I have a 9 year old little sister who is the most impressionable person I know. She watches Disney, Nickelodeon and as many movies as my mother and I will take her to. This is a good thing, I think. I believe that the more media she is exposed to, the more thoughtful and intelligent she will grow to be. We are half Mexican, which is great! However, whenever I take her to a movie and she loves the main character, I’ve noticed most of them are not Latina, or even ethnic at all.
While our family has always tried to teach her that what’s inside is what really matters, I can’t help but wonder if she realizes the lack of “people like her” in the media.
The last positive ethnic role model I can remember her loving was Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. Zoe Saldana portrayed the alien female-badass in the film and I was proud and happy to have her admire the qualities in such a character. The problem lies in the fact that the only powerful, ethnic, female character is an alien. While it does align with the story, and I’m not criticizing that, the concern is that over the past few months the children’s movies that have been released are solely white washed. I don’t mind promoting Saldana’s portrayal, but I would be much happier if there was a human she could emulate.
It never ceased to amaze me that 17 percent of the American population is Hispanic, but there isn’t even a Disney movie with Latino characters. However, the upcoming 20th Century Fox film, The Book of Life is full of a colorful cast and crew. Zoe Saldana, Ana de la Reguera, Diego Luna, Danny Trejo, are a few of the voice actors in the film, Guillermo Del Toro produced and Jorge Gutierrez directed . My sister was bubbling with excitement when she saw the trailer for the Day of the Dead themed movie. It even inspired her to choose a Day of the Dead Halloween costume.
Movies like The Book of Life are few and far between. If my own sister who is half Mexican is excited for this, imagine the thousands of other Latina girls across the country that are finally seeing their culture portrayed on screen by people who look like them. It may not sound like a big deal to many. After all, since the majority of Americans are Caucasian, and most films that come out star Caucasian actors, you don’t tend to hear gripes about representation. It matters, though. In my eyes, even if one little girl is inspired, excited, and proud of her culture and background then I think it is worth it.
Hopefully The Book of Life will kick start a new era of representation in the media, especially for children.
The Book of Life comes out in theatres on October 17.