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Latin Flavor?: 5 Ways “Glee” Screwed Up Their Latino Music Episode


By Jack Tomas

Last week was really busy for me, so this weekend I curled up on the couch to catch up on all the TV that was sitting in my DVR. One of the shows my wife and I watch is “Glee”, though I can’t for the life of me tell you why. The show normally just annoys me, but last week’s episode turned me into a frothing ball of anger. Now, we all know that the characters on “Glee” are just an assortment of stereotypes. The flamboyant gay guy, the Jewish girl obsessed with Barbara Streisand, the Asian kid whose dad wants him to be a doctor and not a dancer, etc. There is also the saucy/slutty Latina temptress character Santana, played by Naya Rivera. Last week, they decided to do a Latin themed episode and it was filled with more inaccuracies and stereotypes about Latinos than at Taco Tuesday at the Klu Klux Klan cafeteria. The glee teacher Will also teaches Spanish, but knows nothing about Latin culture. So, Spanish substitute teacher Ricky Martin and the gang decide to teach him about it through music. This is a fine idea…except here are 5 ways they screwed it up.

“This week we’re only going to sing songs that were originally in Spanish or are by Latin artists.”

That’s the assignment he gives the kids. Then the first song they play is LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”. LMFAO are made up of African-American producer Berry Gordy’s kids, therefor NOT Latinos. Later in the episode they sing the Madonna song, “La Isla Bonita” and Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation”. In case you are keeping score, Madonna is an Italian girl from Detroit and Elvis was a poor White boy from Tupelo, Mississippi. Where were the J-Lo, Shakira, Cristina Aguilera, Selena, Celia Cruz, Santana, or even Selena Gomez songs?

Mixing Up Latinos

One of the most annoying things Americans do is lump us all into one nationality. Depending on which part of the country you are in, people may think all Latinos are Mexican or Puerto Rican. The writers on “Glee” seem to have this problem too. They have the boys wearing annoying Mexican chuntaritos boots while singing a Gypsy Kings song. The Gypsy Kings are Spanish gypsies and have absolutely nothing to do with Mexico or chuntaritos. Later in the episode, the glee teacher Will is wearing a matador costume which Santana, (who should know better), refers to as a mariachi outfit. “Glee” writers, please do a Google search before you submit your scripts.

What’s all this Duende stuff?

The Ricky Martin character keeps talking about having duende. My wife asked me what this meant and I told her I had no idea. I knew that a duende is an elf or fairy, but I had no clue what they were talking about. I did some research and it comes from the writings of the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. It relates to a certain spirit and energy that comes through when you are performing. That’s all fine and good, but why of all the concepts and ideas from all of Spanish and Latin culture did the writers choose this incredibly obscure reference? Are the writers trying to show off that they took a Lorca class at Oberlin or something?

Just Because Something Has A Spanish Word In It Doesn’t Make It Hispanic

That’s how they justified using the non-Latino songs in in the show like, “La Isla Bonita”. The writers on the show are so clueless as to Latinos and Latin music that they think this is all you need to make a song “Latin”. So, by that logic, Beck’s “Loser” is a Latino song. It has the lyrics “Soy un perdedor” in the the chorus, so that’s enough to make it qualify. For a show that is as absurdly popular as “Glee”, you’d think that the creators would spend a little more time researching the music. Perhaps, I’m asking too much.

They Ultimately Contradict the Message They are Trying Make

The whole point of the episode is to teach Will that his knowledge of Latin music and culture is limited and try and expand it. What an amazing opportunity squandered. As they mention in the episode, we Latinos will be in the majority here in the United States by 2050. We’re living in a time when we Latinos are facing an increase in bias crimes and racism. These prejudices come out of ignorance. If the predominant White culture learned more about us and we about them, we could begin to bridge that gap. “Glee” had a chance to contribute to that, but instead they demonstrated their own ignorance and just confused things more. Hey, “Glee” writers, why don’t you just stick to writing shows around Broadway show tunes and Journey songs and leave us Latinos out of it.

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