Saturday, November 01, 2008

My beef with the "No on Prop. 8" ad targeting Latino communities...

In my previous post I took a slight dig at the "No on Prop. 8" campaign ads targeting the Latino community in California. I wasn't going to comment further but then comes an article posted online yesterday at The Advocate on the inside game at the campaign ("In the belly of No on 8"):
The media revamp has included a new Spanish-language push, with ads running on Spanish-language media outlets featuring Ugly Betty stars America Ferrerra, Tony Pena, and Ana Ortiz. Getting the ads done was a challenge, considering the three actors were in New York and the campaign had less than a few days to write, produce, and distribute the ads.

“That spot seems to be touching people,” said one of [Patrick] Guerriero’s colleagues, a senior executive at a major media company who took a leave of absence to work full-time on the campaign. “Young Latinos were looking for a way to talk about this with their parents. They didn’t feel comfortable having that conversation in Spanish. This is definitely filling a need.”
I think it's great that the stars donated their time and were willing to be part of the campaign. Kudos to them. But here's what rubs me the wrong way.

1. They used the wrong "Ugly Betty" cast: "Ugly Betty" is an English-language version of an incredibly popular Spanish-language television soap opera. I am no pollster but I have a feeling that the Latino viewers who watch the English version are not the ones that need to be convinced to vote against Prop. 8. They already sit to watch the gayest show on network television to begin with and the fact that they understand English means they probably are more acculturated than recent US citizens which are probably the ones that need to be made at ease about opposing Prop. 8. The "No on 8" campaign might have done better by reaching out to the cast of Mexican version of "Ugly Betty" if they were looking for a bigger impact.

2. All Latinos are not the same: For some of us who watch the show from time to time, one of the most jarring thing is that the cast of the US show is the fact that we recognize that the actors all come from different ethnic backgrounds even if they are supposed to be from the same Queens family. America Ferrera, who plays Betty, was born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents; Ana Ortiz, who plays her sister Hilda is of Puerto Rican-Irish descent; and Tony Plana, who plays their father Ignacio, was born in Cuba - and it shows in the way the carry themselves. This is fine for a television show where you can look over these type of discrepancies but I'm not that certain that using the actors to carry the message to Latinos in California speaks to California Latinos specifically. As with the presdiential campaign, it looks as if the folks who decided to use the cast of the American version of "Ugly Betty" fell for the generalization that any Latino can sway another Latino and that's just not the case (it's that mythical political Latino block that has been so elusive this year). Ferrera, who made her career in California, looks and feels authentically Californian which actually really counts when it comes to the Latino community in California.

3. Accents: In the Spanish version, below, Tony Plana is the only one of the three actors who speaks Spanish without an Americanized accent. Not that America or Ana do bad at all (actually, they do great) but you still notice it. But, again, I have a feeling that the movable Spanish speaking masses might be more movable if it came from spokespeople who did not have an Americanized accent when they spoke Spanish.

4. La familia: OK, I acknowledge this is a personal pet peeve but how come every time someone says 'We gotta reach Latinos' the immediate reaction is 'familia'? "For Latinos family is important" says the video. Hm, yes? Same as with other cultures? To be fair, this Latino familia trope is not limited to Anglos seeking Latino authenticity. Latino organizations do it too. But, personally it drives me up a wall. It brings up trite hacienda images of abuelita rocking in her rocking chair as her grandson makes a call on an AT&T phone or of Jimmy Smits in the trite (and cancelled) "Cane". But that's just me. Perhaps swayable Latino Californians truly really think about family above all but methinks a lot of them don't necessarily have the wealthy extended hacienda-type families of "Cane". I'm just sayin'.

Which brings us back to quote from The Advocate. Statements that the campaign only sought to create a Spanish language campaign late in the game (as they "revamped" the message) and assurances that it "seems" to be touching people betray the fact that they should have known for a long time that minority communities should have been included in the game plan long before now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Perhaps I'm being one of those angry politically correct Latinos who only think about la raza! (Hm, not really?). And perhaps I read waaaay too much stuff into little things. But come Tuesday (and I truly hope that Prop. 8 is defeated and for some reason I think it will) it speaks to the divide between state and national LGBT organizing strategies and LGBT communities of color.

Spanish language version of the ad below:


Reginald Harris said...

Very interesting comments -- Thank you! It's sad that this is the 21st Century and still "the gay community" thinks of people of color as an afterthought -- Oh we have to do 'outreach' to them! It also surprises me that you were not contacted -- I'm sure you're the (only?) "Latin Friend" of any number of white gays, and are probably used to getting the call to find out 'what your people think'...sad...

Thanks also for the note about the Ugly Betty cast (even in the show Oritz's Newyourican take on Hilda seems at times out of step with the rest of the family).

Finalmente, I confess to being guilty of thinking about the primacy of "la familia" in the Spanish-speaking community/communities. Thanks for the correction. Next time I catch myself doing that I'll think about how 'super-religious and tied to the church' us black folks are!

Blabbeando said...

Hey Reggie. Well, as I said, the 'la familia' thingie is perhaps my personal pet peeve.

And I wouldn't be as harsh about the "No on Prop. 8" leaders. I do know that they have tried, they really have (working with Bienestar and other Latino leaders in California, for example).

But when there was so much fretting about how the minority vote might push Prop. 8 forward it IS disappointing that the media strategy on this ad came so late and only as a last minute "revamp" of the campaign.