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Does Sundance Film WHITE GIRL Help Fight Latino Stereotypes?

Diversity is an ever-present issue in Hollywood. Unless there’s a reason for a character to be a person of color (i.e. his/her race is relevant to the plot in some way), the part generally goes to a white actor. Even in today’s increasingly diverse world, it’s pretty difficult to see a Latino actor onscreen, without some sort of stereotype or trope being worked in.

Even a well-respected actress like Salma Hayek can’t escape this truth, as she revealed last year. According to the actress, she was told the following by a producer:

“We can’t take the risk of you opening your mouth and people thinking of their maids. You could have been a big star but you were born in the wrong country.”

Hayek went on to describe a science fiction film (and though she refused to name it, it sounds an awful lot like GRAVITY) where she wasn’t cast because the studio said they couldn’t imagine a Mexican in space.

Yes, we have a long way to go, but we’re making small strides, and while they may not be as quick or as big as many hope, they should be celebrated when they are made. The film, WHITE GIRL is one of those films.

The story follows a college sophomore who falls in love with her drug dealer, and ultimately spirals out of control with her drug addiction. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes when I first heard that the drug dealers would be a band of Latinos, but character actor Adrian Martinez did put things into perspective when he talked about why he took on a role in the film.

Actor Adrian Martinez

Actor Adrian Martinez

“I pick my stereotypes carefully, so if it serves the story and the story says something very meaningful, then I think it’s okay. If it was just a bunch of drug dealers shooting at each other, I’m not interested.”

So despite the fact that, yes, the Latinos are playing drug dealers in the film, don’t expect them to conform to traditional blanket stereotypes. The outlet Tribeca went on to describe the different characters in the film.

“Blue is sensitive, confessing that he gets his name from his ever-present sadness. The suave Kilo (Anthony Ramos) approaches Leah’s teacher roommate with enough confidence to win her over. Nene (Ralph Rodriguez) is the joker of the crew, rounding out the guys who’ve found girlfriends among their gentrified neighbors. The last Latino character introduced is Lloyd, Blue’s unhinged supplier.”

So yes, while the drug dealers are played by Latinos, the film still humanizes the characters so that they are recognized beyond their traditional stereotypes. Again, this may not seem like a big deal to most, but helping to differentiate the characters within set stereotypes is one step closer to overcoming them.

What are your thoughts on this? Does a film like this actually help to fight these stereotypes, or does it just feed the fire by casting Latinos in these roles?


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