Wednesday Is Not Your Typical Latina Protagonist

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Wednesday. Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 105 of Wednesday. Cr. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix  2022

Netflix’s «Wednesday» shouldn’t be the standard Latina illustration we’re used to seeing. Assistant professor of Media Research on the College of South Florida’s Division of Communication Diana Leon-Boys, PhD, says we have turn out to be accustomed to the «can-do Latina» woman. From exhibits like «The Increasing Universe of Ashley Garcia» to Marvel’s «Runaways,» this Latina can do something she units her thoughts to because of her constructive angle. She’s a plucky go-getter, a pleaser, and if she faces any systemic limitations, they aren’t described and definitely not ascribed to sexism or racism.

«She will be able to do all of it and she will be able to carry herself up by her bootstraps, which might turn out to be dangerous and problematic,» Dr. Leon-Boys, who wrote «Elena, Princesa of the Periphery: Disney’s Versatile Latina Lady,» says of the can-do Latina archetype. She’s grateful to see this new sort emerge within the final decade or so, crediting the extra empowered strategy to portraying Latina women. However she’s nonetheless not happy, telling POPSUGAR, «It is nonetheless very repetitive, it is nonetheless very comparable, it is nonetheless very a lot a part of this financial risk-averse technique that media conglomerates use as a result of they know it is secure.»

Dr. Leon-Boys recounts an train she does together with her college students during which she asks them to call Latinx exhibits that do not point out a quinceañera. «I’ve by no means gotten anybody to say greater than two,» she says. And often, they’ve forgotten a element just like the quince flashback in «Jane the Virgin.» There isn’t any quinceañera in Tim Burton’s «Wednesday.» And our protagonist, performed by Mexican and Puerto Rican actress Jenna Ortega, would hate it anyway. She’s not one for poofy clothes or celebrating birthdays normally. Wednesday is far more all for demise. Dr. Leon-Boys sees this as a constructive factor.

«I do not need to say I am a darkish particular person, however I’d align extra with, I do not need to say ‘pessimistic,’ however extra real looking factors of views and mentalities and ideas and concepts and conversations about demise. That I do not assume you actually see quite a bit by means of the determine of a lady on tv, notably by means of a Latina woman,» she says.

Nobody goes to name Wednesday «plucky,» and that is a superb factor. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD, affiliate professor of English at LaGuardia Group School-CUNY, agrees. They are saying that the pleaser or can-do character units up the story so the «ethical lesson is it’s a must to respect your mother and father. You need to respect no matter authorities is in there . . . And so, the people-pleaser characters are all the time those which can be about the established order.»

Wednesday. Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 101 of Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

«There’s nonetheless loads of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That’s nonetheless one of many stereotypes of Latinas.»

Wearing all black and «allergic to paint,» Wednesday breaks these molds in additional methods than one. «There’s nonetheless loads of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That’s nonetheless one of many stereotypes of Latinas,» says Dr. Rodriguez. However fortunately, Wednesday escapes that destiny and would not find yourself on the virgin/asexual facet both. As an alternative, she finds herself on the level of a love triangle, by no means a sexual object, and actually buttoned as much as her neck.

It is refreshing to see a Latina with a unique look. Wednesday is rarely seen in something near a bodycon costume or a brief skirt. As an alternative, she’s the unique goth, principally in black and all the time with a gothic vibe. «I really feel like we by no means see goth rocker Latinas on TV,» actress Michelle Ortiz not too long ago informed POPSUGAR about her punk character on the not too long ago renewed «This Idiot.» And it is true: in actual life, Latinas rock the entire vary of kinds and identities, however we’re nonetheless vastly underrepresented in relation to our numbers within the inhabitants. And the roles we do get whereas increasing past the sexpot and the maid are nonetheless not expansive sufficient — making Wednesday’s goth woman a nice outlier.

Dr. Rodriguez has hope shifting ahead that we’ll see a extra different illustration of Latinas on display, because of the progress she sees in young-adult literature. «[In YA] the representations of Latinas are so huge, occupied with all these totally different experiences that younger Latinos [have] within the US. What I recognize concerning the current illustration is that there isn’t any shaming,» they are saying. «You need to be shy and quiet and a household particular person? That is nice, do this — we’re rooting for you. You need to be a bit bit extra rebellious? You need to not be a part of the standard household dynamic? That is nice, too.»

Wednesday. (L to R) Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Thing in episode 102 of Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

«Wednesday» would not shrink back from exploring household dynamics even because it bucks different tropes of Latinx illustration. «The mother-daughter relationship is a really massive trope. How do you establish, like, how do you discover your individuality and your personhood? It is all the time in distinction to the mother and father. For Latinas, it is all the time in distinction to the mother,» Dr. Rodriguez shares. And that is what you see in «Wednesday,» as our heroine begins the collection defining herself in opposition to her mom earlier than coming to know herself higher.

Certainly, Wednesday exists inside the confines of her well-known household. This can be her story, the place she goes off on an journey of her personal, however she’s firmly rooted in her Addams-ness, because of Factor’s companionship and cameos from the remainder of her kin. Dr. Rodriguez sees this dynamic quite a bit in Latinx literature. «How do you keep inside your group and your loved ones but additionally nonetheless find out about your self by increasing and going outdoors? It is this actually massive pressure [and] there’s positively no line on learn how to get it proper. However [it] additionally appears like a really basic young-adult expertise.» For Latinx communities, the stress is heightened, as a result of we’re additionally pressured to acculturate to the dominant US ideology that places people above households. Fortunately, as Dr. Rodriguez factors out, «Latinx authors are like saying no, we have to faucet into our tradition, we have to faucet into our traditions, we have to faucet into our household, as like a type of success.»

«We need to be portrayed as vets, as bakers, as artists, as painters, as activists, as firefighters — every little thing. However after we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they can not do every little thing that we probably need them to.»

That collectivism is actually a part of Wednesday’s story within the new present. She could also be outdoors of her mother and father’ house, however she’s at their alma mater and, if something, studying extra about her household and their historical past. It is a good option to nod to Wednesday’s Latinidad with out dipping into the overplayed parts that the media too typically depends on. «We need to be portrayed as vets, as bakers, as artists, as painters, as activists, as firefighters — every little thing,» Dr. Leon-Boys says. «However after we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they can not do every little thing that we probably need them to. So what I discover is rather like a thirst of traditionally excluded populations [for] extra layers, extra nuance, extra depth.»

Hopefully, Netflix’s «Wednesday» with its anti-«can-do» protagonist helps to quench a few of that thirst. It is a glass of water on this metaphor, not a deep spring, but it surely’s one thing.


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