Women in the Media: Latina Women in Television

By: Madison Meyer

 

Media is often a mirror of our society. Ideally, it is a conscious platform for creators to express their concerns about what is going on in the world around us. Whether their material is motivated by concern over the status quo or something else, it’s no secret that the goal is to relate to the largest population possible in order to gain an audience. This often results in stereotypes and tropes about minorities being played out on screen.

Some of the more outrageous comedy shows (like South Park and Family Guy) take these patterned characters to a completely new level. It’s the kind of comedy that takes it upon itself to be extremely offensive in order to critique our society.

This is evident in an episode of South Park when Cartman makes a hand puppet of Jennifer Lopez (bizarrely sexualized with a tiny bikini on a hand puppet) and writes a song named “Taco Flavored Kisses” (Stone and Parker, 2009). Because of course, her kisses always taste like Hispanic food and she has to be smoking hot (after all, she is a Latina woman). This extremist sort of portrayal of the tropes continues on to Family Guy with their maid, Consuela. Her character continuously has yellow cleaning gloves on, regardless of where she is and what she is doing. She is portrayed as stealing money from the family, none too bright, lazy, and yet still manages to clean everything all the time (MacFarlane, 2014). These shows are trying to give an extreme view on every race and group to attempt at provoking change through their humor and narrow minded writing. The way that they decide to portray Latinas in their shows is exactly the way that other shows do it, just in a much louder way.smpte_color_bars_16x9-svg

Other comedies such as Modern Family, Will and Grace, and My Name is Earl exemplify the same stereotypes about Latina women through their weekly sitcoms, but in a way that they must think is palatable. Sophia Vergara, one of the newest prominent names in show business these days (and one of the biggest sexpots on television) portrays a “young and dumb gold-digging wife” on Modern Family. With her hourglass shape, plump lips, and long beautiful hair… there’s nothing not to adore. This is just another example of a Latina woman being shoved into the mold that American society has created. In Will and Grace, the token Latina woman is a maid, similar to Consuela from Family Guy. Karen Walker, the boisterous woman with an ear-splitting voice is constantly jumping to the conclusion that her maid, Rosario Salazar, stole what she lost. While they are constantly fighting about who stole what, Karen is shouting racial stereotype after stereotype
. These include things like, “Listen Señorita, I could pick up anyone like you at a paint store…” and, “Hey, you washed up on the shore of this country on an inner tube wearing a banana leaf and a couple of coconuts” (Kohan, 2009, 2013). My Name is Earl combines the sexpot and domestic trope and introduces an attractive young maid played by Nadine Velasquez. She is extremely sexualized as well as working to keep afloat. These sitcoms aren’t as vulgar as some of the other shows on Comedy Central and Adult Swim but, their blatant ignorance concerning this offensive portrayal of Latinas is shocking.

 

Media is used to inform and entertain the largest demographic that it can. Often this results in stereotyping minorities that are portrayed on screen. This often creates branches of stereotypical racism that wouldn’t necessarily be rotated through society as much as it is when it is put on national television. If the nation wants to demolish racism and sexism, stereotypes like this need to fade away.

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