Friday, May 24, 2024

Ground Braking Movie ‘In the Heights’ Rejects Old Latino Movie Tropes

Lin- Manuel Miranda was only 19 when he first wrote what he called “a very bad musical” that saw only five notes make it into the final version of the “In the Heights”, which won four Tony Awards following its Broadway premiere in 2008.

Now, after a long journey to get the right studio to produce the film adaptation, the highly anticipated movie premiered last week. Like the stage version, it breaks ground because it centers on Latino characters that have long been missing in mainstream films, TV shows and theater productions.

‘In the Heights’ tells the stories of generations of residents and business owners in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of New York City’s Washington Heights, where Miranda grew up. Characters in the movie are balancing their personal aspirations while fighting for their tight-knit community as wealthier outsiders start to move in, threating to displace them.

Miranda and his co-writer, Pulitzer Prize- winning playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes, had to fight movie executive and producers who wanted to rely on old tropes that have disproportionately portrayed Latinos as the help, criminals, or individuals who only live trauma- ridden lives.

In an interview Miranda stated, “Quiara and I stuck to our guns and stuck to what we felt was important in the storytelling of the show. Such as having Nina, one of the main characters, embody the internal conflicts a first-generation college student.” Making that central female character a smart, Stanford University student was one of the many intentionally created roles that resonated with Latino audiences when the musical came out.

According to the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 4.9% of speaking roles in 2019’s top movies went to Latinos even though they represent almost 19% of the U.S. population. Like “Black Panther” did for Black actors and “Crazy Rich Asians” for Asian actors, “In the Heights” stands out for showcasing Latino talent.

Anthony Ramos, one of the main characters, stated in an interview, “this movie is about something that’s so much greater than you.” He said, his inner child would remind him how much he wished for a movie like “In the Heights” when he was growing up.