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‘Vida’ Star Mishel Prada: Hollywood Desperately Needs More Critics of Color
As I was getting dressed for the Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy awards, a show highlighting women in media, I predicted that the biggest discovery of the evening would be whether I’d make it all night in my super-high Chloe Gosselin heels. I arrived at the Beverly Hilton wearing a dope Marais Wolk dress, proud to be representing the first season of my TV show, Vida, which vocalizes the underrepresented stories of brown queer Latinx-Americans.
The evening marched on with an inspiring and vibrant celebration of women in front of and behind the camera. I was helping myself to a third glass of white wine when Brie Larson was announced to receive her Crystal award. I cheered along with the crowd, doing my best to fight the fatigue that was creeping in, when suddenly Larson’s words grabbed my full attention.
USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiativen 2019 only 2.5 percent of top film critics were women of color, while 80 percent of those who reviewed the year’s top box-office movies were male.I had no idea, but it made perfect sense.
I looked back to our press junketand realized what I had taken for granted.is my first TV show, so this was all new to me. I did about 40-plus interviews in one day and was now realizing that the diversity of people interviewing us was probably arranged on purpose, because that’s the way itshouldbe. My co-star, Melissa Barrera, and I sat in a fancy hotel room as reporters came in and out, one by one. It was a long day, and even though we were repeatedly asked many of the same questions, we were happy to explain to reporters howwas a true love letter to our underserved communities. We have a proud queer Latinx showrunner, an all-Latinx writers room, all Latinx or women of color directing, and the most inclusive crew I’ve ever laid eyes on. For us,Vida isn’t just another job—it’s part of a movement of inclusion.
It’s just too easy to apply a fresh coat of stereotype and call it a day.
One interview in particular stood out. When Rosy Cordero, a journalist fromPlayboy
Halfway through our conversation, Cordero paused. “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to be able to report on a show like this.” She held back tears, which, in turn, made Melissa and I tear up. She quickly recovered and apologized, but we each grabbed one of her hands to let her know that we got it.Cordero was seeing herself represented as an unapologetically loud, fierce woman with agency over her body and a point of view. She understood the experience of being able to float freely between two cultures in a way that our grandparents and even our parents could not—while still trying to navigate a society that doesn’t always treat you as one of its own. Cordero’s perspective made her uniquely able to speak about the show with nuance and life experience, and thus hold us to a higher standard because she knew exactly what was being conveyed.
I wouldn’t expect the critic to understand. These references aren’t for him.
It’s glaringly apparent that it’s no longer enough to just have entertainment critics who understand how to discuss media, because even though the reviews forhave been incredibly positive, it’s difficult not feel tiny spike ofyuckwhen I see our show being likened to a telenovela (the way most Latin shows are). Or when, more than once, tarot cards used by the character Doña Lupe were referred to as Loteria cards. This woman represents a sacred archetype in our culture and reducing her tarot cards to Loteria, a game, is akin to calling them bingo cards. Or when our activist scenes are called “laughably unconvincing” by someone who has likely never been to an activist meeting on the east side of L.A. There are people in our production and writers’ rooms who have been following this specific movement for years. So, it’s not entirely the critic’s fault. I wouldn’t expect him to understand. These references aren’t for him.
During this difficult time in our culture, representation is more than just a matter of “fairness,” but something of necessity. We’re once again seeing just how easy it is to strip someone of their basic humanity. To scapegoat our country’s disfunction onto “those people” or “others.” It’s happening in our prisons; it’s happening on our borders; and it’s an unfortunately consistent part of this country’s history. It’s too easy to fear what you do not know. If all you’re seeing of immigrants on TV is cheap labor, criminals, gangs and drug dealers, who wouldn’t be scared?
If all you’re seeing of immigrants on TV is cheap labor, criminals, gangs and drug dealers, who wouldn’t be scared?
Telling our stories from our point of view is vital. We must been seen, felt and understood, so that no one can deny us our humanity. Our stories will get lost if they’re not being amplified by people who understand them. Otherwise, it’s easy to apply a fresh coat of stereotype and call it a day.
The need for women of color in media stretches past the faces on the screens and the people on our sets. All aspects of the entertainment industry should reflect the people who consume it. Production companies, networks and film festivals must give women of color the access and credentials to make sure they’re included in the conversation about what’s artistically significant. It’s not acceptable to push diverse voices to the periphery or to the end of the red carpet press line.showcases a Latinx perspective that’s still scarce on TV, but I’ve seen firsthand the profound importance of representation in telling a story—the right way.
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