About 30 minutes into Sausage Party, I felt the urge to walk out the theater. It wasn’t because of the raunchiness. I was wholly prepared for that after watching the red band trailer. No, it was the rigid stereotypes of people of color that irritated me.
I started to feel a certain way when I saw the skittish Jewish bagel scurry across the screen. Then it continued with the angry box of grits, clearly voiced by a black actor (Craig Morrison), who smoked weed and hated crackers. Seeing this made me feel uncomfortable, but I wanted to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt.
As the film continued, I mentally ran through the list of voice actors whom I knew starred in it. Surely, they were people of color who played characters who didn’t perpetuate racial stereotypes, I thought. There had to be.
I was wrong.
The moment I wanted to walk out came when the protagonist entered a Western-style tavern filled with Mexican characters. Each of these characters had a thick Spanish accent and many had thick accents and were drunk and ignorant. This again. Really? I’m having flashbacks of Speedy Gonzalez. This was especially upsetting because this is the go-to image of Mexicans and Latinos. Rarely do we see Latinos deviate from that in Film. But, we are so much more than this.
After seeing stereotypes of Jews, Arabs, Indians and Asians, stereotypes which those communities have worked decades to combat, I came to the conclusion that Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill were like high school class clowns, simply having fun at our expense. I could simply leave it at that, but the infuriating part is how frequently this happens. When can I get a Mexican American character who is dealing with the psychological effects of a gender transition? Or what about a black American who struggles to maintain her identity against early onset Alzheimer’s? Characters with nuance. White actors have won Academy Awards for such roles. Can we at least get the chance to play them?
I recognize it’s a little unfair to levy so much criticism against one film for portraying stereotypes of people of color. After all, Hollywood has been doing it for almost a century now. What’s one more film, right? It would be a different story if people of color were represented across a variety of roles in Film. Then, I might laugh at Sausage Party along with White audiences. The problem is when the stereotype is the only lens through which they view us.
The problem will persist until Hollywood actually sees it as one. #OscarsSoWhite proves that we are growing tired of the situation. Know, Hollywood, that we people of color do not simply exist for your amusement. If you’re going to pull us in your media, then we should be afforded the same level of nuance and diversity of roles as our White peers. Thankfully, things are changing. Slowly, but still changing. For example, directors like Ryan Coogler and actors like Zoe Saldana Jane provide a glimmer of hope of better representation, but Film still has some serious catching up to do.