Jennifer Lopez is an icon. But a new study has shed some serious light on the Latinx erasure the actress has overcome to become the star we love today: the only actress who is Latinx, over 45 years old and has played a lead role in the last decade.
A new report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in partnership with National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) and Wise Entertainment, studied the 1,200 top-grossing box office films between 2007 and 2018. They found that only 4.5% of the characters were Latinx — and Latinx leads were even more sparse.
Only 3% of the 1,200 movies featured a Latinx lead and only two Latina lead roles were played by a woman over 45 years old. That woman was Jennifer Lopez, both times.
J. Lo's repeated appearance is in line with other findings of the study. Researchers found that only four actors made up for 16 of the 35 surveyed Latinx lead roles: J. Lo, Cameron Diaz, Eugenio Derbez and Jessica Alba.
Even when Latinx roles are incorporated in film, the researchers say they are more likely to be cast in a negative light. Twenty-four percent of Latinx speaking roles portrayed criminals, according to the study's survey of 200 popular films.
In 2019, this representation — or, more truthfully, lack thereof — of the Latinx population is dangerous. As Mauricio Mota, Co-President of Wise Entertainment, said in a press release: “The erasure of the Latino community in film creates a void that has been allowed to be filled by hateful and violent rhetoric."
Thankfully, trailblazers like Jennifer Lopez are sharing their talents with us and telling the stories that need to be told. Just another reason to support her — and other Latinx performers — at the box office.