14
Aug 06

Is Nacho Libre Racist?

FT5 comments • 14,211 views

Jack Black in a triumph of naturlistic acting YES: Jack Black does a ridiculous Mexican accent.

NO: This is pretty much the premise. All the other actors are Mexican’s with varying accents. Calling the film racist because one character has a silly accent would be to condemn Peter Sellars in The Pink Panther, not to mention Steve Martin or Alan Arkin*.

YES: The film portrays Mexico as a poverty stricken, almost third world country – at odds with the actual reality.

NO: The film is clearly shy of any kind of reality, playing its setting for laughs. What is more, the lack of technology in the film suggests an out-of-time setting, a mythical idea of a Mexico (and Oaxaca State) that has more in common with Speedy Gonzales cartoons than a real Mexico**.

YES: Nearly all the characters are stupid. Thus the film characterises Mexican’s as stupid.

NO: Not all the characters are stupid, and indeed Nacho’s own noble stupidity is the centre for much of the humour. The intelligence shown by the orphaned children, greater than that of the adults, not only suggests a smarter next generation but is not uncommon in what is essentially a kids film.

YES: Jared Hess’s direction of the film as stilted, and full of pregnant pauses somehow rubs off on Mexico itself, showing it to be a dull, slow-witted place.

NO: Where was this criticism of Napoleon Dynamite, shot in exactly the same style***?

My post Diversity Training assessment: No, Nacho Libre is not racist. Taken in and of itself perhaps it shows an outdated view of Mexico. But since the fun being picked lies squarely at the feet of the sole non-Mexican in the cast, and has a timelessness to it which seems less accusational than just fun. The gags are not at Mexico’s expense. Also it cannot be considered seperately from other recent cinematic views of Mexico, from the more objectional (but wholly different) Man On Fire, through Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien.

And it is very, very funny.

*Not in itself a bad thing.

**Again, potentially racist in themselves.

***Still a potentially good argument.

Comments

  1. 1
    Martin Skidmore on 16 Aug 2006 #

    Complaining that comedies feature dumb people would be a pretty lame argument, of course.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 16 Aug 2006 #

    I’d be interested to see what you think of the wrestling in it. I have a friend who has been to some Mexican wrestling in Mexico City which says it is not a million miles off (one of the gags in the film is that Nacho & Steven keep getting paid even though they lose – luckily the “secret at the heart of wrestling is not broached beyond that).

  3. 3
    summer martinez on 6 Aug 2020 #

    I have Mexican descent if you couldn’t already tell because of my last name, and I say if it is not your ethnicity/nationality/race you should never get to decide whether something of them is offensive. It is our decision not your own. I belive it to be offensive because of many reasons. Jack Black has European descent aka he’s white, his accent is stereotypical, most of the characters are given dehumanizing stereotypes, it only shows Mexico to be slow boring gross and poor when only some places it is like that, the nun is depicted as very beautiful only because she has white features, and there is no representation for brown girls at all. I could type more but I think you get the idea. I understand the style of the movie and how its just like napolean dynamite because I am studying film making over quarentine but, when it come to having a film about people who are oppressed (especially if the genre is comedy) you have to be woke about it. Some may also say that their are people in Mexico and other Latino counties who are white but Jack Black doesn’t even have Spanish descent. Also, other may tell me that this isn’t racist and racism is just straight up hate, actually racism is more than blatent racism it is ignorance just like in this film. I would also like to add that this movie is on the older side but that is no excuse for ignorance. Thats like saying its fine for grandpa to think beating your children is ok because he’s older. Don’t forget that only Mexican people can make the decision on whether it is racist or not because they are the oppressed group not you. I truly hope you learn from your awful mistake and all the people that worked on this sketchy article are going to educate themselves from now on. I bet you people are going to sell my email now but this article made me much too upset to not comment. Oh yes and stereotypes of POC are racist because their dehumanizing them to only those stereotypes and stereotypes of white people still show them as more than country music and wearing hunting camo even though they are almost never depicted in that way ever. Be surprised that I am not the stereotype you pictured in your mind.

  4. 4
    Raquel Velasquez on 24 Sep 2020 #

    I really like your approach to this! As a Latina myself, I was wondering what constituted serious misrepresentation versus plain old silliness. I think it was important to note, as you did, that every other actor in this film is Latino, except for the two actors who played Nacho (the young and old versions). There isn’t a purposeful attempt to exclude true Latinos, which would demonstrate racist tendencies. I think that the casting of Jack Black as Nacho, bad accent and all, was a decision that had the comedy of the film as the priority. Jack Black is pretty good at his craft, and I think he brought his character to life in ways other actors might not’ve been able to do. He has a tendency to play characters like Nacho, too–silly, fun, and (more than a little) dumb. Whether or not the film is disrespectful to the Mexican culture is less straightforward of a question to answer, considering that some aspects, like the popularity of luchalibre, were kind of accurate, while others were really only realistic in the world the movie created. I’m willing to look past small things like inaccuracies in day-to-day life in Mexico if I can have a cheesy movie that I like to watch while I’m keeping busy, but it’s ultimately up to individual Latinos (and those of Mexican descent in particular) to decide whether or not it passes as alright.

  5. 5
    Antonio Alejandro on 20 Nov 2020 #

    loved the movie loved the fight scenes, you gotta love jack black ese wey esta bien cagado jajajajaja, pinches gringos no se aguantan ni madres, para ellos todo es racista jajajaja, me senti bien orgulloso de la pelicula la neta w, y aja esta chingona um buen clasico la verdad

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