LatinaLista — It’s accepted fact that media has a role in shaping the public perception of ethnic groups. In fact, if it weren’t for those early television shows that depicted Native Americans as always on the warpath, Asians as submissive servants, Latinos as heavy accented newly arrived immigrants, and African Americans as a pace behind their white counterparts, it wouldn’t have been so hard for any person of a different ethnicity/race to prove themselves different from Hollywood’s lack of imagination.
Lola Del Rio is a prostitute who appears on promotional artwork for Grand Theft Auto IV. In October 2007, her character art was painted on the side of a building in SoHo, New York, advertising the game. She is supposedly in the game, her name can be found on the LCPD website. Her profile says she can usually be found around Star Junction and the docks. “Lola Del Rio” is a Spanish name meaning “sorrows of the river.
Also, if it hadn’t been for the persistence of notable actors of color like Ricardo Montalban, Chita Rivera, Sidney Poitier, Jay Silverheels, Bill Cosby, Edward James Olmos, Desi Arnaz and Bruce Lee, to only name a few, the Hollywood elite could have continually hidden behind the excuse of ignorance. It was through the efforts of these actors that Hollywood slowly took notice and realized that people of color are so much more than what socially-retarded writers put on paper.
But what is happening on network television and Hollywood studios is still too slow to keep up with the realities of what’s happening in the country. What little advances are being made today are mostly being achieved by those actors who are self-starters and bypassing the Hollywood bureaucracy.
But there is one last media frontier where stereotypes reign supreme and still must be shattered — video games.
An article by Christina Gonzalez titled Gangbangers, Victims, and Whores: Latinas in Videogames underscores the persistence of Latina stereotypes in the one last media that hasn’t benefited from public outcry over the limited, and mostly negative, portrayals of people of color.
Gonzalez found that while the presence of Latinas in video games account for less than one percent in videogame magazines and not even featured in any of the top selling games or game ads, the little presence they do have, for the most part, is not a true reflection of Latinas.
Of the few that exist, most fall into a couple of categories: temptresses, victims, gang members and other criminals. Several are employed in more respectable professions like law enforcement. Some have an exotic quality, often going hand in hand with being sexualized. And although real-world Hispanics have a wide range of skin colors, most videogame Hispanics are within a narrow range of tan to caramel brown. Their roles are most often minor ones.
Regardless of how much screen time Latina characters occupy in video games, it’s the fact that they are portrayed in the same, old, tired ways that only perpetuate this kind of image.
In her research, Gonzalez found that less than three percent of game developers are Latinos.
That was the same problem Hollywood had in the so-called Golden Age of Television where people of color were relegated to stereotype roles courtesy of the all-white writing teams. It wasn’t until studios started actively diversifying their writing talent did reality walk in the door, or at least the development of characters who were more closely aligned with their ethnic group.
Given the fact that millions of people, mostly teens, spend hours and hours interacting with video games, it’s long overdue that this innovative industry took responsibility for creating alternate worlds that rely too much on outdated characterizations and start creating characters that mirror the real world.