How to be a Latin Lover: in Review

How to be a Latin Lover seemed promising: Derbez was the protagonist and the premise seemed to have room for growth, but then precisely because of the premise the movie did not live up to what Derbez had previously made. Derbez playing a sort of emasculated man with very little regard for anyone, rather than work, finds old women and allows himself to be fetishized, exchanging his body directly for material possessions that very easily fall away. Perhaps I needed a movie where the main character realizes that happiness is not money, or at least that his self-worth is more important than having the sugar mommies that take advantage of him sexually. But alas this movie did not have that sort of plot and instead failed in so many ways selling the image of the lazy immigrant, the spicy Latino who projects his machismo onto his nephew. It seemed like a caricature of the Latino immigrant identity at best, in many ways reminiscent of problematic shows like Modern Family and Fresh Off the Boat. Being extremely white-washed and made for white consumption the movie hardly addressed the systematic obstacles in the way of Latino immigrant progress. Salma Hayek playing a hardworking single mom is only one step away from progress, pulling herself up from her boot straps. Yet again, with this trope the movie pushed the conversation away from the reality of racism, capitalism, and sexism and sympathized with the general issue of work progress versus experience: the neoliberal issue of the age. To an extent in the deep background there were clear moments of microaggressions but these were too subtle to be noticed by anyone except people of color who have probably experienced them at some point. The specific moments of culture mockery attempted to blur the image of the Latino as one that is culturally different but still the same: “whites we are not dangerous, our stereotype instead is really funny”. I wonder actually why the Spanish language was used at vulgar moments and the English was saved for serious conversations almost implying the purity of one culture over the other. I did not like this movie although it did have some moments that I really connected to and loved. One specific moment that I loved was the point where Salma and Derbez are singing together and dancing as a way to let go of sadness, but in the corner comes the very respectable and white-acting 10 year old boy (Salma’s screen son) to inform them that they are acting irresponsibly and should go to sleep. I resonated so deeply with this scene because at times when the white-dominated world becomes too engulfing I play the music of my childhood almost as though the apathy of the world can be hushed down with the rhythmic che-che-che of the music. The child of course was made to be white acting and even white passing to ensure that he can fit into the prep school that will ensure his progress into middle-class status; his identity is blurred into the sort of nerd trope as a way to show that it is the culture of dancing and singing that is vulgar, not the forgetting of roots. I have to stop here and think back to the sort of Enlightenment premise of cosmopolitanism. The way that cosmopolitanism is framed, as the white man feeling at home anywhere, already implies that the European tradition and language are preferred, whiteness being the standard through which cosmopolitanism is actualized. Is cosmopolitanism something that delegitimizes my sadness for the culture which I left behind but am nostalgic about? Back to Latin Lover though:  there was hardly any real critique about having to leave a nation-state behind and accept a new culture as one’s own: immigrants can feel at home anywhere as long as they accept and internalize the new culture. No real critique about capitalism was made anywhere in the movie: the movie almost works in a world that does not recognize how it functions. Now here I know you may say: Laura this was a romantic comedy, what did you expect? But I expected a bit more than ableist mockery, the spicy Latino stereotype, the emasculated irresponsible man, and the acceptance of whiteness as fact. How to be a Latino Lover accepted the American identity as white and made Latinx identity a stranger that had to excuse itself and move closer to whiteness; After all: ” White is but a metaphor for power” (James Baldwin).

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