More Than Behind the Camera

Diversity is becoming ever more prevalent in the entertainment industry, but as the recently held Oscars have shown, for some demographics, the move is slow in progress.

With movies like Coco and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water winning awards such as Best Animation and Best Picture, as well as Best Director and a plethora of nominations and two other awards for the latter, the recent 90th Academy Awards was a rich night for Latinx talent. Yet despite these and many other awards and nominations, no Latinx were awarded, much less nominated. A Fantastic Woman won best foreign language film, though it’s lead actress, Daniela Vega, was left empty handed. Not since José Ferrer in 1950 has a Latinx been awarded an Oscar for acting.

Numerous Latinxs were chosen to present at the Academy Awards, from Mexican actor-writer-producer Eugenio Derbez to rising Guatemalan star Oscar Isaac. There was even a special performance of the song “Remember Me” from Coco. Yet, as said before, and perhaps ironically, there was not a single acting nomination awarded to a Latinx this year.

Many Latinxs feel they have received underrepresentation in film and TV, which is evident in much of modern entertainment, with few holding lead or strong supporting roles. A lack of casting for the demographic may be partially to blame for a lack of Oscar winners, even if the amount of diversity among casts has been on the rise. Disney and Marvel’s recent Black Panther, for example, was a major leap in the road to greater diversity, but improved representation one ethnic group is not improved representation for all ethnic groups.

The Motion Picture Association of America’s Theatrical Statistics Report for 2016 has Latinxs as one of the most prevalent demographics of moviegoers. The lack of prevalence for Latinxs in front of the camera, when paired with these statistics, has moved many to speak out for more casting opportunities for  Hispanic actors and actresses. According to John Fithain, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, in a quote to The Washington Post in 2017, diversity is “a great thing” for the movie business, from those viewing and working on films to those starring in films. Given the statistics, out cry, and opinion of one of the top figures in the film, it may be a wonder to some as to why studios are not requesting their casting agents look on a broader scale, specifically for the Latinx demographic.

Yet despite unreliance with film producers, the Latinx community has found an increasing presence on the small screen. Shows like Narcos and Queen of the South feature Latinxs in lead roles. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, showrunner of the new hit show Riverdale, a show based on the Archie comics, chose to turn three major caucasian characters into Latinxs, with the casting of Camila Mendes, Marisol Nichols, and Mark Consuelos for the Lodge family, a trio of people with great importance to the show’s many plots. Setting these diverse casting choices aside, though,, the major broadcast networks – Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC – are still lacking in their representation of the Latinx demographic, but it is a start. Just as they do for the big screen, actors and actress are speaking up for more small screen representation. Perhaps a large enough motion in the world of television will convince film studios to increase the diversity of the casting is all it takes.

The move to greater diversity is a slow moving train, but a moving one nonetheless. It may very well take some time for a dominance of any one demographic to be vanquished from entertainment, but that does not negate actions cannot be taken to accelerate the process. With a little push and an outspoken voice, the Latinx community of actors and actresses may soon earn themselves spots as rising stars in some of entertainment’s largest productions.