After the Oscar wins of Coco and The Shape of Water, it kind of feels like a new day is on the horizon for Latinos in Hollywood. Well, kind of. USC’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change analysis of 800 popular films between 2007-2015 found that although Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population (38.9% of the population in California alone according to the US Census) their onscreen representation went from a sad 3.3% in 2007 to a pitiful 5.3% in 2015. Although the implementation of how Hollywood will reconcile its many blind spots in the area of diversity is still up for grabs, but with actresses like America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez speaking out and creating their own projects, it feels like a step in the right direction. It’s an issue that GLAAD has decided to address with its #InclusiveScreens / #PantallaInclusivas campaign that seeks to increase Afro-Latinx, Indigenous and all LGBTQ characters of color in Latino media. Admitting we have a problem is half the battle right?– but it’s still an uphill battle across the board for anyone who isn’t a White straight able bodied man. Meanwhile, Latin media has still made no such acknowledgment nor has it been forced to take a good hard look at its fundamentally problematic portrayals of women, people of color, disabled individuals and members of the LGBTQ community.
With the increase of Latinx and immigrant targeted hate it’s more important than ever that diverse LGBTQ characters, not only exist, but are portrayed as more than just stereotypes.If that sounds like a tall order, you’d be right. It’s no secret that Latin America doesn’t exactly love its Afro, Indigenous and Asian Latinx populations. It’s also still incredibly culturally normalized that the default state of being is a slim white able bodied straight person. GLAAD’s 2017 Still Invisible report found that across Telemundo, UniMás, and Univision’s 698 primetime characters, 19 of them were LGBTQ– that’s just 3%! Even more alarming are the storylines LGBTQ people are a part of: 4 of the 19 characters were in the closet, 3 stories centered solely about coming out, 6 did not have their own stories and only served to further the other characters, 5 were included as comic relief, 4 worked for criminal organizations, and 6 characters died (that’s 31%!). It’s tough to say what’s more troubling, that none of them were people of color or that producers can’t even imagine that LGBTQ people have fulfilling/complex lives and relationships.
It’s an overarching issue affecting the portrayal of all LGBTQ people in the media –it’s a problem GLAAD campaigns manager Janet Quezada says is especially relevant when building empathy, understanding, and acceptance. “This is an issue that’s important to me because I watched TV with my mom –I still watch novelas and series with her– and her understanding of who I am is definitely tempered by the kind of information she has available. And if it comes from television in Spanish, she’s not getting a picture of what it means to be a Lesbian woman in our community. Actually that’s what she said to me when I first came out to her, she said ‘oh that doesn’t exist in the Dominican Republic,’ ” Quezada told HipLatina. By raising awareness with #InclusiveScreens / #PantallaInclusiva Quezada says GLAAD is pushing for the intersectionality of identities and perspectives though art, writing, petitioning, as well as online and IRL conversations. “I think that the best way that we can talk about battling for inclusion is to talk about all the identities. It doesn’t make sense to push for only one type of inclusion because someone is always left out… We don’t want just a piece of the inclusion,” she said.
Essentially this is the Bat Signal for LGBTQ people and allies to speak out and strengthen the conversation about inclusivity, so that actionable change can be seen for the 1.4 million Latinx LGBTQ people in the US and the millions more who consume US made telenovelas and series in Latin America. “The only way executives pay attention is when there’s more people talking about it than just a few they want to think oh there’s really an audience for inclusion and sometimes it’s hard to convinces them, for Spanish language media they like to think ‘oh they’re not watching’ and so they don’t think that it matters.” says Quezada. “We need to say ‘hey we are watching the novelas and series’ and it’s not just us that’s watching but our families, our friends our communities. Whatever [LGBTQ people’s] families [are] seeing or not seeing is impacting their ability to accept and not reject them.”
How you can get involved:
- Use #InclusiveScreens or #PantallaInclusiva across social media to further the conversation about LGBTQ people, talk about your own experiences, call out stereotypes, or point out responsible representation.
- Sign the petition: https://www.glaad.org/createinclusivescreens to prove to the executives that people care about this issue.
- Share the artwork & support Latinx LGBTQ creators.
- Listen to the artist interviews on the Cabronas y Chingonas Podcast.