The Portrayal of Hispanic/Latin Women in Popular Culture

Due to the powerful influence popular culture has made on individuals in regards to race, Hispanic/Latin women suffer several frequent stereotypes. Moreover, instead of properly portraying this group of women, popular culture has instead steered its focus of Hispanic/Latin women towards an inaccurate and negative representation comprised by unreliable stereotypes. Additionally, popular culture has jumped back and forth from stereotype to stereotype, but in my perspective has focused on four particular stereotypes of Hispanic/Latin women: the maid/housekeeper, the women with thick accents, the immigrants, and the attractive teases. Furthermore, it is safe to say that all four of these stereotypes are offensive and degrading to Hispanic/Latin women. In addition, not only are these stereotypes hazardous to a woman’s image, but they can potentially be very harmful due to the fact that these images consist of unpleasant and awkward imagery based on the assumptions created by popular culture. All in all, these ideas can be viewed and understood thoroughly through television shows such as Devious Maids and Modern Family, as well as the film Spanglish.

The television show series Devious Maids created by Marc Cherry was created with the intention of grasping the attention of female viewers, but especially female minority viewers. The current day series focuses on the lives of four Hispanic/Latin maids working in Beverly Hills for the wealthy and famous. Although the maids appear to obtain the typical traits of a maid within the show, they instead come with some additional odd patterns. In fact, the most obvious patterns is the fact that they all have accents, obtain appealing looks, and three out of the four are immigrants. Although these stereotypes may not be of shock to many non– minorities, they are a disgraceful image to view in the perspective of a Hispanic/Latin woman. Not to mention, it’s a difficult image to observe because not only is it degrading to this community of women, but it has turned into an expectation for Hispanic/Latin women. Plus, not only are these maids portrayed as housekeepers, but they also receive the criticism for having heavy accents and maintaining an alluring image . According to Reyes (2013), “In the first few episodes, Devious Maids managed to nail every cliché associated with Latinas” (p. 1). Since the premiere of the television show in 2013, the Hispanic/Latin community has been outraged due to the discriminatory stereotypes represented in Devious Maids. Not only does the show maliciously mislead non– minority audience members down the negative pathway towards the acceptance of this deceitful depiction, but it also reinforces the representation of the Hispanic/Latin community, guiding their group to further harm. Reyes (2013) states, “Devious Maids takes Latinas back to mops, brooms and aprons, to a world where one White character says to her maid, ‘If you don’t stop screwing my husband, I’m going to have you deported’” (p. 1). Overall, it is obvious that race and ethnicity play a powerful and significant role when it comes to this body of human beings.

devious-maids

Meanwhile, another product of popular culture that contributes towards this fabrication of Hispanic/Latin women can be detected in the television show series Modern Family created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd. Although the purpose of the show was to focus on a large, blended family as a whole, it’s almost impossible to focus on the family altogether due to specific characters. For instance, Gloria Delgado– Pritchett perfectly represents the portrayal of a Hispanic/Latin woman formed by popular culture due to her thick accent, curvaceous image, immigrant status, and rambunctious attitude. Although she doesn’t possess the maid/housekeeper stereotype, she most definitely obtains the thick accent and curvaceous pattern along with the infrequent, rowdy attitude stereotype. Moreover, Gloria is best known for these stereotypes due to the fact that they complete her identity as a Hispanic/Latin woman and provide her character with a large amount of scrutiny. For example, in every episode of Modern Family, you are guaranteed at some point during the show to scope out Gloria flashing off her superb figure and her busty cleavage. Likewise, the television show successfully presents Gloria with an accent so dense you can barely understand the words flowing out of her mouth. Despite the fact that this depiction may not disturb the majority of non– minority viewers, it most definitely offends others as well as myself since these stereotypes are not consistently accurate. Editor Ariel Nagi explains and defends these stereotypes in her article “16 Stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop.” For example, Nagi debates against the fact that all Hispanic/Latin women have accents or pronounce their V’s like B’s and Y’s like U’s, are extremely rowdy, and flaunt off their voluptuous breasts and curves, (p. 1).

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A final product of popular culture that adds to these myths can be identified within the film Spanglish developed by James L. Brooks. In this film, a nuclear Caucasian family known as the Clasky’s are living the American dream in Los Angeles, California. However, they soon welcome a beautiful Mexican immigrant named Flor into their family to play the role of their housekeeper. But not only is Flor an attractive immigrant of Mexico, she also speaks very minimal English and when she finally decides to expand her knowledge within this area, she hold an accent. Throughout the film, Flor is seen cleaning the house, running errands for the Clasky’s, learning English, looking out for others, and also falling for her employer John Clasky. Primarily the film illustrates Flor as the gorgeous, innocent, controlling, perplexed, English learning immigrant who eventually finds herself involved with a married man. Even though this portrayal may not appear degrading to some, to many Hispanic/Latin women including myself, it is. To illustrate, when it comes to immigration, Nunez (2014) states, “The U.S. has always had a large population of U.S. born Latinos whose families have been around for decades” (p. 1). Plus, just because Flor was an attractive tease to John in the film, that doesn’t support the fact that every other woman in this world will reflect Flor’s appearance or actions. Finally, I found the fact that Flor is analyzed for her heavy accent extremely absurd since it’s not a very relevant component for examination due to the fact that she didn’t speak English to begin with. Besides, a majority of the women in my family grew up speaking Spanish, eventually learned English, and still don’t have an accent, which goes to show that this pattern isn’t entirely true.

SPANGLISH, Paz Vega, Tea Leoni, Adam Sandler, 2004, (c) Columbia

As many of us are familiar with, all three of the above examples appear to be an accurate portrayal of Hispanic/Latin women, yet, they’re incorrect to some degree. From the standards we have viewed and or experienced, they are the only ideas we are aware of and know to accept due to popular culture has brainwashing us into believing these myths and distortions. Regardless of the abundant falsifications made against these women, individuals such as Raul Reyes, Ariel Nagi, Alanna Nunez, and many more are doing their best to stand up and fight against these stereotypes in hopes of one day putting them to rest. Besides, not only is it their goal to bury these hurtful and adverse stereotypical portrayals, but to also debunk them and lend support to the Hispanic/Latin community.

The first defending contributor known as Raul Reyes is a member of USA TODAY’S board of contributors who argues for the sake of the Hispanic/Latin community in regards to Lifetime’s television show Devious Maids for several reasons. First off, Reyes discusses his disappointment with the creators of the show, but especially Eva Longoria since she is apart of this community of women. Reyes (2013) expressed “Longoria would do far better to craft a TV show about a woman more like herself – independent, powerful and multi– talented” (p. 1). This was a valid statement I concur with because as many people can see, there are plenty of successful Hispanic/Latin women out there along with Eva Longoria, such as Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Naya Rivera, Rita Moreno, Sylvia Rivera, Salma Hayek, and so many more. Withal, these women whether actresses, board members, activists, spokespersons, etc., have all in some way, shape, or form changed the world. Also, I personally know several successful Hispanic/Latin women that aren’t immigrants, don’t have accents, and aren’t housekeepers/maids. Therefore, it’s obvious that not all Hispanic/Latin women are maids or housekeepers, but are also particularly fortunate. Next off, according to Reyes (2013), “The maids were presented as gossipy, oversexed, and subservient” (p. 1). He discusses the adverse reaction from the Hispanic/Latin community since this portrayal also doesn’t apply to a majority of maids. This is obvious since the show is deliberately supposed to include juicy rumors and gossip amongst the characters.

Another contributor known as Ariel Nagi who is an editor of Cosmopolitan for Latinas also opposes against these stereotypes due to their fallacies. All throughout her article “16 stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop,” Nagi states and dissects the typical, well– known stereotypes made against Hispanic/Latin women. Thus, she covers the extremely common stereotypes listed above as well as others such as “we are great cooks,” “we have a bunch of kids at a young age,” and many more. Otherwise, an example she demystifies correctly is the fact that all Hispanic/Latin women are enticing, have perfect tan skin and long hair. Nagi (2013) explains “The media forgets women like – Tatyana Ali, Megan Goode, and Alexis Bledel – don’t always have tan skin” Additionally, in regards to immigration, Nagi (2013) affirmed, “Little does the media know, there are Latinos out there who have never even left the United States” (p. 1). I strongly agree with Nagi’s statements because not only are they extremely true and relevant, but they encourage people to think twice about assuming that all Hispanic/Latin women are tan, have long hair, and look like models nor are they all immigrants with dense accents.

Finally, Alanna Nunez, also an editor for Cosmopolitan for Latinas shows her support towards the Hispanic/Latin community in her article “10 Myths About Latinas That Just Won’t Die.” In this article, she similarly states a handful of the most common stereotypes and reveals why they are inaccurate and don’t apply to every Hispanic/Latin woman. For example, regarding the topic of immigrants, Nunez defends the fact that people have seemed to forget that a large majority of immigrants have been around for many decades (p. 1). Again, when it comes to Hispanic/Latin women appearing hypersexual and charming, it’s surprisingly not always in their control when it comes to being filmed on set and other times they don’t mind this natural way of acting. Nunez (2014) clarified “There is no shortage of sexy, sensual Latina characters on TV, but the reality is, not all Latinas embody this stereotype or care what you think about them being sexy” (p. 1). I couldn’t agree less with Nunez because at times this way of acting is sometimes not in the actresses control and if it is, some women may not care, either because they don’t notice their actions, enjoy acting this way, etc. As a result, Nunez does an excellent job defending these stereotypes and providing useful information as well as examples.

In conclusion, despite the negative stereotypes piled upon Hispanic/Latin women, it’s up to audience members of popular culture and more specifically the media to think hard and thoroughly about what they’re presenting, viewing, reading, hearing, and interpreting. Although most people don’t take the time to process these stereotypes, it’s very important too, especially for the sake of the people being criticized and analyzed within popular culture. It’s also exceedingly crucial that we stop to think about what is being thrown at us by the media because it definitely isn’t all valid and I know this for a fact because I have had others assume too quickly about who I am based on what they have seen through popular culture. Instead of judging too quickly, it’s up to individuals to choose whether to believe honesty or dishonesty.

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

  1.  Ansell, J., Brooks, J., Sakai, R. (Producers) & Brooks, J. (Director & Writer). (2004) Spanglish [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Columbia Pictures.
  1. Cherry, M. (Creator & Writer), & Weyr, T. (Director) (2013). Pilot [Television series episode]. Longoria, E (Executive Producer), Cherry. M (Executive Producer), Devious Maids. New York, NY: Lifetime. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2226342/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
  1. Google Images:

I. Devious Maids: http://images.enstarz.com/data/images/full/14079/devious-maids.jpeg

II. Modern Family/Gloria:

http://content.internetvideoarchive.com/content/hdphotos/9226/009226/009226_755x422_545888_63911.jpg

III. Spanglish: http://media.baselineresearch.com/images/160272/160272_full.jpg

  1. Levitan, S. (Creator & Screenwriter), Lloyd, C. (Creator), & Spiller, M. (Director) (2009). Pilot [Television series episode]. Levitan, S. (Executive Producer), Lloyd, C. (Executive Producer), Modern Family. New York, NY: ABC
  1. Nagi, A. (2014, January). 16 Stereotypes of Latinas That Need to Stop. Cosmopolitan, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/advice/a5403/latina-media-stereotypes/
  1. Nunez, A. (2014, October). 10 Myths About Latinas That Just Won’t Die. Cosmopolitan, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a32212/myths-about-latinas-that-need-to-die/
  1. Reyes, R. (2013, July). Devious Maids does a disservice to Latinos: Column. USA TODAY, (volume/issue: n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/07/09/devious-maids-latinos-tv-show-column/2461193/

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Portrayal of Hispanic/Latin Women in Popular Culture

  1. Hello Kristin!

    your post definitely resonated with me as I too am a Hispanic woman who is also very aware of these stereotypes. It’s definitely frustrating for me to see depictions like these plastered all over television. And what’s just an interesting point to note is the fact that Latina women are usually depicted as incredibly attractive (if they appear at all in pop culture) and yet I know most of the people I know have said they couldn’t date a Latina girl for one of two reasons – either they don’t find them attractive (potentially because they don’t live up to the stereotype) or because 2 – many people see them as being promiscuous (which could be due to the fact that they are often sexualized in the media. It’s unfortunate that it appears to kind of be a lose-lose situation. Anyway, I thought your post was wonderful overall and I wish you all the best with the end of the term and hope your summer is great!
    -Maricruz

  2. Hi Kristin,
    First off, I really enjoyed reading your post. I have to admit, I never really thought much about how often Hispanic/Latin Women are being portrayed as the stereotypes you have pointed out because it was something I just saw and never gave much thought about it. But after reading your post, I think I will definitely pay more attention to how they are portrayed in the media that I read/watch, and even when I’m watching Modern Family. I also liked how you used sources, like “16 stereotypes of Latinas that need to stop” and how it goes further into detail about how women pronounce certain words. With the quotes you have in your post, I think you really hit the nail on the head. Most of us forget that not all Latinas look like Sofia Vergara or the ones we see on tv, and that Hispanic/Latin women are more than just those stereotypes.

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