Overview:

Propaganda is a term with a negative connotation often associated with fascism. An example of this is the Nazis’ usage of propaganda to create an image of the Jewish people in an attempt to gather support for their elimination. Additionally, propaganda can have a more gentle tone, where it is not attempting to justify genocide. According to Merriam Webster, propaganda is defined as ‘spreading ideas and facts, often false, in order to provoke a certain response.’[1] This is present throughout modern-day media platforms, such as the stories being spread about ‘Pizzagate’ and how Hillary Clinton was involved in a children sex ring, discussed on online news sources such as Breitbart and television news sources such as Fox News.[2]

The topic of how Hispanic women and members of the Latino community are portrayed in movies and on television shows is an issue that has become more prominent in recent years. This portrayal of the offensive stereotype of Latina women has been overlooked by the general public as propaganda, specifically the white public. This is due to these portrayals viewed to be not as severe as other types of stereotypes in propaganda.[3] What is occurring in media is that various platforms are unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally, using offensive stereotypes of Hispanic women in their representations of them to try to demonstrate their normal lives. There is a truth behind one of the popular stereotypes about Latina women, that in the Hispanic culture, the family is formed around the “absolute supremacy of the father” in addition to the “self-sacrifice of the mother,” which forces her to take the role of ‘domesticated housefwife,’ a common stereotype portrayed in television shows, as will be shown later.[4]

Another prominent stereotype associated with Latinas is the “spicy Latina.” To quote a Katherine Garcia about what its like being a hispanic woman in today’s society, she says to “think of any Latina character in the media and chances are if she is not portraying a feisty maid, she is portraying a spicy Latina.” The stereotype of the “spicy” or “sexy” latina exists throughout television, movies, and even advertisements. All of this is propaganda that leads towards a lesser image of Hispanic women, not allowing them to present themselves in the way they desire, being demeaned to offensive stereotypes. This is of concern because the people doing the propaganda, the spreading of these ideas, do not always realize that they are being offensive and think the information about Hispanic women being either very sensual or items of the ideal domesticated spouse is just a fact of their culture.[5]

Core Concepts:

The two major stereotypes being addressed in this module are the hypersexualization of Hispanic women, and the belittling domestication perspective of Hispanic women. Regarding the domestication of Latina women, the concern is not that being a domesticated housewife is bad, it is that television shows will display characters of the Hispanic culture portraying this stereotype, therefore making it appear as if the Latinas are only capable of living up to their stereotypes and nothing else.

Hypersexualization is not unique to Hispanic women, but is presented at a higher rate in media that consists of Hispanic women. One study analyzed 18 hours of commercials consisting of Hispanic women, both in English and Spanish, and almost one-fourth (23.9%) of the commercials featured sexual content, whether it is verbal, physical, or implicit through body language and tone of message.[6]

The demonization of any group because of its stereotypes is never acceptable, and the big problem is that an entire group is being blamed for the actions of certain members of that group. Allowing their actions to speak is more effective than suggesting certain cynical ideas about a person or group not present to defend themselves or their actions. That being said, it is even worse to demonize groups that have done nothing wrong. As was aforementioned, the representation and portrayal of Hispanic women in the media is an issue on several levels. The stereotypes are offensive and are portrayed at the highest rates amongst Hispanic actors and actresses. Less than 6% of all speaking roles in U.S. films were Hispanic roles, despite the Hispanic population making up almost 18%. The women play even fewer. They play many more roles as maids, domesticated housewives, or ‘the harlot’ who is the passionate Hispanic lover.[7]

To understand the issues of the propaganda towards Hispanic women, and men, even though that is not the subject here despite it also being an issue, one needs to know the history and origin of the offensive Hispanic stereotypes. According to Kenneth Padgett of The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes, the dislike towards Hispanic people by white people began in the United States of America in the early 1800’s with Manifest Destiny, ‘from sea to shining sea.’ Early European Americans made it a common idea for Southwest Hispanics to be thought of as lesser humans. This was similar to what they had done with American Indians in the East. Whether the Hispanic people were U.S. citizens, newly arrived migrants from the south, or Latin Americans in their own countries, they were thought of as lesser humans.[8] This made it much easier for their displacement to be justified.

One justification for using stereotypes is how it is more efficient and effortless. Many journalists, due to time and space constraints, may be more likely to rely on them.[9] This concept may seem unreasonable and lazy, but it can make sense when viewed from a different perspective. The racial stereotypes exists because even though a large majority of Spanish-speaking journalists are Hispanic, many were trained and taught in American universities that have a historical white bias in their curriculum. This U.S. socialization embeds them in similar routines and ideological influences to white journalists who work in a general market outlet.[10] Even though the Hispanic journalists may be able to identify how the stereotypes used are offensive, they could easily not have issues with their usage, as long as they personally are not offended.

Another justification of the stereotypes of Latina women is that the women who have become successful stresses through these stereotypes may not have an issue with it. They may struggle with the paradox of being against something so innately immoral, but also something that has been extremely helpful for them to get where they are to now, ironically, have a platform to advocate for the issue.

“Sexy Latina”: Gloria

Sofia Vergara.png
Figure 1: Esquire Archives. Atlanta Black Star. Sophia Vergara wearing maid’s outfit for role of Gloria in Modern Family. 

An easily recognizable example of Hispanic women being portrayed in stereotypical ways in current media is Gloria (Sofia Vergara) in the hit television program Modern Family, played by Sofia Vergara. She embodies the “curvaceous,” sun-kissed trophy wife whose accented English is understood as the natural voice of many Latinas: inarticulate yet filled with attractive passion.[11] Sophia Vergara is a talented actress who took on the role of a ‘stereotypical’ sexy, Hispanic housewife. The focus of Latinas’ identity faces the issue of being simultaneously shaped by their female gender and their Hispanic ethnicity. Therefore, they face a ‘double jeopardy’ because their identity is partially formed by both sexual and racial stereotypes.[12] Sofia Vergara plays her character, fully accepting the sexual aspect of it, whilst also embracing the Hispanic stereotypes, using them to help make her acting memorable. As aforementioned, Sophia Vergara is an actress who knowing accepts the stereotypes she is portraying. In an interview with Huffington Post, she said “I don’t know what they mean by a stereotype because I’m not trying to invent anything from it… I read a scene and I think: ‘ok, how would my mom and my aunt play this?’”[13] She is someone who has used the stereotype to get her where she is, so it is not as easy for her to admit the flaws of stereotyping in Hollywood, despite their presence being there.

Domesticated Character: Consuela

COnsuela.png
Figure 2: Seaon 6 Episode 3. Consuela from Family Guy speaks on behalf of the maid union. 

This character is one that embodies the generic domesticated housewife ‘cleaning lady’ type of Latina stereotype in television, even animated. Family Guy is an animated comedy show on Fox that features a character named Consuela.  Consuela is every bit the typical stereotype of a Latina housemaid.[14] She embodies the domesticated stereotype associated with Hispanic women. Consuela has a very thick accent, refers to everyone with a “misser” in front of his or her name, showing the feature associated with Hispanic maids that they refer to their employers with the unusual title. Hollywood operates on stereotypes as a shorthand way of defining characters in ways that are easy for audiences to identify and digest. But a steady diet of negative stereotypes as portrayed in television can be very destructive to young people if there are also very few positive role models that they can identify with.[15]

Activist and Hypersexulized Character: Salma Hayek and Esmeralda

Salma.png
Figure 3: Salma Hayek. Getty Images. Salma Hayek talking at a Telemundo Event. 

 

Salma Hayek is a Hispanic actress known for several major roles, such as being in Grown Ups. She wants to help change the negative perspective of the Hispanic people in America. She dislikes the idea that Hispanic women are viewed as sexual items or actresses who play maids.[16] She has, herself, played a stereotypical sexualized Hispanic leading lady, because she wanted to get into the movie industry

 

Esmeralda.png
Figure 4: Scene from the Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Salma Hayek is a strong advocate for the rights of Hispanic women and the tearing down of their stereotypes, yet she seems to not have issues, at least early in her career, of playing other types of offensive stereotypes. She voice Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where they repeatedly used the “racial slur “Gypsy” throughout the film by both villains and protagonists,” in addition to overt sexualization of Esmeralda, which is one of the stereotypes being discussed here. [17] Salma Hayek is considered to be an activist for the rights and equality of Latina women, yet it appears, on the surface level, to be hypocritical to play other roles that do to other groups what media portrayals have done to Latina women. Just food for thought.

“Sexy Latina” in Popular Culture: Shakira

Shakirrra.png
Figure 5: Vogue. Shakira on fur rug, seductive pose. 

Shakira is a very talented musical artist, one who received a breakthrough in the music industry by stating with Spanish music and transitioning to the very popular English market. She is well-known for her provocative dancing. Hispanic teens have had a 53% teen pregnancy rate, double average, in America. It could be attributed to intersecting social issues of gender, race, class, immigrant status and education.[18]. The hypersexualization of Shakira only adds to this stereotype, showing how whether or not it is true, it can help you become successful. Shakira is an example of hypersexuality being a benefit to her career, which can be tricky in the situation of analyzing the offensive stereotypes, because she is now a role model for young latina girls who see that they can do whatever they put their minds to.

 

Domesticated “Sexy” Latina Maid: Devious Maids

Devious MAids.png
Figure 6: Adhemar Sburlati, Devious Maids. The cast of the TV show Devious Maids in promotional advertisement. 

The television show Devious Maids is a show that demonstrates the dual combination of the racial and sexual stereotypes associated with Hispanic women.[19] The maids, who on the Lifetime show face scorn and condescension from their wealthy Beverly Hills employers, have been accused of ‘degrading’ Latino women.[20] This example fits as a hybrid of the two stereotypes, since it does not necessarily focus more on one than the other. On the show, they play maids, filling the domesticated ‘cleaning lady’ style stereotype. Additionally, their characters are also hypersexualized, wearing very revealing outfits and acting in somewhat promiscuous ways, which embodies the stereotypes associated with Hispanic women. Regarding the sexualized characters, they are attractive Latina females, some actresses who have made it where they have because of the roles they have played fulfilling these stereotypes.

Conclusion:

The stereotypes associated with Latina women that are portrayed in television and film is an issue that is continuing to grow in America. Hispanic women are beginning to speak out about how they are offended by the assumption that they are a domesticated housewife because of how multiple television shows portray them. Additionally, it is not as large of an issue to be viewed as a “ sexy latina” stereotype if it is simply saying they are attractive, but most of the portrayals present this group of people as very demeaning, unintelligent, submissive to their lover. Issues stem deeper into the institutionalized racism spread throughout television, newspapers, and even the education system for sprouting journalists. There are currently advocates for change in society, trying to make it equal for all. No stereotype, whether appearing to be accurate, should have any negative effect on one’s career or social status. Latina women will continue to be cast outside of these stereotypes as time goes on, but only if producers and writers in Hollywood allow their minds to be opened to the possibility and diversity of non-stereotype casting.

Discussion Questions:

1) If we had to which of the two stereotypes discussed were more offensive to that group, which would it be? Why do you think this?

2) What is an example present in the media, probably a TV show or movie, which you could think of that you never thought had these concerns, but you now see contains them? Does it make you like it less? Why?

3) What is the equivalent stereotype towards Hispanic women of white men? Why is important to know the differences?

4) What change could really propel Latinas’ equal chance in a non-stereotypical role in the future of cinema?

For More Information:

1) Padgett, Kenneth. “Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes.” Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

*This website specifically is great to start with since it will allow you to search for other hispanic stereotypes you may not have even been aware of. Always great to begin research with just simple background knowledge.

2) Aguila, Emma. United States and Mexico: Ties That Bind, Issues That Divide. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

3) Conserva, Henry T. Propaganda Techniques. Bloomington, IN.: Authorhouse, 2009. Print.

4) “Stereotypes: A Big Problem in Our Modern Society.” Medium. N.p., 14 May 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

 

References: 

[1] “Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

[2] Silverstein, Jason. “Pizzagate: How a Clinton Conspiracy Theory Led to a D.C. Shooting.” NY Daily News. N.p., 05 Dec. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

[3] Thayer-Bacon, Barbara J., Lynda Stone, and Katharine M. Sprecher. Education Feminism: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Albany: State U of New York, 2013. Print.

[4] Zambrana, Ruth E. “FAMILY ROLES OF HISPANIC WOMEN; STEREOTYPES, EMPIRICAL FINDINGS, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH.” Work, Family, and Health: Latina Women in Transition. Vol. 7. Bronx, NY: Hispanic Research Center, Fordham U, 1982. N. pag. Print.

[5] Garcia, Katherine. “Where the ‘Spicy Latina’ Stereotype Came From – And Why It’s Still Racist Today.” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 03 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

[6] Fullerton, J. A., and A. Kendrick. “Portrayal of Men and Women in U.S. Spanish-Language Television Commercials.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 77.1 (2000): 128-42. Web.

[7] Latimer, Brian. “Latinos in Hollywood: Few Roles, Frequent Stereotypes, New Study Finds.”NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

[8] Padgett, Kenneth. “Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes.” Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

[9] [9] Correa, Teresa. “Framing Latinas: Hispanic Women through the Lenses of Spanish-language and English-language News Media.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. 427

[10] Correa, Teresa. “Framing Latinas: Hispanic Women through the Lenses of Spanish-language and English-language News Media.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. 425-439

[11] The_Stripes_. “The Misrepresented and Hypersexualized Latina.” The Stripes. N.p., 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

[12] Correa, Teresa. “Framing Latinas: Hispanic Women through the Lenses of Spanish-language and English-language News Media.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. 425-439

[13] Moreno, Carolina. “Sofia Vergara Talks Latino Representation On Television.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Oct. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

[14]  Alanis, By Juan. “Ay, Ay, Ay, Consuela!! – Should We Love Her or Hate Her? “Juan of Words. N.p., 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

[15] Padgett, Kenneth. “Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes.” Brownface! – The History of Racist Latino/Hispanic Stereotypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

[16] Benedetti, Ana Maria. “Salma Hayek Wants To Change How Latinos Are Perceived In The US.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

[17] “Esmeralda in Disney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’.” Bitch Flicks. N.p., 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.

[18] Reichard, Raquel. “7 Lies We Have to Stop Telling About Latina Women in America.” Mic. N.p., 25 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

[19] Correa, Teresa. “Framing Latinas: Hispanic Women through the Lenses of Spanish-language and English-language News Media.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2016. 425-439. 433.

[20] Reporter, Daily Mail. “Eva Longoria’s New Show Devious Maids Is Accused of Portraying Latino Women in ‘degrading’ Stereotypical Roles.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 21 June 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

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