Depiction of Latinos in 20th Century Film
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Over the course of this past century, the depictions of assimilated Latino characters has improved a great deal. Early portrayals of Latino assimilation generally proved to be a montage of unrealistic caricatures which seemed to convey the filmmaker's creativity more so than true representations. This formed the manner in which the American people at large viewed not just Latino characters attempting to assimilate, but also those who were not. As Cine-Aztlan puts it, film "manipulates the human psychology, sociology, religion, and morality of the people, in a word the ideological super-structure of modern capitalist society" (pg.275, Chicanos and Film). As the years went by however, mainly because Latinos started gaining power in the film industry and depicting (as opposed to creating) Latino characters, the images of Latinos who were adapting (either by choice or by societal force) to the lifestyle and values of the United States, grew more and more representative of what was actually taking place outside of the film studios. Today, most portrayals of assimilated Latinos are fairly accurate. The forces to which their modification is portrayed are not so much representative of middle-class White America however, but rather that of Urban Hip-Hop culture.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram. 1921) provides us with an inaccurate portrayal of an assimilated Latino character. First and foremost, it is important to note that Julio Desnoyers (the Latino character in question) is played by Rudolph Valentino, a non-Latino. This in itself makes him seem "un-Latino" to the Hispanic audience. Also, Julio represented the prototypical Latin Lover during the film?s early stages. As the film progresses however, he begins to assimilate more and more into the European (which in the movie is a metaphor for American) culture, he loses the social strength and romantic perseverance that won over Marguarite?s heart in the first place. He allows his lover to go back to her ex-husband and decides to go fight in the remainder of the war. Essentially he is choosing his duty to the country over his commitment to his relationship with his girl. This clearly illustrates what may have been considered as one of the differences between two male cultures. The Latin Lover Julio was smooth enough to get the girl and stay with her despite the war, while the Americanized Julio regretfully left his girl behind and went to battle. The Latin Lover stereotype was perhaps used in this film to convey an unspoken Anglo wish to serve one's woman over one's country (as opposed to the opposite scenario, which was common during the WWI years). The fact remains however, that Julio?s assimilation occurred much too quickly and many would argue that it was unwarranted. The Latino viewer would more than likely reason that one woman is not worth leaving one?s entire culture behind. Valentino?s character was...