Spicy Latina Part One

Introduction

Glee (2009- 2015) is a musical dramedy created by Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy. The cultural diversity of the cast in this musical dramedy makes it innovative. The main characters are African American, Asian American, Latina, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and handicapped. Musical TV shows of the past like The Partridge Family (1970-1974), which had an all white lead cast, were not at all diverse. The Partridge Family is about a family band made up of siblings Keith, Laurie, Danny, Chris, and the youngest Tracey. Their single mother Shirley Partridge runs the band. When the kids are not in school, they travel to concerts on a colorful bus driven by their mother Shirley. The only other main character in The Partridge Family is their music manager grumpy Mr. Rueben Kincaid. Both Glee and The Partridge Family are family friendly TV shows that deal with important social issues for their time. Episodes of The Partridge Family dealt with issues like the Vietnam War, Feminism, being a single mother, and marriage dynamics. Glee deals with issues like teen pregnancy, sexuality, bullying (cyber and in person), and teen suicide. Smash (2012-2013) is another recent Musical TV show, which was more of a drama and only lasted two seasons. Smash was not very diverse. All the minority race roles on Smash were secondary characters, recurring characters or played guest roles in one or two episodes. When Glee first launched none of the main characters were of color, only the secondary characters. The show was criticized in the media for its lack of diversity. One article about Glee published in 2009 on the website Pop Matters says the main story lines are about “white people”[1]. The article goes on to talk about that how the Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Glee members barely have any lines in the first half of the first season. The Glee show runners quickly changed the minor characters of color to main characters and gave them bigger story arcs. After the first, they upgraded the actress Naya Rivera who plays the Latina Lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez from a recurring character to part of the main cast[2]. Even though the musical dramedy did have a racially, sexuality and gender diverse main cast that did not mean they were all represented equally on screen. Following the beginning of the first season, Glee promised a multicultural cast where everybody had an equal opportunity to shine, but stopped short of fulfilling that promise. While there were ways that the characters of color of Glee did escape racial tropes their interactions with each other and the racial stereotypes they resorted to prevented a the ideal the show’s creator aspired to—a happy racially diverse “family”. There falling short of this ideal is demonstrated through the lesbian Latina character Santana Lopez.

Santana Lopez falls victim to certain Latina stereotypes. She especially plays into the stereotype “Spicy Latina” before she comes out as a lesbian. TV Tropes writes that the “Spicy Latinas” are “ sultry temptresses with fierce tempers” and often are from dangerous neighborhoods, which is why they are so rough[3] [4]. Santana specifically is from “Lima Heights Adjacent”, which she first mentions during a fight scene between her and Lauren over Puck in the episode “Silly Love Songs” from Season Two. Before they fight, Santana mentions that she is from the wrong side of town and says “Get out of my way before I ends you”. This is sort of ungrammatical dialogue is coded as “ghetto”. Santana is the only character that talks “ghetto” throughout the series. Since Ryan Murphy decided to make Mercedes Jones the African American girl be from a middle class background they needed another character to represent the ghetto and since Santana Lopez is Latina she was the perfect character to “represent”.

The episode “Britney/Brittany” reveals a contradiction in Santana’s character when she tells her dentist she has great insurance because her father is a doctor. But even if she is only pretending to be from a ghetto she still performed like she was fulfilling the “Spicy Latina” stereotype. The Latina character is also shown to have a fierce temper. She often goes around insulting characters. For example, in the first season Rachel Berry annoys her so she tells Rachel she should “go back to Israel”. Another time she gets mad at Finn and calls him “Frankteen”. Further fulfilling the stereotype, Santana only speaks Spanish when she is angry like in Season Two when she yells at Rachel for causing them to lose Nationals in New York and several New Directions members have to pull her back. The only time that Santana seems to be able to represent her “Latinaness” properly is when she is reenacting the angry spirited Latina. She is also shown to be a seductress until the Latina cheerleader is in a romantic relationship with Brittany S. Pierce in Season Three. For example, in the first season, in the episode “Power of Madonna” Santana gets Finn to sleep with her. When Santana and Finn are lying in bed after sex, he comments on how he didn’t feel any different and she says that it takes twenty times before you feel a sense of accomplishment. Santana further fulfills on the “Spicy Latina” stereotype by being over-sexed and using sex to get what she wants. In the episode “Power of Madonna”, the cheerleader coach, Sue, assigns the cheerleaders the task of dating a younger man so that they could be more like Madonna, which is why Santana is determined to sleep with Finn. There is one way that Santana breaks the stereotype, and that is her lack of a Spanish accent unlike Gloria from Modern Family or Santa Clemente from the short running show Kristin who both have thick accents.

Naya Rivera the actresses who plays Santana Lopez continued to have Latina stereotypes thrust upon her throughout her time on Glee. Glee fans read the touchy feely friendship between Santana Lopez and Brittany S. Pierce as romantic love[5] and they became so interested in their relationship that the creators decided to make them both part of the main cast. Naya Rivera and Heather Morris who plays Brittany S. Pierce are actual best friends and as recurring characters early in the first season they were allowed to do whatever they wanted in the background, which usually meant cuddling with each other or joking around. Heather Morris said during Glee’s first Comic- Con, “ We were just having fun”. The fans embraced this sentiment and campaigned Ryan Murphy and the other creators to create Brittana, which started as a friendship with benefits in season one and continued that way until the end of season two. In season three they became official girlfriends. While fans continue to embrace Naya Rivera the media has become judgmental of her. Reporter Lauren Parvizi wrote about how Naya River was accused of throwing eggs and scratching her ex-boyfriend/co-star Mark Salling’s Lexus car[6]. Mark Salling and Naya Rivera disapproved these rumors by posting a twitter picture of the actresses kidding around by pretending to throttle her ex-boyfriend. Another similar story that was sparked was about Naya Rivera and Big Sean’s breaking their engagement. TMZ wrote an article about the rumor that the rapper broke up the engagement because he was scared of Naya Rivera’s “violent fits of anger and jealously”[7]. The article goes on to talk about “sources” reporting that Rivera would demand to know where Big Sean (an African American man) was all the time, threaten his career, break his expensive lamps because Naya Rivera thought the rapper was sleeping around, and then after couple’s counseling Big Sean realized he wanted out. Naya Rivera is being depicted by the media as a typical “Spicy Latina” who goes into violent fits of rage against both white and black men. The media tries to peg Naya down as just Latina[8], but in fact she is a half Puerto Rican, a quarter African American and a quarter German. Beltran writes about the same thing happening to Jennifer Lopez, well prior to Naya Rivera becoming famous. Jennifer Lopes was also seen as a “Spitfire Latina” with more uncontrollable emotions and sexuality than any white female star in her same position[9]. The show Glee also seems to be fudging Naya’s ethnicity. Although she is labeled as a Latina she is never given a specific ethnicity. In Glee season three episodes “Saturday Night Glee-ver”, Sue the cheerleading coach says to Santana, “ You can open a taco truck or whatever. I’m still somewhat confused about your ethnicity”. Glee may be perpetrating Latina stereotypes even though Naya Rivera is mixed, because it’s easier to write a stereotype character and the media is following suit.

[1] Landweber, Michael. “Is ‘Glee’ a Little Racist?.” PopMatters. http://www.popmatters.com/ (accessed May 2, 2014).

[2] TV Guide. “Glee.” TV.com. http://www.tv.com/shows/glee/cast/ (accessed June 7, 2014).

[3] LLC. “Spicy Latina.” TV Tropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InterfaceScrew (accessed May 3, 2014).

[4] LLC. “Spicy Latina.” TV Tropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InterfaceScrew (accessed May 3, 2014).

[5] YouTube. “Naya & Hemo (compilation of interviews).” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQLvOdZX6is (accessed June 7, 2014).

[6] Parvizi, Lauren. “Mark Salling & Naya Rivera dismiss car-scratching scandal.” Daily Dish. http://blog.sfgate.com/dailydish/2010/08/27/mark-salling-naya-rivera-dismiss-car-scratching-scandal/ (accessed June 7, 2014).

[7] “Big Sean & Naya Rivera Split — Couples Therapy Made Me Realize — I WANTED OUT!.” http://www.tmz.com. http://www.tmz.com/2014/04/10/big-sean-naya-rivera-split-counseling-anger-jealousy-breakup-engagement/ (accessed June 7, 2014).

[8] IMDb.com. “Glee.” IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/ (accessed May 2, 2014).

[9] Beltrán, Mary. “Crossing Over the Latina Body: Jennifer Lopez and the 1990s “Latin Wave”.” In Latina/o stars in U.S. eyes: the making and meanings of film and TV stardom. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. 131-153.

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