Hispanics on Screen “I Want to See Myself on Screen, But…”

We have just come out of yet another award season and one more year has gone by without the universal recognition that Latinos are not making any progress either in front or behind the camera.  This blog is a slight departure from our usual pieces on the world of Hispanic advertising – a personal riff on the industry as d2H prepares to make a big splash regarding our upcoming entry into the world of entertainment marketing.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America Hispanics represent about 24% of movie-goers in the US.  In other words, $1 out of every $4 taken in by the top 100 movies is generated by Hispanic audiences, even though we represent only 18% of the population.

And yet, Wise Entertainment and the National Association of Latino Producers released a study last year reporting that of the 1200 top grossing films between 2007 and 2018, only 3% featured Latino actors in leading or co-leading roles.  

It’s no wonder that I do not see myself on screen when I dish out my hard-earned money at the theatre, or to my favorite streaming services.  But can I really blame “an industry” for a systemic reality?  The same lack of diversity on screen and off is true for television even as the hours of content produced every week is growing exponentially.  

So who would I call to even start to resolve this chicken-or-egg-gordian knot kind of problem?  Does the problem start with the actors or with writers, producers, directors, talent agencies, casting directors, show runners, acting schools, coaches, karma, or just plain dumb luck?

Don’t get me wrong, I very much want to see myself, my culture and my values represented on screen.  But I also want them to be worthy performances.  They don’t have to be award winning, that is an entirely different battle, also shared by women and Black-Americans.  But they should be well written, authentic and convincing.  They should be performed as roles that reflect the positive and negative influences of our culture on the mainstream.  They should also reflect all American movie-goers’ collective fears and aspirations.

If our actors are able to cross-over and do all this, they will undoubtedly have an impact at the box office.  They will represent the tip of the spear for Hispanics on the big and small screen. 
They will stretch the canvas for all Latinos across all of the pop culture arts. It’s happening in music, literature, theatre, art, food, the electorate and in business – why not the movies?  We should all aspire to quality over quantity.  In my opinion, this is the crux of the problem

We all have to ask ourselves some tough questions?  Maybe we have simply not hit a critical mass of box office hit talent in any of the above roles?  Are there enough Oscar-Golden Globe-Emmy level actors to feature in over 20% of the top box office hits every year?  More importantly are there enough off-screen advocates, working to make this ideal number of performances possible?  Because after all, if these people are not working to promote Hispanic actors as leads then who does?  

And when the topic of negative portrayals comes up.  What do our own syrupy-narco-driven-salacious-prime-time-Spanish-language productions say about our own portrayal of Hispanic culture.  I am not letting Hollywood off the hook on this issue or the need to see more of ourselves on screen; but we have over 20 countries producing content and featuring our actors streaming around the world.  Let’s make the best of the content we already control and figure out how to cross-ourselves over onto more of America’s – and thereby the world’s – movie screens.

For more discussion about the The Hispanic Absence in Hollywood, check out the infographic in our APPROACH section and go to BUZZ to view our vlog – Speaking2Hispanics – on our website, www.d2hispanic.com

Marcelino Miyares- Managing Partner – d2H Partners, LLC – 2020