Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ben Affleck-ARGO Controversy Continues Amid Its Seven Oscar Nominations

The film Argo (starring and directed by Ben Affleck as real-life CIA Agent Antonio Joseph "Tony" Méndez) received seven Academy Award (also known as Oscar) nominations including one for Best Picture. Affleck did not receive a nomination for his acting nor his directing. The controversy rages on with the choice of Affleck to portray a person of Latino heritage.

Tony Méndez
• TONY MÉNDEZ speaks on the controversy. He spoke with Jack Rico of Showbiz Café.

"I don't think of myself as a Hispanic."

Click HERE to read the interview.

• RUBÉN NAVARRETTE, JR. wrote an editorial blog for CNN, in which he references María Nieto's guest blog in El Blog de HOLA.

"Affleck should have tried to cast a Latino to play Méndez. That's common sense, and it would have made Argo a better movie."

Read his editorial HERE.

Ben Affleck
• BEL HERNÁNDEZ of industry publication Latin Heat weighs in on the controversy in a blog.

"By whitewashing Méndez, Ben Affleck stole one of these heroes from the Latino community; from the young Latinos, who would have been proud to know that someone who looks like them, played such a key role in our nation’s history."

Read more of her blog by clicking HERE.


paulthefencer said...

That's all good and fine, but Affleck also stole any glory that Canada should receive as the actual heroes in this real life story. I followed it on TV. I also worked in the record department of a department store at the time and we receive a 45 record to sell from a group of Americans thanking Canada for rescuing the six hostages. The song was called "Thank You Canada". So now as excited as I was to watch this movie and feel some great pride in my native Canada, I think now I'll give it a pass. Which is really too bad. I don't believe that the American public is so shallow that the hero in every movie has to be American. I mean if you watch any world war 2 movie or tv show...America alone seems to save the world. No mention that Canada for example was into both world wars a few years before the U.S. decided to get involved. Canada liberated Holland. Most Americans probably don't know that. Sorry to go on as I have, but a deep sense of patriotism is not limited to Americans. And when we Canadians are continually dismissed, it can wear on the heart.


Many words have been written about the historical accuracy of the film (especially the role of Canadians in the ARGO mission).

Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

(I first posted this reply to Maria Nieto on her article where she asked Affleck about Argo. I am posting this again here because I don't think it has been seen as it might have gotten buried with the other comments.)

María Nieto,

I'm sorry to say that while you did put an effort to bring this issue directly to the perpetrator, Ben Affleck, you totally dropped the ball.

This is not a well written piece. It may be well meaning but it does not drive the actual point home at all and you actually treat Ben Affleck well as if he did nothing wrong.

The problems start right away with the question you chose to ask, "Was the ethnicity of the character essential to the role?”

That is an insulting question. It assumes that the only reason a Latino American should play a Latino American is if that Latino character is somehow overtly Latino in whatever arbitrary way privileged white people (i.e. Ben Affleck and George Clooney) deem.

Another failure of that question is that it doesn't whatsoever bring up what the issue is and that is that Latino Americans are flat out denied lead roles in major Hollywood movies. Here is one that was not only a real life person but was the main character of a major Hollywood production and it wasn't even considered to give this big opportunity to a Latino American talent.

Read this article from Racebending, which is a very good article and was actually one of the very first to bring this Argo issue up, where it explicitly points out the incredibly low amount of times percentage wise that Hollywood hires Latinos for lead roles:

As the article notes, the number is almost 0.

It is very clear that people of color are marginalized in Hollywood and with Latinos it is no different. This incident here with Argo is that very kind of case. Ben Affleck is a white man and thus benefits from white privilege. He took the role for himself out of selfishness and took advantage of the social privilege that Latinos do not have. Affleck gets far more opportunities than almost every Latino American actor out there and he still felt the need to push aside Latinos to have this one role. Note that when Ben Affleck first directed a movie he casted his own brother as the lead who is not a box office draw of any kind. Yet when this movie came in his direction it never even occurred to him nor George Clooney (he was a producer on Argo) to give this golden opportunity to a Latino American and possibly launch him to the A-list.

You actually write, "I believe Affleck’s sincerity when he states that he is against the whitewashing of any ethnic character."

How can you possible even come to such a conclusion when Ben Affleck did actually whitewash by denying the role to a Latino American actor, who hardly ever get these kinds of opportunities, and casting himself?

Do you really think that he was ever going to respond with something sinister when you asked him your misguided question? He is promoting his movie which he is currently receiving, sadly, almost universal praise for and getting prizes to boot. He is going to tell you whatever he needs to in order to not make himself look like the bad guy and to silence controversy. This is classic underhanded salesman tactics and you fell for it.

In fact his very words show his prejudiced mindset when he said, "And Tony does not have, I don’t know what you would say, a Latin/Spanish accent, of any kind really, and… you know you wouldn’t necessarily select him out of a line of ten people and go ‘This guy’s Latino."


An accent is what is needed to make someone Latino? How many Latino Americans have foreign accents? None because they are American. Yet this guy is actually talking about Latinos, even if they are American, as if they are foreigners because apparently in his thinking, European = American.

You heard that and it didn't insult you at all?


Anonymous said...

The man's follow up words are then a straight up lie. He's claiming that Antonio Mendez doesn't look Latino? That is hilarious. As many others who have seen the movie have reported, the movie ends with photos of the real people and the actors who played them. Except that when it gets to the real Antonio Mendez, there is no comparison picture with Ben Affleck. There is only a a photo of the real Antonio Mendez. You see, all of the actors supposedly had a strong resemblance to the real people they played... except for Ben Affleck.

Here is the comparison photo with the real Antonio Mendez that Ben Affleck purposely didn't put up in the movie:

A blind man can tell that those two people look nothing alike.

With all of this in mind you actually thanked Ben Affleck and claimed that he "addressed the issue". Ben Affleck did nothing except evade the issue and you let yourself be fooled. Worse, you allowed Ben Affleck's con to frame questions you posed to Latino readers in this article as if Ben Affleck has some kind of a point. These are patronizing questions that were based on his lies and deception like, "“What is a Latino?” How do WE define when and how our ethnicity, race, nationality overlap with our Latino heritage? What is an ethnically “Latino Look?” And, for those light-skinned Latinos with no discernible accent who would not be known as Latinos were it not for their Spanish last names, are those roles “up for grabs?”

Are you kidding me? You fell for his lies so much he even made you think that Antonio Mendez is light skinned whereas that photo from the same era proves otherwise?

And this isn't the only issue this year. Just a couple of months before Argo Warner Brothers released a big movie in the middle of summer: The Dark Knight Rises.

Why do I mention this movie? Well, because the character of Bane, as played by British actor Tom Hardy, is Latino in the original comic books. Matter of fact, when they make animated versions of Batman and feature Bane he usually is voiced by a Hispanic actor even going as far as having Bane actually speak Spanish. However, it seems that Christopher Nolan felt that no Latino was good enough to play the role of Bane so he decided to change Bane's ethnicity just so he can hire a white man to play him. That's two important roles in the same year in big movies that were of Latino characters and neither were given to Latino American actors to play and get a chance for their careers to rise.

Latino Americans are being robbed blind in Hollywood and it is totally due to ignorance of Latino Americans about Hollywood and its discriminatory practices. Maria Nieto, as I have said that while you certainly meant to do well with this you completely dropped the ball and let Ben Affleck get away with it clean. Not only was this bad because Ben Affleck and George Clooney will sleep fine at night but also because your article only serves to disconcert readers about what the issue is and why this production is shameful.

Here is a far better recent article that strikes right at the issue and does not let Ben Affleck get away with it written by Hollywood producer Moctesuma Esparza. Mr. Esparza is a veteran Hollywood producer that very well understands the discrimination that exists in Hollywood.:

Anyone who has read my post please consider all the facts I brought up and do not let Ben Affleck and George Clooney (and even Christopher Nolan) get away with this despite the acclaim they have been receiving. Not only them but for all future movies that continue to deny Latino Americans great lead roles. Latinos have constantly been getting the short end of the stick in Hollywood and there are no signs of Hollywood stopping. As Mr. Esparza says in his article, "It is time for a change."

Red Hook Writer said...

Hello Oures,
This is Maria Nieto, the author of the article. I wanted to share with you a very good piece posted by, dated this past Sunday .

The salient points are as follows: "So even Ben Affleck agrees that whitewashing is wrong. He just doesn’t think that taking on the role of Tony Mendez counts as whitewashing, apparently because Mendez speaks without an accent, doesn’t look “clearly ethnic,” and is from an “assimilated” family. He then uses a white ethnic example, Croatian, to argue that (presumably, white) actors can play Croatian characters even if they are not Croatian. What Affleck doesn’t realize is that he is actually belying nativist stereotypes of Latinos and not fully recognizing the history of institutional racism and assimilation of whiteness in the United States. Perhaps inadvertently, Affleck is implying that he does not feel Mendez is being whitewashed because, like “Croatians,” Mendez is to him, essentially “white” American–not a Latino with(stereotypical) Latino traits like an accent, “ethnic” looks, or immigrant parents."

This article encapsulates what is, in fact, the crux of my point - In the absence of clear direction from our community, Affleck came to his own conclusions and, in turn, those conclusions served to advance his own cause. The truth is that the question I posed allowed for Affleck to offer a deluge of insight into how he framed the question for himself and that's my point... when it comes to Latinos you CAN still frame it for yourself because we as a community have yet to speak up in a unified voice with guidelines that HOllywood must follow in representing our image.

I truly do understand your frustration but what it comes down to is this... we left the door wide open and put out a welcome mat. And now we are angry that someone walked through the door and made themselves welcome.

It is up to US to frame the issue and set forth parameters - and demand that they be respected. We have not done so up to now. Moctezuma Esparza sums it up best when he writes "In Argo we have yet another instance where the public has been denied an opportunity for all Americans to learn of an American Latino’s valor, talent and patriotism. This occurs because there has been no consequence to this behavior. It is time for a change." We as a community have offered no set guidelines and, when our sensibilities have been offended, no consequences. We can take apart every single instance where Affleck was wrong in his assumptions about our identity - but it does not take away the point that our community has failed at creating an understanding of what the correct assumptions SHOULD BE. Was he wrong across many points? Absolutely. But who is responsible for ensuring that those assumptions are properly framed? This is not a case of clear set parameters being willfully violated, this is a case of asking people to self regulate based on insights and understandings that it is our job to deliver.