Entertainment is a large part of the human experience, visual entertainment to be exact, has become an entire culture that we have all been a part of throughout the years. Through television shows and movies, we have constantly seen characters of different backgrounds, genders, and ages, but never really questioned the realism of the characteristics themselves. We are surrounded and consumed by various sources of media on a daily basis that unknowingly the visual effects of media has manipulated the perception of who individuals really are. In the TV shows Devious Maids, Jane the Virgin, and Modern Family, we will discover how television portrays the personalities of Latina characters and whether stereotypes play a role in who they are and who they play.
The TV Show Devious Maids (2013) created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios, is about the lives of four maids who tend to the homes of rich families in Beverly Hills, California. Every family they work for has their own agenda, life, and most importantly, their own secrets. Each of the four women are of a different Latin descent, and even though these women have different lives they still seem to have many similarities. They are all Latina, over 30 years old, with long dark hair, attractive, and fierce.
These similarities are seen throughout the entire show and never really quite change but just progress and become more obvious. They become involved and caught into a series of scandals that happen within their group of maids and with the families they work for, when they have their lunch breaks or get together they gossip and complain about their employers. There are many scenes in which these women use their nationality to defend themselves or use it as an excuse.
The stereotypes used in Devious Maids are that Latin women are always maids and tend to the needs of others rather than their own. They are also perceived as immigrants with strong accents, are typically loud, and are almost always strict mothers.
Jane the Virgin:
Jane the Virgin (2014), produced by Urman Snyder and presented on The CW, is a telenovela about a young Latin American virgin woman who gets accidentally artificially inseminated. Jane is a student and part-time employee who strives to become a writer, who has lived with her mother and grandmother her entire life and never really had a father figure growing up. Her grandmother, Alba, moved to the United States as a young mother to provide and give her daughter Xiomara (Jane’s mom) a better life. Alba is represented as a very stereotypical Latin grandmother, wise, religious, and is not approving of the choices or lifestyle of others.
Xiomara, Jane’s mother, is a very noticeable character in the way she is presented, she is attractive, flirty and very free-spirited, the complete opposite of her mother and her daughter Jane. Jane on the other hand, depicts a very positive and refreshing side to the Latin American culture. She is a very bright and studious woman who works through the challenges that life throws at her while maintaining a positive attitude. The stereotypes depicted in this show toward latin women, is that they are very family oriented, flirty, gossipy, and religious.
Modern Family (2009), created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, is a sitcom presented on ABC. The show surrounds itself on three different families, one gay couple with an adopted baby, a family of two parents and three kids, and the last family is an older man with a Colombian wife and her child. Every episode consists of different humorous scenarios and situations that the family’s experience. The character Gloria Pritchett played by Sofia Vergara is presented as a “typical” latina, she is very loud, dramatic, and has a thick spanish accent.
She is not only portrayed as latina in her way of being but also in the way she looks, she is very attractive with long dark hair, colored lips, with almost always tight clothing with some cleavage showing, or as Teresa Correa quotes in her article Framing Latinas: Hispanic women through the lenses of Spanish-language and English-language news media: “They have a Spanish accent and a homogeneous look: slightly tan, dark hair, short and curvilinear. However, these generalizations differ with reality. In fact, Latinas are a heterogeneous group with different levels of assimilation in the USA, dissimilar cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, and diverse physical builds.” There are many instances in the show where Sofia uses phrases like, “ In my country…”: or excuses herself just because she is Colombian.
The stereotypes depicted in Modern Family are that Latina women are loud, angry, argumentative, and unreasonable.
After generations of trying to break the stigma of stereotypes and generalization, we have not yet been able to reach the point at where it breaks. In this day and age we still see and hear stereotypes being used in person and in media, especially in film. The shows Devious Maids, Jane the Virgin, and Modern Family are only minor examples of how the media depicts and exposes Latin women. They are shown as maids, mothers, religious, crazy, loud, and overprotective. As Myra Mendible states in her book, From Bananas to Buttocks: “In the United States, the Latina body has signed in for somatic differences (body type, coloring, facial features) and differences in culture, class, language, religion, and sexuallity.” (7)
One of the largest aspects of Latinas in film is their sexuality. “Latinas have this stereotype that we’re sex symbols … that we walk sexy and (have) this flavor.” Said Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez in an interview on KPCC.
Although these shows are meant to be entertaining and funny, the underlying messages and meaning are not positive or funny at all. The characters with certain personalities and looks are created for the audience to feel connected and be able to relate to them. There are an endless amount of stereotypes used to generalize Latin women in film and other media that are not accurate, sadly enough some of our favorite programs attack and even exaggerate personalities in order to get the attention of views.
Ever since this assignment began, I have found myself looking at media in a different perspective. Week 1 was truly an eye opener when I had to categorize myself and choose specific groups or personality types that I belonged to. That exercise made me realize a lot about myself and, and in the way that others view me. Then moving onto week 4 where we had to choose a specific identity to start our project, that’s when I figured out which identity I felt the most connected to. After much research I began to realize that various sources of media attack culture, nationality, and gender in so many ways possible, that is why my hope was to bring these aspects to light and show how a Latin woman as myself is preserved.
Cherry, M. (Producer). (2013, June 23). Devious Maids [Television series]. Beverly Hills, California: ABC.
Correa, Teresa. “Framing Latinas: Hispanic women through the lenses of Spanish-language and English-language news media.” Journalism 11.4 (2010): 425-43. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
Lloyd, C., & Levitan, S. (Producers). (2009, September 23). Modern Family [Television series]. Los Angeles , California: ABC.
Mendible, Myra, ed. From bananas to buttocks: The Latina body in popular film and culture. University of texas Press, 2010.
Snyder Urman, (Producer). (2014, October 13). Jane the Virgin [Television series]. Los Angeles, California: The CW.
Staff, AP With KPCC. “Women in film: Latinas more likely to appear nude, study says.” Southern California Public Radio. N.p., 07 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
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