New Moon Chicano Scorecard

First and foremost, I just want to say that I’m not a Twilight-hater. Mariela and I spent hours huddled under an Edward & Bella blanked waiting in line to see a midnight premiere of New Moon. As I get older though it’s getting harder and harder to turn off my critical lens when I watch a film like New Moon. And to be clear: this is a critique of the film New Moon and not the book.

-Representin’: Christian Serratos as Angela Weber. While the character of Angela isn’t Latina, Serratos is Mexican-American. Sadly she gets less screen time in New Moon than she does in Twilight.

-Disputed: Taylor Lautner’s ethnic makeup. I have found nothing but contradicting reports and fierce debate on the internet about how (if at all) indigenous he is. Is Taylor Lautner Latino? Partially something that could justify his casting? Good luck on trying to find a definitive answer.

-Gone: Honduran actor Jose Zuniga as Mr. Molina. I was actually relieved not to see this character return. It irritated me that the one Latino character in the first Twilight film was so cheesy and corny. Instead we are left with, uh, no Latino characters.

-Gone: Gregory Tyree Boyce as Tyler Crowley. Tyler was mainly used as comic relief in the first Twilight film and sets up the plot device of Edward rescuing Bella from being hit by a car. All of Bella’s other school friends are back but they decide to dump the one friend that happens to be Black?

-Speaking of which: Let me get this straight, there’s only one Black character in the entire film AND HE GETS KILLED?…For threatening a White woman no less. That shit is ridiculous.

Face Punch the fake movie-within-a-movie features its characters engaged in a Mexican standoff. Does that count for anything?

-What the fuck is up with Gil Birmingham as Billy Black? In the first Twilight film he broke the stereotype of older indigenous men being stoic and sage and turned the character of Billy Black into a wise-cracking dirty old man. In New Moon he loses all his charm and is back to being stonefaced and stoic for the 30-seconds he is on screen. A damn shame.

-There’s a lot to be said about the different relationship models presented  in New Moon. Of all the questionable shit that goes down in New Moon I was most disturbed that the various acts of patriarchal relationship violence were explained away as being motivated by supernatural urges. Edward being compelled to kill Bella, Sam disfiguring Emily, and Jacob menacing Mike and Bella were all justified as things that come with being a vampire or werewolf. I hella call bullshit; an abusive boyfriend is an abusive boyfriend even if he can turn into a wolf or suck blood. Don’t get it twisted.

-Conclusion: New Moon was a more competently made film than Twilight but a definite step back for Black and Brown peoples alike. I am stunned that Director Chris Weitz violently cleaned house of the only two Black characters without adding anyone to fill the void. I’m not saying it was racist…of fuck it, that shit was super-racist. I said it.

No amount of blatant social injustice will keep people from seeing New Moon or its inevitable sequels. I know I’ll probably be back for Eclipse, if only I didn’t have to look the other way on so many things. Christian Serratos, you’re my beacon of hope, don’t let me down.

"Keep ya head up"

Rio

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