Ethnic representations and stereotypes within the media-particularly Hollywood-has long been a hot topic for academics and activists. But an upcoming visitor to Miami University hopes to bring this issue to the population at large.
Clara Rodriguez, professor of sociology and anthropology from Fordham University in New York, will be visiting Miami’s Oxford campus Sept. 27 to discuss media representations of the Latino community with her lecture, “Invisible Latina/os in Hollywood and the Media.”
Rodriguez, who has written nine books, will be speaking in 100 Laws Hall at 4:30 pm. She will also be visiting two classes-a communications class and a Latin American studies class, to discuss similar topics.
Mary Jane Berman, director for the Center for American and World Cultures (CAWC), organized Rodriguez’s visit.
According to Berman, Rodriguez’s lecture will focus primarily on the role of Latino actors in film and television and how they are represented.
“She’s going to look at all the different kinds of stereotypes that exist within the spectrum,” Berman said. “I think her basic argument is that Latinos and Latinas have been depicted in sort of pronounced ways that don’t represent them in all their diversity. They’re either the villain or the victor, it’s either about the grit-the Mexican cowboy-or the glamour-the Mexican senorita.”
Jeanne Hey, director of the international studies program at Miami, said that she personally objects to Hollywood’s generalization of Spanish speakers.
“Hollywood has taken the perspective that anyone who speaks Spanish or has a Spanish accent can play any Spanish speaker in the world … that anyone with brown skin can play anyone else with brown skin,” Hey said. “Someone with a Spanish accent doesn’t sound anything like someone with a Mexican accent.”
Hey added that the education surrounding Latinos in the media is particularly important in a world where so much is learned from television and movies.
“Based on how my students speak in classes, my students learn a lot about the world from what they see in movies,” Hey said.
Berman added that an increased knowledge of the Latino population in the United States is becoming increasingly important since they currently are the fastest growing demographic in the United States.
“I think it’s our obligation as a university to come to know more about this culture because they represent a very large and growing constituency in the country,” Berman said. “As a Miami student, I think you want to become more aware of the changing demographics of your state, your region and your country. And these Latino interests and needs are going to have an impact on the economy, labor and business.”
Bruce Drushel, assistant professor of communication, teaches one of the classes Rodriguez will be visiting.
According to Drushel, Rodriguez’s visit will allow students to learn about Latino media participation and reception from a unique perspective.
“I spend a usually about a day and a half speaking about the Latina/Latino audience for the media, but as a white male there’s only so much I can do to talk about the experience of an audience member,” Drushel said. “… I can’t speak as have being a part of the audience.”
Rodriguez’s visit is sponsored by the Center for American and World Cultures with support from the American Studies Program; the departments of anthropology, communication, English, history, and sociology and gerontology; the film studies program; the Latin American studies program; the Office of Diversity Affairs; the Office of Residence Life; the Women’s Center and the Women’s Studies Program.