual manner or their bodies are treated as objects, which is something that doesn’t often happen to other characters on their respective shows. Latino men are also stuck in a certain type of role as the “macho male,” whether that’s a cop, detective or criminal. In conclusion, although Latinx people are represented on television, most are never truly represented in a diverse way, but rather follow the same type of roles.

Works Cited

Brennan, Matt. (2017, June 20). The (Un)Changing Face of Latinos on TV. Retrieved from

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/the-unchanging-face-of-latinos-on-tv.html

Choueiti, Marc, & Pieper, Katherine, PhD, & Smith, Stacy L., PhD. (2016). Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment.

USC Annenberg: School for Communication and Journalism. https://annenberg.usc.edu/sites/default/files/2017/04/07/MDSCI_CARD_Report_FINAL_Exec_Summary.pdf

FLAMA. (2016, April 07). 5 Latino Stereotypes On TV || Honest to Gabe. Retrieved from

Guzmán, I. M., & Valdivia, A. N. (2004). Brain, Brow, and Booty: Latina Iconicity in U.S.

Popular Culture. The Communication Review,7(2),

205-221.doi:10.1080/10714420490448723

Hoffman, Alison R. & Noriega, Chon A. (2004). Looking for Latino Regulars on Prime-Time Television: The Fall 2003 Season.

UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. No. 3

Click to access crr_03April2004.pdf.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s