Latino Stereotyping in Film

Latino movies written and produced in the United States tend to miss the aspects of Latino culture and add biased perceptions. Key among this is the portrayal of Latinos in films as thugs who are rugged and involved in criminal activities especially gangs (Berg 9). In these films, Latino males are mostly depicted as thugs who steal instead of working hard to earn a living. In the movie series The Fast and the Furious Latinos here are depicted as car thieves under the investigation of the FBI. This is not only limited to relatively modern films but also in the 1961 classical film West Side Story where a battle ids depicted between two Latino gangs, one of Caucasian descent and the other a Puerto Rican. In both these films the Latinos are depicted as thugs and drug dealers who cannot justly make their own dollar and are often engaged in illegal activities in order to make a living. This depiction is not true since only a few of the Latino community are engaged in such activities while the majority are in fact law abiding citizens who pay taxes and follow rules to the latter.

Another stereotype currently portrayed of Latinos is that of illegal immigrants who have sneaked their way into America. Here Latinos are depicted as poor people who are trying hard to seek greener pastures in the US by all means possible (Berg 38). Since the US has strict policies on immigration they are forced to sneak into the country through illegal means such as being transported through tunnels dug into the US or even being hidden in vehicle compartments not visible to the police. This is evident in films such as Maid in America which depicts three housekeepers of Mexican descent who have sneaked into the country and are immigrants. One of them is even threatened with immigration for being illegally in the US. This stereotype is quite wrong as most of the Latinos are actually born and bred in America after their forefathers moved into US long ago. It is actually common knowledge that the US is made up of multiple cultures that settled in the region and Latinos are no different.

An additional portrayal of Latinos in US based movies is that of them doing the odd jobs. Most of the Latinos also never get starring roles unless the movies are meant for a Latino audience specifically (Berg 93). It is in numerous occasions that the Latino lady has been portrayed as a maid as mentioned above in the movie Maid in America. Another classic portrayal of a Latino doing an odd job is in the Hollywood sensation Maid in Manhattan where Oscar winner Jennifer Lopez acts as a maid in an upscale hotel and falls in love with a wealthy client at the hotel. This portrayal is quite wrong as many Latinos hold very prestigious positions in various companies around the world. In addition, though some do the odd jobs, other Americans as well do these odd jobs yet it is only Latinos that are depicted mostly in this character role.

Furthermore, it does not end there but also Latinos are viewed as lovers and sexpots in the American film industry. This is not only the preserve of Latino ladies but also Latin men have been portrayed in this light. One of the most used Latin actors is Antonio Banderas who has more often than not been portrayed as the sexy, suave and a sex guru. Women such as Eva Longoria have also been portrayed as sexpots particularly in the series Desperate Housewives. This depiction of Latinos is quite false as majority of Latin culture is that of people who value family and even these actors are family men with one partner and kids to complete the equation.

However, it will be unfair to criticize the American film industry as a whole since there are good films that try and depict Latinos for who they are and showing their culture for what it is. One of such films is the 2002 film Frida where Penelope Cruz tells the story of a famous Mexican artist whose life and personal struggle is shown. Key to her struggle is her art work which tells her story. The film shows how family life is like and shows a hardworking lady who aims to make a living from her talent that is painting. Another classic depiction of the Latin culture is El Mariachi which shows the struggle of a man and his family of music. It is well known that Latino culture incorporates music and this movie clearly shows that while also showing a hardworking man who earns a living legally though by struggle.

In conclusion, most of Latin movies created in America typically stereotype the Latinos as shown above. This stereotyping of Latinos as thugs and poor people is wrong and needs to be changed. It is also important to note that there is a silver lining as some of the movies that depict typical Mexican culture are also filmed in the US. Such movie can be used as a basis for future movie making which try and depict Latin culture for what it truly is.


Work Cited

Berg, Charles R. Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, & Resistance. Austin:

University of Texas Press, 2002. Print.