Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Portrayal of Mexican Men in "Touch of Evil"

Last week I watched Orson Welles' Touch of Evil in one of my film classes--a Film Noir.

Right off the bat I began noticing a negative portrayal of the Latino man. 

The film stars Charlton Heston as Mike Vargas, a Mexican government official (in brownface and all), Orson Welles as crooked official Hank Quinlan, and Janet Leigh as Mike's bride, Susie. 

Mike Vargas is the good guy, so of course it was only right that a white actor was hired to play the role.

As mentioned before, this is a Film Noir--filled with crime, violence, drugs, and sex. In this particular film however, sex is presented to us in what could be conceived as a racially charged way.

From the start, it is made clear that Susie is to become the target of the Mexican characters' lust. Throughout the film, her personal space is constantly invaded by the Latino men--at one point the character "Uncle Joe" licks his lips in a sort of sleazy kind of way when Susie walks away from him. 

Near the climax of the film, it is also strongly suggested that Susie is about to be raped, as a large group of both men and women (one woman stating "I wanna watch...") surround her and stare at her with menacing eyes--as she lies helplessly on a bed. 

Although it is unclear (to me anyway) if that was a part of what happened, the implication was strong to me and my classmates as well. 

I recommend that you see Touch of Evil(1958). I think it was a pretty good movie--it lived up to its genre. It got a little crazy towards the end, but it kept my interest throughout. 

What are your thoughts on such portrayals of Latino men--or any other man of color?

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