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Lecture 6: To assimilate or not to assimilate?. Professor Daniel Bernardi / Professor Michelle Martinez. In the last lecture…. Stereotypes & Story Six Latino Stereotypes Resistance is Possible Progressive Images Latinos Playing Latinos. Dolores Del Rio. In this lecture….

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Lecture 6 to assimilate or not to assimilate

Lecture 6: To assimilate or not to assimilate?

Professor Daniel Bernardi /

Professor Michelle Martinez

In the last lecture
In the last lecture…

  • Stereotypes & Story

  • Six Latino Stereotypes

  • Resistance is Possible

    • Progressive Images

    • Latinos Playing Latinos

Dolores Del Rio

In this lecture
In this lecture…

  • Genre & the Social Problem Film

  • Bordertown (1933) & Assimilation Narrative

  • Salt of the Earth (1954) & Resistance

You can pause the lecture at any point, click on one of the hyperlinks (text that is underlined) to visit a site or view a clip , and then return to the same point in the lecture when you’re ready.

Remember the six types

Remember The Six Types

El Bandido


Male Buffoon

Female Clown

Latin Lover

Dark Lady

Remember key concepts

Remember Key Concepts

Leo Carrillo in The Cisco Kid (1950)

Denotative Features Change

Connotative Feature Remain Consistent Across Hollywood Film History

Visual Formula

Narrative Formula

Alfonso Arau in ¡Three Amigos! (1986)



Specific Representations

Entrenched Storytelling Conventions

Goal-Oriented Protagonist

White, Handsome, Straight, Protestant

Stereotypes and Minor Characters

Villains, Sidekicks, Temptresses

Provide Hero w/ Opportunities to Display Moral, Physical and Intellectual Preeminence

What is genre

What is genre?

Collection of Visual Features




Recreation of Narrative Elements


Time and Space

Facilitate Audience Expectations

Basic definition

Basic Definition

“Stated simply, genre movies are those commercial feature films which, through repetition and variation, tell familiar stories with familiar characters in familiar situations. They also encourage expectations and experiences similar to those of similar films we have already seen.”

- Berry Keith Grant

Sampling of hollywood genres

Sampling of Hollywood Genres

Key Genres We Consider


Science Fiction

Chicano/a Film

Key Questions to Ask:

What are the visual features/motifs?

What are the narrative features/discourses?

What are audience expectations

How are they triangled?

Social problem

Social Problem

Combines Social Analyses




Drug Addiction


Labor Unions

Dramatic Conflict

Heroes and Villains

Families and Nations

Chicano a social problem

Chicano/a Social Problem

Bordertown (1935)

Right Cross (1950)

The Lawless (1950)

My Man and I (1952)

The Ring (1952)

Salt of the Earth (1954)

Trial (1955)

Giant (1956)

The problem

The Problem

Chicano Faces Poverty

Chicano Confronts Discrimination

Chicano Rejects Family to Fight for Rights

Chicano Stumbles in the Fight

Whites Help Chicano

Chicano Returns to Barrio

Family is More Important than Assimilation

Chicano Cannot Assimilate, but Whites Shouldn’t Discriminate



“More often than not they endorse the very system they set out to criticize. Their obligatory happy ending metaphorically or actually sends the Chicano back to the barrio where he began, leaving him to cope with the negligible opportunity that exists for him there. In an alternative ending, the Chicano overcomes the barriers to assimilation and mainstream success only after he purges himself of the (from the patriarchal WASP point of view) more problematic aspects of his character.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg.

Bordertown 1933 assimilation narrative

Bordertown (1933) & Assimilation Narrative

Lecture 6: Part 2

John Ramirez (Paul Muni) in Bordertown (1935)



Released in 1935

Directed by Archie Mayo

Stars Paul Muni & Bette Davis

Set on the Border

Shot from Bordertown (1935)

Plot summary

Plot Summary

“Bordertown follows the standard rags-to-riches-to-rags assimilation narrative. Johnny Ramírez, a tough kid from East Los Angeles, matures into a responsible adult and acquires ambition and dedication when, as the judge who delivers his school commencement address puts it, ‘he realized his opportunities and duties as an American citizen.’” He is betrayed by a white woman, eventually using the money he has earned to “endow a law school in the barrio, and returns, in his words, ‘back where I belong… with my own people’.”

This film is difficult to secure for screening. Review Ramírez Berg’s synopsis (pg. 117-118). What’s important is that you understand his argument about the film and the evidence from the film that supports that argument.



Stereotypical Inversion

Undiminished Stereotyping

Male Chicano Protagonist

Overprotective Mama

Absent Father

Absent Chicana

Alluring but Flawed Anglo Woman

Reductive Definition of Success

Stereotypical inversion

Stereotypical Inversion

Boost Ethnics by Denigrating Anglos

Oversexed Blondes / Materialistic Socialites

Harsh and Inflexible Authority Figures

Conflict Bases of Narrative

White Hero (Paternal) / Hero Mediates

“Naturally the Chicano protagonist makes the sound ethical choice when he recoils from such a thoroughly venal Anglo universe and retires to the moral haven of the barrio.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg

Undiminished stereotyping

Undiminished Stereotyping

Complicated Ethnic Type Mediated by Simplistic Stereotype of Other Ethnics

Rationalizes Oppression Despite Sympathetic Plight of Ethnic Assimilation

Dances with Wolves(1990)




Chinese Servant

Mexican Defense Lawyer

Shot from Dances with Wolves (1990)

Male chicano protagonist

Male Chicano Protagonist

Palatable to Mainstream Audiences

Male Lead (Salt of the Earthis an exception)

Casting Anglo in Role (Touch of Evil)

Giving Character Upper-Class Status

“Since in Hollywood films, an ethnic woman can be only an overprotective matriarch, the ‘other woman,’ or a harlot, this practice automatically relegates Chicanas to stereotypical roles.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg.

Overprotective mama absent father

Overprotective Mama &Absent Father

Naïve, Good-Natured, Long-Suffering Mom

The Jazz Singer(1927)

The Godfather(1972)

Anglo Family Complete/Ethnic Family Dysfunctional Often due to Absent Dad


La Bamba (1987)

Absent father as catalytic

Absent Father as Catalytic

“From the patriarchal perspective, the missing father is indicative of abnormal Oedipal development. Never able to identify fully with the father, the Chicano male cannot symbolically become like him, nor can he take his productive, ‘masculine’ place in society. This interrupted transition for pleasure principle to reality principle, from the familial order to the social one, helps explain his antisocial behavior.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg

Absent chicana

Absent Chicana

Except for Mother, Chicana is Almost Non-Existent (she is background color)

Note Chicano Love Interest

When Present, Chicana is a Helper

Often a Love Interest of Anglo Male (remnants of the Dark Lady stereotype)

Alluring but flawed anglo woman

Alluring but Flawed Anglo Woman

Chicano Male’s Only Option for Romance

As Love Interest, “Anglo Woman” Must Be Flawed

Emotional Problems

Psychological Problems

Moral Problems

“By the use of an insidiously controlled self-preserving logic, Anglo patriarchy maintains its genetic ‘purity’ in part by negatively stereotyping Anglo women as childish miscreants.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg

Reductive definition of success

Reductive Definition of Success

“Hollywood’s providing Mexican American protagonists in the Chicano-centered social problem film (save for Salt of the Earth) does not really improve the situation. A principle reason is that the heroes in these movies do not enjoy the sort of unbridled success available to Anglo protagonists. They get greatly scaled-down versions of Anglo success or they get failure.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg

The big point

The Big Point

“Given the constraints of the ideological patterns just described, it is obvious that the deck is stacked in significant ways against Chicanos in these films. Add to this the structure of the Hollywood formula, which demands that an accessible hero find a happy resolution to the conflicts animated by these narratives, and we can appreciate why many of these social problem films deprecate the group they mean to celebrate.”

– Charles Ramírez Berg

Salt of the earth 1954 resistance

Salt of the Earth (1954) & Resistance

Lecture 6: Part 3

Ramon Quintero (Juan Chacón) in Salt of the Earth (1954)



Released in 1954

Directed by Herbert Biberman

Stars Rosaura Revueltas

Set in New Mexico

Plot summary1

Plot Summary

“Against a backdrop of social injustice, a riveting family drama is played out by the characters of Ramon and Esperanza Quintero, a Mexican-American miner and his wife. In the course of the strike, Ramon and Esperanza find their roles reversed: an injunction against the male strikers moves the women to take over the picket line, leaving the men to domestic duties. The women evolve from men's subordinates into their allies and equals.”


Real story

Real Story

“The Salt project was born when the filmmakers were told of a strike by Mexican-American mine workers against the Empire Zinc Corporation in Bayard, New Mexico. The issues at stake included racist "dual wage rates" that allotted higher pay to Anglo workers over Mexican-Americans, and Empire Zinc’s ‘policy of hiring only Mexican-Americans for underground work’. The film was scripted and shot on location in Bayard within months of the strike’s settlement. Workers and wives who had walked the picket lines took prominent roles in the movie and helped to shape Michael Wilson’s screenplay.”

- Bob Wake

Conditions of production

Conditions of Production

Written, Directed and Produced by Members of the “Hollywood Ten”

Declined to Testify Before the House Un-American Activities Committee

Biberman Spent 6 Months in Jail

Worked Independently to Beat the Blacklist

Cast Included Actors and “Real” Folks

Mexican Star, Rosaura Revueltas

Miners and Wives

Harassment censorship

Harassment & Censorship

Hollywood Reporter = “Commie Film”

International Alliance of Theatrical Employees Made it Difficult to Hire Union Crews (one reported to be FBI Informant)

Labs Refused to Process Film

Exhibitors Refused to Screen It

Rosaura Revueltas’s Visa Revoked

Confluence of oppression

Confluence of Oppression

Oppression of Workers

Oppression of Mexicans and Chicanos

Chicano Oppression of Women

Click Here to See Scene from Salt of the Earth (1954)

Reinforces solidarity

Reinforces Solidarity

Rich and Poor

White and Brown

Men and Women

Female Heroine Played by Mexican Actress

Chicano Lead Played by Real Miner

Click Here to See Scene from Salt of the Earth (1954)



Chicano & Chicana Protagonists

No Stereotypical Inversion

No Undiminished Stereotyping

No Overprotective Mama

Father is Present

Chicana is Present

No Alluring but Flawed Anglo Woman

No Reductive Definition of Success

Lecture 6 to assimilate or not to assimilate


Political Film

Directed to Entertain

Directed to Make Viewer Think Critically

Engages Complexity of Political Situation

Critique of Red Scare Ideology

Class Warfare (strike)

Race Oppression (Chicanos)

Gender Oppression (lead is a woman)

Explanations Are NOT Reductive

Whites are Not Stereotyped

Men are Not Stereotyped

End of lecture 6

End of Lecture 6

Next Lecture:

How are Latinos/as Represented in the Western?