The way Latinos are portrayed in movies, you’d think the Trump administration is running Hollywood
Old Mexican-American joke. Chiste cojo chicano.
Q: How low is a lowrider?
A: (Gesturing to the shinbone) Oh, it’s about cho-lo.
Here at MexFlix, we love that joke. It’s stupid. It’s accurate. And we don’t even think it’s all that offensive. But it helps if you know what a cholo is—that dude you see for a split second in pretty much every movie set in LA. He’s the Mexican-American delinquent — aka ese — slouched against a wall outside a deli or a radiator shop, immaculate in pressed tan chinos and a white sleeveless tee under a Pendleton buttoned only at the neck. Hair might be slicked back or buzzed tight—might be hidden under a net, bandana or fedora. Fu Manchu mustache is optional, as is the tattooed tear. Add a splash of graffiti and most filmmakers think they’ve set the scene for “gritty Latino neighborhood” or “place where badasses chill.”
So yeah, a lowrider: It’s about cholo. And, if you’re pointing at your shin (or better yet, your ankle): It’s about so low.
We love this joke almost as much as we love the first movie we're writing about, Lowriders. But here’s the thing we hate about it: That we’re here explaining it to you at all. That we’re writing anything on this blog. That we feel the need to exist. MexFlix is here to celebrate Latino filmmakers of all backgrounds because nobody else will do it. Especially the overwhelmingly white filmmaking infrastructure of producers, directors, screenwriters, actors and executives. And at the moment, nobody seems to be making much of a stink about it. For the past few years, we’ve watched with awe and mild jealousy as African-American and Asian-American filmmakers have called out for greater recognition, for improved inclusion. They point to all kinds of numbers and charts and gaps in awards and opportunities. MexFlix feels their pain and fury. It’s as completely fucking absurd as it is obvious.
Still, we’re here to tell you. As bad as black directors have it, Latino directors have it worse. As bad as Chinese-American or Pakistani-American actors have it, Latino actors have it worse. This year, Moonlight scored a bunch of awards. Movies by Latino-American (as opposed to filmmakers who were born and live in Latin American countries), not so much. Check these credits — or, we should say, lack of credits:
In 2015, 55 million American residents identified themselves to the U.S. Census as Latino or Hispanic. That’s 17.6 percent of the population, a figure that may be low because some undocumented people avoid anything to do with the government. So the great American pop chart looks like this:
Now, let’s look at the people who actually buy movie tickets. Whites make up 66 percent of the population yet buy just 55 percent of the tickets. And the MexFlixers of America? They buy 23 percent of the tickets, despite being less than 18 percent of the population. Asians are lumped into an “other” category so it’s hard to break out the numbers, but more recent MPAA reports indicate that they, too, are now overrepresented in the moviegoing public.
So, yeah, MexFlixers are pretty much Hollywood’s secret weapon. They go to more movies and hand the studios more money. So they oughta be in pictures, right? Cabron, please! In 2014, less than 5 percent of characters in the top 100 movies were Latino. And only 17 of those films featured non-white lead characters.
And don’t even get us started on awards! (Wait, we're already started....so we might as well continue.) In the 25 years leading up to 2015, only 16 Hispanic actors were nominated for an Academy Award, garnering an average of 3 percent of the nominations. But that is slightly misleading because the figure includes Spaniards such as Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. If you limit the figure to those of Latin-American descent who are American citizens, you get 6 total nominations: two for Benicio Del Toro and one each for Salma Hayek, Rosie Perez, Mercedes Ruhl and producer Jonas Rivera (Inside Out). That’s less than 1 percent representation at the Oscars for the people who make up 23% of the ticket buyers.
And if we narrow it down to winners…..chingon, ese. That shit is weak. Benicio won Best Supporting Actor in 2000 for Traffic. One. Lousy. Award. In 25 years.
One last bit of outrage: Of the 3,048 Oscars awarded in the entire history of the Oscars, just 8 have been won by Hispanic Americans, with a grand total of 16 nominations. And that’s counting Carly Simon, whose maternal grandmother was from Spain. You heard right, guey. That is 0.2 percent for MexFlixers. If we get five more, we'll finally be in the single digits.
Which is why we feel compelled to put up this site. MexFlix is here to harp on these ideas, to support the directors and actors and producers who portray and support us. We deserve to see ourselves onscreen more often. And when we are there, the characters should act and look like actual Latinos, with full-fledged characters. And, yeah, it'd be nice if once in a while they were played by Latino actors.