These week’s readings serve as an inspirational start to the many ramifications contained in the discussion of the effects of representations of race in American television. I found Esposito’s essay especially interesting for she analyses the ways in which representation of Latinos in American television translates personal struggles of identification, and influences the creation of sense of community in the American society.
Besides Ugly Betty, as analyzed by Esposito, another show collaborates to this discussion. Produced by CBS and released by The CW, Jane the Virgin (2014-present) follows the life of a catholic Latina that in her mid-twenties get accidentally pregnant through a mistaken insemination. While Ugly Betty seems to focus on the struggles caused by racial privileges and injustices, Jane the Virgin brings a more positive perspective of the Latino culture in the American society, breaking with stereotypes that usually follow immigrants in popular representations. However, it is still true that both shows fall into the challenges of portraying issues of race, class, gender, and sexually through a comedically narrative, as pointed out by Esposito (526).
While Jane seems to be abstained from experiencing racial prejudice (her world is predominantly Latino), Betty seems to play along with the discourse of meritocracy in support of the American dream, incapable of individually recognize racism and/or gender discrimination. Esposito describes the episode when Betty, woman and Latina, is chosen to an internship over her co-worker, Marc, white, gay, and more prepared for the interview. Marc accuses Betty of being picked over him because she is a “token ethnic girl”. Betty, who had not considered her ethnicity as a determinant factor for her performance in the interview, then starts to question her actual capacity for the job.
In a society structured in competition, the task of questioning your own abilities is intrinsic to almost every personal achievement. When an outsider from the dominant culture accomplishes the same triumph as a privileged “insider”, that person is then conditioned to think their success is only partial. Of course, they are competent, but also it is possible that they might have received extra help from the “quota” factor. Even thought we might not know if it was the actual intent of the show to initiate an underlying reflection of personal achievements for persons included in the “minorities” category, the episode referred by Esposito definitely brings voice to a silent doubt that many of us have.