This post originally appeared on Latino Rebels on 1/12/12. In it, Julia Ahumada Grob and Jazmin Chavez of the webseries East WillyB express their frustrations with the current state of Latinos on TV, and offer a solution.
By the time of this publication, we should all be familiar with the recent controversy regarding ABC sitcom, Work It, in which Puerto Rican actor Amaury Nolasco’s character Angel, uttered the egregious statement on national TV, “I’m Puerto Rican, I’d be great at selling drugs.” While we stand behind the Latino public officials, activists, and bloggers who have have spoken out, demanding an apology from the national network, this sadly is not the first time, and definitely won’t be the last time, a major network blasts the Latino community with stereotypical and narrow portrayals of what indeed is a vibrant, diverse, and multi dynamic community.
While the 2010 census revealed that with over 50 million Latinos in the United States, 1 out of every 6 people are of Hispanic or Latino origin, that same year, the National Latino Media Council (NLMC) issued their annual diversity report card, citing a decline in Latino diversity at every major network. Yet these same networks feel entitled to capture our attention for 4-6 hours a day. Without Latino producers and writers calling the shots, we continue to experience an over saturation of drug dealers, gardeners, maids, prostitutes, and gang members on our TVs. Additionally, while our women are incredibly beautiful, present company included, the exotification of Latinas continues as demonstrated in the new CBS comedy, ¡Rob! Beyond Work It and ¡Rob! there are currently Latino-based pilots being developed at NBC, ABC, and FOX, with non-Latino writers attached to all but one, it seems.
So what can we, the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, do to stop this, beyond demanding apologies from networks who care little about our well being? We at East WillyB want to offer a challenge to the Latino community: Turn off your TV. Support independent television programming created for Latinos and by Latinos, delivered directly to your home via the web.
We at East WillyB understand the importance of capturing the multi-faceted Latino experience in the United States because we have lived it and experienced it. We are the new generation Latino, some American born, some born in America Latina, Spanglish speaking, ni de alli, ni de alla. Conceived in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, the series was created after our writers, actors, and producers grew tired and frankly sick to our stomachs of seeing the same BS perpetuated over and over again at the expense of our community. So instead, we took matters into our own hands, creating and distributing the series directly through the web to our community…you.
East WillyB is an original series which follows Puerto Rican sport bar owner Willie Reyes Jr. as he and his community fight to keep their neighborhood bar open in the face of the hipster invasion of their Brooklyn neighborhood. A gentrification comedy, East WillyB tells the story of the many faces that make up the Latino community of Brooklyn, and the ways in which their lives interconnect to create the extended family so integral to its character. With a 6 episode pilot season already online, 2012 will see the launch of a 13 episode, 91 minute season of East WillyB, with great Latino guest stars already attached to join to the team.
We are not alone in this new movement. Other great series include Los Americans, written by Dennis Leoni (Resurrection Blvd) and starring Esai Morales. A drama, “Los Americans” focuses on a multi-generation, middle-income, Latino family living in Los Angeles and the issues they face, including alcoholism, unemployment and cultural identity. Ylse is a dramedy about ambitious, single, thirty-something Latina as she juggles career, a not-so-successful love life and a family who doesn’t understand her progressive American ways (think: Bridget Jones with a bicultural twist). Undocumented and Awkward is a series created for and by undocumented youth. The series, written by four college graduates, with four different experiences of being undocumented in America, finds humor in the immigration experience, from the voices of those actually experiencing it. All of these independent programs provide an honest & unique voice, creative platform and venue to showcase Latino stories, with Latinos behind and in front of the cameras.
However, without the production and marketing budgets of television, these independent series can only continue to grow if our community supports and promotes them. So instead of griping about the lack of representation on television while you watch your latest ABC show, this evening, when you come home from work, try turning off your TV and watching these independent Latino series instead. If you like them, blog about them, find them on Facebook or Twitter, tell a friend, host a viewing party & spread the word. We can only grow together.