One Day at a Time: How streaming sites are pushing Latinx content
While we were stoked to hear Netflix is developing a live-action movie based on Carmen Sandiego – the eponymous star of the educational adventure game series & TV shows – we’re even more stoked that Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez will star as the title character. This is the second Carmen Sandiego project Rodriguez is attached to – she’s also voicing the character in an animated series that debuted on Netflix a few months ago.The actor has a pretty strong relationship with the streaming giant, currently starring in its hit show Jane the Virgin and also enjoying a role in Alex Garland’s Netflix-released Annihilation. But it’s not just Rodriguez’s wondrous presence the streaming giant is pushing; Netflix and other VOD providers are increasingly targeting the Latinx market by booking more Hispanic talent and posting a wider range of quality content.
Representation on streaming sites
Mic noted how non-traditional streaming services typically invest in more diverse stories and often cater to more niche audiences than a national broadcasting network might. “The changing way we watch TV has also opened up new ways for Latinos to get their work out there.”
On the TV side, Latinx shows like One Day at a Time continue to receive renewals by Netflix. This reimagining of the 1975 sitcom came back under the same name to offer a part-slapstick, part-serious dramedy following a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles.The show has been praised for its portrayal of Latinx culture, with Vanity Fair noting it “manages to deftly weave specific Latinx cultural references into universal humor.” Following a call for its return, Netflix today announced it has renewed the acclaimed reboot for a third season.
The streaming giant is also adapting a Latinx web series Gente-fied into a full series. Created by Marvin Lemus with Linda Yvette Chavez as co-writer, the English & Spanish-language series follows seven Latino characters as they come to terms with the effects of gentrification in their predominantly Latinx neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.MamásLatinas pointed out some of the Latinx actors whose careers have taken off thanks to Netflix, including Kate del Castillo (Under the Same Moon), Paula Echevarría (Velvet), and Dascha Polanco (Orange Is the New Black). Speaking to the publication, Netflix’s Chief Communications Officer, Jonathan Friedland, announced: “From early on, Netflix has been focused on Latin America and the Latinx market in the U.S., not only as a market but as a source of talent.”
A Hollywood tale
While we’re starting to see more Latinx characters and storylines on streaming sites, overall the debate over Latinx representation in Hollywood continues. The Oscars came under fire earlier this year due to an absence of Latino nominees in any of the acting categories. This led to a spotlight on a series of 2016 statistics showing Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population and account for 23% of all movie tickets sold. However, USC’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative found in the 100 top films of the same year, Latinos were represented by just 3% of speaking parts.
Aïda Muñoz – producer for Life Goes On and actor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Detroit – told Film Daily: “I believe there are two main reasons why Latinos are underrepresented in film and media. It starts with the writer – there aren’t many Hispanic screenwriters and therefore it falls on mainstream writers to include Latinx characters. These are often done as afterthoughts, tokens, or stereotypes.
“The second is there’s a lack of trained Hispanic actors in many regions and untrained talent is simply not going to win significant roles. This situation can be changed, but there needs to be greater encouragement and recruitment of Latinx talent in film. Just as there has been a rise in accomplished writers and producers in the African-American community, there can be in the Latinx community too. It isn’t just the actor; it’s also down to the writer and producer.”
Latinx on TV
While qualms within the entertainment industry remain over Latinx representation on the big screen, Hero Lux – who is currently launching his own production studio, Surreal Dreams – argued that Spanish speakers in America aren’t starved for content.
For example, Netflix has invested in filling up its ranks with classic TV shows and movies, including telenovelas like María la del Barrio or the ever-popular El Hotel de los Secretos. When it comes to movies, Netflix has a solid mix of comedies, dramas, and feel-good flicks, from Gloria, to Amor de Mis Amores, to Y Tu Mamá Tambien.With Latinx Americans there is less representation, declared Lux, “because it’s hard to relate from the perspective of a 2nd, 3rd, maybe even 4th generation of Hispanic Americans and therefore we don’t see as many characters who have this constant shift in the dynamics between two cultures . . . however, I remain hopeful – it’s getting easier and faster to find something that links the Latinx generation gap.”
As streaming sites continue to push Latinx content, this shift can also be seen with the recent launch of Pantaya – Lionsgate & Hemisphere Media’s Netflix-style streaming service for the Latinx community, which offers premium content to the Hispanic American market for $5.99 a month. The aforementioned projects suggest streaming sites are leading the way when it comes to offering Latinx content to U.S. viewers and beyond. And as A-grade TV junkies, we welcome all new content with open arms.