Sexy Singing and Scary Primetime TV Latino Stereotypes : Glee & The River

It has not been a good year for Latino images on television. Considering that the year hasn’t even completed two full months, this can’t be a good sign.

First, there was the transphobia and tired Rican stereotyping of the now cancelled ABC sitcom Work It. Then there is the not yet cancelled but should be CBS sitcom ¡Rob! centering around a white man’s (played by Rob Schneider) sudden marriage into a Mexican-American family. That family is filled with every Spanish accented caricature possible, weal attempts to counter those portrayals, and plenty of hot blooded innuendo. Two nights ago I watched Glee and the debut episode of The River, and I was reminded why I generally avoid television unless it’s the news and even that pisses me off.

I am not a GleeK. In fact before Tuesday night I had never seen an episode of Fox’s Glee and will shamelessly admit, that the only reason I watched last night was to see Ricky Martin like the good Puerto Rican I am. I have been a Ricky Martin fan ever since he was a teen in Menudo and there are pictures of a pre-teen me and an acid washed dressed Mr. Martin to prove it. I was hoping he would sing some of the songs I like (Vuelve) and, hell, maybe even some of the songs I don’t like (La Vida Loca). Instead what I got was a weak ass story about a Chilean Spanish teacher from Ohio singing LMFAO’s Sexy and I know It, followed by the worst examples of “Latin songs” ever like Enrique Iglesias’s Hero and Madonna’s La Isla Bonita. There was even a matador outfit which was partially used to make a comment about stereotypes but in the context of the whole show, the teachable moment fell flat. Yes, Ricky was sexy and I did know it and I would watch him be sexy with anyone of any gender just not any of the cast of Glee.

Following Glee, I switched to ABC to watch the premiere of The River, Steven Spielberg’s 8 episode series that follows a crew somewhere down the Amazon to rescue a missing nature show host. The two hour pilot was filmed in Puerto Rico which proved to be really distracting to me as a viewer watching and hearing the night scenes. I just couldn’t buy that the reality film crew and stars were in the Amazon with a bunch of Boricua tree frogs singing. The show, billed as a supernatural thriller, bases much of it’s chills in exotic stereotypes of otherness. For example, when the crew break into a locked cabin, they find an altar with a small statue, beads, and photographs that is supposed to be read as ominous especially when matched with a chupacabra like creature that needs blood that escapes from the room. The dark magic continues as the primarily white crew (save an African American camera man and a Spanish language speaking father and daughter team) delve deeper into the Amazon. The only non-white woman, who has been warning everyone to get the hell out or else face the wrath of the evil spitits, becomes possessed while the rest of the crew have to dig up colonizer bones to save themselves. In a nutshell the message of the series, as I wrote on twitter last night, is that white people need to stay the hell out of the Amazon or else face possessed dolls hanging from a tree or something like that.

Can I get an M.I.A. style salute to prime time tv now please?

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