Latinos Get No Respect on Vanity Fair's Hollywood Cover

By Tony Castro, Voxxi

Johnny Depp, Ethan Hawke, Al Pacino, Viggo Mortensen, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and among the older generation of Hollywood actors Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach, Charlton Heston and many more.

What do they have in common besides their thespian professions?

They all were fake Latinos in films in Hollywood's well-known history of rarely casting Hispanic actors in major roles, the most recent film being the Oscar-winning Oscar where Ben Affleck cast himself as the heroic Latino CIA operative who helped free American captives during the Iran hostage crisis.

Could that somehow have been Latino karma payback in Affleck being snubbed for a best director Oscar nomination?

It's Oscar time again, and the issue of Latinos sometimes not having even a token place in Hollywood is alive and well. You need to look no further than the 20th annual Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

Of the eight actors on the cover and inside cover, five are black, three white. On the extended inside cover, there is a black actor and three white actresses.

Not even poor Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, Oscar nominated for "Gravity," could crack the Vanity Fair cover, and you have to figure he's as recognizable as some of those actors on the front whom I can't even name, much less care about seeing their own ethnocentric films, which brings us back to Latinos and why they can't seem to get much respect in Tinseltown.

Vanity Fair could easily have passed on having Chadwick Boseman of "42" in the cover photo since he isn't a nominee, and substituted Cuarón. Or, better still the magazine could have used either Javier Bardem or Penélope Cruz – or both — from Ridley Scott's "The Counselor," one of the most anticipated films of the year, or Jessica Alba from Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

As Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of the online industry daily The Wrap, so eloquently put it:

"Let's talk about Hispanics. Let's talk about Asians. They're nowhere to be found in this Academy Awards season, and so I think there's a lot of work we have to do in this filmmaking culture to include not just the African-American experience but their experiences, and that's going to take time."

Some are suggesting that Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, nominated as best supporting actress for her role in "12 Years a Slave," is Latina because she was born in Mexico City.

But both her parents are Kenyan, and she was born in Mexico because at the time of her birth, her father was a visiting lecturer in political science at El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City.

Does that make her Latina?

Nyong'o moved back to Kenya with her parents when she was not even a year old, though she did return to Mexico for seven months as a teenager to study Spanish.

The problem, of course, goes beyond the cover of Vanity Fair and is deeply rooted in how Hollywood — the major players at the big agencies and the top casting agencies and production companies – see Hispanics.

Actor Esai Morales says Hollywood's patronizing formula for Latino actors includes what he calls the "four H's of Hollywood" that he believes is the reason why Hispanics rarely are cast as heroes or get leading roles.

"Latinos are either cast as either the overly hormonal ('Oh mamacita, I have to have you!'), overly hysterical ('Lucy!'), overly hostile ('I'll cut you sucka!'), or overly humble ('We are a poor people')," Morales told CNN in a recent interview.

For the stereotype cycle in Hollywood to be broken, some believe, something unusual needs to happen, such as major power players like director Steven Spielberg telling stories of the Latino experience similar to films about the Jewish experience in the Holocaust.

Morales hopes something like that has already started happening.

He plays the president of the United States in an upcoming HBO pilot, although didn't Martin Sheen portray the president years ago in the TV series "The West Wing"? We saw what that did for other Latino actors.

"It's up to us (Latino actors) now," says Morales. "There are a lot more Latino characters on TV now. The key is to not let it just be a 'Latino wave,' and to be undeniably good."

Or Carlos Slim could just buy a chunk of Hollywood. Or, for that matter, Vanity Fair.