When the 2022 Oscar nominations were announced, it was no surprise to see Javier Bardem get a nod for Being the Ricardos. Bardem, who played Desi Arnaz in the film, had long been considered a favorite for the nomination, and the film had been well received, both critically and by audiences.
Bardem, however, could not let go of the one criticism that had plagued his performance – that he, a Spaniard, shouldn’t have been playing a Latine like Arnaz. And as he reacted to his own nomination, instead of celebrating and thanking, Bardem turned to justifying.
“Let’s talk about the Spanish minorities,” Bardem said in the clip from El País. “How many Spanish characters exist in international cinema? None. There are Latin American characters. I know what I’m talking about when I talk minorities.”
Except his words prove he does not actually know what he’s talking about. He’s using the dictionary definition of the word minority to imply that, since there are no Spanish characters, he is also a minority, despite being a white, European man. But the understood usage of the word minority, in present-day sociology, refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group.
This clearly applies to Latines, and not to European men.
But that isn’t even the only problem with Bardem’s comments. In trying to defend his right to be considered a minority – and therefore play a minority, even if he isn’t part of that minority group – he also refers to Latin America, a region made up of over twenty countries, as one. This is a common issue in the representation of our communities, one that Bardem clearly doesn’t understand.
Latin America might be one – and most of it was, indeed, colonized by Spain, and therefore Spanish is a common language – but roles from “Latin America” aren’t a thing. Characters, and people, are either from Mexico, from Colombia, from Argentina, and yes, sometimes from Brazil, a country that doesn’t speak Spanish as its main language. Latin America is not a monolith, and by implying so to justify himself, Bardem just reinforced that this isn’t really a topic he should be discussing, at least not without educating himself.
The cherry on top of the cake is the fact that Bardem can be this uninformed and loud about Latin America, even though he just got nominated for playing a Cuban icon, Desi Arnaz, and that his nomination comes after a wave of criticism for that exact reason. Even Aaron Sorkin, writer, and director of Being the Ricardos, had to answer questions about this very topic. But Bardem didn’t take this time and opportunity to educate himself, instead, he doubled down.
Bardem has played many a “Latin American character” in his long career, but he is not one of us, and the least he could do as he celebrates getting nominated for playing a Cuban icon like Desi Arnaz is respect the real minority group he is not a part of, instead of playing at false equivalences to justify his decisions. Maybe if he had it would have been easier for a community that’s rightfully upset at being denied a chance to play themselves, to, if not celebrate his nomination, at least accept it.