Last month, in Washington DC, a Capitol Hill forum was held to call attention to what its organizers say is the failure of major television networks and movie studios to hire more Latino actors, writers, producers and directors.
Locating a news story written by someone who actually attended the forum proved a challenge. I found only two articles, both involving the same reporter.
Children Now, a California-based group that keeps track of diversity on prime-time TV, provided the expert testimony for the Latino lawmakers who attended the three-hour forum.
These media experts "told Latino lawmakers this week that Latinos are woefully underrepresented in television and film," according to Melendez and Bustos.
Not just underrepresented, woefully underrepresented. (Ughh, the histrionics…)
Congressman Joe Baca (D-N-MX) lorded over, I mean presided over the forum. Yes, the Joe Baca that KFI radio's John & Ken Show has chosen as its "political human sacrifice" (Democratic division) because of his pandering to illegals.
According to Melendez and Bustos:
"[Baca] was appalled at the lack of Latino faces on television and in film.
"Hispanics represent 13 percent of the population in the United States but only 6 percent of the acting roles right now," Baca said."
These statistics were apparently provided by Children Now. A small detail: that includes at least 7 million who entered illegally. There has to be a Baca Business School for Mexican Marketing or something. Maybe a statistics course called Illegal Aliens: How To Inflate Your Market Niche.
Congressman Baca almost sounded like a patriot—well, I mean of a country other than Mexico—with his closing remarks:
"It is time that Hollywood looked like the rest of America."
Baca wants Hollywood to look more like America? This suggests he is up to the challenges of a "blind leading the blind" campaign, since Hollywood doesn't really know about most of America (flyover country) but I digress.
What about A Day without a Mexican—the immigration propaganda movie that depicted Mexicans vanishing suddenly from the United States, leaving Americans "helpless."
The perfect example of Hollywood looking "more like America," just a bit futuristic.
(What's more, I can think of a better working title: The U.S. Immigration Reform Policy for 2005.) It was made by Hispanics, Hispanic actors—and grossed only $4 million.
This "Hispanic market" is trickier than it looks.
The "experts" also told the Congressional hearing that studio executives either cast Latino actors as the stereotypical Drunk Mexican or exclude them altogether.
Melendez's and Bustos's article quoted a Salinas, CA mother claiming she had to explain to her 11-year-old son that Latinos are not all alcoholics:
" 'We were watching a sitcom, and the only role for a Latino was of a drunk man," Calderon said. "The boys are young, and this kind of stuff sticks in their heads. And it's also in the movies: We always are the maids, the prostitutes or the gang members.'"
The only role available to a Latino is of a drunken man? Come on, that is wholly inaccurate. There were two drunken crows from Looney Tunes, remember? (They sat on the telephone wires all day and argued in garbled Spanish, drinking Tequila but too lazy to fly home to Mexico.)
Not surprisingly, the young boy watches cartoons, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and Comedy Central. He claims "there aren't many people like him, with brown skin and brown eyes."
"They don't put (Latinos) on," he said. "They have Asians and blacks and from every other race. I wish they gave us a chance to be in there."
Young Latino kids see blacks and Asians but not Mexicans; they feel undervalued according to the media experts. I hope these children obtain their values from a more traditional and reliable resource than television, such as their parents…..well, maybe someone else's parents.
I detest statistics and number wrestling. But I was going to scrounge up the Tinsel Town employment statistics on ethnicity to test the strength of Baca's argument. My dear James Fulford even taught me how to use the Google Toolbar.
But I thought of a better way. For one afternoon, I decided to note every Latino infused Hollywood machination that I encountered watching television one afternoon in Southern California.
I could only endure about forty-five minutes but I collected enough evidence to dispute the claim.
First of all, I noticed that Oprah was interviewing Hollywood actress and Glitter Latina, Jennifer Lopez.
Talk turned to salaries and Oprah mentioned Lopez had one of the highest per-movie paychecks in the history of theater.
Next, and I am not kidding, there were three public service announcements on television that afternoon for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Later, I stopped to look at the smut rack filled with women's' magazines that offer waxing tips, get a man scams and solutions for self-tanner emergencies.
Jennifer Lopez, as well as several other mini Latinas, adorned almost every cover.
That night when I turned on my computer, the Home page news showed Jennifer Lopez performing a concert in honor of….yep, Hispanic Heritage Month.
While I am sure J-Lo is a lovely person, definitely gorgeous, her celebrity and success has nothing to do with her ethnicity. She isn't successful because she is Latina (even Super Latina). She is successful because the Gods of market economy favor her.
There are few industries more ruthless than show business when it comes to cutting losses. Movie executives have two categories for actors: Those who can sell tickets from the marquee—and those who can sell them "between jobs" sitting in the ticket booth for the minimum wage.
Congressman Baca is planning to haul these entertainment leaders into Congress before the end of the year.
If he can, he will force them to hire more Latino actors and directors.
Through political intimidation, and possibly legislation, he will second-guess their market judgment and proclaim it a victory for his people.
Great script, Congressman Baca!
But it was better the first time I read it—when it was called The Communist Manifesto.
Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.