Now Ben Affleck has added a Latino role to the list of characters he’s played.
In “Argo” Affleck portrays Tony Mendez, a CIA-agent who successfully executed a plan to stage a fake film project to smuggle six Americans held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries in 1979 out of that country.
Some say this isn’t a problem – it simply shows Affleck’s diversity as an actor. It’s just a role. It’s just acting.
But the fact is it’s not just about acting.
Though Tony Mendez told NBC Latino’s Jack Rico he doesn’t consider himself ‘Hispanic,’ that doesn’t change the fact that his father’s family was from Mexico.
And his seeming belief that it’s acceptable for an Irish guy from Boston to portray him doesn’t change the fact that Latinos are still underrepresented in the media despite our making up 16 percent of media watching population, according to figures from the U.S. Census.
Fewer roles means fewer chances for Latino artists to really be recognized for their talent. A 2010 study from the University of Southern California showed a decrease in the number of Latinos, and the number of films in which Latinos starred, nominated for Academy Awards, down to 4.9 percent in 2010 from 7.1 percent in 2008. It was no surprise that the majority of the actors nominated were white males, like Ben Affleck.
The role of Tony Mendez was a perfect opportunity to showcase Latino talent in an award-worthy role, in a film that won two Golden Globes and was nominated for several other awards, including some from the Screen Actor’s Guild and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This wasn’t a fictional, oversexed Cuban character from “The Perez Family,” played by Italian-American actress Marisa Tomei; or the criminal drug-dealing criminal played by Al Pacino in Scarface; this was a real Latino person in history who did something noble and heroic.
While there are plenty of maids-turned-lovers-of-rich-white-men roles to go around, there are few opportunities for positive portrayals of Latinos in film, and those roles should be played by those in the community, some say.
“Of course a Latino should play a Latino hero,” said Jennifer Garcia, a Denver, Colo.-based educator. “Our kids today don’t have enough strong Latino role models to look up to. The lack has been shown to affect self-esteem without saying a word but unconsciously speaking a thousand.”
Some say Affleck was greedy in taking both the director and lead roles in the film. “He’s already directing,” said longtime Journalist Erika Davila, “does he need to star, too? I think it was dumb that he played him.”
By Being Latino Contributor, Ana Trujillo