I used to love Sofía Vergara. I was proud to call her a fellow Colombian immigrant. I thought she was a positive representation of my country during a time when most Americans seemed to think it was synonymous with cocaine and Pablo Escobar.
I loved that she was beautiful and charming but didn’t take herself too seriously ― a combination that’s made her a darling in the entertainment industry. Her shrewd business sense and ability to juggle numerous endorsement deals, merchandise lines and the Hispanic talent management company, Latin WE have made her the highest paid actress on television for five consecutive years.
Vergara is a self-made businesswoman who has built a profitable and impressive empire. She is well beyond needing to rely on Latina stereotypes for a laugh ― which is why it’s so frustrating to watch her step on screen (or on a revolving Emmy platform) and continually make herself the butt of the joke.
Unfortunately, she did little to change those tendencies at Sunday night’s Golden Globes. While on stage, she made the “mistake” of saying anal instead of annual. She then jokingly corrected herself by saying “anus” before ending the bit she later told Instagram followers she came up with backstage.
Sure, the crowd laughed. Perhaps I would have too if it weren’t for how often she makes her accent the punchline.
A quick search on YouTube of Vergara will surely bring you to a clip of her making a dig at her thick accent. It’s become normal that she and others make fun of the fact that she pronounces things like the name of her favorite football team or Covergirl’s tagline differently.
The habit of using her already hypersexualized figure for laughs is troubling, as well. Vergara, and all Latinas, are more than their bodies or possible sex appeal but her actions on-screen do little to dispel the stereotype. She was willingly objectified during the Emmys in 2014 when she stood on a revolving platform and said her big boobs made her look “like a hooker” at the 2013 SAG awards.
So enough is enough. What Vergara thinks and says of her thick accent and curves is, of course, very much her own business. Yet how she continually portrays it on-screen is problematic for Latinas everywhere.
It wouldn’t matter if Vergara was the only person poking fun at herself, but doing so has given others comedic license to do so as well. And the result is the normalization of laughing at thick accents.
What Vergara thinks and says of her thick accent and curves is, of course, very much her own business. Yet how she continually portrays it on screen is problematic for Latinas everywhere.
Diego Luna very recently proved there is real power in treating accents with respect. When the actor proudly kept his thick accent on the big screen for “Rogue One” he made hundreds of fans, including a Mexican father who became the subject of a viral post, feel represented and proud of their own accents.
I, admittedly, don’t have much of an accent, but I did grow up with a mother who spent decades too ashamed to speak English to others because of hers. My mother fearlessly left her country and family behind to give her two daughters a better life in a country where she knew neither the language nor the culture. She would attend community college courses night after night just to get a better grasp of a language she first began to learn in her late 30s while others never even considered learning a second language in their early 20s.
And it fills me with rage that anyone would think any less of my mother or any other hardworking immigrant in the U.S. based on how they pronounce the word “beach.”
No, Sofia Vergara isn’t in charge of single-handedly eradicating Latina stereotypes on television, but she sure as hell shouldn’t be a part of the problem. And saying things like “I don’t know why people think stereotypes are so terrible” to a trade publication is only setting us back further.
I only hope the actress realizes the damage she’s doing to those who don’t have the privilege of fame to fall back on every time she makes her accent or her curves the butt of any joke.