Sofia Vergara's Emmys Skit Proves We Need More Positive Representation of Latinas on TV
There has been a lot of talk, Tweets, and Instagrams since Beyonce's powerhouse performance at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday and Sofia Vergara's spinning skit at the Emmys Monday night. The stark contrast between the two showings has caused a stir, with "feminism" and "sexist" hashtag-storming social media.
But let's bring it back home for a second: Vergara wasn't trying to make some feminist statement with her bit at the Emmys, instead she was just flaunting her assets at the request of the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Bruce Rosenblum. "What truly matters," Rosenblum said while Vergara rotated on a pedestal, "is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch."
Then again, Emmy night was a celebration of all things television and Modern Family has been a huge winner every year since its premiere, so it was fitting to include Vergara in a bit. And if she wouldn't have done it, we're sure some other woman with a good figure would have stepped up.
Vergara seems to be okay with what she did, telling Entertainment Weekly: "I think it's absolutely the opposite [of sexist and demeaning]. It means that somebody can be hot and also be funny and make fun of herself."
A valid point, but don't forget that as a public figure you have the public eye watching, and as a Latina, you're up there representing us all.
Aside from all the "sexist" arguments that came from that gag, one missing point in the discussion is how Vergara is one of the few representations Latinas have on TV, and she's not a very good one.
Growing up in Miami and being a proud Latina, I never really had any strong, female, Hispanic women on television I could look up to. Movies are another story -- the goosebump-inducing talent of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz were good enough.
It's the same old spiel: we don't all speak like that, we don't all act like that, we're not all curvaceous and super-hot, yadda-yadda. And, the reality is that a good amount of Latinos and Latinas do act like Vergara and the characters she plays, but there are a lot more of us who don't.
Want to talk positive Latina women on television? There exists such a thing where the character is not strutting around in tight fitted clothes and speaking in broken English to get a laugh. ABC Family's newest sitcom, Young & Hungry, stars Miami native Aimee Carrero as Sofia Rodriguez. (Shameless Miami plug.) Carrero is of Puerto Rican and Dominican decent and grew up surrounded by a bunch of Cubans, so she knows a thing or two about the authentic Latina portrayal versus the far-from-reality skits.
It's like the difference between buying a flan at a restaurant or café along Calle Ocho and ordering a caramel custard somewhere in the middle of Central Florida.
The best part about Carrero's character is how she doesn't allow herself to be put down or insulted, even if it's for the sake of a joke. In one episode, someone says something about her skin tone or something race-related, and Carrero fires back, "Uh, that's a little bit racist." The scene still gets a laugh, but the would-be-racist comment gets shut down.
Sure, Carrero's role is a supporting one in the new series, but it's still a much more positive portrayal -- and it's a start.
The other sad truth is that Vergara plays the Latina stereotype so well. Hell, it's her job to be the hot, Spanish-speaking clown -- she doesn't really do comedy where she's not belittling her heritage and objectifying her womanly assets.
But there are other actors out there who want to properly represent our culture, and we want to see more of them on TV.
So don't put us on a rotating pedestal, Academy, instead put us behind the microphones accepting more awards celebrating our talent rather than our figures.
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.