• Guido Davi

Latino Media Gap

Editor's Note: Stevenson alumnus Guido Davi '20 wrote this piece summarizing some insights he gained from a course he took at Loyola Marymount University. He contacted the Tusitala staff to ask if they would like to share his work with current students.

Almost everyone likes movies, right? Or Television? Think about your favorite movie or T show, or the last movie you saw, or both. Now ask yourself, who was the main character in that movie. Odds are they were not Latino or of Latino descent. While the United States has grown in many ways throughout the past few decades, the Latino Media Gap continues to grow. The Latino population in the United States has increased dramatically over the last few years, as shown in a statistic from 2011, “Latinos comprise 17% of the United States’ inhabitants. In densely populated cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, Latinos are an even greater share: from 27% to 68% of residents.”[1] Since then, the Latino population has only continued to grow, yet the presence of Latinos in the media has remained stagnant. As time continues, the Latino Media Gap continues to increase, both due to exponential growth of the Latino population in the United States, but as well as the fact that Latino actors are simply not given the same opportunities as other ethnicities. Furthermore when Latino’s are given a chance, they are often depicted in a stereotypical fashion. Only furthering the notion that Latino’s should not be taken seriously in the business.

Let us look at a popular sitcom for example, Modern Family. One of the few shows where a Latina plays a significant role. Yet what kind of role does she play? None other than the ‘Spicy Latina”. While Sofia Vergara is a very talented actress, she is portrayed as the Latina that is loud, aggressive, and not to be messed with. Often times things like this are simply overlooked because it is comical, or fits well with the show, however, on the rare occasion

Latino actors are given the chance to star in a role, they are more often than not portrayed in a way that overly emphasizes the fact that they are Latino, rather than letting them shine in a role that is not simply because the show calls for a Latino actor.

The Latino Media Gap is not only present in movies and television, but in the news as well. Latino presence in the news accounts for less than 1% of all of the news reported in the United States. While nearly all of these reports show Latinos in the negative light, most commonly as lawbreakers. The news commonly reports Latino’s in a way that would typically be overlooked or shown in a brighter light when it comes to other ethnicities.

Figure 1: Latino population in the United States vs. Latino presence in the Media

Since 2000, the Latino presence in the media has actually decreased! Shown in figure 1, you can clearly see the significance of the gap in the Latino media presence. The Latino population is growing at a substantial rate, whereas the presence of the Latino population in the media continues to decline. Thus lowering the percentage of Latino Presence in the media even more!

So if the Latino population is growing so rapidly in the United States, why is the Latino presence in the media continuing to drop? Well that is the million dollar question. Oftentimes, change can be scary or difficult, for decades Latino actors and actresses have been put on the backburner when it comes to open roles, or even positions as directors or producers. The longer they are put in the rearview, the harder it is going to be to get them into the front seat! Now there is no specific answer on how to make this change, but simply being aware of the issue and understanding that the ways the Latino population is often depicted throughout the media, is quite frequently not shown in the same way that it would be for other ethnicities. As a society we need to know that the Latino population has such a large discrepancy between their population, and their presence and how they are portrayed in the media. The United States has grown dramatically in terms of acceptance and change throughout the years, so what better time than now to make this change.


References:

[1] Jason Koebler, “11 Cities with the Most Hispanics,” U.S. News and World Report, March 25, 2011, http://www. usnews.com/news/slideshows/11-citieswith-the-most-hispanics



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