Magazine article Insight on the News

Is Hollywood Finally Tuning Back in to American Dream? (Fair Comment)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Is Hollywood Finally Tuning Back in to American Dream? (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

Several years ago I met a man with an extraordinary story. "Ernesto" (since he would request anonymity, I'm not using his real name) was a Mexican who had migrated to the United States and applied for citizenship. Living in Houston and waiting for final approval, Ernesto worked day and night at three jobs, doing the kind of menial, minimum-wage labor--washing dishes in a restaurant late at night, delivering newspapers early in the morning and doing odd jobs here and there in between--that no one else wanted to do.

Saving his money meticulously, Ernesto finally accumulated enough to open his own business--a little shop making spare parts for aircraft. For him it was the American Dream, but now he needed contracts. Ernesto learned the U.S. Navy was requesting bids for spare parts for a helicopter, so he tendered one. In time, a bureaucrat from Washington called to tell him the application was filed incorrectly, that surely Ernesto meant to submit an "8-A" minority bid. This, the man told him helpfully, would guarantee Ernesto the job. Ernesto's answer was a classic: "You mean all I have to do is declare that I'm a social cripple, a Mexican-American who's not quite American?"

No, no, the government agent answered, it's not like that. He explained that Ernesto was competing against the behemoth Bell Helicopter Corp. for this contract and simply wouldn't stand a chance unless he went the minority-status route, in which case it was all but guaranteed he'd win the bid. Ernesto was undeterred. "I am an American!" he insisted. As a matter of principle he refused to change his application, but his American Dream came true. The formerly penniless day laborer won, fair and square, a multimillion-dollar contract.

It was a remarkable tale of perseverance and achievement, the kind of rags-to-riches, local-boy-makes-it-big story one never seems to hear about anymore, especially in Hollywood, where all would-be successful businessmen are portrayed on TV as scheming J.R. Ewings. I told Ernesto he was a true role model for all immigrants and his story was the stuff of a made-for-TV movie but that Hollywood, unfortunately, would never appreciate the message.

Well, I was wrong. Now comes The George Lopez Show on ABC, and it does just that. It stars comic George Lopez as a supervisor at a small airplane-parts manufacturer. Amazingly, it is not too far from the field, or the attitude, of Ernesto.

After years on the factory assembly line, George has only a few months under his belt as management. …

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