Friday, November 15, 2019

Portrayal Of Mexican American Heritage Film Studies Essay

Portrayal Of Mexican American Heritage Film Studies Essay There are many names that are often used to depict one of Mexican American heritage. Most Americans are familiar the use of such names as Chicanos and Cholos to name a few. But what do you often think of when you hear the terms being used? In this paper I will address the negative views that seem to be brought with these terms and the undeniable impact that the filming industry has had on these said associations. On the television a promotion comes on to entice you to go see the blockbuster movie of the month. The film is said to portray a loving Hispanic family that has just lost their daughter in a tragic accident. The television suddenly shuts off before you have a chance to see the rest of the advertisement for the movie. You start to predict the main plot of the movie yourself. Since the movie is about a Hispanic family, it is probably filmed in a rundown part of town with graffiti and abandoned buildings everywhere. Their daughter has more than likely been the victim of a stray bullet from a drive by shooting that was initiated over a gang fight or drugs. These types of views are not uncommon among most in America. The depiction of Hispanic characters in the past has usually been portrayed as criminal, greasy, and unintelligent. Directors and writers often put their prejudices into the work that they create and that in turn has created a world on screen of cultural stereotypes. Many actors are pushed to speak with certain accents and at times even their skin is made darker for effect. Women are usually cast to play roles as housemaids or an extremely sexual individual. Men often play the role of a mobster, landscaper, or extremely aggressive drunk person. The size of a typical Mexican family on film is often massive, with many children. Throughout U.S. history, Mexican Americans have, and continue to, endure various types of negative stereotypes which have long circulated in cinema. Silent films of the mid 1920s led to a few opportunities for Hispanics. Most of the early filmmakers were European immigrants and did not originally have the racial attitudes of Americans. Latinos were able to be actors and directors in Hollywood. The first Charlie Chaplin movies cameraman was from Mexico. There was no language barrier to contend with in the silent films either and were not subject to English-only prejudice. The Latin Lover, played by an Italian actor Ruben Valentino in early years, created an image that Latinos were much more passionate and sexual in comparison to Whites. By the end of the 1920s, however, European filmmakers had adopted U.S. racial values. They began excluding Latinos from the industry except when they were needed in front of the cameras. There they would generally play the stereotypical roles. The Latin Lover image often still exists today. With this Latin Lover image in the 1920s many Latinos were given leading roles. This also developed an image of Hispanic men as gigolos or Hispanic women as vamps in the mind of moviegoers. Spanish-language films were produced for the years between 1928 and 1939. They soon found that audiences only wanted to see the original stars of the film and decided to stop. This gave way to opportunities for Latino to star and participate as the image of the Latin Lover had diminished. Actors would generally change their names, hid their identities to be passed as white, or take stereotypical roles. Dark-skinned Latinos were confined to play negative roles or not work at all. One of Hollywoods and Mexicos biggest film stars during the 1920s and 1930s was Dolores Del Rio. Being dark-skinned, the studios would lighten her up. She was very proud of her heritage and declined roles that would put down her culture. She had refused to be branded by the studios as Spanish and insisted in being recognized as Mexican. Unfortunately, every time she turned down a character there was another actress willing play the demeaning role. Lupe Velez, known as the Mexican Spitfire, believed they would eventually return to more meaningful roles. After the 1930s, most Latinos who rose in popularity did so by hiding their identities using Anglo names. In later decades actors such as and Martin Sheen changed their names to avoid Hollywood typecasting. Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada. Martin Sheen had his name changed from Ramon Estevez. The few leading Hispanic roles in films were often cast with White actors and this practice still continues today. For example, Marlon Brando played Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952). Natalie Woods stared in West Side Story (1961) as a young Puerto Rican woman. New opportunities arose in the Good Neighbor films of the 1940s although they were commonly minor Latin Lover roles and were often back-up to a white American lead. Latin Americans with musical abilities were brought in to perform in musical numbers. Among the most successful were Desi Arnaz and Carmen Miranda. Carmen Miranda was a singer-actress born in Portugal. She was known for her exaggerated costumes and style of performance. They each came to symbolize the comic, tropical Latino, a stereotype that is widely known today. Actor Cheech Marin is one of Hollywoods most recognizable Hispanic stars. He was the other half of the comedy team Cheech and Chong, opposite Tommy Chong, in the 1970s. The team was often criticized by some in the Latino community for their portrayals with negative stereotypes, even though they were hugely popular at the box office. Cheech portrayed a low-rider who spoke Calo and wore clothes looking similar to a Zoot Suit with a wallet chain. His Chicano character was heavily into smoking marijuana. Marin went on to write, direct, and star in Born in East L.A which is a film about a third-generation Hispanic American who accidentally becomes mistaken as an illegal immigrant from Mexico and is deported. Unfortunately, he neither speaks nor understands Spanish. Stereotypes often come into play throughout the entire movie such as when the main character teaches some locals how to act like a vato. That same year he appeared in From Dusk till Dawn, a horror film written by Quentin Tarati no. In the movie Marin plays three different roles. He is a border official, doorman for a strip club, and criminal contact for the villains of the movie. On a side note, Selma Hayek is cast in the movie as Santanico Pandemonium who is the vampire princess and main attraction at the strip club, thus further enforcing the belief of the sexual vamp. The referenced Cheech movies and its characters show typical stereotypes of Hispanics as criminals and unintelligent druggies. Marin did an interview in which he claimed he was often persuaded into being more cholo with this character in order for it to sell better. One cannot contemplate he impacts of famous Hispanic actors without thinking of Edward James Olmos. Olmos got his first big break in the production of Zoot Suit in 1978, which was a musical based on the famous Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles in 1942. He was cast as the narrator El Pachuco and, more or less, the films master of ceremonies. He is the main characters demonic, zoot-suited alter ego. Olmoss character seems to represents the fury inside this main character and the remains of his machismo. Unfortunately, though the movie and play try to make a point of obvious racism against Hispanics, it also plays into the common stereotypes instead of against them. The Calo words pachuco, vato, simon, and chale are said way above the normal usage for anyone. In the film Stand and Deliver, which was based on a true story, Olmos portrayed teacher Jaime Escalanet who will do anything to teach his Hispanic students the complicated mathematics of Calculus. The movie is very close to the actual real life story of the Garfield High students experience with Mr. Escalante. However, I believe that the Hispanic stereotypes used were a bit over indulged and exaggerated for the sake of the movie in order to make it more appealing. Lou Diamond Phillips has starred in many pictures where he was cast in the stereotypical Hispanic roles. He was a co-star alongside Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver where he played Angel Guzman, a young troubled gang member. One of his most memorable roles was his portrayal of the life and death of singer Ritchie Valens in La Bamba. He also portrayed a young outlaw named Jose Chavez Y Chavez in Young Guns and Young Guns II. Chavez y Chavez was a member of the Regulators where he met Billy the Kid and soon joined his group of wanted outlaws. While the films mentioned are based on real life accounts, they serve as prime examples of the Hispanic stereotype. To add to the writing for the movie, directors had the actors embellish certain Mexican traits within these characters to make them stand out more in order to entertain the viewer. In contrast, we can look at another famous actor Emilio Estevez. Because of his blonde hair and blue eyes he has been cast in many mainstream pictures. Unlike his brother and father, who are both great actors in their own right, Emilio decided to take on his surname of Estevez. In 1958, Emilios father was forced to change his name for the movie industry. He didnt look Hispanic but to have a Hispanic or Latino last name was not popular. The same could be said when Emilio started his acting career. He battled with his father about whether to use the name Sheen over Estevez. His father had persuaded him to keep his name; partially due to the regret he had for deciding to change his. While he held on to the surname of Estevez, Emilio has done everything but a Hispanic character on screen. In the movie Young Guns he was cast as Billy the Kid, with the Mexican role of Jose Chavez y Chavez being played by Lou Diamond Phillips. He has avoided any Latino roles altogether, thus avoiding the po ssibility of any stereotypes involved. The cult classic Scarface was about a greasy immigrant named Tony Montana who became a Cuban/Latino drug lord. While he is a disgraceful character, many Latinos love to claim him as their own. It portrays on the big screen the label of Latinos as gun toting, drug running killers. It further adds to the impression of having a White woman as their own being a symbol of an achieved higher status. Hollywood will continue to represent Latinos in this way as long as the audience applauds it. Children learn stereotypes and attitudes about race from their parents, caretakers and the world around them. The Disney studios have long been a culprit of putting cultural stereotypes on the screen. The original Speedy cartoons had many stereotypes and unflattering characterizations of Mexicans. Speedy Gonzales is a stereotypical poor Mexican mouse with a highly exaggerated accent that could run very fast. This was in comparison to his sluggish, continually lazy friends who were also shown as drinkers in the earlier versions of the cartoon. For example, there was his cousin Eslow Poke Rodriguez. The animated movie Oliver and Company had a Latino Chihuahua named Alonzo that is typecast as a troublemaker who at one point in the film talks about stealing cars. In yet another Disney film, A Bugs Life, the grasshoppers are presented as being tough, rowdy, and uncivilized and are always ready to start a fight. In one particular scene the grasshoppers are relaxing and drinking alcohol. Th ey are in a southern environment ordering Mexican drinks and dancing to Hispanic music. This correlation reinforces the cultural classifications by associating Hispanic culture with drunken and rowdy celebrations Hollywood has a long and continued history of racial insensitivity. Stereotypes could be considered its stock in trade. It is always going to exploit the stereotypes of Hispanic culture in order to appeal to the hostility others may have towards them. For the sake of the film industry and sales, directors are always going to tell Hispanic actors to speak with exaggerated accents and have overstated mannerisms. There is always going to be the Latina maid or the sexy Hispanic landscaper ready and willing to perform their employers every fantasy. The Latin housekeeper is going to be either the truth-teller or the fantasy wife in comedies about an American household. Actress Lupe Ontiveros has been cast in film as a maid over 150 times. That is definitely a perfect example of type casting strictly because of her ethnic background. In conclusion, stereotypes are just a simple, one-dimensional portrayal of people. Usually they are based on sex, race, religion, profession or age. As we try to make sense of the world, we have all been guilty of stereotyping people to some degree.  Filmmakers will continue to rely heavily on stereotypes. They are a quick, simple way to establish the traits of the characters in the movie. For example, Blonde women are dumb, Teenagers are sex-crazed, foreigners are villains, Mexicans are lazy, and Blacks are natural born athletes. While the film industry of today may be more sensitive to issues of culture than it once was, many movies still keep alive common false impressions about groups of people. Such oversimplified and inaccurate portrayals have a profound effect on how we perceive one another. It also has an effect on how we relate to one another and how we value ourselves.

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