Recently, Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast member, Cecily Strong, once again portrayed one of her infamous, stereotypical and LOUD Latina characters. This time, she sat amongst Anglo friends and was accompanied by her Anglo boyfriend - who brought her over from Venezuela after meeting online. Although her boyfriend's anti-feminist protests were supposed to be the brunt of the joke in this all female sketch, once again - the joke was on US! Strong's caricature of this Latina woman was not only too dumb to realize her boyfriend was a misogynist, she seemed to speak English with an accent so ridiculous, it came across as if she either had a speech impediment or didn’t even seem to be of Spanish decent at all - which we all know is exactly the problem with SNL. They mock us because - they don't know us.
Which brings us to the question: Is this how Latinos are really perceived by Saturday Night Live? Truth is, there are tons of shows out there where rather than portraying us being normal people, Latinos are the stereotype. We’re either playing the maid/janitor who barely speaks English, the slut who can’t control her horniness, the mistress who has no morals, or the dumb thug who's the number one suspect. Rarely, do we see Latinos being just people living normal lives, speaking with intelligence. But, we have to ask are we perpetuating the stereotype by supporting it?
As Latina comedians, we decided to speak up about this issue. In the format of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) we produced the sketch, “Latino Stereotypes for Dummies," specifically calling out Lorne Michaels and the Saturday Night Live team for never hiring a full Latina on their cast and/or writers team. The show has been on since 1975 and rather than being a pinnacle representation of our diverse New York community - the show has been cast as if it were aired LIVE FROM ANYWHERE LATINOS DON’T EXIST (aka – Nowhere). In our PSA, we portray the most infamous Latino characters the show has featured in their sketches throughout the years - in an attempt to show SNL and their viewership, exactly what really is going on here. Bottom line is - we are the caricatures they so boldly make fun of. We are the culture that is ridiculed time and time again - as dumb and/or clueless because of the way we sound when we speak English.
Furthermore, why are Latino stereotypes still a thing on SNL? It can more than likely be attributed to the fact that there are no Latino writers on the show or the fact that the powers-that-be continue to think that heavy accents and lack of understanding the English language are funny. For the record, accents do not equal stupidity.
Change will not come If Latinos continue to agree with the stereotypes. This is the year 2014, and yet we turn on our TV and continue to see our own playing the aforementioned roles, seemingly with pride! Most Latin actors are willing to take any role in the hopes of "making it" - not realizing that by doing so, they are perpetuating the problem. This is why we, and many other Latino Producers and Writers, continue to create our own work - to rid the stereotype and move into a more progressive (not to mention modern) way of thinking, as it relates to the Latin American perception on TV and Film. So we say - No more "si si señor" roles! We are tired of being silent - we will be silent no more! Collectively, we need to create change and start the movement.
More importantly, in the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Well-behaved women seldom make history," so count this as the Comedy Girls attempt at "misbehaving" and starting a movement to change the way Latinos are perceived in the media.