University of Rhode Island
Mentor: Dr. Megan Mullen, Assistant Professor of Communications
The Images, Perceptions, and Stereotypes of Latinos Portrayed in Film in the United States
The influential power of film and television in our lives is remarkably clear. From the days of the silver screen through the era of digital pictures and Dolby surround sound, the film industry has shown its persuasiveness in shaping our ideas, taste, fashion, and identity. Latinos in America are no exception to the rule.
This research looks at the images of Latinos presented via film, and briefly looking at television as well, to non-Latino communities in the United States. For the Latin-American-origin and ancestry populations in the US, the argument on defining race and ethnicity takes place in the construction of a collective, or panethnic, identity that joins these groups together under one term, typically Latino or Hispanic. The interest here is in exploring the role of film and in shaping ethnic identities. The image portrayed to the public by the media is often obtained from a single group of Latinos. Evidence shows that the media are blind to the cultural differences among Latino cultures. The result of such an approach is the under representation of the majority of Latinos and the creation of Latino cultural icons that are not inclusive of all Latinos. Studies on Cuban-American and the media show that Cubans paint the model for Latinos in the print media. Similarly, this study focuses on how film and TV use Mexican-Americans as the role model for all Latinos in the US.
My project looks at films that contain messages or images of Latinos. Then, I perform an in-depth analysis of the explicit and contextual messages: what contributions does the image make to the overall story of the movie; and the implicit messages: what does the image tell us if it is isolated from the context of the movie. In order to secure a structured methodology, I rely on the study of semiotics to draw more accurate results.
As the population of Latinos in the US increases, the development of intricate relationships with other communities becomes inevitable. In order to ensure successful relationships among cultures, each culture must learn the specific icons and traditions that make each community unique.