Media Representation of La Latina

It is easy to count the amount of Latina actresses in present Hollywood on one hand. Within that group there is not many Latina actresses that play realistic roles. The portrayal of Latinas in U.S. television has been an inaccurate representation and has lead to the inadequate role models available for young Latina women. I have noticed that most roles that are given to Latina actresses are those that depict sexy and curvy women. This is true for Desperate Housewives and Modern Family, shows that started on ABC several years ago. Jane the Virgin on the other hand, is a fairly recently made show that contrasts the other two mentioned. This show depicts an independent mother that goes to school and works, whereas the other two display a husband-dependent housewife.

Desperate Housewives
This  television drama consists of five housewives that live on Wisteria Lane and was first aired in 2004. One of the housewives is a retired model Gabrielle Solis who is played by Eva Longoria. Her character married a rich Carlos Solis and moved to the suburbs where she spends her days shopping or ordering her maid to clean. She waits for her husband to return from a long day at work in her sexy lingerie like she is some kind of trophy wife. She has no kids at the beginning of the show and is tricked into having some by her husband. She is financially dependent on her husband and she has no problem with that. I think this is an inaccurate representation of a stay at home Latina mom, and also does not serve as a role model for young women who watch the show. It can be easily translated that if there is beauty, all troubles will seem minimal because you could simply be a model and marry rich, when this is not the standard that young women should have. Young women should learn to be successful and not have to rely on anyone else to take care of them. They shouldn’t be taught that in order to live a lavish lifestyle they will have to be “sexy enough” for their spouse to love.

Modern Family

Modern Family is a comedy that unlike Desperate Housewives still airs on ABC and has been on since 2009 and the Latina character in this show is Gloria, played by Sofia Vergara. She is a beautiful woman with very curvy features and a thick Spanish accent. I think Sofia has a thick accent in real life too, but the show seems to emphasize this greatly and run on funny skits and scenes about it throughout all seasons. The other characters can’t understand her so she is constantly repeating herself and creating issues because of mispronunciation. Her son is the only one who knows what she is saying and serves like a “translator” to the others even though she is still speaking English. She is married to an older man and is a stay at home mom. This displays a passion that Latina women embody but I think in a overly dramatic way. Gloria is constantly yelling about something and talking with her hands, which I think is a stereotype of Latinas. Her curvy body serves as an unrealistic goal for young women and raises the expectations for what their bodies should look like, even though everyone’s body is different.giphy3

Both of the ABC shows depict a dependent housewives that don’t really contribute to society and are just there to basically “look pretty.” Both characters are known to show more skin and wear body hugging clothing, where the other white women in the show don’t have a wardrobe a revealing or bright. I think that adding diversity to their shows will attract more latino viewers, but I also think that there is a right way to do it.

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is a show that plays on The CW and has been airing since 2014, so this makes this show the most recent of the three. The protagonist of this show is Jane Villanueva, played by Gina Rodriguez and is accidentally inseminated with sperm before having sex so she is a pregnant virgin. It is themed like a telenovela and has dramatic scenes with ironic narration. Jane lives with her grandma and her mother in Miami and works while going to school. She pursues a higher education despite being pregnant and defies the odds against her. This show has quite a few differences than the other two and I think adequately represents what a role model should be. Gina is not as petite or skinny as Sofia or Eva and displays a more acceptable body type for many women watching. In the other two shows, Sofia and Eva are the only Latinas casted, whereas this show includes even more diversity with  several Latina actors and actresses. This show is more culturally appropriate as well with an immigrant grandmother who only speaks Spanish that I think many can relate to. This is an example of how Jane the Virgin presents a more accurate representation of Latinas in popular culture.

Lesson learned
Through this class many people shared the misrepresentation of their culture in the media. I realized that American shows, movies, and even commercials portray inaccurate representations of many cultures and not just Latina culture. What I have seen on television shows about other people’s ethnicities and cultures have been wrong. I now know that most ideas shown by media feed into stereotypes. I have also learned that the way an advertisement is taken, is exactly how producers planned it to be. They want consumer to feel and think a certain way.

Growing up I have always searched for the Latina role model. Being Latina I always felt that there was an inaccurate portrayal of Latinas in U.S. television with negative role models. I have never felt connected to a character like the motivated one from Jane the Virgin. This shows that the depiction of Latina women is changing and evolving for the better. Hopefully shows like this continue to rise and spread so that the Latina community can be perceived as it is.

Beltran, Mary. “The Hollywood Latina Body as Site of Social Sturggle: Media Constructions of Stardom and Jennifer Lopez’s “Cross-over Butt”” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 19.1 (2002): 71-86. Web.

Concepcion, Nina. “9 Times “Jane The Virgin” Got Latino Culture Right.” We Are Mitú. We Are Mitú, 20 May 2016. Web. Nov. 2016.

Guzmán, Isabel Molina, and Angharad N. Valdivia. “Brain, Brow, and Booty: Latina Iconicity in U.S. Popular Culture.” The Communication Review 7.2 (2004): 205-21. Web.

Merskin, Debra. “Three Faces of Eva: Perpetuation of The Hot-Latina Stereotype in Desperate Housewives.” Howard Journal of Communications 18.2 (2007): 133-51. Web.

“Modern Family: The Many Mispronunciations of Sofia Vergara’s ‘Gloria’” Guyism, 21 Sep 2011.

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About aasarabia

I'm a second year student at PSU majoring in Health Sciences with an interest in Pre-Medicine. I work at the Cultural Resource Centers on campus, come visit me! My birthday is on Thanksgiving this year so I'm changing my family's thanksgiving dinner to my birthday party. I enjoy sweets a little too much and I enjoy the company of those who I love.

3 thoughts on “Media Representation of La Latina

  1. Hi Aileen!

    I really like how you depicted the stereotypes based on Latina women and how the media portrays them. A lot of Latina actresses are portrayed as sexy with the curves and the busts, but most women are not like that. For example a Latina actress that doesn’t follow the body stereotypes, but is also still beautiful would be Michelle Rodriguez, she plays as a tom boy in Fast and Furious series as Letty, and she’s still gorgeous and hard core, and not following the sexy body type.

    Another person who I also believe is beautiful is Jennifer Lopez, although she does have the body, she doesn’t flaunt it unless she’s on stage singing, but in movies she’s always covered and doesn’t look super sexual.

  2. Hi Aileen!
    Great blog post! Its been great watching your writing develop through the mentoring sessions. I love all of the artifacts that you’ve used throughout your post, I am familiar with all of the tv shows and can clearly relate to everything you had to say and I can completely agree with you when you say that Latina women are overly sexualized in popular culture. Jane in Jane the Virgin is a great role model for a Latina women, we need more shows and films in popular culture with women like Jane to represent the culture.

  3. Hey Aileen,

    This was a great post and I really enjoyed reading your final product. After being the griller of your thesis during the synchronized meeting I knew this was a paper that I wanted to read. I too hit the stereotyping of Latina/os in general but you hit some topics that I hadn’t touched on. I hadn’t made the connection with the stereotypical stay at home Latina mom who is dependent on their spouse to bring in the money. I appreciated you making light of this issue because in our modern society this is just not the case anymore. Thank you for sharing your paper with the class.

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