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Wednesday Is Not Your Typical Latina Protagonist

Netflix’s “Wednesday” will not be the everyday Latina illustration we’re used to seeing. Assistant professor of Media Studies on the University of South Florida’s Department of Communication Diana Leon-Boys, PhD, says we have grow to be accustomed to the “can-do Latina” woman. From reveals like “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” to Marvel’s “Runaways,” this Latina can do something she units her thoughts to due to her optimistic angle. She’s a plucky go-getter, a pleaser, and if she faces any systemic boundaries, they aren’t described and positively not ascribed to sexism or racism.

“She can do all of it and she will be able to elevate herself up by her bootstraps, which may grow to be dangerous and problematic,” Dr. Leon-Boys, who wrote “Elena, Princesa of the Periphery: Disney’s Flexible Latina Girl,” says of the can-do Latina archetype. She’s grateful to see this new kind emerge within the final decade or so, crediting the extra empowered method to portraying Latina women. But she’s nonetheless not happy, telling POPSUGAR, “It’s nonetheless very repetitive, it is nonetheless very related, 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 protected.”

Dr. Leon-Boys recounts an train she does along with her college students during which she asks them to call Latinx reveals 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 is not 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 attire or celebrating birthdays basically. Wednesday is way more fascinated about loss of life. Dr. Leon-Boys sees this as a optimistic factor.

“I do not need to say I’m a darkish individual, however I might align extra with, I do not need to say ‘pessimistic,’ however extra practical factors of views and mentalities and ideas and concepts and conversations about loss of life. That I do not suppose you actually see so much by the determine of a lady on tv, significantly by a Latina woman,” she says.

No one goes to name Wednesday “plucky,” and that is a great factor. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD, affiliate professor of English at LaGuardia Community College-CUNY, agrees. They say 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 must respect no matter authorities is in there . . . And so, the people-pleaser characters are at all times those which are about the established order.”

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

“There’s nonetheless a variety of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That remains to be one of many stereotypes of Latinas.”

Dressed in all black and “allergic to paint,” Wednesday breaks these molds in additional methods than one. “There’s nonetheless a variety of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That remains to be one of many stereotypes of Latinas,” says Dr. Rodriguez. But fortunately, Wednesday escapes that destiny and does not find yourself on the virgin/asexual facet both. Instead, she finds herself on the level of a love triangle, on no account a sexual object, and actually buttoned as much as her neck.

It’s refreshing to see a Latina with a unique look. Wednesday is rarely seen in something near a bodycon costume or a brief skirt. Instead, she’s the unique goth, principally in black and at all times with a gothic vibe. “I really feel like we by no means see goth rocker Latinas on TV,” actress Michelle Ortiz recently told POPSUGAR about her punk character on the lately renewed “This Fool.” And it is true: in actual life, Latinas rock the entire vary of kinds and identities, however we’re nonetheless vastly underrepresented in terms of 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 will see a extra assorted illustration of Latinas on display, due to the progress she sees in young-adult literature. “[In YA] the representations of Latinas are so huge, serious about all these totally different experiences that younger Latinos [have] within the US. What I admire concerning the current illustration is that there isn’t any shaming,” they are saying. “You need to be shy and quiet and a household individual? That’s nice, do this — we’re rooting for you. You need to be a bit of bit extra rebellious? You need to not be a part of the standard household dynamic? That’s nice, too.”

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

“Wednesday” does not draw back from exploring household dynamics even because it bucks different tropes of Latinx illustration. “The mother-daughter relationship is a really huge trope. How do you determine, like, how do you discover your individuality and your personhood? It’s at all times in distinction to the mother and father. For Latinas, it is at all times 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.

Indeed, Wednesday exists inside the confines of her well-known household. This could also be her story, the place she goes off on an journey of her personal, however she’s firmly rooted in her Addams-ness, due to Thing’s companionship and cameos from the remainder of her kin. Dr. Rodriguez sees this dynamic so much in Latinx literature. “How do you keep inside your neighborhood and your loved ones but in addition nonetheless study your self by increasing and going exterior? It’s this actually huge pressure [and] there’s positively no line on learn how to get it proper. But [it] additionally appears like a really normal 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. Thankfully, 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 — all the pieces. But after we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they cannot do all the pieces that we presumably need them to.”

That collectivism is actually a part of Wednesday’s story within the new present. She could also be exterior of her mother and father’ residence, however she’s at their alma mater and, if something, studying extra about her household and their historical past. It’s a pleasant strategy to nod to Wednesday’s Latinidad with out dipping into the overplayed components that the media too usually depends on. “We need to be portrayed as vets, as bakers, as artists, as painters, as activists, as firefighters — all the pieces,” Dr. Leon-Boys says. “But after we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they cannot do all the pieces that we presumably 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’s a glass of water on this metaphor, not a deep spring, nevertheless it’s one thing.

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