Stereotyping in Films in General and of the Hispanic in Particular
Charles Ramirez Berg
There are few--very, very few--nonstereotypical portrayals of Hispanics in Hollywood cinema. Before Zoot Suit ( 1981), La Bamba ( 1987), and Stand and Deliver ( 1988)--all films with Hispanics in key creative positions--it is difficult to find examples of Hispanic characters in mainstream Hollywood cinema who are complex and self-determining. Katy Jurado's strong portrayal of the resourceful businesswoman in High Noon ( 1952), Ricardo Montalbán's intrepid Mexican government agent in Border Incident ( 1949), and Anthony Quinn's dignified, defiant vaquero in The Ox-Bow Incident ( 1943) are three rare cases where Hispanics are depicted as more than simplified caricatures in U.S. studio films. Hollywood has depicted the vast majority stereotypically.
Thus far, discussions of Hispanic stereotypes have focused on this historical fact ( Keller, 1985; Treviño, 1984; Woll, 1980a, 1980b; Woll & Miller, 1987). In the main, the concept of stereotyping itself has gone unquestioned or assumed as a given. Wilson and Gutiérrez ( 1985) are distinctive in their presentation of a historical overview of minority stereotypes in the mass media and a definition of the term "stereotype." Pettit ( 1980) combines incisive, although traditional, literary criticism with a broad survey of imagery of the Mexican in both literature and film. Moreover, these discussions fail to place Hispanic stereotyping within a contemporary theoretical framework. Because most of the studies were products of less critically circumspect times, this article will bring contemporary critical discourse to bear on questions of stereotyping. Recognizing the need for a more precise definition of the term, Seiter ( 1986, pp. 14-26) has appropriately called for reevaluating and clarifying it, to grasp more firmly its several dimensions. It seems logical to begin a discussion of