Monday, January 15, 2007

response to the ethnic mixing question

So, (a delightful and informative site on lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment) just recently did an interview with Janina Gavankar, who plays the role of The L Word's newest Latina, Papi. Earlier on I wrote about how strange I thought it was to continuously cast non-Latina actresses to play Latina characters. I was anxious to see if they brought up this ethnicity question in the interview. Sure enough, afterellen addressed the issue:

AE: Given that you’re not Latina, how do you feel about playing a Latina character on the show?
JG: You know, I get asked that a lot. … It’s sort of a strange question. I’m surprised people aren’t asking me what it’s like to play someone who’s gay, because I’m not gay either. So, it’s just acting, you know?

AE: So you get asked a lot about how it feels to play a Latina but not how it feels to play a lesbian?
JG: Yeah, I’m sort of surprised by that. Well, I’m not Latina, I’m not gay, I’m not from East L.A. I am brown. I’m not athletic, um … [laughs] I’m not very masculine. I’m not any of those things. I’m playing someone entirely different than me.

Ok, I was kind of disappointed by her response. I guess I get what she's saying. I'm definitely not one to claim that a person's ethnicity should be a central part of who they are. But still, I mean it's not like I could go and play the role of a supposed Black woman and say that it's just acting, so it shouldn't matter that I'm white ... I mean, I don't know. I still think it's weird. I mentioned earlier that the actress Iyari Limon was also one of the main contenders for the role of Carmen. Here's part of an interview with her concerning Carmen's "Mexican family" storyling. In the interview, Iyari has just mentioned how one of Carmen's infamous lines "Quiero lamarte hasta que te vengas en mi boca mil veces" was actually thanks to some improvisation by Iyari during her audition opposite Kate Moenning (who plays Shane).

AE: Were you angry?
A little, but at the same time, whatever. I guess if it's gonna work, whatever. But you know what did make me a little bit angry was the fact that in the breakdown t
hey said ‘She must be Latin and she must be fluent.'

And Carmen is not Latin, and she doesn't speak Spanish. And her Spanish when she speaks it on the show—I mean I love the character and I think she's hot and does a good job—but honestly, her Spanish is not the best.

The whole family is so stereotypical. I have hundreds of Mexican family and friends here—I mean I'm Mexican, I was born in Mexico , you know? I have tons of family there, tons of family here, all over– Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Texas--and none of my family is like that, or my friends' families. That's just so…wow, are you kidding me? I was really disappointed.

And I think from that episode on I just became so disappointed, I kind of stopped watching and then I started traveling.

AE: We actually did an article about that very issue recently—about the portrayal of Latinas on The L Word
I don't think they should have given her Spanish dialogue if she couldn't really speak it and have us Latins buy us. You don't have to speak Spanish, you could be still be Latin and speak a word here and there. But the dialogue…it was just really bad. (laughs)

And I thought, you know it's funny how they emphasized that she needs to be Latin, fluent, androgynous, and then they go completely with voluptuous, not Latin. That's how the business works, they don't know what they want sometimes.

If you want to read the rest of this interview, I have it linked back in the December 30th entry. And if you want to read afterellen's article on The L Word's portrayal of Latino culture, just click here

Well, I got to see Papi on last night's newest L Word episode. I admit, she's pretty hot and so far it seems like Janina Gavankar is doing a pretty good job portraying a Latina, other than the fact that she looks like she's South Asian (strangely). At least they're keeping the token Latina lesbian. Now all they need to do is get some representation of the Asian community. Hey, a girl can dream, right? Anyway here's a little intro scene of Papi, so you can judge for yourself about all this:

And just for fun, here's a video of the delicious Sarah Shahi playing Carmen. It's kind of long, as it contains various scenes from one particular episode of The L Word (I believe Season 3, Episode 9). Anyway, one of the scenes is Carmen coming out to her family (starts at about 6:00), so you can hear Sarah Shahi's spanish skills in action. I don't know why Showtime doesn't put subtitles in for the Spanish scenes, but for those who don't understand, Carmen's mom basically tells her that being a whore would be better than being a lesbian. Enjoy!

No comments: