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Monday, December 7, 2009

Latina American Women: Spitfire Stereotype

The term “spitfire” appears to be considered, loud-mouthed, ignorant, speaks a thousand words per minute and has a heavy accent. The spitfire term came about in a film in 1939 with
a Mexican actress Lupe Velez in The Girl from Mexico.

This was a very big hit different production companies asked for seven more films with a theme along those lines. From there on the spitfire Latina was the role of most Latina’s in the film industry.

In the past a Spitfire woman was thought of only being originated from Mexico, of course this came from the first film that created this term. But it slowly changed because not all actresses that were Latinas were from Mexico. One good way to think of what these old films showed as a spitfire Latina one could think of the show I Love Lucy and all the mess she would get into and how it would mostly all the time seem as she didn’t know what she was doing. But the only difference is that the spitfire Latina never won at the end of the film, on the contrary Lucy usually did she was able to overcome the mess she got herself in. There are many good examples with films that are not heard of today, for example in the early 1930’s up to mid 1940’s there were films like Mexican Spitfire (1939),

Mexican Spitfire Out West (1940), Mexican Spitfire’s Baby (1942) and many others where the title contained the word Spitfire. This strongly encouraged this stereotype to continue and for the majority of the time this would be the only image people would see of Latina women.

One would think that overtime this stereotype would slowly disappear and start showing the reality of the diversity found in the Latino community. But Hollywood is not interested in that; they are rather interested in portraying Latina women in a degraded image, as someone who doesn’t have control of themselves or their emotions. One good example of this Spitfire image still going on today is in the show Ugly Betty on channel ABC. The main character Betty (mainly known as Ugly Betty) has a sister who completely fits the Spitfire role her name is Hilda Suarez. Her character has the classic role of a Spitfire Latina, she is loudly out-spoken, wearing revealing clothes, has an accent, and any other characteristics associated with Spitfire. Another good example is in a film by Tyler Perry, Meet the Browns, the Latina actress Sofia Vergara plays the role of a typical Spitfire Latina. Her character is again loudly out-spoken, with a heavy accent, very sexualized and many other characteristics. These are only two examples in present time that continue to encourage the belief of Latina’s only being Spitfire’s. One other major problem with the media is that they only seem to put very light skinned Latina women as the protagonist in popular shows, like Telenovelas (soap operas). But it is not only about being light skinned but also heavily looking like a white American. For example, here we see the protagonist in a very popular telenovela, Rebelde, and we can see that she looks like a white woman.

On the contrary, the woman in the next picture is playing the role of the maid which looks like the complete opposite. One can easily see how this would create tensions within the Latino community for women, in order to be accepted by popular culture you have look like the popular women seen on T.V. but as we know it is almost impossible to fit that criteria.

We see how this has a very strong effect on Latina women; one very good example is a very popular Latina woman, Jennifer Lopez. When she first began her career one could really see her Latina features and one would think that she would like to keep her identity. But over time we can see that she has changed her appearance, to what many people would consider a white woman’s features.

Although, the Spitfire image is not portrayed as it was once originally there is a modernized version of being a Spitfire Latina and with that a new standard of what Latina women should look like is starting to develop.

Whether it is in present o past films the Spitfire view of Latina remains and it appears it will remain this way if there isn’t change. One good way to combat this is by showing more positive Latina women leading the way, where they are not sexualized or made to act in any way or form as the Latina Spitfire would. One recent Latina women to set a good example is our Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor.

She has allowed media to show something other than image they have always known, she carries the opposite characteristics of a Spitfire Latina, she knows exactly what she is doing, she has control of her life, she is not sexualized, does not have an accent, and she is not loudly out-spoken.

Like mentioned before the show Ugly Betty showed the common image of a Spitfire Latina but at the same time it shows the opposite. Betty, the main character, is opposite of her sister Hilda she is trying to become a better person, she is not worried about her appearance and overall she does not fit the Spitfire role. It’s good that media is choosing to show Latina’s in a positive way but at the same time they need to be careful not to contradict themselves, like they did in the show Ugly Betty with Hilda. The media and Hollywood needs to understand that there is diversity in the Latino community and all minority communities. If they feel the need to portray these stereotypes, mainly only found in movies and media, which have been portrayed for the past decades they need to also show positive images, the reality. One good example is in a telenovela Ramona with a well known actress in Mexico Kate del Castillo. Kate is the protagonist and unlike many popular women she does not “fit” the look of an American white woman. If there was a larger variety of women of different skin tones, accents, and other characteristics that set Latina women apart this Spitfire stereotype would be easier to fight. This is not something that will be easy but it should definitely be encouraged and put out in the media.


Cause I'm Latino

We feel that this music video pokes fun at the spitfire
stereotype found in most music videos.

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