Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ethnicity in Telenovelas

After our discussion about the representation of Latin Americans in telenovelas by mainly very light skinned actors and actresses, I started noticing this more and more in both La Tempestad and in many of the clips we watch during class. It is true that many of the protagonists look alike. They mostly have lighter skin and light brown or blonde hair. In La Tempestad, the male protagonist has longer, blonde hair and the female protagonist has very light skin and long, wavy light brown hair. In the clips we watched last class from Cosita Rica, the female protagonist is also a blonde, while the male protagonist has light skin.

We discussed the fact that many people in Latin America will say that their country or region is not racist, but, in reality, some of the constructions of racism must still exist. The lack of diversity in telenovelas is evidence of this. When protagonists of countless telenovelas all have the same look, and minor characters such as maids and industrial workers have a different look, racism has clearly played a role in casting decisions. It is not alone responsible for these casting decisions, however. Classism plays a large role in this phenomenon as well. The way different classes are portrayed by the color of the actors' skin reveals the remnants of racist beliefs about various classes in Latin America. It may not be that the people responsible for casting are racists themselves, but rather the traditions of casting certain people in certain roles have not changed and are still rooted in racist ideals.

The interplay between classism and racism reminds me of something my grandma said to me once. She lived in Panama for the early part of her life, and a lot of the customs and nuances of the culture stayed with her for her whole life. She would always speak in Spanish to us and remind us of that part of her life, which I am very thankful for because I learned so much from her. One time, however, when I had just gotten back from the beach with a nice tan, my grandma told me that I should not tan my skin so much or get so dark. My mom explained to me that when my grandma grew up in Panama, class was still associated with the color of people's skin. Dark skin was associated with lower class and light skin was associated with upper class. Although I'm sure my grandmother was not outright thinking about this social stratification when she commented on my skin color, the custom of desiring lighter skin had not left her mind. She thought that I looked better with lighter skin, and she criticized me for being too tan.  I think that this idea of what is beautiful is still impacting latin american culture today, as evidenced by the color of skin and hair of protagonists in telenovelas.

1 comment:

  1. Many believe that racism only has to do with skin color. Contrary, racism is rooted and ingrained into the mental processing exposed to throughout life. Like you said: a darker skin immediately associated with a lower class. Even in the United States, many African Americans are automatically placed within this lower social stature. Although an unfortunate percent of blacks in the United States are poor, this may be due to the cyclicality of prejudice, racism, and oppression. All novelas have a rosa element, one in which it hides racial tension behind light skinned actresses.