Thursday, November 11, 2010

El Gato Negro a stereotype? I think not!

Okay, when I read this piece titled Four Crazy Spanish Stereotypes in Tights, I just had to comment on the inclusion of a one El Gato Negro (by Richard Dominguez). While I think the author makes a case for the other three characters, I think to include EGN in this mix is a huge mistake! And of course, I'm about to explain why! LOL ;-)

Below is an excerpt from that article linked above that makes reference to EGN:

“El Gato Negro was not created by DC, but by Richard Dominguez who owns Azteca productions. El Gato Negro, The Black Cat, first came out in 1996, went on hiatus and came back in 2005. He is a pretty awesome character in the fact that he knows about every form of hardcore martial arts known to man. The only problem that makes this a stereotypical characterization of Latinos, in my eyes, is that it’s the same plot line as Zorro but with a different name. There is more to Latin hero stories than Zorro, as cool a character that he is—there is more to life than him. Also, El Gato Negro’s main enemies are drug smugglers and drug cartels. Yup, were there are Latin’s there are always drug cartels or smugglers. Let see Vibe is an ex-gang member and drug runner, Scarface is a coke king, and in every movie that has to do with Latin America there are Narcos. I am not trying to deny or even downplay drugs as a real problem for Latin America, my mom works for DEA, but it gets trying when it’s the only problem worth mentioning. Anyway other than those trite conventions, it seems like an interesting comic book from the excerpt I looked at. It has potential to being something more than Zorro fights of drug smugglers. In fact El Gato Negro is a social worker when he’s out of his cat suit which makes him seem like a really sensitive guy. He also seems to have an engaging relationship with his grandfather who was the former Gato Negro and now is his mentor. He even started his crime fighting streak not because his parents were murdered like most superheroes but because his best friend was killed by drug runners. Now if Dominguez is able to flesh out this character and give him more of an edge I think this will be a pretty interesting series."

If EGN ran around in a sombrero and a serape, and broke into Spanish song and dance in the presence of every pretty lady that he meets, then he would be a stereotype.

If EGN had a fat belly and a thick moustache and drank beer and spoke in a broken accent, then he would be a stereotype.

If EGN wore a mariachi suit and did the Cucaracha before each fight, then he’d be a stereotype.

If EGN ate “magic burritos” (or tacos, or enchiladas, or… you get the point. By the way, I just made myself hungry!) before each fight to temporarily give himself super powers, then he’d be a stereotype.

If EGN took “siestas” after each fight, then he’d be a stereotype.

What the writer had in mind by including EGN into the mix of the other obviously bad stereotypes is beyond me, because he was actually praising EGN and basically giving him an “incomplete”. So if the issue is not settled in his mind as to whether EGN is a stereotype, then why include him in this article?

Again, he made a very good case as to why those other guys are bad stereotypes (and I have to agree with him about those other guys!), but having EGN in this just looks wrong – and that’s because it IS wrong. So with that, here’s my case as to why EGN is NOT a stereotype.

First, let’s hit the fact that EGN fights drug smugglers and drug gangs. When Dominguez had this as one of his main themes for his book way back in the early 1990’s, he wasn’t perpetuating a stereotype; in truth, he was actually prophetic as to what eventually ended up happening in Mexico. I will make one concession in that yes, the Latin drug king storyline is a common one in most crime and superhero stories, but the character El Graduado in the EGN stories is an eerie precedent to a lot of the drug lords that exist nowadays. And on top of that was the fact that El Graduado, whose name translates to “The Graduate”, was an intelligent and well-educated man who could have achieved his profits legitimately, but instead chose the faster and easier path of having a hand in running an international drug organization.

Think of that: A man such as he could have been a success in legitimate fields of business, but instead chose this path. Why? For one, it was something of a family tradition. But also, the money - especially the potential for a lot of it – was probably such that greed overtook his common sense. Also, no doubt the thrill of running such an underground operation probably was addicting. Why else do those in real life with such advantages choose such a path, if not partly for the thrill of it? And friends, this is a common human trait, and not just a Latino one. That El Graduado happened to be Latino was just a fact about him, and not the cause of him turning to such a life of crime.

Next, think of what EGN does: He fights crime, risking life and limb in the process. This is not a Latino stereotype, but what many true, dedicated superheroes do. Not only that, he does it with no powers beyond his own wits and strength, along with the support of his grandfather. Also, consider that EGN is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the previous EGN. That makes the current EGN a legacy, and I really like this part of the series, because it emphasizes family as well as tradition. None of this is a Latino stereotype. I think any comic reader, Latino or not, will be able to understand and appreciate the kind of selfless dedication that EGN puts into his superhero work.

I do agree with the writer that when Dominguez fleshes out EGN more, than the EGN series will be an interesting one to read and follow. However, I actually think it’s an interesting series NOW. I imagine if the EGN stories didn’t include ANY Latino elements, then EGN would be called “too white”, so writers like Dominguez will always be caught in the bind of trying to balance making a character - for example - to be recognizably Latino, but not so “Latino” that he or she is a stereotype. However, I think Dominguez does a better job than most in striking this balance.

So in summary, I think the writer of the article did a very good and informative and yet entertaining job to make his case, and he made his case very well. It’s amazing that DC Comics got away with such obviously bad stereotypes! But I can’t agree to the inclusion of EGN, for the reasons stated above. Dominguez does too much that is right with EGN to be included in such gaudy and tasteless company, and he deserves better than to have his creation to be included among them.

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