Kid’s films are adorable and innocent as they can be and I have selected one of the most cutes yet despicable films that has a poor choice of Latino representation. My choice includes the 2013 Despicable Me 2 film that is a sequel to the original Despicable Me (2010) film by produced Pierre Coffin. Despicable Me 2 mostly follows a storyline where you find a protagonist and an antagonist, or as most commonly known as good and evil. Despicable Me 2 (2010) is a children’s 3D animated comedy film. Despicable Me 2 tells the story of a retired villain (Gru) who chooses fatherhood over villainy and becomes a spy while keeping a close eye on her oldest daughter (Margo), who is now a teenager that is attracted to boys. After seeing Despicable Me 2 for the 20th thousand times, since it’s my now 11-year old daughter’s favorite film, I have observed how males are illustrated in negative stereotypes. Despicable Me 2 displays two negative stereotypes; one is the macho look and the other is the greaser bandido. The word bandido comes from the Spanish word banded, the look is usually portrayed as a dirty, unshaven, missing teeth and greasy hair. (Peraza)
In detailed, Despicable Me 2 identifies the Macho and bandido character to be Mexican. This Macho, bandido character is introduced as a villain by the name of Eduardo Perez, who is the owner of Salsa y Salsa Restaurant. As if the name of Eduardo wasn’t enough of an indication of the character being Latino, the Mexican flag is tattooed on Eduardo’s chest who is identified as having a hidden identity where he was a thief. Eduardo is introduced in his 1st scene with a thick black mustache, speaking Spanish with a deep godfather-like voice, heavy accent, wearing a ruby red open button shirt, exposing his hairy chest and flashing his thick gold chain as drug dealers are usually represented in action, profanity, drug-related films. Besides Eduardo’s thuggish looks he is given flirtatious and sexual characteristics, that he uses tours Lucy when he dances and rips open his collar red shirt to show her an example of the Mexican flag, he wishes to have on his order of cupcakes that he needs for his 5 de Mayo celebration at his restaurant. Because of Eduardo’s sex appeal, Lucy, Gru’s spy partner who Gru is also attracted to, becomes interested and Gru becomes threatened. Since being macho has been given a flamboyant and sexual negative characterization, this film should be deemed as inappropriate for children due to its poor representation of adult behavior. Because of their young age, children are unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction which results in a false representation of Mexican masculinity. Children are not able to distinguish the many countries where Spanish is spoken, therefore they identify it as being from Mexico.
Despicable Me 2 does a good job of showing the appearance of a Latino in the most stereotypical ways. Another stereotype displayed in this film is the Latin Lover complexion. The Latin lover qualities were first introduced to Hollywood films in the 1920s by the character of Rudolph Valentino. Although Rudolph Valentino is an Italian actor, the Latin Lover identity has been assigned to Latinos by the dominant Anglo film industry. Despicable Me 2, not only accounts Eduardo as a Latin Lover but also includes his teenage son David who tries to seduce Margo, Gru’s teenage daughter, in this same category. Not the less, David’s Latin lover flavor is in a subtle and romantic way opposite of his father’s, Eduardo, it leads to being interpreted as all Mexican males being the same. Since both father and son are being exposed as sex symbols, both are given an equal depiction of a ladies man that contributes to having sneaky and dishonest traits.
Even though Despicable Me 2 was a box office hit, 2nd to the Disney film Frozen (2013), it can be said to be used as a strategy for the growing Latino population. However, this box office hit provides Mexican a false representation of negative stereotypes that can be view as false identities to the Latino overall culture. In Chicanos studies, some researchers have examined “identify” as a function of the individual’s identification with the culture/ethnic group, the assumption being that the are characteristics that make the group (Chicanos) distinct from other groups (i.e., Anglos, Asians, or blacks) in the United States. (Fregoso 27). Therefore, as Latino parents, we should demand that the Latino identity should not be advertised to children or anyone else as a negative and false representation in the Hollywood industry.
Fregoso, Rosa. The Bronze Screen: Chicana and Chicano Film Culture. University of Minnesota Press. 1993, paperback.
Peraza, Matt. “Latinos Portraited in Disney Movies.” Looking in The Popular Culture Mirror (2015).