by Daniel Cubias
In the days before every good show was on cable, the February Sweeps were a big deal. This month is traditionally one of the times when television ratings are set, and it still makes the broadcast networks feel like they’re relevant.
However, the declining audience for the so-called Big Four (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox) won’t be improving anytime soon. This is because they continue to ignore the fastest-growing demographic in America, which as I’m sure you know, is Latinos.
Recently, the National Latino Media Council handed out its annual grades on how well the networks represent the Hispanic community. According to the NLMC, this past year “reflects a decline in Latino diversity,” marked by the fact that three of the four networks “received either D’s or F’s in at least one of eight categories of evaluation.”
This is grim news indeed. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we celebrated the ethnic diversity of a show such as Lost, which featured complex white, black, Asian, and yes, Latino characters.
For example, there was Hurley. Sure, the guy was obese, socially awkward, and possibly insane (plus everybody around him kept getting killed because of some crazy curse). But damn it, he was a lovable Hispanic guy and even, on occasion, a heroic dude.
Now, according to the NLMC, there’s no room for Hurley on television. The organization says the networks need to reaffirm “their commitments to including Latinos in creative positions and procurement opportunities” because Hispanics are just not well-represented on the small screen.
Still, there are several questions about the NLMC’s process. As the Denver Post makes clear, is it wise “to count Hispanic surnames in a cast and crew” and give a show a grade, rather than identifying “three-dimensional depictions of minority characters on the screen”? More to the point, “does a lousy show starring a Latino actor do anything to promote the image of Latinos on television?”
I would add several other questions about the report. Are the grades accurate and valid, in that it is just one organization’s opinion about the presence of Latinos in the television industry? Does releasing such grades help increase Hispanic representation, or does it fuel a backlash by those who insist that Latinos are just “whining” about their marginalization? And perhaps most important, who are these people who sit around judging television shows, and can I get a cushy job like that?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, especially the one about snagging a sweet job watching television all day. But I’ll continue to tune in to quality shows, and I’ll hope that the networks catch on to the fact that Latinos can be just as compelling as square-jawed white guys. In fact, maybe I’ll pitch them my own idea for a show: It’s about a Latino blogger who… well, never mind, it still needs work.
To learn more about Daniel Cubias, visit Hispanic Fanatic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.