Culture

Watch These Actresses Slyly Call Out Hollywood’s Racism Problem

by Aarian Marshall

January 11, 2016

During last night’s Golden Globe Awards, actresses America Ferrera and Eva Longoria had one of the funnier bits in a progressively drunk and unfunny three-hour telecast.

“I’m Eva Longoria, not Eva Mendes,” Longoria said during her introduction for the Best Actor in a TV Drama award.

“And I’m America Ferrera, not Gina Rodriguez,” said Ferrera, her co-presenter.

“And neither one of us are Rosario Dawson,” Longoria said.

“Well said, Salma,” Ferrera said.

“Thank you, Charo,” Longoria replied.

If confusing these, yes, Hispanic but very different-looking actresses seems like a particularly far-fetched form of racism, know that the Golden Globe Awards did it exactly a month ago, when it misidentified Ferrera as Rodriguez in a tweet.

Such mix-ups are even less excusable given the minute number of Hispanics working in Hollywood. According to the latest report from the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California, just 4.9 percent of the characters in the top-grossing films of 2014 were Hispanic. That ties 2013 for a seven-year high, up from 3.3 percent in 2007 (the seven-year low was 2009’s 2.8 percent).

In fact, Hispanic/Latino characters in film continue to be the most underrepresented ethnic group in America, given that Hispanics comprise 17.1 percent of the country and purchased 23 percent of U.S. movie tickets in 2014.

The picture gets even uglier for Hispanic actors when researchers look at the kinds of roles available to them.  A 2013 report commissioned by Columbia University found that Latino characters on television and in movies are generally criminals, law enforcement, or “cheap labor.” Between 2012 and 2013, 17.7 percent of Latino characters in film were linked to crime. The same was true of nearly one in four—24.2 percent—of Latino characters on TV. An amazing 69 percent of maids in film and television created since 1996 are Latina. Still, there are more lead roles for Latina actresses now than there were in the 1990s. 

Meanwhile, Nielsen puts U.S. Hispanics’ spending power at $1.4 trillion per year. If that audience is at all desirous of seeing itself on-screen, it would be in Hollywood’s best interests to provide the country’s Hispanic actors with more and better parts. Maybe stop mixing them up, too.

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(Cover image via YouTube screen capture)

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Watch These Actresses Slyly Call Out Hollywood’s Racism Problem