Monday, December 3, 2012

Ben Affleck's Argo and the White-Washing of the Mexican-American


I have not yet seen the popular film Argo with Ben Affleck but it sounds like a semi-historical thriller that I would enjoy.  However, Moctesuma Esparza, an award winning producer, has a troubling take on the movie. 

Argo is loosely based on a memoir written by Antonio "Tony" Mendez, a CIA operative, who led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The film stars Ben Affleck as Mendez. 

Esparza claims that Argo

"perpetuat[es the] ethnic and racial invisibility of Latinos in Hollywood. Antonio `Tony' Mendez is an American hero of Mexican ancestry whose exploits are dramatized in the movie Argo. . . . The concern I am focusing on here is the director/producer's choice to portray Tony as if he is a white non Latino, so [Affleckl] could play the role. This is classic `brown face' at its worst. There is no reasonable justification for this choice as the film could have been cast otherwise without affecting its commerciality. Not only did a Latino actor not play Tony, who clearly in real life looks like a Chicano, but his ethnicity is stolen from the Latino community at a time when Latinos have been demonized. Our real Latino national heroes if acknowledged would dramatize our patriotism and contribution to the United States. The film actually goes out of its way to obscure Tony Mendez' ethnicity. His name (Mendez) is mentioned only once and the character says he is from New York (Tony was born in Nevada from a mining family with six generations in Nevada and raised in Colorado). Nowhere in the movie does the viewer get that the hero is Mexican American. . . . [The role of Tony Mendez] was an excellent role that would have elevated a Latino actor like Benjamin Bratt or Michael Peña."

Photos Courtesy of Tail Slate

Food for thought.


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