The Most Interesting Whitewashed Character in Advertising

Bon Voyage to the Most Interesting Man in the World. Loved by saints and sinners and far more than his fair share of women, he has played  with popes and wrestled with animals; he mastered the art of being the man. Mexican beer brand Dos Equis announced the retirement of the much-loved man-scot or, to be exact, they’ve announced the most interesting man is headed to another world on a one-way trip to Mars.

The Most Interesting Man in The World (MIMITW) has been a good look for the Mexican beer brand since 2006.  The introduction of the MIMITW has resulted in an appreciable uptick in sales and spawned a thousand memes.

Dos Equis decided it was time to update the brand, make it more modern and tighter fit with their upcoming sponsorship of college football, but at smntks, I suspect they decided to dump the undumpable MIMITW before fans woke up to this most agreeable of whitewashed characters.

Listen, how could you not love a guy that wrestles lions and charms queens?  But step too close and catch the faintest whiff of racism. In an industry with few opportunities for Latino actors, why is this juicy role whitewashed?

The MIMITW is actually played by Jonathon Goldsmith, a Jewish actor born in New York in 1938 who made the round of a number of popular 70’s and 80’s  shows including  Perry Mason and Dallas. How did he become the most recognizable Latino brand spokesperson?

That’s right, the spokesperson for Mexican beer is the one white guy in a room full of 500 Latino actors they decided was more Latino than any of the Latinos.  How could this be?  Goldsmith wasn’t being a latino in his audition–he played a Latino filtered through the white gaze: success! Goldsmith recounts the details in a 2012 Ad Age interview:

“Basically it was just a cattle call,” he said. “I got into the room, and there were hundreds of people and a big crowd waiting outside, and everybody looked like Juan Valdez. And I said “This is crazy—they are not looking for me.’ I went in when it was my turn and all I could think about was “My God, I’ve got to move my car by 4 o’clock or I’m going to get a massive ticket. “

Goldsmith says that he based the character of the most interesting man in the world on his close friend and famous Latin Lover actor Fernando Lamas.  You may not remember the actor in old movies like The Violent ones or this gem, Dangerous When Wet:

But you may remember the Saturday Night Live Skits based on the actor called Fernando’s hideaway.

All the hallmarks of the stereotypical latin lover are here:  sultry accent, swooning smooth talk, tall, dark and handsome. Way more machismo than the marrying type.  Doesn’t sound too terrible, being reduced to a man-whore, a literal Don Juan.  Yeah, no exoticizing there. Definitely better than the king kong stereotype, but a stereotype still.

Funny how in the movies the brown-skinned lover is seen as sexy and dangerous, but in real life they’re just seen as dangerous.  The hot fantasy of the latin lover is, like Jonathon Goldsmith’s latin lover pedigree, just a fantasy.  SImilar to stereotypes of black men, the stereotype of Latino men in American media boils down to this: hot in the sheets, shot in the streets.

Okay, okay, I’m not trying to rain beer on your Mars launch. Let me be the first to admit the MIMITW is a fantastic character.  The commercials are all hilarious.  …..You know what’s coming, though, right? His devil may care, love them and leave them fantasy man is as stinky a stereotype as Pepe le Pew.  Choosing the old stereotypical image of machsmo-mad latinos makes Dos Equis a little skunky too.  Sigh.  Something that is true, even if it makes you sad, is that sometimes stuff you think is funny is racist.

But it’s 2016, and in our increasingly diverse and woke world, whitewashing characters, not matter how well loved is no bueno. Woomp woomp, Most Interesting Man in the World–take your ass to mars.

Dos Equis reports that the campign isn’t dead, just being retooled. When casting, don’t forget the many talented and truly Latino actors–like The Strain’s Miguel Gomez–looking for a juicy role.  Do us a fovor, skip the Rico Suave stereotype and give us a crisp modern Latinx vibe–now that’s refreshing.

 

 

Susan X Jane

Susan Jane thinks a lot about media and race…a lot. She teaches Communications at Wheelock College, writes and speaks about media…and race... and generally encourages everyone she meets to think about the way media shapes their sense of self and their ideas and beliefs about the world. If you're reading this, she wants you to think about it too. Want to talk about it? Let's go.

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