Several beautiful and stereotypical Latinos danced across the screen, flipping hair and flashing pearly whites, proclaiming that they were “¡americano como tú!” The advertisement was publicizing the newest branch of News Corporation, MundoFox. After the English version of the commercial cheesily told me to “say ¡hola!” to the newest Spanish language network, I sat simmering, offended for some reason. After I showed the commercial to a few friends and professors, I received mixed responses. Some of them agreed with me--the ad was annoying. Others, however, were surprised by my reaction and encouraged me to figure out why I felt the way I did. So I watched the clip a few more times and reviewed all of the things that were peculiar to me and why I thought they were peculiar. I’m not saying that any part of my reaction is a groundbreaking discovery, called for, or correct; I just thought it would be an interesting investigation of my complicated feelings toward a seemingly simple advertisement.
When I look back to the first time I was graced with this ad, what echoed in my mind was the word “Fox.” I immediately associated it with a vision of a corporate giant, one that stepped on human beings, and snatched the dollars from their hands. From another angle (the FoxNews angle), the word was synonymous with, well, bigotry and insanity. As a politics-obsessed high school student, I was opposed to most of what the network advocated, and could not spit my hatred of News Corp/Fox into enough ears. Nothing said on its news broadcasts aligned with my personal ideology, so to me, it was wrong. Due to the remnants of that intense aversion, I was automatically turned off by the commercial and believed there was something fishy about the fact that such a name was attached to a presumably multicultural display. But after I folded away my lasting intolerance of Fox, I started to dissect what was actually being expressed in this commercial, and why I picked up on it.
One of the things that fascinated me about this commercial was that its slogan, the core of the ad, was one of the most duplicitous things I had ever heard. “Americano como tú,” each actor says. On the surface, this tiny phrase seemed as though it was promoting Pan-American solidarity, the idea that “Latin Americans” and “Americans” were alike and equal. But the way the slogan was stated sets “American,” meaning U.S. citizens, as the norm, marginalizing the Latin American/Latino people in the commercial (even though americano means “a person from the Americas,” in Spanish). Having actors say, “I am mexicano-americano, americano como tú,” implied that Fox believed “American” was the mark of legitimacy, something to strive toward. And why was it necessary to say that the people in the commercial were “American” like their supposed viewers? It doesn’t matter what nationality people are; they are people and should be treated as such. Plus, when I saw the English version of the ad, it was being aired on USA Network, an English-language channel. Why would they market a Spanish-language channel to English-speaking USA Network viewers? It could just be that bilingual people were a target. Or it could be that Fox risked annoying some of their best customers by appearing to support the “illegal aliens” and tried to send them a message, too: “There’s nothing to worry about, Americans. They are, in a way, American like you. They sometimes look and speak differently, but it’s okay. They’re like us and that means they’re alright. Don’t be afraid and, more importantly, don’t boycott our channel.” This simple phrase might have been designed by Fox to attract bilingual viewers to the new channel while preserving the loyalty of possible conservative viewers. The commercial once again frustrated me as it indirectly said that being “American”—or, from the United States—is an undeniably, truly good thing. Latin American/Latino people should not be told that they ought to be “American”-like, but to embrace their national identity, no matter what it is. Being Fox’s definition of “American” is not a mark of acceptability; being a human being is.
Another realization was that I was peeved by the way the commercial just oozed capitalism. Fox was reflecting the image that it was accommodating a large part of the American population in celebration of multiculturalism, when really, it airs unflatteringly twisted information about Latin Americans through its news broadcasts on a regular basis, and supports the kind of political candidates who constantly use the dehumanizing term “illegal alien,” who are vocal about constructing a towering wall along the southern border to reduce the number of immigrants from many Spanish-speaking countries. Why would the people often hateful toward “un-American” Spanish-speaking Latinos, want to provide those same people with a television channel of their own? The reason why most people start businesses and corporations in the first place: profit. Obviously, the objective of creating MundoFox was to reach a wider demographic of potential viewers so that revenue would increase. In this case, some of the most xenophobic people in the country swallowed their “values,” the ideology that shaped their lives and determined their positions on divisive issues such as immigration and foreign intervention, in order to make money. It is remarkable that the ideas people shout and argue about are easily tossed aside with the opportunity of financial gain. This was one of the thoughts that rattling around in my mind when I saw such a pleasant portrayal of Spanish-speaking Latinos in place of the usual “criminal illegal alien” nonsense Fox re-airs every nightly news segment. The commercial exemplified the role of capitalism in American television and it was nauseating.
For further “unpacking,” I considered a more personal aspect of my social identity that influenced my reaction. I was born and raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, surrounded by Spanish-speaking Latinos, one of whom was my nanny. She had come from Guatemala and I grew up learning about the culture of Central America. Because we spent so much time together walking to and from school, cooking, doing homework, singing, and laughing until I moved to San Francisco, I came to think of her as a mother. We had become close kin, and I grew protective of her. So when I saw the commercial, I immediately felt a sort of deceitful vibration, and I was angry because I knew that the one being deceived was my beloved nanny. Deprived of a long and quality education, she was unequipped to detect the crooked pretense that was this commercial. It would’ve been likely that she tune into MundoFox to enjoy various Spanish-language programs, unknowingly contributing to the success of a corporation that, on the side, promotes politics that socially, politically, and economically injure her. I saw the “Americano como tú” commercial as an insult to someone I loved very much, and it was one of the reasons why I was affected by the ad.
As a responsible critical thinker, however, I needed to accept MundoFox and its publicity for what it actually was, and not was I was reducing it to be. I finally admitted that things are far more complicated than a committee of rich, old, white media executives designing television as a tool to control oppressed Latinos. There are Latinos employed by News Corp, there are people at Fox that are just trying to make a living by selling television, and there are Spanish-speakers that are pleased by access to more programs en español, regardless of the source. Various forces are at work with the production and distribution of the “Americano como tú” commercial, and they must all be considered to truly understand it and its place in the history of Latin American/Latino-U.S. culture.
With everything that I have described, it might be possible that I just need to check myself into a facility. Who looks this far into a thirty-second commercial and writes an entire analysis of it in a college magazine? I guess I do. But let’s say for a minute that I still have all of my marbles, and consider that this commercial represents one of the many imbalances in U.S. society. An elite group (News Corp) promotes its product (MundoFox) to a mass of people that it simultaneously defames (Latinos) in order to maintain its position at the top of the social hierarchy. And this wasn’t even the part that bothered me the most, because I have known about the structure of the United States for some time now. Rather, it was the fact that this elite class was pretending not to insult this group of people to remain powerful. They were acting as if they were so wonderfully accepting of everyone around that they wanted to change their company to reflect the diversity of this country. I saw through all of that and was annoyed. Perhaps you will watch the commercial and simply think, “Great, another place to watch my shows.” But this was the truth of what I was thinking and I hope that maybe my suggestions will encourage you to think about everything that you see on television, and its effect, if any, on what you think, say, and do.