More and more, we’re seeing languages besides English prominently featured in blockbuster films. But does bilingualism have a positive impact, or reinforce age-old stereotypes? How does the use of language in movies change the way we think about people?
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that about 20% of the American population speaks a language other than English at home. That’s one in every five people — one in every five characters you see on screen. And yet, for many years, this diversity has not been accurately represented in blockbuster films.
The Goonies has one of the earliest and most memorable bilingual scenes, when Mouth fools Rosalita, the recently hired maid, by purposefully translating English badly to her. While it’s admirable that they chose to make Mouth knowledgeable in Spanish, it’s undeniable that Rosalita was made to look inferior. While being a realistic representation of cultural demographics, the gesture of representation still falls short by affording Rosalita the “ignorant maid” stereotype.
When Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides introduced us to Penelope Cruz’s character, she was the first character to speak Spanish in the franchise, despite the films being set in the Americas. Even so, she was from Spain, and not a native Spanish-speaker from the Caribbean.
Read more: Hypable