Wednesday Is Not Your Typical Latina Protagonist

Netflix’s “Wednesday” isn’t the standard Latina illustration we’re used to seeing. Assistant professor of Media Research on the College of South Florida’s Division of Communication Diana Leon-Boys, PhD, says we have develop into accustomed to the “can-do Latina” woman. From reveals like “The Increasing Universe of Ashley Garcia” to Marvel’s “Runaways,” this Latina can do something she units her thoughts to because of her constructive angle. She’s a plucky go-getter, a pleaser, and if she faces any systemic boundaries, they don’t seem to be described and positively not ascribed to sexism or racism.

“She will do all of it and she will be able to raise herself up by her bootstraps, which might develop into 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 sort emerge within the final decade or so, crediting the extra empowered method to portraying Latina ladies. However she’s nonetheless not glad, telling, “It is nonetheless very repetitive, it is nonetheless very comparable, 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 secure.”

Dr. Leon-Boys recounts an train she does together 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 no such thing as a 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 usually. Wednesday is far more curious about loss of life. Dr. Leon-Boys sees this as a constructive factor.

“I do not need to say I am a darkish individual, however I’d align extra with, I do not need to say ‘pessimistic,’ however extra sensible factors of views and mentalities and ideas and concepts and conversations about loss of life. That I do not suppose you actually see rather a lot via the determine of a lady on tv, significantly via a Latina woman,” she says.

Nobody goes to name Wednesday “plucky,” and that is an excellent factor. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez, PhD, affiliate professor of English at LaGuardia Neighborhood Faculty-CUNY, agrees. They are saying that the pleaser or can-do character units up the story so the “ethical lesson is you must respect your dad and mom. It’s a must to respect no matter authorities is in there . . . And so, the people-pleaser characters are at all times those which can be about the established order.”

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

“There’s nonetheless loads of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That’s nonetheless one of many stereotypes of Latinas.”

Wearing all black and “allergic to paint,” Wednesday breaks these molds in additional methods than one. “There’s nonetheless loads of hypersexualization of younger Latinas and Latina ladies in 2022 within the media. That’s nonetheless one of many stereotypes of Latinas,” says Dr. Rodriguez. However fortunately, Wednesday escapes that destiny and would not find yourself on the virgin/asexual aspect both. As an alternative, she finds herself on the level of a love triangle, under no circumstances a sexual object, and actually buttoned as much as her neck.

It is refreshing to see a Latina with a unique look. Wednesday isn’t seen in something near a bodycon costume or a brief skirt. As an alternative, she’s the unique goth, largely 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 lately advised about her punk character on the lately renewed “This Idiot.” And it is true: in actual life, Latinas rock the entire vary of types 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 transferring ahead that we’ll see a extra different illustration of Latinas on display screen, because of the progress she sees in young-adult literature. “[In YA] the representations of Latinas are so huge, occupied with all these totally different experiences that younger Latinos [have] within the US. What I admire in regards to the current illustration is that there isn’t a shaming,” they are saying. “You need to be shy and quiet and a household individual? That is nice, do this — we’re rooting for you. You need to be a little bit bit extra rebellious? You need to not be a part of the normal household dynamic? That is nice, too.”

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

“Wednesday” would not draw back from exploring household dynamics even because it bucks different tropes of Latinx illustration. “The mother-daughter relationship is a really massive trope. How do you determine, like, how do you discover your individuality and your personhood? It is at all times in distinction to the dad and mom. 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 towards her mom earlier than coming to know herself higher.

Certainly, Wednesday exists inside the confines of her well-known household. This can be her story, the place she goes off on an journey of her personal, however she’s firmly rooted in her Addams-ness, because of Factor’s companionship and cameos from the remainder of her family members. Dr. Rodriguez sees this dynamic rather a lot in Latinx literature. “How do you keep inside your group and your loved ones but additionally nonetheless study your self by increasing and going outdoors? It is this actually massive pressure [and] there’s undoubtedly no line on how one can get it proper. However [it] additionally looks like a really common young-adult expertise.” For Latinx communities, the strain is heightened, as a result of we’re additionally pressured to acculturate to the dominant US ideology that places people above households. Fortunately, 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 — every part. However once we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they can not do every part that we presumably need them to.”

That collectivism is actually a part of Wednesday’s story within the new present. She could also be outdoors of her dad and mom’ dwelling, however she’s at their alma mater and, if something, studying extra about her household and their historical past. It is a good strategy to nod to Wednesday’s Latinidad with out dipping into the overplayed parts that the media too typically depends on. “We need to be portrayed as vets, as bakers, as artists, as painters, as activists, as firefighters — every part,” Dr. Leon-Boys says. “However once we solely have, like, six, seven, or eight, versus 90 plus [shows], they can not do every part 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 is a glass of water on this metaphor, not a deep spring, but it surely’s one thing.

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