Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ARGO's Missing Latino and Affleck's Spanish

Did you know that Tony Mendez (the character Ben Affleck plays in Argo) had a Latino partner by the code name of Julio?


That's because he wasn't mentioned in the film.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
"Casting a white actor to play the role of one of our country’s most revered Latino CIA agents invalidates Mendez’s experiences as a person of mixed ethnicity, and invalidates Mendez’s ability to pass as someone of many ethnicities and races as part of his CIA work due to the fact that he did not look like a “conventional” white American. Mendez himself noted in a 1999 interview that his mixed Chicano heritage was part of what made him so effective as a CIA exfiltrator: 'My (appearance) is such that I can be in India and look Muslim or do the same thing in Russia and Latin America.'
Tony Mendez mentions in his book about the Argo heist that he has the abilty to “pass” for someone who is white (an arbitrary racial category to begin with)....

"For the Argo mission, Mendez took on the alias of “Kevin Costa Harkins,” and formulated a back story for his alias that explain his looks: “Costa Harkins” is a “black Irish” person with Mediterranean heritage. He completed the disguise by assuming an Irish accent and dressing in tweedy clothes. So yes, both Affleck and Mendez could pass themselves off as a dark-featured Irish person– but Affleck would likely be less successful in other places Mendez has worked such as in India and Latin America.

"Then, there’s 'Julio'— a character no one is mentioning because he was erased from the film all together.

"While the film makes it look like Affleck exfiltrated the diplomats on his own, in real life, Mendez had a partner, who he describes using the alias 'Julio.' Together, Mendez and Julio worked together as part of a team to extract the diplomats. Julio was a translator fluent in English, German, French, Spanish, and Farsi. Like Mendez, he was the kind of person who could blend in unobtrusively. While Mendez used an Irish alias, Julio used a South American alias, pretending to be a financial backer of Mendez’s fictional movie.

"There had to have been room for a Latino actor in a significant role in this film, somewhere. Even if Affleck wanted to play Mendez, he could have thrown in 'Julio.'"

READ more of Marissa Lee's well-researched blog in the Racebending blog by clicking HERE.

Also mentioned are quotes from the blogs below. Click on the writer's name to read the respective blog from whence it came (all boldface above and below added by this blog's editor).

“Not only did a Latino actor not play Tony, who clearly in real life looks like a Chicano, but his ethnicity is stolen from the Latino community at a time when Latinos have been demonized. Our real Latino national heroes, if acknowledged, would dramatize our patriotism and contribution to the United States. The film actually goes out of its way to obscure Tony Mendez’s ethnicity. His name is mentioned only once and the character says he is from New York (Tony was born in Nevada from a mining family with six generations in Nevada and raised in Colorado). Nowhere in the movie does the viewer get that the hero is Mexican-American….”

“Sure, Argo will get is slew of honors and rave reviews, but for us it will always be known as 'The Really Strong Movie That Should Have Had a Latino Play the Lead Character, Who Is Latino in Real Life.'”

Films and television are the most common ways than many non-Latinos see the roles that Latinos are playing or have played within American society. When those roles are played by non-Latinos, major opportunities are lost forever.”

“It’s well-established that the overrepresentation of white dudes in film directing means more movies about white dudes that reflect the values and interests of white dudes…In rare cases, these directors have used their power to highlight alternate perspectives…and sometimes, these directors are actually correcting imbalances in Hollywood storytelling....

“But you know who there really aren’t enough good roles for? Non-white, non-dude actors. Male actors are still valued higher than female ones.... They get better roles and draw higher salaries. Historically, moving behind the camera has been easier for men than women. Meanwhile, black and Latino audiences buy movie tickets at a higher rate than white viewers, but appear less frequently on screen and are rarely stationed behind the camera. And characters of color are still routinely whitewashed, from Argo to the Hunger Games… white dudes like Affleck might consider not always putting themselves at the center of the frame—not because it would make them better people, but because it will make for more compelling films.”

Leaving out even half of Mr. Mendez’s lineage and not casting an actor who best reflected that lineage of Mr. Mendez is shortsighted in the extreme. It cheats the viewer of the richness of that heritage and his love for this country. It steals the hopes and dreams of young people of a heritage they belong to and identify with and teaches them what they can accomplish…what is possible.”

And in a fascinating bit of trivia, Ben Affleck spent a year living in Mexico while he was a teenager and still speaks Spanish (with a Mexican accent).

1 comment:

Tio Louie said...

Justice was served to a certain degree by Ben Affleck not receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Director, denying him any hope for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Something that connect us as Latinos is a strong belief in spirituality and karma. TIO LOUIE