Overheard at the TCA Press Tour
Hollywood, Get a Clue!
This is a breakout year for the Latino voice to be heard at the TCA. As the Television Critics Association Press tour came to an end this week PBS presented two of its featured documentaries for the fall. The Graduates/Los Graduados, (Oct. 28 and Nov. 4) which explores pressing issues in education today through the eyes of six Latino and Latina students from across the United States; and Latino Americans (Tuesdays Sept. 17-Oct 1) narrated by Benjamin Bratt which is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years. Both panels featured some poignant remarks by the Latinos panelist as they spoke about the representation of Latinos in Hollywood and how Hollywood just needs to get a clue.
Featured on the The Graduates/Los Graudados panel were students Eduardo Corona and Chastity Salas and series producer Lois Vossen. Wilmer Valderrama (That ‘70s Show) and Aimee Garcia (Dexter) well known advocates for education in the Latino community, had insights how the fact that the network executives still, for the most part white, are middle=aged and male and that that might be a factor for the lack of diversity on TV.
“When I first joined That ‘70s Show I was the only Latino on the Fox network. For many years, I wasn’t considered Latino, I was just a comic actor.” He believes network and film studios need to work harder to woo the Latino audience because of the demographics and the fact that they are drivers of the U.S. box office, stating that while “everybody else is watching on DVD. We all go out together, and that’s why our numbers are so high.”
Valderrama pointed out the sporadic tepidness of Hollywood to address the lack of Latinos on the screen, noting that they do so, “Once every 3 and a half years. I remember seeing Ricky Martin on the cover of Time [in 1999]. It has been very amusing to me. I think the industry really wants to embrace [Latinos] but they tiptoe and try not to alienate the existing audience,” adding, “There is a lot of stuff in development that has not yet hit the air.”
While Dexter’s Aimee Garcia, summed it up more succinctly, “We’re mainstream. We go to see Twilight. We’re here.”
The Latino Americans panel featured Academy Award winner Rita Moreno and Benjamin Bratt, as well as journalist Ray Suarez (author of the companion book) and producer Adriana Bosch. In addition to promoting the documentary, the conversation also turned to the issue of appealing to a Latino audience.
“I’m going to be adversarial: Why do [shows with minority leads] have to be so good and the rest of the crap succeeds and gets great ratings?”
While in this conversation Bratt took the PC route, acknowledging the under-representation, however adding that it’s all about “presenting good material, regardless of race”. Moreno, who in her over 50 years in the business has faced the challenge of being Latina in an UN-diverse Hollywood (succeeding nonetheless garnering an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and a Grammy!) challenged Bratt on this point, stating, “I’m going to be adversarial: Why do [shows with minority leads] have to be so good and the rest of the crap succeeds and gets great ratings?”
Suarez chimed in with a possible answer, “the privilege of mediocrity. Being inane is a privilege. It shows you’ve made it.”
PBS should be applauded for bringing these two documentaries to the screen. The Latino panelist should be applauded for speak up in a room full of journalist. It’s time the message is heard loud and clear, that all Latinos want is for Hollywood to get a clue!