- Latino film professionals told Insider they welcome Indigenous representation through the character of Namor.
- While Latinos buy nearly a quarter of movie tickets nationwide, only 5.4% of Hollywood lead roles and 5.7% of all screen roles are held by Latinx actors.
- Proponents hope this film will signal to major studios that the Latinx community is worth investing in.
When Brenda Castillo sees “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in theaters, she will feel a sense of pride. As an Indigenous Latina, she said Namor, an Indigenous Latino superhero in the film, was the type of portrayal she dreamed of as a child.
Namor McKenzie, an anti-hero character played by Tenoch Huerta in the upcoming Black Panther movie, originated in the 1939 Marvel comics. One of Namor’s rivals is T’challa, the name of Black Panther. And while Namor is presented as white in the original comics, Marvel chose to transform his character for the film.
“I understand that Marvel made sure the people involved as advisers were Native. They did their homework,” Castillo, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Insider.
Latino professionals working in film told Insider that Namor’s character, along with Warner Brothers’ Blue Beetle, slated for release in 2023, show that major Hollywood studios are finally listening to their community. When the first Black Panther movie was released in 2018, 65% of moviegoers were non-white, according to comscore.
Overall, Latinos buy nearly a quarter of movie tickets nationwide but account for only 5.4% of starring roles and 5.7% of all screen roles. Fans hope this film will bring a level of cohesion to all parts of the black and brown community and signal to major studios that their community is worth investing in.
“I don’t think the studio system, the entertainment industry and the media know the effect it has on humanity and the world when people aren’t properly represented,” said Maylen Calienes, founder of the Latino Filmmakers Network, to Insider. “I have conversations from time to time with leaders, and thinking positively, I hope they open their hearts and their minds to really consider these things, and on the Latino side of things, I really hope that we we unite more as a community, and we fight more as a collective.”
A trend of cancellations
In September, Warner Brothers announced that its highly anticipated superhero film, Batgirl, starring Afro-Latin actress Leslie Grace Martinez, had been cancelled. After Discovery merged with Warner Bros. earlier this year, the $90 million budget film, which had wrapped filming, was dismissed as a write-off.
This upset many Latinos in the entertainment industry, Castillo and Calienes said.
“We had this opportunity that we were all looking for and then it was shut down. What has happened consistently with our community is that something happens and something might be successful, but then nothing. [happens] after that,” Calienes said.
Castillo and Calienes said this isn’t the first time a major studio has canceled a movie featuring a Latinx actor.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Calienes said.
Strengthen the bonds between the black and brown community
After the recent Los Angeles City Council scandal — where Nury Martinez, the former city council president, was surprised by a recorded phone call making racist comments about native and black communities — Castillo said she hopes this film can serve as a bridge to rebuild relationships and trust between black and brown communities in Los Angeles.
NHMC held a special screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” for students at a local Native school. She is sure that as a native Latina woman herself, many students will identify with Namor on the big screen.
Castillo and Calienes said that as children they watched many black sitcoms longing for their community to be portrayed in the same way. Now that they are professionals in the entertainment industry, they have seen the black community come together to push for representation and simultaneously bring cultural figures from their community like Namor, to the big screen.
“Black and brown communities go hand in hand, pulling one up and the other pulling the other, you know. I think that’s progress. I think that’s going to change everything,” said said Cruz Castillo, head of external relations and digital media at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Insider
They are confident with the success of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the box office, the major studios will see how much their community will spend to see these types of films and will want to invest in more representation of their community.
“Our community tends to go to the movies as a family, we don’t go as singles or twos. We go in droves. And I think families will go together,” Brenda Castillo said. “So the impact that will have on kids, you know, once they get into a character, they want that character’s bedspread, lunchbox, costume for Halloween, so I think it will be explosive and big profits will be made.”
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