Politics & Policy

Saturday Night Live Strikes Out With Latina Butterfly McQueen

Brownface is bueno for politically correct TV dinosaur.

Saturday Night Live, a comedy institution so inclusive it recently had to hold a special emergency audition to hire a black woman, is offending Latinos by featuring a grotesque caricature.

In a sketch from Saturday’s episode that was apparently designed to promote Planned Parenthood,  a group of Anglo ladies hold a jewelry party along with a Venezuelan immigrant named “Marisol” and her white boyfriend.

#ad#The Marisol character is a stage Hispanic straight out of an ancient-stereotypes playbook. She wears, for no apparent reason, a strappy floral dress with a huge red flower in her ear (why? is she about to bless us with an impromptu flamenco dance?). Her accent is as ridiculously heavy as the Japanese accent of Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed Mr. Yunioshi and harder to understand than the stage-Hindi stylings of Peter Sellers’ Hrundi V. Bakshi.

Apparently this doesn’t matter because, of course, Latin accents are hilarious! (Unfortunately, Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Player Cecily Strong produced an accent sounding more Greek than Spanish.) Recalling how she and the awkward boyfriend met, Marisol explains that he saw her online and brought her over — the Latina mail-order bride being a familiar social type, according to SNL.

This helps sell the main idea of the sketch: Marisol is dumb, and her slow awakening to her boyfriend’s chauvinism is where the laffs are supposed to come from. But mostly, Marisol is just . . . dumb. When the awkward boyfriend explains he is a male-rights activist, Marisol proudly notes he has shut down two Planned Parenthood clinics. Get it? This chica is so innocent in our sophisticated land that she doesn’t even understand all the great work Planned Parenthood does! Lucky for Marisol – and maybe for some of her dingbat sisters under the skin here in the U.S.A. – Girls creator Lena Dunham is on hand to explain in slow and plain English that the abortion provider is “a place where women can go for low-cost medical advice and care.”

The sketch died, but not before getting plenty of rotten eggs.

“By chance did you watch the SNL episode tonight?” a reader wrote to LatinoRebels.com. “Is it just me or did the Latina in the jewelry sketch come across as a politically ignorant sexpot? She was surrounded by a group of white women talking down to her bc she was sooo oblivious to her misogynistic boyfriend . . . I’m ashamed that we’re being portrayed like this.”

Latina Magazine also condemned the skit:

In the skit, Cecily Strong, who is NOT Latina, plays into the worst kind of stereotypes as a ditzy, ignorant Venezuelan woman with an over-the-top accent and enormous red flower in her hair.  Her boyfriend is a ‘mens rights activist’, and she seems blissfully unaware of his completely mysoginistic [sic] attitude. Then, she dumps him not because he’s a terrible person, but because she hates his body (she misses those muscular men who can pick her up!) and his apartment. I’m sorry…but what? 

Latina Magazine also noted that, for years, folks have petitioned SNL to hire a Latino cast member. Those requests have fallen on deaf ears.

The current SNL lineup, which is already bloated with no fewer than 18 cast members, features not a single Latino. This, despite the fact that nearly 20 percent of the American population is Latino. There are no Asian Americans on the show’s cast, either.

While good-natured employment of some stereotypes is certainly acceptable, one wonders why SNL eschews some but embraces others. NBC has made a long national nightmare out of its efforts to increase the number of black SNL cast members and sends out press releases when it hires African American writers. Meanwhile, folks at Studio H seems to think a malicious, dated portrayal of a Latina as a head-case sexpot is fall-down funny.

Saturday Night Live is famous for supplanting Sarah Palin’s (accurate) claim that you can see Russia from parts of her home state with Tina Fey’s more memorable sneer, “I can see Russia from my house!” Many Americans watched the show Saturday and declared, “I can see a bigot from my couch.”

 A. J. Delgado is a conservative writer and lawyer.

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