McCall Polay / Warner Bros
Monday after the release of in the heights Its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has not posted a congratulatory note but ملاحظة Apology. Over the weekend, the conversation was about coloring and in the heights It reached its climax as more viewers began to wonder why there weren’t any black Afro-Latinos in any of the lead roles to represent a place as diverse as Washington Heights.
“I try to reserve space for both incredible pride in the film we made and being accountable for our shortcomings,” Miranda said in a statement Posted on social media. “Thank you for your honest comments. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I am dedicated to the learning and development we all have to do to make sure we respect our diverse and vibrant community.”
Historical cultural moment, stopped
before its release, in the heights It was described as The Latin movie season. It starred Latin Talent, featured dozens of Latin extras, and was based on a play written by a Latino, Miranda, and screenplayed by a Latina, Quiara Alegría Hudes. John Cho, the director behind the hit Crazy Rich Asians They joined a project that seemed poised for success.
Personally, the movie made me emotionally side. The moment I watched the trailer, I saw the Cuban flag waving on screen in a moment of celebration in what would become a wonderful “Carnival del Barrio” number where many different flags of Latin American countries were raised as a sign of representation. How many of us have seen our flags and celebrated our culture and not been stereotyped or sinister in a Hollywood movie or TV show? Considering just how many Latinos have speaking roles in major studio films (approx 5 percent according to a USC Annenberg study) , not much.
When I left the stage for the first time I saw her in the heights I left feeling happy. It felt like a classic Hollywood musical in Spanish, using the music I grew up listening to and close-ups of the food I find at my grandparents’ table in Noche Buena. I saw parts of myself and my family reflected in some of the characters.
As it was about to hit theaters, HBO Max Phyllis Leon, an Afro-Cuban video producer for The Root, asked a question many early newspapers missed: “Where are all the dark-skinned pioneers, Afro-Latinos?”
The answers Leon received were unsatisfactory. “When we were looking at actors, we were looking for the best people specifically for these roles,” Chu said. He cited that Afro-Latinos were in the background as dancers and extras at the No Mi Deja beauty salon number. The answer that only the most talented people were chosen to play these characters was a particularly painful response because part of the color issue is that they deprive dark-skinned people of opportunity, which means that lighter or whiter actors may have more careers in their biography. And more experience than their dark-skinned colleagues even before the test. It’s not uncommon for dark-skinned performers to be relegated to the sidelines, so while in the heights It may be a step forward for some Latin acting, but it still leaves many others behind as white filmmakers used “hiring who is the best for a role” to excuse themselves from hiring any actors of color.
Widescreen history of erasing
When it comes to talking about coloring and in the heights There are two complicated histories at play. The first, is the systemic issue of racism within the entertainment industry. The privilege of fair or white skin is so pervasive, it’s baked into a Hollywood foundation. This is how Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel would be cast on parts only as slaves or maids, but Dorothy Dandridge, who continues to face discrimination throughout her career, can be considered a potential leading lady. That’s why a young aspiring actress named Margherita Carmen Cansino changed her hairline, dyed her locks, and renamed herself Rita Hayworth. This is the reason for the actress Meryl Oberon Hide Her Biracial Origins. This is why Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno played Anita, which is a supporting role, alongside her white star Natalie Wood who played the main Puerto Rican role of Maria in West side story.
If only this was a problem stuck in Hollywood’s past, but it continues. When Zoe Saldana was cast as Nina Simone, she had to darken her features to do so when the filmmakers could have cast a dark-skinned actress. cho Crazy Rich Asians Also accused of coloring بال, pushing black Asians to the sidelines and leaving parts of the audience feeling excluded. Like a pop culture happy hour Aisha Harris pointed outSteven Spielberg remake West side story It also follows the light-skinned Maria model and the darker-toned Anita model from the original.
Who reflects the Latin community?
Another deeper issue is the problem of colors within Latin American and Latin American culture. As part of the region’s colonial legacy, light-skinned or white Hispanic and Latino Americans gained a social privilege often denied to dark-skinned Afro-Latinos or indigenous peoples. That is why the Latin American media often only features blond and blue-eyed singers, telenovela stars or newscasters.
For example, while Alfonso Cuaron Rome He got the attention for giving an indigenous actress, Yalitza Aparicio, a starring role in his film, Mexican racists attacked her appearance At least one magazine cover softened its image. Those internal prejudices have followed us wherever we go and they happen to fit well with the racism that already exists in Hollywood. Some conversation spread this weekend toward white directors, Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey, who may not have known the cultural nuances they were navigating when casting.
While it is difficult to expect any piece of art to sum up the totality of experiences from more than 30 different countries and subsequent diaspora, there should be room for debate as to why this exclusion of Afro-Latinos and indigenous peoples persists. I loved in the heights And I saw myself reflected in stories of ambitious goals, insecurity about navigating elite institutions, and reminiscing about our families’ pasts with an eye on our future. But that’s because I’m also white Hispanic, and while I’ve been frustrated by decades of Latino erasure in Hollywood, I’ve never experienced nearly as much erasure as Afro-Latinos or indigenous people in my community.
Recently, there has been opposition against latindad concept Because it is often used to erase people who do not fit the narrow definition of what Latin looks like. Latinos are more than one story, one skin color, or one umbrella identity. This discussion of color is about recognizing those already in our communities and families, to stop keeping dark-skinned and Indigenous talents out of the spotlight and open doors not just for white or fair-skinned Latinos, but for all of us and our diverse experiences. in the heights It won’t solve decades of media exclusion and centuries of coloring, but perhaps it could start a movement toward universal diversity in reality.