Quick, think of a prominent Mexican actor or star. When George Lopez, who barely counts, comes to mind first, there is an issue.
There have been few portrayals of Mexicans in any American pictures and television shows that aren’t blindingly obvious to stereotypes.
It’s gone on for years and the underrepresentation is a little odd when compared to the population of Mexicans and Latinos represented in the United States.
But the same old roles are, and will always be there.
Need a gangster guy? Mexican actor. Need a drug lord? Mexican actor. A hot pool guy? Mexican actor. That last one isn’t so bad, but when you need a neutral leading role, Ryan Gosling or another good looking white actor will get it.
The cupboard isn’t completely empty of famous leading actors. The most authentic one that comes to mind is Edward James Olmos, whose roles include “Selena’s Dad” and his Oscar nominated role as a teacher in “Stand And Deliver.” But after Olmos, there’s a huge drop off in talent, available roles, or how Mexican you really are.
Next on that list would probably be actor Michael Pena, who had his breakthrough role in the 2004 Academy Award winning film “Crash.”
But after a great racially charged performance, he’s been in a slew of riveting roles, such as an elevator operator in “Tower Heist,” drug dealer and thug in “30 Minutes or Less,” or the supporting actor to Jake Gyllenhaal’s leading role in “End of Watch.”
On top of a short supply of actors, there is also a short supply of Mexican inspired movies.
“42,” a biopic on the life of Jackie Robinson, which opened on April 12, tells the story of the racial struggle Robinson went through. “Malcolm X,” another big time movie, also profiled a famous African American.
When there seems to be a chance at one, Hollywood will just have a white actor play the leading role.
Seriously, how are you going to title a movie “The Mexican” and have it star Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts? That would be like Tom Hanks being the star of “Blood In Blood Out.”
Sure, there was HBO’s “Walkout,” starring Pena, which detailed the 1968 student walkouts in East Los Angeles, but that wasn’t made by Hollywood. I haven’t seen a movie about Mexican struggle that hasn’t gone straight to video or been a made for TV movie. I want production value.