Miami's Hispanic Audiences Deserve Better Representation on the Big Screen
Captain America, one of this year's biggest hits with Latino audiences.
Practically every day this month, I've found myself getting into arguments with someone about how important representation is in media. As many studies have shown, not everyone who goes to the movies or watches television is a generic upper-middle class, straight, white cis male. But when you get down to it, isn't that the only thing we see on the big screen?
Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly posted a list -- five things Hollywood learned about Latino moviegoers this summer -- that looked into the way that Hispanic audiences spent their money at the movies, and what movies they went out of their way to watch. Unsurprisingly, it showed that Latino audiences accounted "for at least 20 percent of ticket sales opening weekend for the highest-grossing movies in May and June." Those of us here in Miami who go to the movies could have easily told you that just by stepping into the line for tickets at any theater.
Being one of those people who buys tickets in Miami theaters, very often I might add, I've come to be frustrated by the selection more often than not. I don't see myself on the screen, or in many other mediums of media. Hollywood, especially, doesn't have much of a place for Latino actors unless they long to throw them into the same boring stereotypes we've seen time and time again. As the article states, we're always "cast as criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor, and hypersexualized beings."
Let's be real Miami: that's not us. It's embarrassing that that's all that is thought of us. Women especially are starved for representation, and yet Latina moviegoers make up a greater part of movie audiences "this summer than any other age or ethnic group." Take a look at some of the summer films that are mentioned that Latin American audiences go watch.
Transformers: Age of Extinction: a lot of robots (some of which are painfully racist caricatures), frustrated white men and one constantly victimized white woman go to China, where everyone knows martial arts.
Godzilla: every person of color is meaningless as long as the giant monster and the white guy who saves the day are at the forefront of the film. Women are reduced to dying or being nurses to the dying.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Lead characters are a bunch of apes and a white dude. Women are, again, reduced to dying or being nurses to the dying.
If anything, of the films listed, Captain America: The Winter Soldier does the most for racial diversity, as well as the inclusion of women. Captain America fleshes out Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow by making Natasha an actual human being instead of solely an ass-kicking sex-object, and also features an African American protagonist in a supporting role (Anthony Mackie's delightful Sam Wilson).
Sure, some of these films are entertaining, but what kind of person likes being constantly assaulted by images that tell them they only exist to be sexualized, criminalized, or turned into a punchline? I doubt that there are many out there. So why aren't we done settling for this? As the people who are told constantly that we are the minority, even though we make up such a massive number of ticket sales, aren't we done settling for never seeing ourselves on screen?
I never thought I'd have to say this so angrily, but if you want a real change: stop giving your money to Hollywood. Or at the very least, give it to films that actually have a say in the depiction of Latino characters. We live in an age where a Latino director has actually won an Academy Award for his work (albeit for a film featuring two white folks floating in space). We live in a city that is filled to the brim with local non-chain theaters that actually show films made by Hispanic filmmakers, that have an interest in showing Hispanic audiences that they can have the lead roles too.
If you want to see diversity in Miami, go to Coral Gables Art Cinema, Cosford Cinema, Miami Beach Cinematheque, O Cinema, or Tower Theater, among many others. Go to the Miami International Film Festival, the Miami Jewish Film Festival, the Women's International Film & Arts Festival, the Brazilian Film Festival of Miami, DocMiami, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film festival, and IndieFilmClub events. Go to the places that show foreign films, that show films made by women, made by Hispanic individuals, made by local filmmakers. Don't be wary of the term "art cinema," but embrace it; those are the films that are made in countries that have an interest in showing you who you can actually be.
Those options are just the tip of the iceberg. When we're as lucky to live in a place with as much diversity as Miami, with as many artists hailing from so many backgrounds, and cinemas that are devoted to presenting as many worldly views, we don't have to settle for what Hollywood gives us. And if you're truly desperate for those big action films (as the stats show the aforementioned films are the top-watched): watch things with actors and actresses proud of their background in lead roles. Guardians of the Galaxy, for instance, features Latina actress Zoe Saldana as one of the film's lead characters. Snowpiercer has a massive cast of characters played by actors of color who aren't solely reduced to stereotypes.
Strive for representation, whether it's on the big screen or any other form of media. It's not just Hispanic audiences getting shafted, but pretty much anyone that studios consider a minority. Remember Miami, you have options. Don't settle for becoming another statistic.
Send your story tips to Cultist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.