A few weeks ago my I was watching the opening episode of "Entourage" Season 4 when I spotted a woman onscreen who looked familiar. "Is that Sofia Vergara?" I wondered. It sure looked like her, but the actress was so subdued and soft spoken I couldn't be sure. A quick search on the Internet revealed that Vergara had indeed appeared on the HBO show. But the character she played on the program was so different from the Sofia Vergara who's now a household name that I felt incredulous. Where was the loud, over-the-top, heavily accented woman of "Modern Family" fame?
Of course, Vergara is an actress and it's her job to play a wide range of personalities. However, some Hispanics say that on and off the screen Vergara plays just one character, a flamboyant, stereotypical Latina. A recent poll on the Huffington Post LatinoVoices website asked readers if Vergara had taken the Latina stereotype too far. While nearly 43 percent answered no because the actress is Colombian, about 29 percent agreed that Vergara does behave too stereotypically and another 29 percent said that maybe she does but they couldn't care less because she's fun to watch. On the other hand, Viviana Hurtado of the Wise Latina Club website is fed up with Vergara. She remarked Wednesday on the NPR show "Tell Me More":
"Sofia Vergara is constantly in character, and her accent is part of the character, as is the way she dresses--voluptuous, and I think truthfully I have a really big problem with her and I've written on her a lot because I think she does more to damage any views that the mainstream has about Latina women by playing up--and very lucratively I may add because she's got contracts with KMART, with Cover Girl, with Pepsi, to name a few--and she's cashing to the bank with these stereotypes."
What prompted Hurtado to make such an assessment of Vergara? The actress appears in a new Cover Girl commercial with Ellen Degeneres in which the two entertainers not only tout makeup but also have a worrisome ethnic exchange. It starts when Degeneres steals one of Vergara's lines. Vergara objects and Degeneres responds, "Well, no one can understand you," as if Vergara's Colombian accent makes her English indecipherable. Degeneres also mocks Vergara's English by speaking gibberish after Vergara rather intentionally blurs her words together.
I get that these lines were supposed to be funny and know some of you will write me off as being too PC, but even setting my PCness aside, I just don't find Degeneres' quips amusing. To me, it's such old hat. I mean, how many times did Lucille Ball make accent jokes at Desi Arnaz's expense in "I Love Lucy?" The whole thing is so 60 years ago. I'm over it, as are many Latinos. Sofia Vergara isn't one of them, though.
She remarked during a Daily Beast interview, "I don't see anything bad about being stereotyped as a Latin woman. We are yellers, we're pretty, we're sexy, and we're scandalous. I am not scared of the stereotypes."