Beyond Stereotypes: The much-needed evolution of Latinos in Hollywood

It’s been over seven years since I’ve owned a television, and in today’s world, who needs one when we have Netflix and Hulu? For the most part, I seldom use either one of those unless there is a show that truly appeals to my interest. As a Latina, I’ve always found it hard to find a show that I was able to relate to, with characters and stories that were similar to my life experience. That was until a show, Jane the Virgin,came along. Finally, there is a show that I can connect to, featuring a Latina as the lead and a storyline around issues that Latino families face in the United States.

The face of our country is changing, and television and film should do more to depict our country’s diversity.

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Now more than ever, audiences are a mix of ethnicities and cultures. Latinos in the United States make up one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups, comprising 17% of the population. Also, Latinos are over 20% of the 18-34 marketing demographic for television and film, making them a considerable chunk of the viewing audience. However, the presence and portrayal of Latinos in Hollywood has yet to reflect this demographic shift.

While the lack of diversity continues to exist, evolution in Hollywood that better reflects the United States’ diverse population is starting to occur. With Hispanic or Latino viewers watching more than 130 hours of traditional and time-shifted television each month, it has become evident to television and film networks that Latinos are becoming a powerful force in our society.

Shows like Jane the Virgin have started to pave the way for more programs and networks to realize the potential in widening their audience by featuring more Latino leads and storylines.

It hasn’t been easy for Latinos to challenge the current narrative in Hollywood. The biggest obstacle is the stereotypes portrayed in television and film. Sweeping generalizations of Latinos typically fall under the same categories: the stay-in maid, the Latin Lovers, Latina sexpots, thugs, and immigrants. When we look back at how television and film represent Latinos, we see that their characters are typically a spin-off of one of these stereotypes. These stereotypes only continue to create a harmful image of Latinos in the United States.

Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane in Jane the Virgin, acknowledged the importance that her role and the show, in general, are starting to play in this “evolution” towards diversity. In a recent interview, she stated, “broad appeal, spanning different generations and ethnic groups, is part of the magic of Jane the Virgin.”  Some of her fans find her inspirational simply because she looks like them, further emphasizing the importance of Latino representation on television and film.

As the Latino population continues to grow in the United States and the viewing audience becomes more diversified, it is vital for television and film to depict our country’s diverse and evolving melting pot.