I ran into a former coworker the other day.
It was a super short encounter. Basically a “Hello,” and, “Do you still work there?” and, “No, they were reopening in the middle of COVID,” and an extremely validating, “Pssh. Yeah, fuck that. I didn’t go back either.”
There was a little bit more to it, but that isn’t the point; the point is, I saw that coworker, and then, 10 minutes later, I thought I saw her coming out of a building on my block. Same height, same thin build, same hair, but totally different clothes and, I ultimately realized, different eyes above her mask.
Why am I talking about this?
Because it reminded me of something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while: some of the specific personalities you will actually encounter here in the Bronx.
Which I’m throwing out there because I’m A) sick of Hollywood’s bullshit. Sure, I’m totally glad we’re getting more diverse characters these days, but that diversity is taking its sweet time getting to the Latinx community. And for that same reason, I wanted to write this post because In the Heights just came out, and I need to eternally chisel in digital stone that WE’RE NOT A FUCKING MUSICAL. It seriously feels like the billionth time a new movie about Latinx turned out to be a street-level musical where everyone’s dancing and singing. And I just hate it.
But also, B) there are a ton of diverse Latinx personalities here in the Bronx that I’ve always wanted to highlight–in particular, the personalities of other former coworkers, brought to mind by that run-in. And, hey, if anyone is writing a story with Latinx characters, there’s a lot of personality to choose from. Hopefully, this will make that a little more clear.
How I’m Going to Handle This:
I’m just showcasing two Latinx personalities. Because I know this is borderline saucy and I don’t want to throw a ton of highly specific information at people.
I’ll start with the standard, bullshit Hollywood staple for Latinos and Latinas, and then I’ll give an example of one of the many types of personalities that exist for each–one that I’d like to see represented more often in Hollywood.
Full disclosure, I’m just making up throwaway names for these personalities (which will be very obvious once you see them), and, I feel like I can’t say enough that these are just a two of the personality types real Latinx people have. Please don’t read this as me saying, “All Latinos are [whatever niche personality I highlight].”
Also, even though I am Afro-Latino, I was raised in a Puetro Rican household. So, even though I really wanted to talk about the one coworker I love, who has a kind of personality I absolutely adore, I don’t feel comfortable talking about the Black experience or personalities that exist in Black communities. It just isn’t my place. So, today, we’re strictly talking Latinx.
Okay. That said, let’s begin.
Hollywood’s Latino Drug Dealer
The Latino Goth Nerd
On one hand, we have Hollywood’s old standard–the Latino gang member that deals drugs. Eternal fodder for the exposition of a cop drama. I don’t even need to explain because you already know the stereotype I’m talking about–you’ve seen it a million times.
What I’d like to offer in contrast to that . . . is the Latino Nerd. In my mind, this will always be “Goth Nerd” because I was a Latino Goth Nerd when I was in high school.
But the point here is, any Latino who’s super into A) rock music and B) something nerdy. Pro-o-o-o-obably anime–specifically Dragonball Z. They definitely play a ton of video games. If they have straight hair, it’s probably super long. If they don’t . . . well, it’s probably still super long but put in a poofy ponytail or braided. They almost exclusively wear band t-shirts; 50/50 chance they are currently or were once in a metal band.
Also, they’re probably a bit hard to talk to because they get shit from everywhere for not fitting in. Seriously, imagine the usual social incongruity of a Goth, but in a society that is even more traditionalist than the white society Goths usually call home. Like, they don’t necessarily have bad family drama, but, for example, abuela doesn’t understand why he dresses so dark and / or can’t speak Spanish. Even if he can dance to Salsa, “Why does he have his hair like that???” Pretty much everyone he knows has, at one point, asked the same goddamn questions to the point that he is understandably loyal to the friends and family who just accept him.
I would love to see more of this personality type in pop culture because, obviously, it’s close to heart for me. But also, I still hate the ongoing drug dealer/criminal stereotype.
From what I’ve seen, the only example of this type of character is “Cisco” Ramon from The Flash. If you saw that character on that show and asked, “Is that a real person that even exists?” the answer is yes! You were looking at me the whole time! Only I recently cut my hair and I’m nerdy about writing, not science.
Anyway, moving on.
Hollywood’s Sassy Latina
The Smart, Incredibly Focused Latina
Who’s Really Good at Everything
Yeah, the sassy Latina is Hollywood’s go-to Latina. She wears hoop earrings. She has her hair in ponytail. She has a ton of makeup on. And she don’t take shit from nobody. Also, that last bit is her entire personality.
What I’m suggesting instead: the smart, focused Latina who is great at everything and can achieve whatever she wants.
For this one, ha! I have an example now! AOC! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a fantastic example of this kind of personality.
But to explain a bit more, I’ll tell you about a chat I had with a coworker who had the same kind of personality. We were talking about a trip she was planning. At one point, she said that she was reading all of the legal fine print related to her plane tickets. And her hotel booking. And I don’t remember if she said she was renting a car, but if she was, she read the fine print for that too.
All of this came up because she brought up extremely specific return policy on airline tickets; I asked how she knew that and she told me–while adjusting her glasses.
Again, she that’s all of the fine print she came across while planning that trip. As amazing as it is scary. To this day, if you listen closely to the wind, you can still hear me ask, “What?”
And that reflex to be super prepared and on the ball is the main feature of this personality. These women are smart, usually great at their jobs, watch what they eat, don’t start drama with anyone because they’re too busy working on their own goals, dress well–they basically do everything right. They’re fluent in Spanish and English and maybe a third language–fuck I don’t know.
And, yeah, I’d love to see more of that personality represented in pop culture. Currently, the only example I’ve seen in nerddom is Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ version of Rio Morales, who was probably inspired by AOC (but still, I’ll take her over the comic version of Rio, who gets Fridged after having barely any dialogue, and Spider-Verse Rio, who was so firmly in the background that I can’t even conjure up her face).
And with that, we stop. Short and sweet. To the point. Hopefully indicative of the range of personalities that exist in Latinx communities. Personalities Hollywood almost always ignores.
And, if you’ve never thought about the personality of a Latinx character before, hopefully this post will inspire you to do so–particularly if you’re writing one. No need to feel guilty if you haven’t–Hollywood is great at teaching us to see tropes and nothing more.
But that doesn’t mean we have to let that happen.
Again, keeping it short and sweet this week. I know it’s a bit niche, but eh.
If you enjoyed this post and you’re down for reading more of my sometimes highly esoteric thoughts, please consider giving me a Like or a Follow. Also, I updated the site a bit so it’ll be easier to browse popular series. Most importantly though, I updated my “About Me” with a picture of me as a young lad. Fun!
I am currently outlining the finale of Memory. I wound up having to rework the one chapter leading up to the endgame (the finale has changed so much), but I am actually working out what happens now and it’s a crazy rush. I will keep you posted, but there’s really no way I’m not going to have a finished outline by the end of the week.
Until next time, take care, stay hydrated, and don’t preorder games!
Which I say because it was just E3 and, seriously, we all need that reminder.
No Man’s Sky.
We live in the age of games being released broken and incomplete.
If you’re really hyped for something, that’s more of a reason to not preorder it. And yes, I’m looking at you, Elden Ring. We are primed for a From Software bad launch. Stay vigilant, my friends.