Despite the Gilmore Girls cast including three Latina actresses – Alexis Bledel, Liz Torres, and Rose Abdoo – there’s never been too much in Stars Hollow that speaks to our Latinidad. As a matter of fact, the most overt Latino characters ended up in Emily Gilmore’s Hartford, Conneticut kitchen. So when we learned back in February that a Peruvian couple would join the cast of the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival, we were excited. Though barely any information existed at the time, we knew to be on the lookout for Berta and Alejandro, who was described as a “handyman and a solid family man.” And in the deft hands of series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, we expected someone quirky and charming – someone on par with Rory and Lorelai’s neighbors.
Instead, what we got was Gyspy (Abdoo) in a bad curly wig. Throughout the four 90-minute episodes, Abdoo pulled double duty as Stars Hollow mechanic Gypsy and Berta, Emily’s new maid. And from the minute Berta opened her mouth, it was obvious we were duped. Speaking in something that was either Spanglish, gibberish, or a mix of the two, the running gag throughout the series was that Emily couldn’t understand what her new maid said. She asked her domestic employees to serve as interpreters, only to learn that her Spanish-speaking gardener couldn’t understand Berta either. Even the closed captioning didn’t know what language Berta spoke. Her nationality is never actually mentioned.
Maybe it’d be easy to overlook it if it had just stopped at that, but the whole character leans on stereotypes – an unfortunate trend that continues to rise among TV roles for Latinos. A 2016 report from Columbia’s Media and Idea Lab found that while the number of Latino characters on television has grown, they percentage of stereotypical roles went up, too. So between the 2008-2009 and the 2014-2015 seasons, the number of Latinos playing maids, cops, gang bangers, and drug addicts increased from 34.1 percent to 52.5 percent. On top of making her a heavily accented and unintelligible maid, Berta’s family literally takes over Emily’s house. Every time she’s on screen, her family has inexplicably multiplied.
Since the show became available on Netflix, some have focused on the fact that Abdoo played both roles. But mostly, the rest of us are wondering what was up with Berta: