Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” is the latest film that demonstrates the right direction towards Latinx representation in Hollywood with its choice of diverse cast members.
I believe and many people can agree that the 1961 film adaptation made the mistake of casting white actors to play the Puerto Rican “Sharks” instead of casting actual Latinx actors.
While the 1960s was a different time compared to today’s day and age, it is still ridiculous that actress Rita Moreno seemed to be the only one that was fit for her role as Anita, while the rest of the actors were non-Hispanic.
In today’s standards, this applies when typecasting “Hispanic” actors such as Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem, or Antonio Banderas in the majority of Latinx-related roles in movies.
Even though they are all renowned actors in their own right, there are other great Latinx actors with the same potential that can take these roles and can expand to play other roles as well.
In my opinion, this still remains to be a huge problem in Hollywood where there is not enough Latinx visibility and proper representation in the mainstream media.
Instead, we keep seeing characters that represent negative stereotypes such as “the spicy Latina” or “criminal gangster” that continue to fail on representation for that community.
According to a recent study by the USC School of Annenberg on Hispanic and Latino Representation in Film, “characters are often typecast in stereotypical roles with, 29.8% of characters portrayed as criminals, 39.3% participating in organized crime and 21.4% shown in depictions of violent crime.”
By fueling these negative stereotypes, it creates more marginalization and a false perception towards the overall community.
In this film, Spielberg was thoughtful and considerate enough on correcting this error on properly casting young Latinx actors that will deliver justice to the roles.
However, he shouldn’t be the only one to take this step toward inclusivity and there should be more Latinx directors in Hollywood pushing this more as well.
This includes the representation of Afro-Latinx, LGBTQ+, and other groups within the community.
These types of groups do exist within the community but somehow Hollywood has yet to give a chance to share these stories that will give a better glimpse and understanding within these subgroups.
The Latinx community is a very diverse community and is one of the fast-growing ethnic groups in the United States.
According to recent data from the United States Census Bureau, “The Hispanic or Latino population which includes people of any race, was 62.1 million in 2020.” The report also mentions that the population grew 23% since 2010.
As the Latinx population continues to grow, the mainstream media has a huge market to aim at and they should value this.
In the United States, Hispanics are also highly active in digital media and mobile consumerism.
According to a 2012 report by Nielsen Media Research, “Hispanic video viewers are 68% percent more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet, and 20 percent more likely to watch video on a mobile phone.”
It is important for Hollywood and the mainstream media to do better and fix these past mistakes.
Spielberg should not get all the credit for making one correct change to fix a problem that is still relevant, but there should be more Latinx actors that are given the opportunity to be part of this change.