Eva Longoria was on AC360 yesterday and made a satement that she has never played a ‘stereotypical’ role on TV. I couldn’t help but think about the word ‘stereotypical’ and what it means. When it is stereotypical to play a maid when you are a Latina, not playing one won’t still ensure you don’t play a stereotypical role. You can play a rich Latina, one who has fame and fortune and has achieved a lot in life but the stereotype should not just be looked upon as a ‘role’ or a ‘job’. It’s more about a certain type of attitude people think is attached so certain ethnicities.
Although some countries have people who have naturally more of a temperament and joy for life, stepping into that territory is a little dangerous, especially when defining people by negative stereotypes.
I remember 3 years ago writing a post on a forum about “There are no stereotypes about Gabrielle Solis being a Latina on Desperate Housewives, she and her husband have the biggest house on the block. That’s one of the reasons I love to watch it.” Another poster quickly threw me a reality check bucket of ice cold water on my avatar face. “Wait a second, she said, Eva is definitiely playing the typical girl mainstream America believes all Latinas are like. They make her play the role of a selfish materialistic big mouthed sexy woman who only thinks about her looks. People believe all Latinas are like that, and this only reinforces the stereotype. So what if she has money. Her attitude on that show screams louder than her title or bank account.”
That made me think. I reasoned that Eddy Britt, who is white, also plays a selfish woman with a bad attitude and too concerned about her looks and devouring men. But she’s not a Latina, and she doesn’t seem as concerned about money as Gaby is. She’s a man-eater. But there are other white women on Desperate Housewives who can counteract that image. But the only Latina in the show has got to be a scheming, mean, loud, shallow and materialistic person.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the way that Gaby grows in the show and becomes the ‘perfect’ wife. She learns to be less egotistical. She learns the true value of love and family.
“Stereotypical” is more than just a role you play on TV. It’s about attitude.
Think about other popular shows or movies who star Latinas as the main character. Think of Ugly Betty, for example. Betty’s family is a poor family living in Queens. I can live with that although some people will say it’s stereotypical. Betty, the main character of the show is a brave young Latina woman who works really hard to achieve her dreams. Although from a poor background, she’s definitely not the average girl people think Latinas should be like. She doesn’t take care of her outer appearance that much (has huge braces and red glasses aka Steve Urkel), and she’s too honest to her disadvantage at times. She’s the most unselfish and unmaterialistic person you’ll meet. She has big dreams and she doesn’t take no for an answer and manages to become an associate editor for a prestigious magazine in the fashion industry. Basically, she’s strong and intelligent without needing her looks. Is she playing a stereotypical role just because she’s from a poor family from Queens ? No.
Do I personally think that Latinas are big mouthed women who only love drama and Gucci clothes ? No.
Do a lot of people in America think that? Saddly yes, or at least that image is somewhat ingrained into their minds to a certain extent.
Wilhemina Slater, the evil scheming creative director, played by Vanessa Williams in Ugly Betty, is seen as black in the show (bus she’s in reality of mixed ethnicty) and to me, she can own Mode Magazine (I knw she doesn’t)o and sleep in her chinchilla coat every night but she’s also playing the stereotypical ‘drama queen’ black woman. Don’t get me wrong. She’s rich, so everything should be fine.
I’ll never forget a job interview I once went to. I look brown, so people never know what ethnicity I am. So they assume things. The manager asked me a question I will never forget: “when was the last time you had a tantrum?”. A tantrum? I had never been asked this question before, esp. using the word ‘tantrum’. I could have understood a question like “Do you remain calm under pressure” as this is a question a lot of employers love to ask. But the way he asked the question and the way he looked at me screamed louder than the question itself. I went to ask my current boss at the time what this question meant, and he said it was a racist question. The interviewer saw that I was brown and assumed I must be a ‘drama’ queen. I’m the most sweet person you’ll meet and I live to avoid drama and bitching. So I did take a little offense to that question, but the way he asked it (mean and skeptical tone of voice) and accusing glances was what sealed the deal for me. I didn’t get the job, of course, but nevermind. I didn’t want it anyway. I found something much better shortly afterwards. This incident wasn’t about getting a job but learning that racism is still alive and well. And can I thank Eva Longoria for perpetuating the myth that ‘brown’ people are drama queens? But she owns big house, y’all !
It’s certainly not Eva’s fault if there are some mean spirited racist people like this manager on planet earth. But you get my point. I don’t judge Eva for playing Gaby Solis. I love Desperate Housewives and I still love the concept of Gaby. Underneath all that shallow exterior, she’s a real survivor and a softy at heart.
What about J-Lo who played a maid in the movie ‘Maid in Manhattan’ ? I don’t think she played a stereotypical role at all. There are maids of all ethnicites. The role could have been easily played by Julia Roberts for all it’s worth. But wait, Julia played a prostitute in Pretty Woman. A role worse than being a maid. Yet she’s not a Latina and no one thinks of white women as being prostitutes after watching this movie. They think of Julia as being a lost PERSON who finds herself eventually.
So it should be with all Latinas and Latinos: We should see them as PEOPLE and INDIVIDUALS, no matter what roles they play: maids, rich CEOs, housewifes, career women, villain, super hero, lawyers, police officers, queens etc.
A role is just a role. An attitude is an attitude that will speak volumes about who you are, more than what you do.
My point is that times have changed. No one today thinks of ‘maid’ when they hear the word Latina. They’ll think of a famous movie star, singer or perhaps a gorgeous looking woman. Maybe they’ll think of Taco Bell or Cuban rythm and salsa dancing. I don’t know. And somewhere along the lines they’ll also vaguely think of a drama queen who loves expensive clothes and has a face full of makeup even when caught in bed.
It’s true that Latinos, and other minorities for that matter, have come a long way in the last 50 years. Nevertheless, ethnic stereotypes remain deeply rooted in American culture. Racism and prejudice have taken another form, if you want my honest opinion. Now it’s politically and culturally incorrect to be a hater of latinos, blacks and other minorities. Pop culture dictates what rules. Beyoncé, Shakira, Jay-Z and J-Lo and the likes now dictate to the youth what’s hot. This generation has no problems mingling with all types of ethnicites. But when the perceptions have drastically changes, the seterotypes remain. Now…intolerance and prejudice are disguised under other stereotypes. Latinas are like this and black girls like that…and white people…oh they are just too… Black men always drop out of school or become athletes.
Yes. I don’t like stereotypes in any way, shape or form but a little more disturbing is when people can’t even recognize they’re being stereotyped.