By Contributing Writer, Beatriz Barbosa
The lack of minorities in comic book films has unfortunately been a topic of recurrent, yet necessary discussion on many platforms amongst many different groups of people. Every race and ethnicity should have the opportunity to be represented and, along with many others, Latinos are often absent from these blockbuster films. Or, if they are present, their characters are usually of minor importance and heavily stereotyped. It is not only important for everyone to be represented on screen, but also for that representation to not just conform to the popular but wrongful views about any particular race or ethnicity. Latinos deserve to be seen from multiple different angles because we are all different people. We are more than your assumptions, meaning we aren’t all maids, we aren’t all Spanish-speakers only, and we aren’t all members of a gang, nor are we drug lords. Poorly written side characters in superhero films will no longer be sufficient (and they never were), because we too deserve to be the ones wearing the cape.
These roles matter because comic book films are more often than not the most anticipated blockbusters of the year, as well as the most profitable. The walls of limitation need to be broken, and due to their overwhelming popularity comic book movies are a huge part of that movement. Placing Latinos in the lead role of a blockbuster more frequently will normalize seeing them in such an empowered position, especially if that role is a superhero. After box office hits such as Wonder Woman and Black Panther, the conversation about diversity and representation in superhero movies has blown up, showing how enormous an impact these characters have, especially when it comes to children. They deserve to grow up seeing themselves on the big screen and be able to relate to the characters they admire. On that point, it is crucial that Latino children also feel included and get to experience viewing a Latino character in a superhero movie that delivers more than just tasteless humor and stereotypical portrayals.
Fortunately, modern comic books have lately been providing us with incredibly well-written Latino characters such as Jessica Cruz, America Chavez, and Miles Morales, just to name a few. These characters feel real because they deal with universal struggles that are relatable to a variety of people, even outside the Latino community. For instance, Jessica Cruz, Earth’s first female Green Lantern, suffers from anxiety. As someone who has had first-hand experience dealing with anxiety and its many inconveniences myself, seeing a Latina given a plot that handles this issue in an incredibly realistic way is one of the reasons I am able to view this character with such admiration. Jessica’s character encompasses vulnerability, hope, and bravery, and they all make her a stronger person.
Another great example is Miles Morales. With a character as popular and universally known as Spider-Man, having a young Afro-Latino become the face of this beloved superhero had an enormous impact in the comics world and created a feeling of inclusiveness. Now, an entire generation has grown up seeing Miles go out and save the day, as we have seen Peter Parker do so many times, and many future generations will know him as well. Latino children and teenagers will finally see a character that not only looks like them, but also helps them feel less like outcasts. Miles Morales will become even more of a household name with his debut on the big screen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is set to be released in December.
The truth is that Latinos are underrepresented in Hollywood in general. When the mainstream media does opt to cast a Latino actor, that character will most likely fit the mold of the stereotypical Latino. It is extremely unfortunate to watch, because whenever those rare instances happen, they are immediately ruined as they diminish and categorize an entire ethnicity into one commonly perceived generalization.
But I won’t end this on a negative note, for I believe that change is near. A Latina becoming a Green Lantern is something I never thought I would see, and so Jessica Cruz is a character I hold dear to my heart – even more so for also representing people that struggle with anxiety. This type of representation is what we need for all characters in all comic book films. Latino superheroes having great abilities and being at the front and center of a story are essential to this movement and its progress. I look forward to the moment the next big hero/heroine on screen is a Latino or a Latina. It’s past time.