The Unbearable Silence of Sabrina Perez

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My most recent Blu-Ray purchase has been the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I’ve been really digging the series and I think Summer Glau is a brilliant actress in it. As much as I like the series it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the monolithic portrayal of Latinos throughout the first season. Every single Latino male has been shown to be a lying, backstabbing cholo. I mean that literally, our ONLY onscreen depictions are as ruthless cholos in the show. The message of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is clear: Latino men are good resources for illicit goods and contraband but can’t be trusted. Even worse, all but one of them ends up killed by the end of the season. There’s only one Latina in the first season and her role in the show is just as simple but her context is a lot more complex.

The most fascinating aspect of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the presence of Chola; a (what else) chola who comes to the aid of Sarah Connor on multiple occasions throughout the first season. Chola is no ordinary chola though, in the first season she is totally silent and easily the most mysterious figure in the first season. There have been a lot of discussions online speculating that Chola’s stoic silence means she’s a terminator. In the commentary track of the season finale the episode’s Director implies that Chola is not a terminator by stating her motivation is simply to “avenge her homies.” Ultimately her silence serves to exoticize her. A silent, nameless Chola is more mysterious than Sad Girl talking about what nail salon she got her ghetto claws done at. Chola is the twisted, idealized antithesis to the portyals of Latinas and Black Women on reality television shows: silent, friendly, and doesn’t react to or question the violence around her. It’s different, I’ll give the series that much, but just as harmful and stigmatizing.

Chola is played by actress Sabrina Perez. Looking at Sabrina Perez’ IMDB page reveals that she’s been cast in five roles thus far in her career. Three of those five roles don’t even give her a name and simply refer to her as the archetype she portrays; they speak for themselves: Chola, Gang Girl, and Assassin.

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The question is: Are Latino and Latina performers who continually play these roles victims or villains? Is Sabrina Perez simply paying her dues while following her dreams to be a successful actress or is she a “Good German” not willing to question the implications of the roles she takes? At what point do we hold performers accountable for taking the meager roles that are offered to them by the mainstream entertainment industry?

The only other critical writing I’ve been able to find on Chola is this insightful post by a writer that goes by FengLiAn. I really am enjoying Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and I do hope Sabrina Perez can break through the glass ceiling she is being crushed against, for the sake of everyone stigmatized by her roles if not her. Keep ya head up Ms. Perez.

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Peace,

Rio

7 thoughts on “The Unbearable Silence of Sabrina Perez

  1. I actually liked her greatly in that series. I saw her as a strong and beautiful woman, full of grace and poise. She didn’t need to say much because her body language and expressions said it all.

    Overall it was a positive and stark contrast to the bitching, nagging, loud mouthed cunts we often see women like herself being portrayed as. It was refreshing to see her in such a subtle, yet powerful role.

    I hope to see more of her in the future.

  2. I loved her in this series. Very talented to not say much and have to do her acting thru facial expressions. Tough job but i feel she pulled it of because it kept me wondering “what next will she do?” I was hoping to see more of her but unfortunately the show got cancelled. I hope to see more of her work and she fascinates me. Good job!! talented actress

  3. I was very entertained by her character. Very different because you were ready to see soemthing come out of her character, or she would of done some kind of an eye opener. I wish the show was still on. she had a cool role and i think its pretty hard to act with out saying a word. To me its easier with words. Hopefully we will see more of her in the future. Great actress and it suks that termiator show got cancelled. I loved that show!! but great job Ms. Perez.

  4. Quote all things can work for our good Sabrina is playing a quiet yet importent part, what looks like one small roll to others can lead to bigger and better things for not just her but all latinas. Fight the good fight!

  5. Great article. I am not latin, but I understand your plight. I’ve always liked the latin people I’ve met; so much so that I made the main character in my novel half Mexican. You wouldn’t believe the flak I’ve received from some of my caucasian friends — not all, though. Those who condem it don’t even see the story. They only see a non-caucasian hero that they can’t relate to. It’s sad, really.
    Those who are open minded love the story and all the varied characters I created.
    Personally, I don’t understand such blind prejudice. I think some people are just raised that way.
    Keep up the good fight, I’ll do what I can from here. :•)

  6. I actually posed a question similar to this one in my thesis,”The Image of African Americans in Film and television.” The answer can be rather complicated. Many times actors and actresses have to pay their dues in Hollywood to get ahead. I have no issue with that scenario at all. I have an issue when we do not see anything positive images being put out about minorities. When we do see anything positive our own people (whether it be Latino or African American) tear it apart.

  7. I enjoyed watching sabrina perez (chola) actress because i felt something was going to happen that was going to make the show REALLY come to life thru her or her actions. Something she was going to do or say that was really going to put an extra eye opener to the show. I wish it was still on because i LOVED watching the terminator series. Explosions, robots, interesting characters…. what more do you want when you watch t.v… it was like watching a movie every week!! LOVED IT.

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