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Javier Bardem is nominated to the Oscars for his performance as Desi Arnaz. Photo: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC
Javier Bardem is nominated at the Oscars for his performance as Desi Arnaz. Photo: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC

Does Javier Bardem deserve an Oscar for playing Desi Arnaz?

A Spaniard portraying a Cuban and ill-thought statements sparked yet another discussion about the underrepresentation of Latinos in Hollywood.

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One of the news items of the week was the nomination list that was released for the 2022 Oscars. For Best Actor, Javier Bardem was a sure name thanks to his portrayal of Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos. However, his statements made after the nomination to El Pais did not go over well in the Latino community. 

"Let's talk about Spanish minorities. How many Spanish characters are there in international cinema? None. There are Latin American characters. I know what I'm talking about when I talk about minorities," said Bardem. His statements did not take long to go viral and became one of the final trending topics of the week. 

The question of why a Spaniard, who did not even have a Cuban accent and not sing, was always surrounding Being the Ricardos. From the moment the film directed by Aaron Sorkin was released, the criticism began. Sorkin himself had to answer questions about the casting of the Spanish actor. Although the role was intended for a Cuban, the producers did not find who they were looking for, and that's when they contacted Bardem. 

Bardem's argument is clear: "Our craft is becoming someone we are not."

In an interview with The View, he went further. 

"I think we are going to a place now where everybody is very sensitive about representing minorities, and I am absolutely supportive of that, it’s fine to give a chair at the table to people that are not represented." However, "we cannot criticize an actor or an actress for playing a part because they are not from that place, or they don’t share the sexual orientation of that character.”

But these arguments have not been enough for those who think an icon like Arnaz would have been better represented by a Cuban, or at least a Latin American. The public definitely didn't forgive him for considering himself a "minority."

For Internet users and analysts, for a white European male to be considered a "minority" just because there are not many Spanish characters in Hollywood films is insulting. 

Lissette Lanuza wrote in Remezcla that "the understood usage of the word minority, in present-day sociology, refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. This clearly applies to Latines, and not to European men."

In the same vein, Lola Mendez wrote on MSN that "Bardem’s comments are even more alarming given he’s positioning himself as a victim. He doesn’t seem to understand that Spain colonized the majority of Latin America, which led to at least 56 million Indigenous deaths across the region. That’s why Latinx people feel so strongly about the issue of true representation in film."

The debate could take away his chance of taking home his second Oscar statuette. What is clear is that his performance, acclaimed by some and criticized by others, took a back seat to his ill-advised comments.

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