I’m sure by now everyone has seen that Orbitz commercial on tv where a nerdy-looking guy approaches a couple on vacation to tell them about the refund they’ll be receiving from Orbitz.com. In the original version of the commercial he addresses them as “Aah, the Hernandez-es-es.” In recent airings of the same commercial, I noticed that had been changed to just “the Hernandezes.” This sparked my curiosity. Had some outraged Latino rights group threatened legal action against Orbitz for making fun of Hispanic surnames?? A quick Google search revealed that although nothing seemed to have been made public, other television viewers had also noticed the slight change in the spokesman’s dialogue. What I found most interesting was not that some people were so insulted by the perceived insult to Hispanics the world over (seriously, people? Lighten up), but the fact that one of these same commenters snarkily referred to the couple in the ad as “Hispanic-lite,” implying that they were too light-skinned to be truly Latino. Umm… I’m sorry, but… is that the definition of irony? No, I’m serious; is it? Someone is commenting on the supposed insult to Latinos but in the same sentence implies that all Latinos have to be dark-complected? Isn’t that, I don’t know, stereotyping?
I guess I ask because as a pale-skinned… okay, who am I kidding… as a TRANSLUCENT-if-you-hold me-up-to-a-lightbulb-you-can-see right-through-me-skinned Latina woman, I think it’s pretty ridiculous to assume that all persons of Hispanic descent are brown. Latinos come in all colors. While I am pale as milk (my mother used to call me blanca nieve, Snow White, when I was kid), with green eyes and strawberry-blond hair (well, not since I discovered Clairol at age 13, but you get the idea), I am no less Cuban than my first cousins that are olive-skinned with jet black hair and brown eyes. Not all Latinos are brown, and not all browns are Latino.
Every time I see a Latino woman cast in a movie or tv role, it’s always the same handful of actresses playing the part: Roselyn Sanchez, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, Eve Mendez, Salma Hayek, Cristina Milian. They all fit nicely into that “down and brown” category, don’t they? But what about the non-traditional Latinas? Let’s take, for example, Cameron Diaz. What, you didn’t know that the All-American, blue-eyed, blonde-next-door is half-Cuban? That’s right. Her father is Cuban. And while her resumé boasts a huge list of roles, including Irish and Italian characters, there is not a Latino one among them. Even pocket-size, bottle-blond, singer Christina Aguilera is not ever referred to as Latina, even though her father is from Ecuador. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t look at all Latina? Or rather, she doesn’t look stereotypically Latina.
The thing is, for someone like me, someone NOT dark, not brunette, not endowed with enviable Latina curves, it’s really difficult to look at someone like Jennifer Lopez or Shakira and feel any kind of kinship. Instead, I find myself drawn to actresses like Jennifer Garner or Drew Barrymore because they look like me (ok, no, wait; let me clarify… I am in no way delusional enough to think I look anything like those beauties; I just mean in regards to skin color). When I look in the mirror I don’t see brown and sexy; I see plain ol’ Wonder bread white. And I wish that I could see more Hispanic women that look like me in the entertainment industry. And I wish people would stop boxing us into this little brown box. Not all Latinas are brown. Not all Anglos are white. We are a whole wide world of mixed up and that’s what I want to see when I turn on the tv or go to the movies. Is that too much to ask? It’s 2010, Hollywood. Catch up.
Peace out, yo!