Latino stereotypes in the media have long been in existence. For example, the 2002 movie Made in Manhattan starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes portrayed Latinas as the typical stereotype of the housekeeping maid. Jennifer Lopez’s character works for a hotel where she meets the rich, white man whom she falls in love with. These scenarios involving the poor beautiful Latina and the rich white man still have a prominent presence, in today’s media world.
I’ve recently become a fan of ABC’s Modern Family due to its hilarious cast and storyline. I think it’s great that they’ve made a show about a family that isn’t necessarily about the nuclear family. It features the gay couple; Mitchell and Cameron; the “cool” parents, Claire and Phil; and the odd couple, Jay and Gloria. Although this show seems progressive, it plays into the stereotypes many have been trying to get away from.
My favorite character is Gloria Pritchett played by Sofia Vergara and thought it would be fun to explore her portrayal as a Latina on the show. Modern Family portrays Gloria as the feisty Latina stereotype despite the fact that Sofia has denied it in several interviews. Before I get into the nitty gritty of some of the scenes that sparked controversy over her stereotype, let’s talk about Sofia Vergara’s background because it will help us understand her character.
Before Sofia Vergara gained her breakthrough role as Gloria on Modern Family, Sofia had already built herself a portfolio with modeling contracts, including one with Pepsi. At only seventeen, she was featured in a Spanish Pepsi commercial showing off her sexual appeal, gaining the attention all over Latin America. Her following careers were based around her sexual appeal and beauty, working her way up the blood bath battle in Hollywood.
This is Sofia Vergara’s first Pepsi commercial:
In 2009, Sofia Vergara’s character on Modern Family was born and her name was Gloria Pritchett. She is the sexy beautiful and very loud wife to the much older and mellow Jay Pritchett played by Ed O’Neil. Both Gloria and Jay are on their second marriage and have children from their past relationship. This detail helps us understand that Modern Family is set to be a show about a “nontraditional” family while still portraying some of the nuclear family elements within Gloria and Jay’s relationship.
This scene sums up their relationship:
Prior to meeting Jay, Gloria worked as a Taxi driver to support herself and her son. According to Modern Family Wiki, this information was revealed on the episode called “Aunt Mommy.” The nuclear family element to this is that Gloria is now a stay at home wife and mother who loves to spend her husband’s money. In the episode called “Coal Digger” found in season one, Jay’s daughter Claire is exposed of calling Gloria a gold digger several times in the beginning of their relationship. Claire admits to her father that she was suspicious of their relationship because Gloria was so much younger and well…so much more attractive than Jay. It only seemed normal for Claire to have those thoughts. This scene is interesting because it portrays the obvious Latina as a possible gold digger, although the episode ends positively by Gloria reassuring everyone, including the viewers that she is seriously in love with Jay and that her love has nothing to do with his money.
The most popular stereotype Gloria plays is the loud Latina. In the episode “The Late Show” Jay expresses his frustration with Gloria’s inability to be ready on time but he also says he won’t get mad or say anything to her. He tells the audience he’s trying a new “thing”- to stay calm and not yell…because Gloria always wins when it comes to yelling. It’s clear that Jay is trying to be patient so that Gloria doesn’t lose it and start a fight.
Later in that episode, Sofia explains to Jay why she likes to be late. She tells him, “I like to make an entrance” “I want them all to tell me how pretty I look,” clearly making her sound vain and ditsy. In the same episode, much like every episode, the stereotype of Latina women having short tempers or even crazy is portrayed. Once the entire family arrives at the restaurant Jay had been raving about for ages, the host of the restaurant tells them rudely they gave away their table because the party took too long to arrive. Gloria was not having that. She threatened the host and yelled at her face telling her to sit them. Yet, instead of getting sat the entire family gets kicked out and decides on street tacos for dinner. Although Gloria is often portrayed as the crazy Colombian in the family, Modern Family is sure to let their audience know that Gloria loves her family and will do anything to protect them.
These stereotypes have caused controversy but Sofia disagrees with comments of her being negatively stereotyped as a Latina. In an interview with Time, Sofia defends her role as a stereotype because according to her she is acting as the women she has known her entire life.
Time- “I’ve read that the character of Gloria is based on you. How similar are you two?”
Sofia- “I play her the way I see my mother and my aunt behave as Latin women. And now the writers know more about the Latin culture than when I started doing the show, and they know me better, too. So at this point, I pretty much follow the script.”
So, according to Gloria she is just being herself and just so happens to fall under the stereotype many Latinas have been trying to get away from. I myself am a Latina born in Latin America and I understand her statement of saying she is who she is. My mother and all her sisters have always been loud and passionate for as long as I can remember. They’ve always been about family first, they love coffee, just as Gloria’s culture does, and yes they get crazy! But there’s always the Latin women that hate the stereotype and want to see Latin women in the media in a different light, which is understandable.
The important thing to remember is that TV shows or movies with a Latin character will more often than not portray a stereotype that puts all Latins under the same light. Fine by me.