The Latin Bechdels – Part 2: The Latin Lover Test

It’s been a little over two weeks since I posted the first part of my Latin Bechdels series. Since then, I’ve continued casually subjecting everything I watch, read, or play to the CAR Test. Nothing new has passed; there are only ever new failures for the CAR.

Zoo? Despite its culturally diverse cast, that’s a fail.

Rick and Morty? I want to believe, but I’m pretty sure Rick Sanchez’ last name is only “Sanchez” because it’s funny. Besides, Rick is technically a criminal so he wouldn’t pass anyway. But holy shit if Rick Sanchez is actually Hispanic! Because, seriously, a Hispanic protagonist? In a widely popular American anything? That is actually rarer than finding a unicorn. A Hispanic protagonist who’s a scientist? That’s like finding you were a unicorn this entire time.

Fair warning: I’m writing this at 4 AM.

Anyway, let’s not let the unending barrage of CAR Test failures keep us down. Let’s talk about a test that most media passes! But a test for which the failing grade is I. I as in, “I can’t believe people still make this joke.”

Let’s talk about the Latin Lover Test!

The Latin Lover Test

Criteria for Failure: Your story features a Latino or Hispanic male character whose personality traits are dominated by or include an immediate, cartoon-ish determination to have sex with a female character.

Bonus: This character actually says, “Oh, hello, pretty lady,” in Telemundo voice the moment he sees whatever woman he creeps on for the rest of the story.

*If your story doesn’t feature a named Latino or Hispanic character–if, instead, the Latin Lover is used as a disembodied gag (i.e. a replacement personality for a non-Latino character who has hit their head/gotten comedic amnesia/etc.), that story extra fails the Latin Lover Test.

I’m going to keep it short and sweet with this one, because I feel it should be really obvious why using the latin lover–in anything–is bad.

My full explanation: It’s racist humor from the 40’s.

That’s it. Seriously, it’s an obviously demeaning racist gag that’s decades old, grandfathered into American culture so firmly that it’s still being used.

It’s also pathetically easy comic relief. Need a quick laugh? Don’t want to actually work for it? Then dump the Latin Lover into your story! No tact required!

A simpler perspective on it:

Blackface? Obviously not cool.

Gross, joke Asian characters? No!

The latin lover stereotype? Oh, that one’s still okay.

. . .

Let’s take a look at what properties could possibly be ignorant enough to fail the Latin Lover test. You won’t be surprised.

Properties that Fail

Toy Story 3 – I lied.

I absolutely love the Toy Story movies. I think they’re great.

But that doesn’t mean Toy Story 3 isn’t incredibly racist.

Partway through the movie, Buzz Lightyear has his language setting changed from English to Spanish. That single change instantly 180’s his personality, making him go from level-headed, adventure-loving astronaut . . .

. . . to Latino horndog, trying relentlessly to bone Jessie. There’s not even a hint of who he was; he is immediately a stereotype, present for comic relief and nothing else. If I remember correctly, the movie walks us through a few matador stereotypes too. Because, ya know, that’s what men do in Spain–walk around with roses in their mouths and gross-flirt.

I know–I know it’s an animated film–but the Latin Lover is still so… casually offensive. And easy; really, so fucking easy.

If you’re on the defensive about this, just take a moment to imagine a non-offensive alternative; Buzz Lightyear has his language switch turned to Spanish and is the same person but now struggles with being understood. To pour on the humor, let Buzz see a glaring plothole/solution that would neatly wrap up the the movie’s entire conflict in the first or second act–but no one understands him. He can desperately try to point it out while everyone stares, taking progressively less realistic guesses at what he’s trying to say.

The sad thing? Coming up with the non-offensive alternative to the Latin Lover wasn’t actually hard at all.

Moving on.

Final Fantasy XII – It was ages ago, but I still remember meeting Al-Cid in that game. We get our first glimpse of him when he interrupts a meeting the protagonists are having.

I remember that, when he opened his mouth and had a strong, Spanish accent, I thought, “Whoa! A Hispanic character in Final Fantasy? Awesome!”

Then he almost instantly gets on one knee in front of Ashe, the female lead. Kisses her hand. Continues holding it as he starts in with, “Stunning is Dalmasca’s desert bloom,” because Ashe is the princess of Dalmasca. Immediately, another character groans in disgust.

So did I.

Did Al-Cid have a character outside of being a gross caricature? I have no idea and I never will. I instantly popped FFXII out of my PS2 without saving and haven’t touched a FF game since.

Properties that Pass

Red VS Blue – It’s weird to bring up this ancient web series, but I do it to provide a direct reply to Toy Story 3. Yes, when it comes to what’s more racist, a crass, turn-of-the-century machinima based on Halo–the franchise with space marines killing aliens–is actually less racist than the family friendly movie about kids’ toys.

Bear with me on this one.

In RVB, the mechanic for Red Team is a robot named Lopez. For fifteen episodes, he doesn’t have a speech unit, but when Red Team eventually gets their hands on one, it’s damaged on instillation. The result? Although he can understand everyone else, Lopez can only speak Spanish.

And, from there, the robot does not become a horndog. He doesn’t become a matador, doesn’t start humping Tex’s leg, and he doesn’t suddenly weld a rose to the mouth of his combat visor.

The robot remains a mechanic. Literally the only difference: he speaks Spanish now.

Is it weird that the only Hispanic character on the show is a robot? Yes. Is it weird that the only Hispanic character on the show is a Mexican worker? Even though there are obviously hard working Mexicans in the USA, yeah, it’s still weird that Lopez is a stereotype. Is RVB tasteless in a lot of other ways? Absolutely.

But is Lopez his own character? Yes, he is. He’s melodramatic. He thinks of the Red’s Sarge as his dad because Sarge built him. He talks way too much and is super loyal to Red Team.

In short, he’s still a joke character, sure, but at least he’s not a quaintly racist gag.

Aside from The Flash, I honestly can’t think of another property that passes both the CAR and the Latin Lover Test – The Flash, is officially a bright, shining beacon of representation for Latino characters in fantasy, but I already talked about Cisco in the last post.

The more important point for me to make here… I genuinely can’t think of another popular, American series that passes both the CAR and the Latin Lover.

Because, usually, these tests are mutually exclusive–a Hispanic character is either a criminal/an ex-criminal/a person who’s related to a criminal, or they’re a gross stereotype.

It’s a weird thing to just openly write about all of this–like I’m breaking some unspoken code of conduct. Like someone’s going to bear down on me about how wrong I am to criticize an old joke character. I’m not sure why; maybe because it’s always been the Latin American modus operandi to just shrug these things off.

Regardless, we’re going to keep talking about all of this in two weeks, when I get to the test I’ve really wanted to write about this entire time–the DAGGER Test. It’ll be about racism, as a whole, in fantasy, so if you love fantasy, you won’t want to miss it.

—Project Updates—

LS-ProgressBar(3.0)-8.30.15-(InPost)Had a weirdly intense breakthrough while brainstorming my novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo. The result? It totally invalidated a few of the short stories I was working on. Dream Runner? Possibly out because its message is done better by the NaNoWriMo novel. Another short I was planning? Same thing.

The other two shorts have endured similar creative weirdness. One of them has snowballed into a potential novel. The other I realized I need to take apart from the ground up (at least I caught it before finishing it).

My goals for next time:

  1. Finish editing Memory.
  2. Submit “Aixa” again.
  3. Finish one of the remaining shorts, now whittled down to the two that are worth finishing.

 

 

—Acknowledgements—

Thanks for the Likes . . .

. . . moteridgerider! I appreciate the support!

. . . Damyanti! Check out her Q&A with playright/author Michele Lee! It’s a really interesting read–especially if you’re an aspiring playwright!

. . . Megan Manzano! The Manzano clan is currently knee deep in the 777 Challenge, and Megan’s contribution was pretty solid!

. . . Justine Manzano! Her post from the Dark Side of submissions is definitely comforting for any writer who struggles with them (i.e. all writers).

And that about wraps it up! If you like what you’ve read, consider giving this post a Like or giving me a Follow.

But even if you don’t, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.

The Latin Bechdels – Part 1: The CAR Test

It’s been almost two years since I first talked about Earth-Modern race in fantasy on this site. Two whole years and the world has changed a lot. At least, lately, America is coming along. Same sex marriage has been legalized. The confederate flag has finally been thrown into question. And I’ve lost at least two pounds (seriously, I got weighed at the doctor’s office the other day and I’ve lost two whole pounds).

Being a latino though, the bit of news I’m most grateful for is Donald Trump’s racist rant against Mexicans. Not because I’m an impossible idiot who agrees with him–I don’t–but because it’s finally opened the door for casual talk about Latin American and Hispanic culture. People are finally aware that–specifically–Mexicans have a voice and aren’t just a silent work force, and–more broadly–that Latin American culture is a thing that can’t be trivialized or ignored. People are out there, right now, watching videos about the difference between “Latino” and “Hispanic.” Or they’ve at least seen that video of the Mexican construction worker talking smack on Trump. That means there’s an opportunity for people like me to speak up–say things like, “Yes. Yes, latinos are also here in America–hello–and no, we aren’t just drug dealers or gangbangers, like you see on TV.”

And, for me (closet bureaucrat that I am) it’s also an opportunity to create three tests–in the spirit of the Bechdel test–that dictate whether fictional stories are archaically racist against Latinos!

And write a whooole mess of posts about them!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first of a three parter, The Latin Bechdels. I was fully intending to make this one post, but talking about the very first test ran on way, way longer than I intended. So, instead, I’m devoting the next month to discussing my three tests for racism. Two of these tests are applicable to all fiction, but the last one is only for fantasy. They are the Cops and Robbers (CAR) Test; The Latin Lover Test; and the Degrees of Archaic, Guiltlessly Generalizing, Exclusionary Racism (DAGGER) Test specifically for fantasy. That’s right–DAGGER. Because I could and it sounded awesome.

Today, we’re starting with the CAR Test.

The CAR Test

Criteria for Failure: the named Latino or Hispanic characters in your story are either criminals, cops who are reformed criminals, cops who are related to criminals, or civilians . . . who are related to criminals.

Not having a Latino or Hispanic character to begin with is an automatic failure.

I was considering naming this one “the Trump Test,” but I don’t want his stupidity to live on, so instead, we’re going with a disarmingly playful name for a facet of fictional racism that has bothered me since I was young.

You’d be surprised by how completely everything fails the CAR Test. Seriously, when it comes to general fiction, you are almost guaranteed two things: 1) you will not get a named Latino character, but 2) if you do get a named Latino character, their arcs will always depend on being, having been, or knowing a criminal. I think the implications are clear here; if you’re Latino, you either are a criminal or know someone who’s a criminal. The inherent racism and slack-jawed assumption in that kind of thinking is obvious, so I won’t delve into it.

Instead, I’ll tell you to just take the CAR Test for a spin (don’t think about that pun–I hate myself for it). Test it out and discover that, in most movies, any Latinos who appear have a depressingly high chance of being gun-toting drug dealers, or cops who are only cops because they grew up with gun-toting drug dealers.

Of course, you can apply CAR to any race, but it’s at its best (worst) when applied to Latino or Hispanic characters. There are stories that pass (I mention two below), but if the stars align and a movie or show even features a named Latino, chances are it’s going to fail the CAR anyway. Like these fantastic examples:

Properties that Fail

The Walking Dead – In season one, Felipe is the leader of the Vatos gang. Yes, they were taking care of elderly people. But, no, the plot twist, “The Hispanic criminals are actually nice! Whoa!” isn’t a plot twist that excites me in any way. Felipe and his thugs are around for a single episode.

Two seasons later, another Latino finally appears, but, of course, he’s Tomas, the most unlikable of the criminals holed up at West Georgia Correctional Facility (or “the prison,” as it’s usually called). By the end of his second episode, Tomas is dead at the hands of our protagonist.

Another season later, the show finally introduces Rosita Espinosa. But, of course, by this point, The Walking Dead has already super–ultra–failed the CAR Test.

Ant-Man – This was pretty depressing for me, but Marvel’s Ant-Man actually goes above and beyond with the CAR Test, failing so spectacularly that it’s actually offensive for all races.

In a predominately white cast, the protagonist is Scott Lang, an altruistic, tech-saavy ex-con. His partners–who are all completely unapologetic and active criminals–are a Hispanic man, an African American man, and a Russian American immigrant, all three of whom act as bizarre race caricatures for comic relief, their intelligence routinely jabbed throughout the film for laughs.

The Hispanic man, Luis, spends most of his screen time talking very quickly and acting masculine in front of the female lead, Hope Pym, in an obvious attempt to get into her pants.

The African American man, Dave, only makes a significant contribution to the story by quickly stealing a car to divert police attention–a contribution he squanders by over-excitedly throwing his hands around in celebration and accidentally honking the gag horn of the team’s disguised truck.

The Russian American immigrant, Kurt, is the tamest of the bunch–a hacker who seems intelligent–but is still portrayed as an idiot whose most notable character trait is arguably his heavy accent.

All three of these characters are, at one point, literally science-talked to sleep. Not as a side note but as one of the movie’s direct jokes; the protagonist displays his powers and all three of his minority side kicks freak out. The following scene has Hope Pym explain that she fed them some drugs and explained the science of the Ant-Man suit to them, which made them fall asleep almost instantly.

Let me just rephrase and restate that joke: after the movie’s only three minorities freak out over a character’s super powers–in a universe where super powers are now common and accepted–a white scientist says to a white super hero, “I gave the minorities some Xanax and talked science at them for a few minutes. The combination of a name brand anxiety drug with smart person talk shut off their stupid, minority brains like a bird cage cover puts a bird to sleep. Even the Russian hacker couldn’t stay awake . . . Comedy!”

. . . Yeah. I think that just about captures all of the weird racism of that joke.

Moving on . . .

Properties that Pass

The Flash At first, I thought Cisco Ramon was really annoying. It’s the villain naming thing; the villains’ rebooted, TV aesthetics really, really clash class with their old-timey, Silver Age names, making each naming really cringey. Cisco decides, “He’s the Pied Piper,” and I think, “Why? Because he has gauntlets that make sound? That’s a pretty big stretch for Pied Piper; he doesn’t even have an instrument. Why not Shockwave or Soundwave or–oh right. It’s because this character was created in 1959.”

But then I realized, “OMFG he actually isn’t an ex-criminal! He’s just a smart Latino! Who does science!” Of course, I’m still waiting for the day when we get more of his backstory and find out about . . . fuck–I don’t know–Ignacio the Dragon, Cisco’s other brother who leads a drug cartel somewhere and gets super powers from . . . I don’t even know who. <sigh> It’s going to happen.

Daredevil – (I’m sorry. I watch a lot of super hero shows, alright? It’s technically fantasy–what do you expect?) Claire Temple is at least portrayed by a Latina (Rosario Dawson). Granted, I grew up with the disappointment of seeing Latino actors and actresses playing non-stereotypical characters in movies only to learn that they’re portraying other ethnicities, so Claire Temple is a hard call; she might not be Latina at all. Still, she seems to be an intelligent, well-spoken Latin American character who isn’t a criminal or related to criminals.

And, regardless, Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado) is an adorably accurate depiction of an abuela. Yes, she’s a side character, but she’s still a named Hispanic character with no connection to criminals. It happens so rarely that I’ll take it as a win!

And, with that, I think I’ve said enough about the CAR Test. Did I say too much? Maybe. But has the CAR been brewing in my mind for decades? Really frustrating decades? Absolutely.

Hopefully, you were as horrified by the test. If you were–if you stopped to test some of your favorite movies and found that they failed miserably (even The Avengers! Hooray!)–drop a comment below. I’d love to hear about it–although I’d really, really love to hear it if you found a movie that passes the CAR.

Drop by again in two weeks, when I’ll dish on the Latin Lover Test, which forces us to consider a really overused and incredibly frustrating racial stereotype that people still laugh at to this very day.

— Project Updates —

LS-ProgressBar(3.0)-8.12.15-(InPost)Disclaimer: Apologies about the how tiny this Progress Tab is. The next biggest size was obnoxious. If you’re reading this after my next post, click the Tab here for a better look.

I made a new Progress Tab to reflect my weird, unexpected, on-going writing trends. That surge of short stories? That never really calmed down. The result: I’m working on a ton of ideas that I quit on a long time ago (including a few that I didn’t list there because I’m still figuring out how to make actual stories out of them). “Rainwater,” “Reset,” and “Dream Runner” are stories that I’ve already started, however–all halfway done.

Thus the change; I kept making new tabs with progress bars that never moved (the last few months I’ve started “Writing” projects that have always jumped to “Editing” two weeks later), so I’ve streamlined. The only progress indicators that remain are the terrible, ever-present ticks for submissions.

 

— Acknowledgements —

Thanks for the Follows . . .

. . . Siuquxebooks! It’s a blog that posts recommendations for Mystery/Thrillers, so it’s not really my thing, but I appreciate the Follow regardless, of course!

. . . and Jack J. Binding! His post on social media is absolutely fantastic. As a man who tries and fails to find patience for Twitter on a daily basis, absolutely hates Facebook, and also says an unabashed “fuck you” to Pinterest, how could I not love that post?

And thanks for the Likes . . .

. . . Megan Manzano! Her latest post, on YA’s over-dependence on romance, posed some pretty interesting questions about the genre. Full disclosure: I haven’t read a lot of YA, but I always love challenging tropes. And I’m pretty anti-romance (not the genre, but the plot element), so, naturally, bitter fuck that I am, I had to like that post . . . Give it a read!

. . . Siuquxebooks! Thanks again!

. . . Damyanti! Seriously, I could not help linking this post about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I was once a super secure writer, but now, I can safely say that the submissions process has completely changed my mind about that! So I absolutely have to support any group that supports struggling writers. It is a rough business. If you’re a writer struggling with the craft, check out IWSG. I definitely will.

. . . and James Radcliffe! His latest post takes a look at why he’s getting happier as he gets older, which turns into a listing of the five elements of his life that contribute to his on-going happiness. As someone who absolutely needs an outlet for some bad and inlet for some good, I have to give you a firm thanks, sir; your post gave me a few interesting ideas.

That’s it for this week. If you’ve liked what you read, consider giving me a Like or Follow; it’s fine if you don’t, but I’d appreciate it if you do! As always, you can find me fitfully posting on Twitter as @LSantiagoAuthor.

Either way, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.