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Latinxs’ Image in the “Dynasty” TV Show

Introduction

Entertainment serves as a reflection of many societal changes and trends. The audience seeks not only entertainment but a genuine, accurate representation of real life. However, for decades, movies have been misrepresenting some marginalized groups of people and favoring others. A significant part of the demographic that is mainly stereotyped on screen is the Latinx population. Contrary to the typical pattern of ethnocentrism, however, some new examples of on-screen entertainment prove that Latinx representation can be accurate, fair, and stereotype-free. This paper will examine the Latinxs image in the TV show “Dynasty.”

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Cultural and Historical Stereotyping

First, to interpret the stereotyping correctly, it is essential to understand why these instances of discrimination take place. According to Berg (2002), for a stereotype to continually occur throughout cinema, three aspects are needed: “the categorization of people,” ethnocentrism, and the prejudice (p. 15). As for categorization, the Latino population has been labeled as “Other” due to its cultural differences, marking it as the secondary one, dominated by the primary White American culture. This dominance of a specific religion, ethnicity, gender, and class has been identified as hegemonic ethnocentrism (Berg, 2002). In most of the media, ethnocentrism places the White American protagonist in the center of the narrative, often portraying Latinx characters as servants, villains, fugitives, etc. due to the historical and cultural generalization. These subversive biases are partially challenged in the “Dynasty” by two Latino characters. While Latino Sammy Jo is hypersexualized, he is also representative of the LGBTQ+ community. Latina protagonist Crystal is characterized as a reliable and independent professional, yet she also has stereotypical ties with criminal activity. Therefore, the show both reinforces and opposes the hegemony of the modern media.

Framing, Mise-en-Scene, and Camera Movement

Analyzing the framing, mise-en-scene, and camera movement in the Salsa Dance scene from the “Dynasty” can uncover some stereotyping or its absence. Firstly, the central framing of the character in the shot, as Berg (2002) suggested, indicates the importance of the role in the narrative (p. 43). Although most movies portray the male, White, or Christian hero with a stereotyped sidekick, the framing in “Dynasty” places the marginalized characters in the center (Figure 1). Mis-en-scene, however, exhibits hegemonic community: the setting showcases the typical wealthy American house during Christmas. Culturally essential items like the Christmas tree, the candles, and the presents are prominent in the mise-en-scene, framing Latino heroes in a foreign, yet dominant for the show culture. Lastly, the camera movement displays the ethnocentric nature of the narrative. White Americans always surround both Latinx characters, and their presence in the shot is significantly more prominent by radiating “importance, power, and control” (Berg, 2002, p. 46). As seen in Figure 1, two Latino characters are encircled by the opposing forces of other culture, and that camera movement signifies their position as “Others.”

 The Salsa Dancing scene start (Beesley, 2017).
Figure 1. The Salsa Dancing scene start (Beesley, 2017).

Camera Angle, Music, Costuming, Makeup, Scripting, and Lighting

Other elements of the production also have the ability to hint at how well the show challenges or supports subversive stereotyping. Camera angle gives importance to the character, and in this case, the central role is given to the Latina, while also highlighting the ethnocentric pressure from the dominant White male in the foreground (Berg, 2002, p. 46; Figure 2). The makeup and lighting do not necessarily emphasize ethnicity; scripting, on the other hand, features challenging the hegemony of the scene. As Berg (2002) stated, “Others” lack the intelligent and witty lines to highlight the superiority of the protagonists. While this is true for other movies, it is not the case in “Dynasty.” The primary line that sets the scene in motion comes from a Latino person, and he expresses his disapproval of the ethnocentrism of the household, “They really put the “white” in white Christmas” (Beesley, 2017, 36:45). Costuming and music reflect show’s endeavor of highlighting the differences of the Latino culture. Both wear unusual clothes that remind of the traditional ones, and the music changes from the muted classical to the loud, lively, and authentic one.

 The Salsa Dancing scene finale (Beesley, 2017).
Figure 2. The Salsa Dancing scene finale (Beesley, 2017).

Reflection

When thinking about the representation of the Latinxs in media and entertainment, it is safe to assume that there is a lack of appropriate and accurate portrayal of the marginalized group of people. While some characters make it on screen, barely any Latinas perform in the leading role. Even when depicting a supporting role, numerous destructive stereotypes are present. However, after analyzing the case of “Dynasty” and its attempt to reinvent Latino personality, the connotation, or emotional response, of Latinxs’ on-screen image changes. According to the Dance scene, some shows try to create a positive perception of the Latinx population and give them more positive connotation in media, yet they end up reinforcing the “Other” stereotype. While the majority of the portrayal is positive and tries to highlight the cultural significance of the Latino stereotypes, it still sends similar messages of cultural individuality and distance in the vacuum of White-dominant hegemony. In the attempts to emphasize authenticity, the show depicts common pitfalls like relations to criminal activities and the hypersexuality of the Latino characters.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Latino representation in modern cinema is changing; however, that change should be carefully coordinated. Some movies and TV shows like “Dynasty” attempt to change the hegemony of ethnocentrism and subversive stereotypes connected to Latinxs. While they excel in some areas of representation like scripting, they still portray some fundamental stereotyping by giving a connotative meaning of a drastically different, distant, and misplaced culture. Although these changes in perception might be successful, they do not necessarily lead to an accurate depiction of Latinxs on screen, leaving them socially misrepresented.

References

  1. Beesley, M. E. (Writer & Director). (2017). Private as a Circus (Season 1, Episode 4) [TV series episode]. In Shapiro, R. & Savage, S. (Executive Producers), Dynasty. Fake Empire Productions; Richard and Esther Shapiro Productions; Rabbit Ears, Inc.; CBS Television Studios.
  2. Berg, C. R. (2002). Latino images in film. University of Texas Press.

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StudyCorgi. "Latinxs’ Image in the “Dynasty” TV Show." April 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/latinxs-image-in-the-dynasty-tv-show/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Latinxs’ Image in the “Dynasty” TV Show." April 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/latinxs-image-in-the-dynasty-tv-show/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Latinxs’ Image in the “Dynasty” TV Show'. 10 April.

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