A One-Two Counterpunch

Despite my cynicism about the Academy Awards (see the previous posts), two recent bits of pop culture have convinced me that the infiltration of Hispanics into the mass media is indeed continuing unabated.

First, I was pleased to see that on “30 Rock” (the best comedy on television), Salma Hayek has a running guest-star role as a nurse. This is a step up from the usual maid-nanny-junkie roles that most Latina actresses are relegated to. It’s still not quite a doctor, however, so there’s room for improvement.

Of course, I was a bit surprised to see Hayek, a Mexican actress, portraying a Nuyorican character. I would imagine that both Chicanos and Puerto Ricans would be up in arms about the cross-cultural portrayal, but maybe we can all agree that getting a Latina on television is for the greater good. More likely, we can all agree that Hayek is a talented actress who deserves more work and is, you know, rather pleasant to look at, regardless of the circumstances.

Second, I saw the movie “Hamlet 2,” a comedy about a hapless high school drama teacher. The film is biting and funny, but for the purposes of this blog, my emphasis is on its cast. Many of the struggling thespians are Hispanic teens, and the movie doesn’t shy away from milking cultural differences for laughs. I don’t recall seeing a movie where multiple Hispanic teens appear onscreen, yet aren’t a scary gang coming after the white protagonist. Along those lines, it was also refreshing that one of the Latino kid’s fathers is an intellectual rather than a gangbanger. This is incremental progress that we shouldn’t get too excited about, but it’s positive nonetheless.

Of course, if “Hamlet 2” is going to be remembered for anything, it won’t be for the scene where the prissy white girl says, “I’ll show you why, vato,” and throws herself at the Latino guy she’s been lusting after for the entire movie. As good as that interaction is, the movie will always be known as the source of the “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” number:


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