“White Mexicans”: Hollywood shows off its faux liberalism again

Does the myth still persist that Hollywood is staffed exclusively by progressive liberals?

I’m asking this because last fall, a sizeable bunch of actors and directors got together to defend Roman Polanski, and then there was that debacle at the Oscars when Alec Baldwin slapped winner Kathryn Bigelow’s behind BUT HEY I’M SURE HE WAS BEING IRONIC and the band played “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” and… ugh, that’s enough. So I was thinking: maybe this myth has already been dispelled, and the idea of “Hollywood elitist liberals” is dead already.

Then I remembered how doublethink works and figured: doubtful.

And so I bring you this, from an article at the BBC website on why Hollywood hires so many British actors who can manage convincing American accents to star in American TV and films:

English actor James Purefoy, who played Mark Antony in Rome, believes the network of British actors is perceived by American colleagues as cheap labour.

“We are often referred to in Los Angeles as white Mexicans,” he told an audience of British hopefuls at a seminar on how to make it in America.

Whoa – check, please! “White Mexicans”? Get it? Oh, it’s so clever because, you see, Mexicans are sometimes oppressed into acting as cheap labor for Southern Californians, and this exploitation is, apparently, just hilarious. But wait, it gets even worse because here’s a newsflash: not all British people are white. In fact, one of the first actors mentioned in the article as an example of this trend is Idris Elba, the black British actor who played Stringer Bell in The Wire. A number of other British actors of varying brown persuasions working in the United States are also mentioned in the article. And yet… “white Mexicans.”

Let’s count up the charges on this one:

  1. Stereotyping and objectifying Mexican-Americans.
  2. Trivializing exploitation by comparing a situation in which people from a country with a social safety net choose to underbid the competition with a situation in which people flee to another country to work for less than minimum wage because that’s a better option than they had at home. Think about that for a minute – seriously.
  3. The massive white privilege involved in referring to all British people as “white” when so many of the specific individuals you’re discussing are, in fact, obviously not.
  4. Bringing race into it by using the term “white” at all when it wasn’t even necessary to the still highly problematic comparison to “Mexicans.”
  5. Using the term “Mexicans” to refer to any group more broad than “citizens of Mexico.”

What else have I missed? I have a feeling there’s a lot.


  1. sbg says

    Well, there’s the fact that all Mexicans are not brown*. It’s highly problematic to me when any nationality is reduced to a color. What is that I don’t even.

    *Presuming, here, that someone out there thinks this. Maybe a better statement would be: well, there’s the fact that all Mexicans are not not-white. 😉

  2. Charles RB says

    “We are often referred to in Los Angeles as white Mexicans”

    The contempt there is staggering.

  3. scarlett says

    For a while when a lot of film production was being done in Australia ‘cos it was cheaper, we were being referred to as ‘Mexicans with mobiles’. I didn’t get it at the time. I’ve no idea what it’s so much cheaper to produce a movie in Australia than in the US – unless our film and television sbsidies extend to products which clearly aren’t intended to be an Australian product – but the difference to me between producing in Australia and producing in Mexico is that in Australia, you’re still maintaining a first-world-country quality of life whereas in Mexico it’s cheaper ‘cos they don’t enjoy the same quality of life.

  4. scarlett says

    We have significant incentives for film and tv production, too, though I thought that was only for stuff which was intended to be for an Australian audience. At any rate – going to another first-world country ‘cos they can do something cheaper for whatever reason is not the same as going to a second- or third-world country ‘cos their standard of living is so much lower.

  5. says

    Uh, I don’t think any third world destinations have ever been major filming hubs for Hollywood in the way Sydney was for a while there. I’m not sure I’m following what you’re saying, Scarlett?

  6. says

    From Anemone’s link:

    To have the opportunity of being close to their crafts, these Canadian artists endured being called “Mexicans in Sweaters” and “Ice Niggers” or “Frostbacks” when they went to LA to try to wring a career out of their hard won secondary credits.

    Christ! See? Because Hollywood has so long been in possession of something so many people want so badly, they’ve had the privilege of not having to meet reality, of not having to join the rest of society in at least a facade of political correctness.

    I also have to say the vast majority of people I worked with in HW weren’t like this, at least as far as I could tell. I don’t even think they thought that way. But it’s so troubling how many stories have been collected of EXECUTIVES – decision makers – wielding phrases like that like clubs.

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