Is our entertainment as colorful as it should be?

Sofia P.

Staff Editor

In this day and age most citizens of the United States would like to believe that people are accepting of all cultures and groups. Jim Crow and Japanese internment camps are ancient history. Events such as Ferguson shooting and riots as well as the Eric Gardener protests have brought to light that some  people in the United States still do not see people of  different ethnicities as equals to white Americans. Even before horrible incidents such as Ferguson came to life before the public’s eyes,  the inequality of representation could be seen very clearly in the media. Movies and television shows have the chance to display different cultures to consumers and cater to all ethnic groups, but how often do they actually choose to do so?

The movie The Book of Life was release on October 17, 2014, making it the first American film since the 2010 Machete, a B-rated movie, to have a Hispanic protagonist. When first proposed, the movie faced opposition. The film companies said that a Hispanic story is not universal and that it would not do well in the box office. Even Guillermo del Toro, (the director of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), when asked to produce The Book of Life, said that he didn’t think that the movie would do well considering its target audience is Caucasian rather than Hispanic. It is a shame that the ethnicity of the characters and where the movie is set would impede people from enjoying a movie having the universal storyline of the power of family and friendship and how they can both help and hurt others. Alexis Durante, sophomore, said, “I thought it was weird that there was a movie with Mexican characters. You don’t see that often. I was glad that they were actually getting representation in the media. It’s a good movie because we don’t see that often, and people should.” The Book of Life displays Hispanic mythology as well as the Hispanic society and family relationships. It brings to light the effects of Machismo (a belief predominant to the Hispanic community that men are supposed to behave in a certain manly fashion, which rules vary between each country’s culture), for the main character wants to be a Mariachi player while his father wants him to be a bullfighter. It also highlights the brutality of killing bulls in bull fighting, the support that comes from having the connected family, as is predominant in Latin American culture.

The movie received an 82% on the movie tanking website Rotten Tomatoes and has done better than what was expected in terms of box office revenue. It is also up for a Golden Globe in best animated feature. “I think it’s important for people to see something Hispanic be credited,” Senora Sonya Breaux, an AP and Honors Spanish teacher, said, continuing, “The Book of Life isn’t going to win any awards, but it shows that Hispanics have an interesting culture and that we can produce good films or make good music. But when we produce things for an American audience, we often have to mask ourselves as American. Shakira dyed her hair blonde to look more appealing. You can’t just be Hispanic; you also have to play American. But if we could produce something really amazing, then we can be unabashed. But until then, Hispanics simply aren’t going to get the representation they deserve.” Whereas in the media the European medieval time periods are romanticized, there is little representation of Hispanic history and mythology portrayed to be equal to that of the mythology of the Greeks or the Norse. To be able to be recognized as something that is equal to these parts of European culture, there must first be some kind of representation that shows the Hispanic culture as interesting. Although true representation in the media for all types of people probably will not come for a while, it is slowly making its way into the American society.

The leaders in entertainment seem to “pretend” to incorporate other cultures. In many movies a white protagonist may have a colored friend to make the production seem more culturally inviting, but there is nothing about these secondary characters that makes them appeal to the black community. What really appeals to people is not seeing a character that has the same appearance as them but that they live in the same situation as they do.  Audiences want someone who understands the viewers’ culture and has the same joy or sorrow or simply rolls their eyes at the same situations as they go through. This is what makes shows such as ABC’s Modern Family work so well; audiences relate to the variety of characters and have a hard time not laughing at them or their situations. What these situations mean to each culture is very different.

ABC’s new sitcom Blackish is now its number one comedy, not because it has black characters, but because it makes jokes about African American culture that are relatable to not only its colored viewers but all viewers. At first the title may seem forward for a culture that wants to teach itself to be color blind, but the jokes are funny and appeal on every level of family and interpersonal relationships. The writers of this show are bold and have no fear of writing such jokes for a skeptical audience, but they also don’t exclude the jokes from other cultures. If the writers do not feel someone in the audience may understand a joke, they will explain it without making the explanation humble or unamusing. Black audiences typically do not want to see Tris Prior’s (Divergent) black sidekick, who has nothing about her that makes her black other than skin color, stand in great Tris’s shadow. The same goes for the Patriot, Captain America’s sidekick or Grover Underwood from The Lightning Thief movie. If they all have something in common, is that because of their skin color that they are the runner ups, the sidekicks?  That is not representation. Writers need to make the reason for a character to be a character of an ethnic background based on the culture that the character contributes, not because they think people seeing a little color will appeal to an audience and make

Society says it wants to be color blind; it does not want to recognize people by their skin color. People should recognize the cultural differences and ideas different races can bring behind them. Television should celebrate culture, not suppress it, and white people should not be afraid to see other cultures portrayed in the media. People need to be willing to see the other cultures that make up the world and have the people who come from them share their story. Let everyone show their colors, and let them tell their own story, for those of the same condition would like to see such a story that people have hesitated to show.

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