- Latino film professionals told Insider they welcome indigenous representation through the character of Namor.
- While Latinos buy nearly a quarter of movie tickets nationally, only 5.4% of Hollywood’s leading roles and 5.7% of all screen roles go to Latinx actors.
- Supporters hope this film will signal to major studios that the Latinx community is worth investing in.
When Brenda Castillo sees “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in theaters, she’ll feel a sense of pride. As an Indigenous Latina, she said Namor, an Indigenous Latino superhero in the film, is the kind of representation she longed for as a child.
Namor McKenzie, an anti-hero character played by Tenoch Huerta in the upcoming film Black Panther, was created in Marvel comics in 1939. One of Namor’s rivals is T’challa, the name of Black Panther. And while Namor is a white host in the original comics, Marvel chose to transform his character for the film.
“It’s my understanding that Marvel made sure the people they brought in as consultants were indigenous. They did their homework,” Castillo, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Insider.
Latino film professionals told Insider that Namor’s character, along with Warner Brothers’ Blue Beetle, due out in 2023, show that major Hollywood studios are finally listening to their community. When the first Black Panther movie was released in 2018, 65% of moviegoers were non-white, according to comscore.
Overall, Latinos buy nearly a quarter of movie tickets nationally, but only account for 5.4% of lead roles and 5.7% of all screen roles. Supporters hope this film will bring a level of cohesion to all parts of the Black and Brown community and signal to major studios that their community is worth investing in.
“I don’t think the studio system, the entertainment industry and the media know the effect it has on humanity and the world when people aren’t represented properly,” Maylen Calienes, Founder of the Latino Filmmakers Network, told Insider. “I have conversations every now and then with executives, and thinking positively, I hope they open their hearts and minds to really look at these things, and on the Latino side of things, I really hope we come together more as a community. and we fight more as a collective.”
A pattern of cancellations
In September, Warner Brothers announced that the highly anticipated superhero film Batgirl, starring Afro-Latina actress Leslie Grace Martinez, had been canceled. Once Discovery merged with Warner Bros. earlier this year, the $90 million budget film, which had finished shooting, was dismissed as a write-off.
That upset many Latinos in the entertainment industry, Castillo and Calienes said.
“We had this opportunity that we were all striving for, and then it closed. What has happened consistently with our community is that something happens and something could be a success, but then nothing [happens] after that,” Calienes said.
Castillo and Calienes said this isn’t the first time a major studio has scrapped a movie starring a Latina actor.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Calienes said.
Strengthen ties between the black and brown communities
After the recent Los Angeles City Council scandal — where Nuri Martinez, the former city council president, was caught on a recorded phone call making racist comments about the indigenous and black communities — Castillo said she hopes this film can serve as a bridge to rebuild relationships and trust between the black and brown communities in Los Angeles.
NHMC has arranged a special screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” for students at a local indigenous school. She believes that as a native Latina herself, many of the students will relate to Namor on the big screen.
Both Castillo and Calienes said they watched a lot of black sitcoms as children and longed to see their community portrayed in the same way. Now professionals in the entertainment industry, they’ve watched the Black community come together to push for representation while also bringing characters culturally from their community, like Namor, to the big screen.
“Black and brown communities go hand in hand, pull one up and one pulls the other up, you know. I think that’s progress. I think it’s going to change everything,” Cruz Castillo, External Relations and Digital Media at the National Coalition of Hispanic Media, told Insider
Confident of the success of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the box office, major studios will see how much money their community will spend to see these types of films and will want to invest in greater representation of their community.
“Our community tends to go to the movies as families, we don’t go as monks or two people. We go in droves. And I think families will go together,” said Brenda Castillo. “So the impact it’s going to have on kids, you know once they get into a character, they want that character’s cover, lunch box, Halloween costume, so I think that’s going to be explosive and they’re going to make big gains.”