Damn, it feels good to be a Chicano nerd today. After William Nericcio at Tex[t]-Mex pointed out a recent article discussing the depictions of non-White video game characters I got really depressed thinking about how underrepresented Raza are in nerd-related genres. Let’s face it, the only Latino actor with any real sci-fi or fantasy cache is ol’ crater-face Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica). That’s why it was such a big deal for me to see Culture Clash’s Herbert Siguenza in the recently released Ben 10 Alien Swarm. Herbert plays Validus, the movie’s main villain.
What’s so revolutionary about it is that he plays a contemporary Latino character. That may sound basic but it’s actually incredibly rare. If a Latino actor is given a role in a sci-fi or fantasy genre movie they usually play non-Latinos (see Christian Serratos as Angela in the Twilight films) or they play Latinos in a context where race has a different meaning or is irrelevant (see futuristic franchises like Star Trek). In Ben 10 Alien Swarm, Validus is a contemporary Latino character that is not deprived of the context of being just that. To be clear, Validus makes no profound statements about being Latino. He’s just a character with a Latino name and a Latina daughter, who happens to be a powerful super-villain.
I’m no expert in the Ben 10 mythos but here is a basic recap of the events of the movie. Spoilers ahoy!
In the film, Victor Validus is a former scientist gone rogue. In trying to prove to everyone that sentient alien microchips are a threat to the Earth he becomes taken over and possessed by them. His body gains the ability to reproduce the chips and he controls them like a giant swarm of insects (hence the Alien Swarm in the title). Validus plots to take over Earth by spreading his swarm far and wide using a shipping company to literally send them across the planet.
The bulk of the film has the main character Ben and his sidekicks trailing Validus and battling swarms of micorchips and possessed humans along the way. There’s a subplot about Validus’ daughter Elena (Alyssa Diaz) reaching out to Ben for help to save her father and Ben’s friends not trusting her. The final battle of the movie has Ben and company discovering Validus in a warehouse hooked up to a machine that helps him reproduce the alien microchips (see photo above). Ben uses his watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix to shrink down in size and battle the Queen of the aliens inside Validus’ body.
Ben 10 Alien Swarm is out on DVD and Blu-Ray, but that’s not all. Behold, there is a Validus action figure. It’s a part of the Alien Swarm Movie Set 1 figure pack and can also be ordered through amazon. Can you think of the last time you saw an action figure of a Latino character?