So 1999's television Brownout failed because people did not have the self-discipline to give up television for even one week. The result? A dearth of Latinos on network television that's so bad we don't even have stereotypes to rally against.
What can we as responsible Latinos do to combat the absence of our community on network television?
The answer comes out every day via the lives of Homero, Bartolo, Margarita, y Isabel AKA Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa of The Simpsons. This animated sitcom is probably the best bet for network television incorporating Latino characters on their shows.
All we have to do is point out to creator Matt Groening and his gang that they have to follow through on what they have already created on The Simpsons: introducing an enormous Latino community in Springfield. From here, our presence emanates naturally rather than through force of a boycott.
Ridiculous? At first glance, the only constant Latino presence on The Simpsons seem to be Dr. Nick Riviera (whose accent recalls the Latino dean of all Latino television characters, Ricky Ricardo) and Bumblebee Man (if you haven't figured out that he's a parody of El Chapul?Colorado, renounce your Latino identity immediately!). But one must go beyond the obvious, deconstruct these characters, and consider subtle yet crucial incidents in the show to discover Latino Springfield.
To begin, let's examine Bumblebee Man (whose real name is Pedro). To the Simpson family and their friends, Bumblebee Man is just thoughtless foreign entertainment. Nevertheless la abeja is an important member of Springfield television and the community.
His popularity is such that he beats Krusty the Clown, Springfield's most famous entertainer, in the ratings. Since all of Bumblebee Man's skits are in Spanish (albeit a horribly corrupted version), his ratings victory indicates a large Latino population that -- if not present -- would make his victory impossible.
It's not just Bumblebee Man that beats Krusty; it's the network he belongs to that beats Krusty's Channel 6, Canal Ocho. Although Bumblebee Man's program has been the only Channel Ocho production shown in The Simpsons so far, it can be assumed by its victory over Channel 6 and the fact that it owns a production studio that it is an big network in Springfield.
When Sideshow Bob threatened to blow up Springfield, Channel Ocho was one of the "distinguished representatives of television" that met with Mayor Joe Quimby to decide the fate of television in Springfield. An exclusively Spanish television station would be unnecessary if an area does not have a large Spanish-speaking population so Channel Ocho's existence proves the existence of Springfield's Latino community.
One final Bumblebee Man-related reason for proof of a large Latino population is his eventual switch to Channel 6 (where Krusty and newscaster Kent Brockman work). Bumblebee Man's defection is shown in an episode where Homer and his friends create a bowling team and beats the Channel 6 squad-which includes Bumblebee Man.
The Springfield English networks, it appears, have finally become aware of a large Latino viewing audience and are now trying to entice Latinos to switch over to their channels by hiring Spanish-speaking stars.
This harkens to real life attempts by soap operas to cast Ricky Mart?and Cristina Saragelui after networks found out Latinos watch television. Judging from the television viewing habits of Springfield, it becomes evident that there is a large Latino population on The Simpsons. But socio-economic reasons also prove this.
The Simpsons alludes to its Latino population through Dr. Nick Riviera. Dr. Nick is an immigrant himself, having to take an immigrant test to remain in the country in one episode. Although he is a hilariously inept doctor, Dr. Nick operates a free clinic in the poor section of town. This shows the reality that Latino immigrants have in trying to attain proper health care. Most end up going to clinics that are hideously understaffed or have bad doctors like Dr. Nick.
The "problems" that Latino immigrants bring to Springfield is best exemplified in one episode of The Simpsons where Springfield has Proposition 24, the anti-immigrant measure eerily similar to our infamous 187, on its election ballot. Mayor Quimby would not have used immigrants as a scapegoat for his own problems if a large immigrant population did not exist.
Based on the examples I have provided earlier, the largest immigrant group is Latinos, even if they are not explicitly shown on The Simpsons. This proves that the fear of Latinos and changing demographics was already festering amongst the Springfield population; they just needed a moron like Pete Wilson-err, Homer Simpsons to instigate it.
Cultural values espoused by the Simpson family itself also suggest the Latino influence on Springfield that could only arise from daily interaction with Latinos.
In one episode, Mr. Burns gives Bart a large Olmec relic out of gratitude for saving his life. Maggie points to a card that says "Mayan" but Lisa corrects her by pointing to one that says "Olmec". There is no way Lisa could have learned the nuances of pre-Columbian civilizations without the help of Chicano activists.
One of Bart's catch phrases is "Ay, carumba!" It's impossible to imagine that Bart could have incorporated Spanish slang into his vocabulary unless he hung out with a bunch of chavalos who taught him Spanish swear words or expressions.
Even bigoted, ignorant Homer is not immune to the spread of Latino culture. One time, he imagined himself as the devil playing maracas. Another time, Homer went to a lonchera truck and demanded "Where's my burrito?" You think a lonchera is going to be in a non-Latino workplace?
Two sporting events will prove once and for all that Latinos make up a large portion of Springfield's population. In one episode, Marge and her friend's sponsor a luchador called "El Bombstico" who is scheduled to appear in a lucha libre match in Springfield; the ad was in Spanish.
Another sporting event was Mexico and Portugal's soccer in Springfield. Taking into account American indifference towards soccer, why else would these countries stage a match in the United States unless they had a huge fan base (i.e., Latinos) to play in front of?
We must claim The Simpsons as a Latino show and pressure the writers to fully illustrate the large Latino community they has already established as a major component of Springfield. This does not even involve a threat of boycott or dreaming up of ridiculous situations to include a Latino presence.
All that including Latinos on The Simpsons means is that we will see more of Springfield and our favorite animated family. By demanding for a true portrayal of Springfield, we can make The Simpsons the television show with the biggest Latino presence outside of Cops.
Gustavo Arellano is a contributing writer to OC Weekly and a graduate student at UCLA. He can be reached at email@example.com