Latinos in the Media: The World Outside and the Pictures in our Heads
On February 19, 2020, CIIE held a Cultural Dialogue, Latinos in the Media: The World Outside and the Pictures in our Heads, at 200 (Read Room) White Hall. The Dialogue was presented by panelists from Kent State School of Communication Studies; Dr. Elizabeth Graham, School Director; Dr. Yesim Kaptan; Dr. Rekha Sharma; and Dr. Ikram Toumi. Sign Language Interpreters, Kate Giet and Donna Wuerschmidt, were also there to interpret the panel.
From left to right: Dr. Rekha Sharma; Dr. Ikram Toumi; Dr. Yesim Kaptan; Dr. Elizabeth Graham, School Director; Dr. Linda Robertson, Director of CIIE
The interactive panel addressed communication scholarship related to media characterizations and portrayal of Latino individuals, cultures, and issues. “The number of young Latinos –35 million – increased 20% from a decade earlier, making it one of the largest and fastest-growing youth populations in the country” (Lopez, Krogstad, and Flores, 2018). As Latinx communities continue to grow, they have become the most targeted consumers for marketers. Although this might sound like good news for an equal share of Latinx representatives in the media, the portrayal of Latinx and their cultures posed problematic, as it has always been. For children, Speedy Gonzales appears at the forefront of their mind when asked about Latinos. For Hollywood, Latinx men are portrayed as gangsters, buffoons, or the supporters of the protagonist (who is usually Caucasian or White). Latinx women are portrayed as always sexy, spicy, vulnerable, seductive, or feisty. Furthermore, the only occupation available for Latinx female characters seems to be housekeeping. Hollywood has created and limited the pictures of Latinx in the movies. Although there is some truth to the stereotype, the more important question is that “why do the media creators keep repeating these traits, while Latinx also do many other things?”. The same question can also be applied to other marginalized groups as well. Human beings are complex; yet, the media has worked hard to create a flat, static idea of human beings while dividing them into groups of skin colors or origins (or any type of label one could think of).
The World Outside and the Pictures in our Heads illustrated the impact of what we consume on our understanding of the world and ourselves. Although there are more Latinx representatives in the media, their portrayals only serve to maintain the social hierarchy in which American Dream is unjustly distributed. It is time that the gatekeepers let go of the gate, destroy the fence, and let Latinx tell their stories from their perspective.
Dr. Rekha Sharma presenting how the media maintain stereotypes and social hierarchy from a theoretical perspective.
Lopez, M. H., Krogstad, J. M., and Flores, A. (2018, September 13). Key facts about young Latinos, one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/13/key-facts-about-young-latinos/.