A TL;DR on the YA author’s more than problematic history.
Co-created with the amazing s4karuna!
Note I: If you send me a couple for the list, please tell me their ethnicity in your comment/message and as much detail a you can!
Note II: Mixed-race, white passing actors are totally counted as long as they consider themselves non-white, even if the movies whitewashed their characters. Actors who don’t match the race/ethnicity of the character, specially in the case of white actors playing non-white roles, will also be clarified.
Note III: If you see any couple is missing details or has any incorrect information, let me know!
If you want to read more on the importance of interracial relationships between people of color being shown in media, check out this post.
A couple days ago I was daydreaming about the day we’ll finally get a sit-com about Jewish Latinxs, and that led me to wonder if there were any other Jewish Latinxs (or Jewish characters of color in general) going around. Thanks to @s4karuna/@online_muse‘s amazing researching skills, the list grew from a couple characters to this compillation.
Jewish Characters of Color in Television
- Simon Lewis in “Shadowhunters” (Freeform, 2016-currently airing)
- You can watch “Shadowhunters” on [Netflix].
- The character is Jewish in book-canon, in the show the character (and his mother) are both played by Latinxs and the show makes Simon’s judaism an integral part of his character.
- Leading character.
- Phillip Goldstein in “Fresh off the Boat” (ABC, 2015-currently airing)
- You can watch “Fresh Off The Boat” on [ABC.Go.com].
- Chinese, adopted by Jewish parents and raised Jewish.
- Shows up in two episodes (s01e08 and s01e11).
- Rufus Turner in “Supernatural” (The CW, 2005-hopefully cancelled soon)
- Black and Jewish, the character is revealed to be Jewish when he says he doesn’t want anyone “sitting shiva when [he] died”. He was buried in a Jewish cemetery when he died.
- Was a recurring character during seasons 3, 5 to 7 and 11.
- Cindy Tova Hayes in “Orange Is The New Black” (Netflix, 2013-?)
- Black, she converts to Judaism in Season 3 and adopts the Jewish name Tova.
- Regular character.
- Timothy L. Finger in “No Tomorrow” (2016-?)
- Indian and Jewish.
- Regular character.
- The actor is, indeed, Indian and Jewish.
- Tina Cohen-Chang in “Glee” (FOX, 2009-2015)
- The character is Chinese-Jewish, though it was never specified in-show.
- Jenna Ushkowitz is actually Korean-Jewish.
- Main character (though often sidelined).
- Jake Puckerman in “Glee” (FOX, 2009-2015)
- Black-Jewish. Judaism is a big part of the Puckerman brothers’ identities.
- Main character from season 5 onwards.
- Dean Levine-Wilkins in “The Good Wife” (CBS, 2009-2016)
- Black and Jewish.
- Recurring character.
- Sidney in “Galavant” (ABC, 2015-2016)
- You can watch “Galavant” on [ABC.Go.com].
- Black, adopted and raised by a Jewish family.
- Main character.
- Max Bergman in “Hawaii Five-0” (CBS, 2010-currently airing)
- You can watch “Hawaii Five-0” on [CBS].
- Japanese, was adopted by a Jewish family.
- Main character.
- Isidore Latham in “Chicago Med” (NBC, 2015-currently airing)
- You can watch “Chicago Med” on [NBC].
- Black and Orthodox Jewish.
- Recurring character in season 2.
- Sammy Jones in “The Nanny” (CBS, 1993-1999)
- Black and Jewish, he was Fran’s step-father and practiced Judaism along with his wife and step-daughter.
- He cameo’d in a couple episodes.
- Mona Thorne and Phyllis Thorne (daughter and mother) in “Half & Half” (UPN, 2002-2006)
- Black and Jewish.
- Rachel True, who plays Mona, is Black and Jewish!
- Mona is a leading character, Phyllis is a main.
- Cristina Yang in “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC, 2005-currently airing)
- You can watch “Grey’s Anatomy” on [ABC.Go.com].
- Korean and Jewish. Christina’s step-father is Jewish, and she was raised in Judaism. Though she is an atheist, she described herself as Jewish at a couple points during the show.
- Main character since the beginning of the show, left in season 10.
- Rainbow Johnson and Johan Johnson (sister and brother) in “Black-Ish” (ABC, 2014-currently airing)
- You can watch “Black-Ish” on [ABC.Go.com].
- Black and Jewish. They mention living in a kibbutz (Israeli agriculture-based community).
- Both Tracee Ellis Ross and Daveed Diggs are Jewish. The actor who plays their dad, Beau Bridges, seems to have Jewish ancestry.
- Rainbow is a leading character and Johan is recurring.
- Isabella García-Shapiro and Vivian García-Shapiro (daughter and mother) in “Phineas and Ferb” (Disney, 2007-2015)
- You can watch “Phineas and Ferb” at [DisneyXD].
- Mexican-Jewish. Isabella’s mom looks more obviously Latina, but she speaks with a Yiddish accent. The García-Shapiro family observe Chanukah and they had an episode dedicated to a “Mexican-Jewish Cultural Festival”.
- The voice actress for Vivian is Puerto Rican and, from what I found on Google, she seems to be Jewish.
- Isabella is a main character.
- Francine Frensky in the “Arthur” cartoon (PBS, 1996-2012)
- Black and Jewish, the family observes Judaism.
- Main character.
- Ziva Davis in “NCIS” (CBS, 2003-currently airing)
- The character is Israeli Jewish but played by a (white passing?) Chilean actress, which could easily make her a Latina Israeli. Her being Jewish and Israeli is a central part of her character.
- Regular character from season 3 until season 11.
- Juan Epstein in “Welcome Back Kotter” (ABC, 1975–1979)
- Puerto Rican Jewish.
- The actor is neither Latinx nor Jewish.
- Main character.
- Pam in “Will and Grace” (NBC, 1998-2006)
- Iranian & Mizrahi Jewish.
- Nwabudike Bergstein from “Grace and Frankie” (Netflix, 2015)
- Black, raised by his adoptive Jewish family.
- Main character.
- Scott in “Son of Zorn” (Fox, 2016-currently airing)
- Guatemalan-Jewish, he mentions celebrating Hanukkah.
- Main character.
Jewish Characters of Color in Books
- All the main characters in the “Mangoverse” series by Shira Glassman are LGBTQ+ and Jewish, and some are characters of color. [author’s tumblr]
- Alex-Li Tandem (Jewish-Chinese) from “The Autograph Man” by Zadie Smith. [amazon]
- Tara Feinstein (Indian-Jewish) from “My Basmati Bat Mitzvah” by Paula J Freedman. [amazon]
- Nazira Mualdeb and her family (Syrian-Jewish) from “The Perfumes of Carthage” by Teresa Porzecanski. The book is part of a series called “Jewish Latin America”. [amazon]
- Emily (Jewish-Puerto Rican) from “Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa” by Micol Ostow. [amazon]
- The narrator and her family (Indian-Jewish) from “The Walled City” by Esther David. [amazon]
- Ruthie Mizrahi (Cuban-Jewish) from “Lucky Broken Girl” by Ruth Behar. [amazon]
- Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch (Cuban and Jewish-Japanese) from “I Wanna Be Your Shoebox” by Cristina García. [amazon]
- Chloe Leiberman (Chinese-Jewish) from “Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong)” by Carrie Rosten. [amazon]
- Kana Goldberg (Japanese-Jewish) from “Orchards” by Holly Thompson. [amazon]
- Frances (Japanese-Jewish) from “Black Mirror” by Nancy Werlin. [amazon]
- Dave Caros (Turkish-Sephardic Jewish) from “Dave At Night” by Gail Carson Levine. [amazon]
- Mahboubeh Malacouti (Iranian-Jewish) from “The Girl from the Garden” by Parnaz Foroutan. [amazon]
- Higgs Boson Bing (Chinese-English Jewish American) from “The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How Ruin Your Life in Seven Days” by Lisa Yee. [amazon]
- Desta (Ethiopian Jewish) from “The Return” by Sonia Levitin. [amazon]
- J from (Puerto-Rican Jewish) from “I Am J” by Cris Beam. [amazon]
- Violet Paz (Polish-Jewish and Cuban) from “Cuba 15” by Nancy Osa. [amazon]
- Pablo (Mexican-Jewish) from “Jalapeño Bagels” by Natasha Wing. [amazon]
- The main family (Black-Jewish) in “Always an Olivia” by Carolivia Herron. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Ethiopian-Jewish) in “Day of Delight; A Jewish Sabbath in Ethiopia” by Maxine Rose Schur. [amazon]
- Elan (Jewish-Native American) from “Elan, Son of Two Peoples” by Heidi Smith Hyde. [amazon]
- Isobel (Mexican-Jewish) from “Hanukkah Moon” by Deborah Da Costa. [amazon]
- Joey Sexton (Black-Jewish) from “Stealing Home” by Ellen Schwartz. [amazon]
- The writer (Black-Jewish) of “The Colour of Water” by James McBride. [amazon]
- Noah (Black-Jewish) from “A Turn for Noah: A Hanukkah Story” by Susan R. Topek. [amazon]
- The family (Mexican-Jewish) from “Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. [amazon]
- Natalie (Black- Jewish, also disabled) from “Bluish” by Virginia Hamilton. [amazon]
- The protagonists (Ethiopian-Jewish) from “Daughters of the Ark” by Anna Morgan. [amazon]
- Reyna (Chinese-Jewish) from “Reyna And the Jade Star” by Robin K. Levinson; part of the “Gali Girls” series. [amazon]
- Shoshana (Brazilian-Jewish) from “Shoshana and the Native Rose” by Robin K. Levinson; part of the “Gali Girls” series. [amazon]
- Rahel (Ethiopian-Jewish, also blind) from “The Storyteller’s Beads” by Jane Kurts. [amazon]
- Zack Lane (Black-Jewish) from “Zack” by William Bell. [amazon]
- The writer of “Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self” by Rebecca Walker. [amazon]
- Ronnee (Black-Jewish) from “Half a Heart” by Rosellen Brown. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Black-Jewish) of “Oreo” by Fran Ross. [amazon]
- The family (Ethiopian-Jewish) in “When I Left My Village” by J. Brian Pinkney. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Ethiopian-Jewish) of “On Wings Of Eagles” by Micha Feldman. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Black-Jewish) of “Nappy Hair” by Carolivia Herron. [amazon]
- Avi (Israeli-Jewish) from “Snow in Jerusalem” by Deborah Costa. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Moroccan-Jewish) in a reversion of Cinderella titled “Smeda Rmeda Who Destroys Her Luck with Her Own Hands” by Haya Bar-Itzhak. [jstor]
- The protagonist (Yemeni-Jewish) of a fairy tale called “The Mute Princess“.
- Coleman Silk (Black-Jewish) from “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth. [amazon]
- Mona (Chinese Jewish convert) in “Mona In The Promised Land” by Gish Jen. [goodreads]
- Oscar Khan (Indian-South African Jewish convert) from “Kafka’s Curse” by Achmat Dangor. [amazon]
- The characters (Ethiopian-Jewish) in “The Moon is Bread” by Naomi Samuel. [amazon]
- The Ermosa family (Israeli Sephardic Jewish) from “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” by Sarit Yishai-Levi. [amazon]
- The protagonist (Indian-Jewish) from “Book of Rachel” by Esther David. [amazon]
- The writer (Indian-Jewish) of “Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures” by Carmit Delman. [amazon]
- The family (Mexican-Jewish) in “The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende. [amazon]
Jewish Characters of Color in Movies
- “The Prince of Egypt” (USA, 1998). [imdb]
- “Live and Become” (France, 2005) is about Ethiopian Jewish folx. [wiki]
- “Eyes Wide Open” (Israel, 2009) is about two Israeli men of color falling in love. [wiki]
- “Gramophone” (India, 2003) is about an Indian-Jewish family. [imdb]
- “The Rabbi’s Cat” (France, 2011) is an animated film about Jewish Algerians. [wiki]
- “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” (USA, 2008) has Moroccan Jewish actress Emmanuelle Chriqui. [imdb]
And @s4karuna found this [list of Black Jewish films] that premiered at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and this [list of films and videos for multiracial Jewish folx].
Jewish Characters of Color in other media
- Zatanna Zatara (Jewish-Rromani) from DC Comics’ “Bombshells”.
- Suki Leiber (Japanese-Jewish) from the comic “Goofyfoot Gurl”. [amazon]
- Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Jewish Rromani) from Marvel Comics.
- Technically Wanda’s children, by virtue of being twins and her kids, should also be Jewish-Rromani, but only Billy is ever acknowledged to be Jewish and none of them have their Rromani heritage acknowledged in comic.
- Jamie Wellerstein from [this production] of “The Last Five Years” is Black and Jewish.
Characters of color that might be Jewish
- Meyer Wolfshiem in “The Great Gatsby” (2013)
- The novel says that he’s Jewish and he’s played by an Indian actor in the film so he could technically be seen as Indian Jewish.
- Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton: An American Musical” (2016)
- Alexander Hamilton has Jewish roots and is played by a Puerto Rican actor in the original production and always by actors of color. The real Hamilton’s Jewish connection was because of his stepfather and it’s possible that his mom was Jewish. It’s sure he was educated in a Jewish school, maybe because he couldn’t go to Catholic school because he was illegitimate.
- Edna Mode in “The Incredibles” (2004)
- She’s part Japanese and she was based on Jewish designer Edith Head.
A million thanks to @s4karuna for being the best researcher known to humanity and finding so many awesome media, and also to @binoctis, @apolloniae, @bnckybarnes, @redravensunrise, @femmefareeha, @margueritelareine and @devenircyborg for their amazing additions.
Kareema (No Tomorrow): pansexual Indian woman, currently engaged to a latina. She’s a main character, and her story with Sofía begins at s01e06.
No Tomorrow is available on Netflix.
Pippy Rosewood (Rosewood): a black lesbian, from the beginning of the show she’s engaged to her bisexual girlfriend Tara. She’s the lead’s sister, a main character, and gets a good third of the show’s screentime.
Rosewood is on Fox and is in its second season, which means 1) it might survive and 2) you can get eps on the Fox website and Hulu, but only the current season.
Nova Bordelon (Queen Sugar): a black bisexual, dates a straight white dude (RIP) and a black lesbian through the course of season 1. One of the three leads of the show. Her story with Chantal begins in s01e06.
Queen Sugar is on OWN and you can watch it on the official app.
Warnings for the show: talks of rape and police brutality.
Max (Black Sails): a black lesbian, from the very first episode we know she’s involved with another main lady. She’s a main character (out of six mains, three are sapphic women and at least one of the men is gay), and her arc and her romances get around a third of the screentime.
Black Sails is on STARZ, and the first three seasons are on Netflix. You can go to their website or STARZ on Demand. I don’t have cable, but sometimes Amazon will have a workaround.
Warnings for the show: rape (timestamps here), general violence.
Lady Ella and Pamela (Saints and Sinners): Ella is a black bisexual and Pamela a black lesbian. Both are leading characters, and the center of the story is Ella’s family; and they have an ongoing relationship through the show.
You can watch Saints and Sinners on the official Bounce TV website.
Warnings: It’s rated tv14 so there isn’t anything explicit.
Lena Adams (The Fosters): Lena is a black lesbian and one of the two leads of the show. The story is about her, her wife Stef and their adopted children.
You can watch it on the Freeform website or on Netflix.
Warnings: Addiction, rape, alcoholism.
Crazy Ex Girlfriend (currently in its second season): About a mentally ill lawyer who drops everything and moves across country following an ex boyfriend from when she was a teenager, convincing herself that it’ll be the cure for her depression and anxiety.
It has a Filipino romantic male lead, my second favorite bisexual male character in television, a very crude and very real talk about mental illness and toxic relationships, a good episode dedicated to abortion, and the coolest black girl in television. Also, it’s pretty body-positive, and Filipino fans have talked about how good the Chan family is written! The second season officially has no white cishet male characters in any lead roles, which is pretty damn rare.
It’s hilarious, though painful to watch if you have a hard time dealing with secondhand embarrassment. Though it’s a comedy, there are also very sad moments, since it doesn’t tiptoe around its talk about mental illness at all.
Warning: Rebecca’s relationship with Josh is straight up abusive (Rebecca is the abusive one, just to be clear). Though the show acknowledges this, it might be upsetting to watch.
No Tomorrow (currently in its first season): About a very uptight and anxious woman who falls for a dude who lives his life without limits because he’s convinced that the world is ending in nine months.
Though the main romance is painfully white and heterosexual, they are also super hilarious and sweet. The best parts of the show, still aren’t them, but Evie’s friends: Kareema, a pansexual Indian woman who has the best deadpan line deliveries; Hank, a black man who is also convinced that the world is ending; and Timothy, Evie’s ex who is trying to deal with his anxiety and the end of their relationship.
I haven’t finished the season yet, but so far there hasn’t been a single boring episode and the characters just get better with each episode.
Warning: So far, I’d think none.
Jane The Virgin (currently in its third season): A religious young woman who’s vowed to not have sex until marriage is accidentally inseminated with her boss’ sperm during a regular gynecologic control.
Jane Villanueva, her mom and her grandmother are by far the best characters in the show; there is no shortage of amazing characters and storylines. The show deals with reproductive rights and immigration, most of the main characters are Latinx and there is not a single actor who isn’t absolutely amazing.
The narrator, the Villanueva family and the incredible writing are all amazing, but my favorite thing is that the show (as an USAmerican remake of the Venezuelan telenovela “Juana la Virgen”) is super self-aware of the genre and is constantly pushing the boundaries of telenovela narratives while paying loving homage to Latinx culture.
Warning: The show doesn’t treat its queer characters great (basically they’re either villains or… constantly suffering), and it has a bad habit of putting abuse survivors back into abusive situations all the goddamn time (particularly Luisa and Petra). Also, it doesn’t have many black characters (Gina in afro-latina but her character isn’t) and out of the very small number, two are violent villains who die awful deaths. Not a good image.
Selfie (cancelled after the first season): A social-media addicted woman who has no real life friends and a very uptight man who doesn’t have very much of a life outside of work start working in “improving” each other, her teaching him to be more social and him trying to make her less self-centered.
First of all, the fact that John Cho plays a romantic lead should be enough to make anyone want to see this. But the show is incredibly sweet, the secondary characters are all amazing, and Eliza and Henry invented being Lawful Heterosexuals (also height differences).
There is not a single boring scene or episode in the entire show, which one should guess since John Cho is the creator and the lead, of course.
Warning: I remember feeling a little uncomfortable about Eliza’s relationship wit food and her body image, but otherwise I didn’t find it an upsetting watch at all.
#nazi mention cw, #rape mention cw, #abuse mention cw
We (collective we, as people raised in a white supremacist society) tend to find it easier to empathize and sympathize with white characters than with non-white characters, and with light-skinned characters than with dark-skinned characters. It takes actual self-examination and a willingness to unlearn that racism, to be able to read a narrative without any kind of racial bias, just like it takes self-examination and unlearning to live life without racism or any other kind of prejudice.
The issue is that we are not willing to look at ourselves and see why we prefer certain characters over others, and so we make excuses. We yell “it’s not about race!” and, to back that statement, we say “it’s because she’s a woman”, “it’s because they’re queer”, “it’s because they’re neurodivergent”. And I’ve already written about the “oh, it’s because they’re queer, not because they’re white” argument, but the mental illness/trauma argument is just as prevalent.
White characters who’ve experienced some sort of trauma (from their parents’ divorcing or moving towns as a child, to assault or a violent accident); who are canonically disabled or who are coded as neuroatypical (or sometimes not even coded, just have a few Quirky Character Traits™ that we, desperate to see ourselves represented positively in any kind of media, might cling to) can get away with being racist, misogynistic, ableist to other characters, abusive or just plain assholes.
And, of course, white characters who are in no way mentally ill or coded as such have mental illnesses and traumas invented for them by the fandom, just so they can become “tragic” enough for their misdeeds to be ignored.
If a white character is mentally ill/traumatized (or if White Fandom™ has decided they are, based on even the flimsiest canon evidence) they deserve all of the attention, all of the screentime, they can never do no wrong and anytime a character of color dares to disagree with them it’s ableism, just as it is ableist for fans of color to dislike this character.
- In Teen Wolf, Kira and Scott are just as patently coded as mentally ill and traumatized as Lydia, Derek or Stiles (whose “canon mental illness” is a joke about ADHD in the first season). Yet Scott is called whiny, has all of his trauma reduced to “obsessing over Allison” and is expected to bend over backwards to conform to every single one of Stiles’ or any other white character’s wishes; and Kira is forgotten or used as comic relief while fandom cries over the white characters.
- In the 100, Raven suffers from PTSD, chronic pain and physical disability; while Bellamy is obviously deeply traumatized. Yet only Clarke and Octavia’s trauma matter; and Raven “deserves” to be disabled for sleeping with “””Clarke’s man””” (?), just like Bellamy deserves to be violently abused by his sister.
- In The Flash, Cisco is expected to forgive Barry instantly after finding out that Barry is the reason his brother is dead, but Barry is allowed to try and save his mother as many times as he wants. Caitlin’s metahuman arc is taken more seriously and given more attention (both by fandom and by canon) than Cisco’s ever was. And Caitlin’s loss of Ronnie is never forgotten, but Iris can’t grieve for Eddie for more than five minutes.
- In HTGAWM; Wes, Annalise and Michaela have all had lives full of trauma and loss, and the three of them were suffering way before the plot of the show started, yet fandom only cares for Connor and, occasionally, Laurel. A mentally ill afro-latino was violently murdered when he was about to find happiness and White Fandom™ didn’t say a word, yet they were ready to start fires if Connor was the one under the sheet.
There are endless other examples (and feel free to add more):
- In Pacific Rim; Stacker Pentecost’s chronic terminal illness and PTSD, and Mako’s PTSD; vs. Hermann canon’s disability or Newt “neurodivergent coding”.
- In the MCU; Sam and Daisy’s PTSD vs. Tony and Bucky’s. Elektra’s, Luke’s or Malcolm’s trauma after being abused vs. Jessica Jones’. The fact that the Stand With Ward people still expect people to empathize with a literal murderer, rapist N*zi because he was abused as a child.
- In Scandal, Abbie and Mellie’s PTSD versus Olivia’s.
- In Star Wars, Finn’s trauma versus Rey and Kyle’s; or Cassian and Bodhi’s versus Jyn’s.
- In Person of Interest, Root’s neurodivergence versus Shaw’s.
- In FDTD, Kisa and Scott’s trauma versus Kate’s trauma and Richie’s neurodivergence.
Just imagine how many people would be hauling Rosewood as revolutionary for its portrayal of chronic illness and mental illness if the two leads weren’t a black man and a brown woman. Or how little fandom would actually care about Wendy Maximoff if she was actually played by a brown Rromani-Jewish actress.
Or don’t even image. Look at how fandom rushes to excuse Ward’s actions because of his childhood trauma and then they turn around and condemn Melinda May and Daisy Johnson for every single thing they do. Look at how fandom treats Winn vs. how they treat Cisco, despite the fact that they are the exact same type of character archetype.
Critical fandom can’t call Kyle Ron a fascist or Ward an abuser neo-nazi or Stiles a misogynistic racist or J*ssica J*nes an abuser because they Are Suffering™! Meanwhile, disabled characters of color don’t get to be in pain, don’t get to lash out, don’t get to have ugly symptoms. No matter how much unapologetic assholery white characters are guilty of, they can always be redeemed (re: the Peter Hale, Derek Hale and Theo Raeken* fandoms) but neuroatypical characters of color might suffer through ages-long arcs of growth, recovery and redemption and still they never deserve fandom’s forgiveness.
Nobody can police how you identify with characters or forbid that you project on a character that might behave like you, nobody is asking that you only identify with perfect, Morally Upstanding™ characters; but the simple fact is this:
Fandom only cares for disabled and/or neuroatypical characters if they are disabled/neuroatypical and white.
Any discourse about ableism in fandom that ignores this is flawed.
*A good time as any to remember that Cody Christian is Native American. Theo Raeken, however, is never acknowledged as such and the family we know of him in the show (biological sister, maybe-biological parents) is entirely played by white people. Acknowledging biracial actors’ identities is important, but recognizing the way canon and fandom white-washes them is also important.
Listen, Jorge Gutierrez was rejected by Disney Pixar and by basically every other major animation producer when he tried to make The Book Of Life. If Del Toro hadn’t come along and agreed to produce the movie himself, TBOL would have never seen the light of day. (source)
GUTIERREZ: I had this movie for 14 years. Ever since I was in film school, I wanted to make it. When I got out, I pitched it to every studio and everybody told me the same thing. “You’re just some dumb kid out of school, and no one’s interested in the subject matter, and there’s no audience for Hispanic movies.” It took a long time. Eventually, I pitched the movie to Guillermo’s people four times and he said, “No.”
DEL TORO: When I heard it was on the Day of the Dead, in the last 15 years I had heard many, many Day of the Dead pitches. I didn’t like it because they were all postcard, folkloric, or coldly calculated things and none of them felt personal. Finally, Cary Granat said, “You have to meet the guy and see some of the art. If you don’t relate to that, that’s it.” So I met with Jorge – he’ll tell you the story – but I immediately connected to it because it was personal to him. For me to produce, I am so busy. I don’t have a personal life. I am a ruin. I’m dedicated to projects that support my family that goes with me. They cannot integrate themselves into that life. But I said, “Do I want to do this?” When I met Jorge, I knew there was something that we could do beautifully together, but more important than anything, I wanted to protect the movie. One of the reasons I was interested is because the things that make the movie great now are the things I knew were going to get us a lot of “no’s” from the studios.
If TBOL hadn’t gotten as much critical acclaim as it did and gotten enough revenue for Fox to approve a sequel and possibly a third movie too, Coco would have never become a serious project.
On the one hand we have TBOL, which was imagined, written, produced and directed by Mexican artists. On the other hand we have Disney, who rejected Jorge Gutierrez’ proposal for a Mexican-based movie and who tried to trademark “Day of the Dead” to make money off it after TBOL was announced (source).
I mean, sure, the same cartoonist who said this:
“How could Disney allow such a blunder,” marveled Lalo Alcaraz, a Mexican-American editorial cartoonist and founder of Pocho.com. “I knew they weren’t copyrighting the holiday, but I couldn’t believe they would let someone in their legal department let this happen. On the surface, it looks like Disney is trying to copyright the holiday.”
Is also now working on the movie, (source)
Several years ago, when Disney tried to trademark the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was one of the most vocal critics. That’s why it came as a surprise to many when news broke this week that Pixar, which is owned by Disney, hired Alcaraz to work on its animated film “Coco” that’s centered on the Mexican holiday. (…) Several years ago, when Disney tried to trademark the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was one of the most vocal critics. That’s why it came as a surprise to many when news broke this week that Pixar, which is owned by Disney, hired Alcaraz to work on its animated film “Coco” that’s centered on the Mexican holiday.
But Disney’s intentions are still suspicious. I mean, their treatment of Elena of Avalor has already been more than questionable… For starters, the fact that the first Latina princess in Disney’s history gets a TV-show instead of a movie. (source)
TV is great, but all of the major Disney princesses appeared on film, first. So, what does is say when there’s no Latina princess with her own movie? (…) We could give Disney the benefit of the doubt since they may not be able to milk two new princesses at the same time, but that also means they decided Elena isn’t worthy of the big screen treatment. Despite that fact that in 2015 alone, Disney released 12 feature films.
Disney could’ve added Elena to its slate. It’s not too big of a burden for Disney to create a princess who represents 17% of the nation’s population — which is why I refuse to accept that the Latina community’s first Disney princess will not be in theaters.
As a Latina, I’m sick of being told to be grateful to have a princess when movie after movie features strong, usually white, heroines. And while I’m a light-toned Puerto Rican (that’s a whole other can of worms), I believe my culture deserves to be viewed by a national audience, not just households with kids 5 and under.
Latinas haven’t waited 79 years and fought for recognition to accept a supporting role.
And then we have the fact that she… She isn’t even Latina. She’s a caricature. She represents no actual Latinx in the entire continent. (source)
Elena isn’t indigenous or Afro-Latina or from a specific Latin-American country. She is a thin, light-brown Latina princess from Avalor, a made up Latin-American-esque kingdom that exists in a pre-colonial, pre-Columbian world. This, by the way, is baffling: how does one understand their Latino identity without acknowledging colonialism? While the backdrop of Elena is influenced by Mayan culture and Chilean folklore, her race and ethnicity is otherwise based in Disney fantasy.
To add to it, “Coco” sounds like a straight plagiarism from TBOL (source)
According to Entertainment Weekly, Miguel lives in a Mexican village and dreams of becoming a musician. The only problem? His family has sworn off music ever since Miguel’s great-great-grandfather abandoned his wife to pursue his own musical dreams.
While trying to emulate his musical hero, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), Miguel accidentally enters the Land of the Dead. There, he teams up with the aforementioned funny skeleton (voiced by Mozart in the Jungle’s Gael Garcia Bernal), meets his ancestors, and tries to track down his idol.
We have a hero who wants to make music but doesn’t have his family’s support (Miguel’s family has sworn off music, Manolo wants to be a musician but his family wants him to be a torero). We have a hero accidentally entering the Land Of The Dead and meeting his ancestors. Bet you $20 that Miguel becomes a “Day of the Dead”-styled skeleton during this trip to the Land of the Dead.
Like “Moana” is an amalgam of Polynesian tradition and cultures created by white people first and foremost for white people’s consumption (check Fangirl Jeanne’s criticism of it), Elena of Avalor and now Coco are heading in the same direction, and the worst part is that we’re constantly being told by white fans that we should be grateful for whatever “representation” these major producers decide to throw at us.
Let’s just hope they don’t go around selling sugar-skull masks and make-up with the Disney trademark like they did with the brownface Polynesian-tattoo costume for Moana. (source)
- operation massacre, by rodolpho walsh. [amazon]
credited as the actual first non-fiction investigative novel (nine years before capote’s in cold blood), it’s a crude retelling of the kidnapping and execution of a group of peronistas during the argentinian military dictatorship of the ’50s.
- kamchatka, by marcelo figueras. [amazon]
there were many dictatorships in our story and many stories in our dictatorship. from the argentinian dictatorship that started in the year ‘76, this one is the story of a boy whose family goes into hiding to avoid ‘disappearing’.
- extracting the stone of madness, by alejandra pizarnik. [amazon]
i don’t think i can explain how vital pizarnik is to poetry. her poems explore mental illness, suicidal ideation, institutionalization; but also love, childhood and the everydays of writing. i’ve found, though, that teenage boys have a hard time empathizing with a mentally ill woman’s poetry. i still recommend it.
- red april, by santiago roncagliolo. [amazon]
moving to perú, this novel follows the civil war crimes that occur between a terrorist group and the very corrupt government
- the open veins of latin america, by eduardo galeano. [amazon]
not everyone likes galeano and not everyone agrees with galeano but everyone recognizes that he wrote about america’s history of oppression, poverty and colonization in a way that could finally reach everyone. this book is one of the most important reads on latin american history of this century.
- mario benedetti’s poems [amazon, a bilingual edition!] and short stories [amazon]
to be honest, i think mario’s most essential read is his novel, ‘thanks for the fire’, but it hasn’t been translated. his poems and prose are exceptionally good, though, and an excellent insight into south american life.
- by night in chile, by roberto bolaño.[amazon]
another historical novel, this testimony dwells into the dirty business between a corrupt church and a military state during pinochet’s dictatorship.
- the house of the spirits, by isabel allende. [amazon]
another chilean author. though i personally hate every single one of her other books, this one is a classic for a good reason. it’s truly fantastic, and it’s a very dark and intimate walk through the life of a high class family across three generations.
- alma guillermoprieto’s chronicles of latin america:
cuba’s revolution [x], life in río de janeiro [x], and collections of stories and chronicles from all across the continent, both historical [x] and contemporary [x]
- alfonsina storni’s poems. feminist poetry at the beginning of the twentieth century, shaped south american poetry in a lot of ways. you can find selections here and here.
- regarding roderer (or, if you want to also have a movie adaptation to make the reading more entertaining, the oxford murders), by guillermo martinez [amazon] [amazon]
to be completely honest with you, if i had the chance to meet him again, i’d punk martinez in the face. he’s pretentious and repetitive and the peak of the white dude author; but his prose is entertaining and enthralling and there is not a teenage boy in this world who won’t love him. i’ve read all of his books, and i have a very strong love/hate relationship with his work, but i can’t deny he’s an excellent mystery writer. regarding roderer has never stopped being a fascinating work, even after reading it a dozen times.
- my sweet orange tree, by josé mauro de vasconcelos [amazon]
i think i’ve read this book what? twenty times? twenty or a million, and i’ve laughed and cried with the same intensity every time. published in the 70s, this book is about the life of a poor boy growing up in río. sadly, the second part (let the sun heat) can’t be found in english, but this book alone is one of the most emblematic reads in latin american history.
- kiss of the spider-woman, by manuel puig [amazon]
another story about the dictatorship. two men, one guilty of socialist ideals and the other guilty of homosexual perversions, are incarcerated together. i’m not sure how apt for teenagers this book might be, because though, if not exactly explicit (it’s all dialogue, written like a screenplay), it’s not something most high schools would want teenage boys to read. our school was never scared of showing us the rough side of the dictatorship, so we all read a few rough things while still too young.
- the nine guardians, by rosarios castellanos [amazon]
set during the mexican revolution, this one shares with Kamchatka and my sweet orange tree the haunting honesty of stories of poverty and oppression told from the eyes and memories of children.
- of love and other demons, gabriel garcía márquez [amazon]
this one set during the 18th century, this novel is gorgeous, heartbreaking and an amazing story of love and religion. we read it at school, and it was without a doubt one of the best books i was assigned for lit class. another excellent book by garcía márquez is ‘story of a shipwrecked sailor’ [x].
- fictions, by Jorge luis borges [amazon]
because you really can’t talk about south american prose without benedetti and borges, fictions. this one anthology collects some of my favorite short stories, all of them magical and haunting and intriguing to no end.
two of what i consider must-reads of argentinian and latin american literature haven’t been translated to english: the conqueror, by federico andahazi (a story about an aztec man who finds europe way before the spanish find mexico) and the saga of the borderlands, by liliana bodoc (a fantastic retelling of the colonization). you can find a translation of the first book of the saga of the borderlands, but the second and third are impossible. there are also books specially oriented for teenagers (to say friend, which changed me for the better like few other books have) that are also impossible to find, but one day i’m gonna get rich and sit my ass to translate them all.
I hope in Episode VIII or IX we get a scene where Finn is in a mission to a First Order outpost and, before setting a bomb to blow up a weapon or some shit, he calls for the Stormtroopers working in the area to evacuate.
(They’d be technicians or engineers, with some basic combat training but no older than Finn was when he ran, the blasters at their sides still in their holsters, none of them even trying to fire in Finn’s direction.)
I want one of them to take off their helmet and look at him, baffled, perplexed at the mere idea that anyone would care to spare their lives in the middle of this war, and ask “Who are you?”
I want Finn to respond, like Bodhi said “I am the pilot, I am the messenger,” I want Finn to call back to Kylo Ren’s insult during their fight and say, proud,
“I am the traitor.”
(The rest of the troopers take off their helmets too, follow him.)