Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but sometimes theft is just theft. This has been my philosophy with jokes. The ol' "if they have to steal it's because they aren't funny." And, "Don't worry, you can keep writing new jokes, they can't." But this isn't about someone lifting some jokes at a show.
Passivity and non-confrontationalism have been the hallmark of Latino-American culture. It's the concept of, "hey, we're just happy to be here so let's not rock the boat." More than any other ethnicity Latinos suffer from medical misdiagnosis because they're too afraid to tell doctors they're wrong (source). "It's not seizures, it's palpitations, but he's a doctor. He must be right." - An actual thing my mom said to me before I ran back to tear a doctor a new asshole because my mom is not clinically passive, just conditioned to think so.
There's been a lot of articles out recently about how Women and Latinos are the most invisible groups in entertainment, whether behind or in front of the camera, even though they make up a significant portion of box office sales, enough that there should be way more Women and Latinos in leading roles. What does this mean, Carlos?
Well, it would be easy for me to complain or chide at artists who have put in work, despite their award-nominated stories being lifted (Lady Bird), and I could joke about stealing white movies and "re-imagining" them as Latino cast film parodies (think Jardín State, Citizen Carlos, Super Malo), but I'm not going to do that. When it comes to Hollywood, it's not the directors that are flawed, it's the system.
"Lady Bird" didn't intend to go out and be awarded for a storyline that was original and fresh 15 years ago, but with a Latino lead. It didn't intend to show us that the entertainment industry celebrates originality, as long as it can relate to its Whiteness. Get Out was nominated, not only because it was an example of Black excellence in writing, acting, and directing, but because the people voting on such things saw their faces in the film (e.g. Allison Williams & Bradley Whitford). Not so much in Real Women Have Curves.
Guillermo Del Toro won a Golden Globe for The Shape of Water because his River Monster God romance was more relatable than seeing a Latino court a White women on the silver screen (not a shot at Del Toro. I loved that movie and I have my own theory that every Del Toro movie is about a hideous monster trying to bang a White woman and it turns out, he's the monster the whole time).
This is the conversation we (Latinos) are having in private and I want other people to feel where we’re coming from. I don’t want to tear down Greta Gerwig, she put in the work. But, I don’t want another Lady Bird. I want a Dama Pájaro. So what now? I'm gonna do what I love to do.
I love to struggle to find originality in my voice. I am a first generation Ecuadorian-American, that grew up in the majority White/European Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, moved to a majority Dominican neighborhood after my family fell apart, I went to a majority Black high school and then went to college for an English Degree (which I got to spite a TA that flunked me in Lit 101 freshman year). Then I became a successful stand up comic and TV writer (I can't believe it either). I don't know who I am, but I know exactly how I am and if anyone has to lift this kind of story to write their own, I'm sorry you feel like you have to do that and also, f**k you try harder.
The Latino entertainment community is tired of being invisible and we're gonna let Dr. Hollywood know there's been a grave misdiagnosis. We are not clinically passive. We were strategically waiting. #Latinxcellence
This was written while listening to Chicano Batman. Check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert here.