Entertainment

TikTok and popular music co-opt Latinx culture: NPR


With TikTok trends like “copy and paste Latinas,” the standard for what a Latinx woman is could Where should look like is stuck in a very narrow set of ideals.

Charlotte Gomez for NPR


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Charlotte Gomez for NPR

TikTok and popular music co-opt Latinx culture: NPR

With TikTok trends like “copy and paste Latinas,” the standard for what a Latinx woman is could Where should look like is stuck in a very narrow set of ideals.

Charlotte Gomez for NPR

Silky, long, straight hair and lightly tanned skin. Fine, upturned nose and swollen, sulky lips.

This is what a typical Latina looks like, according to the viral TikTok “copy and paste Latinas” trend. This Eurocentric stereotype ignores the diversity of a group made up of every race, body type and hair texture that exists. The trend burst into popularity in November, with TikTokers volunteering as models for this combination of exotic facial features and heavy, glamorous makeup — a throwback to the “spicy Latina” cliché.

As one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States, Latinos are finally solidifying their presence in popular culture. This newfound attention has its downsides: Creators are using tired tropes to ride the wave of relevance — and some are even impersonating Latinos for clout.

And although Latinidad is a cultural identity that is particularly difficult to define, it is widely appropriated as fodder for content creation. From popularizing aesthetics like “little Mexican girl” to Bad Bunny declaring “everyone wants to be Latino now,” there’s plenty of evidence that the problem is pervasive.

Such co-option can begin with influencers and celebrities adopting styles associated with Latinidad, such as large hoop earrings or clothing inspired by the Cholo aesthetic derived from the Chicano culture of Los Angeles. It is a gateway to adopting stereotypical mannerisms, ways of speaking and attitudes.

While not as brazen as cultural mimicry like blackfishing or Asian fishing, Latino fishing – pretending to be Latino – misrepresents what Latin culture is and who can create it.

Latinx identity in mainstream music

If you feel like you’re hearing more music in Spanish than ever before, you are. “Latin music”, a category usually associated with genres like reggaeton, dembow and bachata, has seen a resurgence in popularity since 2015. Revenues and streams are growing steadily, thanks to the commercial success of artists like Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Rauw Alejandro, Maluma and Karol G.

Categorizing so many musical styles under one term ignores their variety, individuality and deep historical origins.

“‘Latin Music’ is a term that I really hate. I think it flattens everything that we are and allows the Latin peach to happen because the umbrella term for Latin music encompasses reggaeton and dembow, and it is generally misinterpreted as [only] this,” says Venezuelan-American poet, writer and music journalist ER Pulgar.

When commercial entities market “Latin music”, they overlook genres that are not lucrative or well known. Selecting a handful of sounds to represent an entire ethnicity gives an inaccurate picture of who creates “Latin music” and who listens to it.

“When you strip away all that specificity and strip away all that history, you end up with a European wearing gigantic hoops on the cover of ‘Viva Latino!’ Spotify playlist. And nobody questions it,” says Pulgar.

They refer to Rosalía, a key name in any Latin fishing discussion. The Spanish pop star and producer has achieved worldwide success with the genre music she sings in her native language, blending elements of bachata, reggaeton, champeta, neoperreo and other Latin genres.

The end result is the popular misconception that Rosalía is Latina. It’s a narrative she’s helped create a lot, including her repeated nominations and wins at the Latin Grammys, and her inclusion in Latin music roundups and playlists on streaming services.

Critics point to Rosalía’s use of these genres and aesthetics as an appropriation, a stark departure from the flamenco-inspired music that made her famous.

“I don’t know how many times I had to explain to people that Rosalía wasn’t Latina,” says Pulgar. “It still shocks me. Can’t you hear the accent? I don’t know if it’s a lack of [understanding of] geography. I don’t know if that’s the very successful marketing of it all.”

In an essay for Refinery29, Michelle Santiago Cortés cites other celebrities who profited from ethnic and cultural ambiguity, such as Enrique Iglesias and Penelope Cruz in the late 1990s.

“We could argue that, in their rise to fame, these individuals profited from the work of the oppressed people responsible for the Latin explosion and expanded the audience for Spanish-language music. But that assumes that the music and music industries entertainment value black and brown people, which they don’t,” she wrote.

For a more recent example, take Ariana Grande, who has been criticized for cultural appropriation, such as the use of African-American vernacular English. and sporting misinformed kanji tattoos.

Over the years, these attempts at corporate “coolness” have been more quickly dismissed in the mainstream cultural conversation. Now, on unorganized platforms, identity misunderstandings have become a trend that anyone participates in on their social media, without a savvy audience ready to speak out.

The social media trickle

Imitating or mocking identity groups for attention has proven to be a consistent success with social algorithms. With the Latinos it started in the community, with videos centered around “hot Cheeto girls” appearing around 2020. The phenomenon portrays Latino teens in public schools as loud, obnoxious, and ghetto.

Content like this was an easy win, as the creators could appeal to anyone who had witnessed this stereotype. Add trends like “copy and paste Latinas” and you set the stage for the promotion of stereotyping and fetishization.

Since then, these public jokes have evolved. On TikTok, where videos and their respective audio tracks can be ripped for use by other users, an increasing number of viral audios are from reggaeton songs or spoken in Spanish, encouraging users to lip-sync or to dance.

The popularity of this music has given some users a different idea: why not create content related to the songs – such as relationships, infidelity and the well-known concept of being “addicted” in relationships – even if they aren’t Latinos?

Users were particularly upset with popular designer Chiara King. Although fluent in Spanish, King is from the UK and has made big claims about Latinas in their relationships with hashtags like “latina trending” and “toxica.”

In a now-deleted video, King does makeup with the caption, “The mind of a Latina 24/7,” while lip-synching a sound about her possibly cheating boyfriend. In the hashtags, she wrote, “I’m not Latina but I tell.”

For graduate student and content creator Marlene Ramirez, King’s appropriation felt familiar in a very unwelcome way.

“[It was upsetting] to see her, as a white woman, embrace those tropes and take advantage of them,” she says. “She was portraying Latinas in a very toxic way. I think that was really very triggering for me as someone who had to conform to certain standards of whiteness, especially in the academic and professional space,” Ramirez is familiar with these stereotypes, but found them to be significantly more pointed. lately.

“People want to look like us, people want to copy our culture, and they reduce us to this ‘spicy’ [trope]like we’re emotionally dysregulated,” she adds.

These trends are also impacting how it’s viewed offline, she says.

“We’re very passionate, but there’s a historical context that I miss. I’ve noticed that in the way I’ve been perceived for the last two years. I feel like I’ve been fetishized a lot more. ”

For any cultural group to be reduced to a narrow set of ill-informed characteristics is an unwelcome change from being ignored in the cultural zeitgeist.

But for content creators vying for views before their relevance wave has passed, identity may be just a costume.

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