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The NYT notices something I’ve harped on for about a dozen years:


Latinos Onscreen, Conspicuously Few

Anna Bahr

JUNE 18, 2014

If you went to the movies in 1946, when Latinos constituted barely 3 percent of the American population, you might have caught Carmen Miranda, reportedly the highest-paid woman in the world at the time, dancing with her improbably tall fruit hat. By the 1950s, Desi Arnaz graced network TV as a star of “I Love Lucy.”

But it was more likely that the Latino actors seen on big and small screens occupied a narrow range of stereotyped background roles.

Actually, after WWII, Hispanics tended to be, if anything, over-represented in movies. They were featured prominently in Latin Lover roles, such as Fernando Lamas, whose image lives on in his sailing buddy Jonathan Goldsmith’s Dos Equis beer commercial character “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” George Clooney’s uncle-in-law José Ferrer won the 1950 Best Actor Oscar for Cyrano de Bergerac. Ricardo Montalban was on the cover of Life Magazine in 1949. The best of the Latin actors, Anthony Quinn, had been working steadily since the 1930s and ascended to stardom in 1952, winning the Best Supporting Oscar playing Marlon Brando’s brother in Viva Zapata.

There was a lot of pro-Latin American propaganda and warm feelings during the 1940s in America, such as Mayor LaGuardia of NYC renaming Sixth Avenue the “Avenue of the Americas” in 1945. I imagine there were several reasons for this trend, including

- To encourage Latin America to side with the Allies rather than the Italians and Germans or sit it out like the Spaniards;

- Because Latin America prospered mightily during WWII (for example, in 1946 the Mexican League tried to become a third major league in baseball by raiding 18 American big leaguers), thus making Latin America economically fashionable for awhile.

- With movie markets in Continental Europe cut off, Hollywood focused on cultivating the Latin American market.

Still, relative to the total population, the stardom of even a few prominent Latinos was culturally and statistically significant.

It would seem that way if you project today’s attempt to racialize Conquistador-Americans as an oppressed minority back on to the past. There’s a huge effort today to rewrite the past to make it seem like Latinos were treated like blacks in order to emotionally justify amnesty and affirmative action as reparations for white racism.

But 65 years ago, a white guy from Argentina was a white guy with a sexy accent, while a mestizo like Quinn was a Cliff Curtis-type who was popular in Hollywood because he could plausibly play an Arab or an Eskimo.

In general, being Latin deracialized individuals in mid-Century American eyes. For example, the color line in baseball wasn’t actually broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947, it was broken by several Cuban players for the Washington Senators in the late 1930s. You’ve probably never heard their names, because it wasn’t a big deal at the time: there was some resistance to playing guys who were obviously part black, but mostly the Latin understanding that one drop of white blood makes somebody more or less white was applied to these ballplayers. Organized Latin lobbies like LULAC wanted Latins to be seen as white, so the Census Bureau stopped counting them in the 1950 and 1960 Census. Our crime statistics to this day mostly count Latinos as white.

In fact, terms like “white” and “nonwhite” probably confuse matters more than they help. Something like “core” v. “fringe” is more useful.

In 1950 people felt it benefited them to seem more core American (although being a little bit of something else as long as it wasn’t African-American, especially a little American Indian like Herbert Hoover’s Vice President Charles Curtis, could be glamorous). Being a black American was a major problem, but everything else was more or less negotiable.

Today, however, ambitious people almost all understands the advantages of claiming to be more fringe. (Mormons are the only ones who don’t get it, yet. But I’d hardly be surprised if there is a BYU grad student write now compiling the magnum opus that will re-redefine his people as an oppressed minority.)

Today, Latinos make up 17 percent of Americans, but there has been little change in network television in the number of Latino lead actors and in Latino roles, according to a study, “The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media,” released on Tuesday by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.

When roles calling for Latinos appear today, they tend to fit generations-old labels: the cop or the criminal, the illegal immigrant or the emotional sex kitten. During the 1994-1995 network TV season, 6 percent of Latinos on television were linked to a crime; from 2012 to 2013, 24.2 percent of all Latino TV actors played criminals. Behind the screen, the study found that no Latinos wrote network TV pilots in 2011 and 2012.

The nightly news on TV offers an even more limited view. During the 1995-2004 period, stories about Latinos, most of which focused on illegal immigration and crime, made up less than 1 percent of network news. There are no Latino anchors or executive producers on any top English-speaking network news programs, according to the study.

Frances Negrón-Muntaner

“The narrative that gets circulated in news is pretty much the narrative that Latinos are foreigners and somewhat threatening to America,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the lead researcher of the study and an assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia. Latinos, she went on, “are only important in the news when they confirm something about our world that we already hold true — stories about illegal entry, for example, reinforce the idea that we don’t belong here.”

Or when Conquistador-Americanas like the (not very) Negron-Muntaner pen studies hyped in the New York Times about how they suffer under the lash of racial discrimination.

A notable finding in this new study is the sluggish growth in representation despite a fast-growing Latino population — and in particular of a fast-growing population of enthusiastic media consumers. Latinos, for example, buy 25 percent of all movie tickets in the United States and watch more hours of video online than the average American, according to Nielsen, the ratings company.

… Still, even as Latino consumer power grows, media presence seems to shrink. If diverse programming seems to give networks an advantage, why the disparity? The researchers for the study argue that in many media companies and networks, a significant majority of decisions are made by upper-class, middle-aged white men. The people responsible for hiring writers and actors look for people who are similar to themselves, hurting Latino representation, the study said. “In my interviews, I found that many people, consciously or not, are trying to preserve their privilege,” Ms. Negrón-Muntaner said. “People would say, ‘Oh, if we open up to tell new stories, then we’re displacing ones that are tried and true.’  ”

Back in 1996, Marlon Brando went on the Larry King show to protest the mistreatment of two Mexican immigrants by the police and to encourage Hollywood executives to give more and better roles to Latinos, just as they had worked to boost the image of blacks during the Sidney Poitier Era. (Here’s the transcript.) You may remember the upshot of Brando’s attempt at raising Hispanic diversity sensitivity awareness among entertainment industry executives:

Weeping Brando apologises to Jews

Saturday 13 April 1996

Los Angeles (Reuter) – The actor Marlon Brando, who sparked a storm of criticism for saying Hollywood was run by Jews, broke down and wept yesterday when he met Jewish leaders to apologise for his comments.

“It took 30 to 45 seconds before he was able to compose himself,” Rabbi Marvin Hier said of the Oscar-winning star of the Godfather, whom he met for three hours.

“Mr Brando broke down and cried … to show his affection for Lew Wasserman and other people who are his idols,” Rabbi Hier said, referring to the chairman emeritus of MCA, the parent company of Universal Pictures. Mr Wasserman had deplored Brando’s comments last week, but defended the actor as a friend of the Jews.

In an appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live last Friday, Brando said he was angry with some Jewish film-makers for not showing more sensitivity in portraying minority groups in a negative fashion while not portraying Jews in the same way.

“Hollywood is run by Jews. It’s owned by Jews and they should have a greater sensitivity about the issue of people who are suffering,” he said on the programme.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Hispanics, Hollywood 
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After finishing last week’s column about Hollywood’s obsession with fair-skinned actresses, I went to see Batman Begins, which has been positioned as a “more realistic comic book movie.”

Obviously, there’s something oxymoronic about that phrase, but Batman Begins is reasonably refreshing for a summer blockbuster. It puts a lot of effort into explaining where Bruce Wayne gets all his Bat Gear (the Batmobile and the rest are high tech military prototypes invented by Wayne Enterprises’ top scientist, played by Morgan Freeman), and into detailing why he becomes an avenging angel of the night: when he was a lad, his saintly parents were gunned down in front of him by a mugger.

Gotham City looks evocatively like Chicago, where some of the movie was filmed.

But, as an old Chicagoan, I can assure you that one aspect of Batman Begins is standard-issue Hollywood hokum: the murderous mugger is blond.

Blond bad guys are a lot more common in movies and television than in real life.

For example, in Batman Begins, you can tell that Mr. Earle, the executive in charge of Wayne Enterprises, is up to no good because he is played by Rutger Hauer—the blond Dutchman who made his American debut in 1981′s Nighthawks as a terrorist chased by heroic NYPD cops Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams. Hauer was subsequently cast as Albert Speer in the TV movie Inside the Third Reich, and eventually received his best-known role as a homicidal android in Blade Runner.

No typecasting there!

And speaking of blond terrorists being chased by NYPD cops, who can forget Alan Rickman in Bruce Willis’s Die Hard? No wonder President Bush cracked down on ethnic profiling of Arabs by airport security in the months before 9/11: all the terrorists in movies are either Germans or English aristocrats!

Exactly why Hollywood hates blond men almost as much as it loves blond women is not clear. Some have suggested complicated combinations of resentment and longing in regard to WASPs and/or Nordics.

This prejudice against blond men would seem to be on a collision course with the tendency of movie moguls, such as Steven Spielberg, to marry blonde women, such as Kate Capshaw. This means the industry’s hereditary elite will tend to become blonder over the generations. No doubt it will cause no end of father-son conflicts, keeping Beverly Hills psychiatrists prosperous for the rest of the century.

A more general question is why in movies and television, murderers are far more likely to be white (whether blond or brunette) than African-American—even though, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics: “Blacks were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2002.”

One of my readers recently pointed out that with non-Hispanic whites accounting for only about ten percent of the violent crime in New York City, the three Law & Order television shows were likely to feature more fictional white New York murderers in 2005 than there will be actual white murderers in real life!

Another reader pointed out:

“In the first 24 episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intentthere’s only one black murderer, and she is a corrupt police officer. Make of that what you will…”

Racial activist organizations like the NAACP constantly complain that minority actors have a hard time getting roles. For some reason, though, the NAACP never brings up the most obvious ways to increase the casting of blacks and Hispanics—by making the ethnic make-up of screen criminals more realistic.

There are unintended consequences to all these good intentions. Villains provide excellent roles that actors can sink their teeth into. But minorities seldom get those great Hannibal the Cannibal-type parts.

Unfortunately, African-American actors have long been held back by what’s known as Ben Stein’s Law. The mordant law professor, economist, screenwriter and game show host made an in-depth study in 1979 that revealed that in any Hollywood whodunit, the whitest, richest and most respectable character usually turns out to be the bad guy.

In Rush Hour 2, Chris Tucker updated Ben Stein’s Law with his “Law of Criminal Investigation: Always follow the rich white man.”

It appeared that the ice was breaking when Denzel Washington won the Oscar for playing the heavy in 2001′s Training Day, a role based on Rafael Perez, the affirmative action-hire rogue cop whose criminality set off the LAPD’s Rampart Scandal.

But little progress has been made since. Morgan Freeman, for example, first broke through to public notice playing a vicious pimp in 1987′s Street Smart. However, he continues to get cast as the embodiment of saintliness, what Richard Brookhiser calls the “Numinous Negro”—as in Freeman’s Oscar-winning but embarrassing role as the holy janitor in Million Dollar Baby.

In Batman Begins, Freeman portrays an inventor—another weird Hollywood racial cliché. Just as judges are so often played by black women, Hollywood has decided that technogeeks must be portrayed by black men, the more improbable the better, as in burly Ving Rhames being the computer nerd in the “Mission Impossible” movies.

Clearly, political correctness damages black actors’ careers. Because it would be “racist” for movies to show blacks as killers, since that would support the “stereotype” that blacks commit more homicides than whites, they are denied the good roles as bad guys.

And to counter the stereotype that black men aren’t as interested as other races in computers, they get force-fed into playing nerds.

From a career standpoint, that’s a disastrous trade-off for any actor.

And from a political and cultural standpoint, Hollywood’s blond-bashing isn’t that great either.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Hollywood 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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