BY AMANDA TOLEDO
The hooded Doctor approached the blue telephone box and pulled down the jacket hood to reveal a bob of blonde hair. The Doctor, time-traveling, centuries old protagonist of British TV show Doctor Who, will regenerate into a woman, and the male trolls on the Internet worked themselves into a froth over the perceived downfall of a show that’s been on television for six decades. One of the many articles about the female Doctor had someone comment on the improbability that over so many centuries and regenerations, not one of the Doctor’s regenerations until now had been female. That comment received a lot of likes, but nobody commented on the improbability of the Doctor never being a person of color. Not once.
Many of my friends took to social media to rejoice over the female Doctor. As a Latina watching the reveal I did feel a swell of joy when I saw the new doctor pull down her hood. A woman, I thought, finally! And yet, another feeling welled up in me that took a while to identify because it’d been so long since I’d felt it: longing. It was the feeling I’d felt as one of the only girls of color in my white grade school in suburban Illinois, staring at blonde locks in perfectly plaited braids on the playground. I knew that I was different, with my brown skin and black hair, my eyes so dark you can barely see pupils. I learned from the looks and comments over my childhood I wasn’t different in a good way. I saw the look of power and hope in the eyes of this female Doctor, her blonde hair closely framing her face, a face similar to those I most yearned to look like as a kid. I realized my friend’s daughter has blonde hair in a bob similar to the Doctor’s; that she, a fan of the show, would get to watch this next season and see herself in the Doctor. As for me and little brown girls that look like me, we’ll have to take the fact that she’s a woman as a win, and hold onto hope that our turn is next.
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Maybe we’ll be the next Captain Marvel, the next Wonder Woman, the next Khaleesi, the next Jedi. Maybe next we’ll see more of ourselves on television. Transparent, Girls, Broad City, Glow, Girl Boss are all shows that are created by and rejoice in the stories of women. White women. These shows are hilarious and of value and need to be seen, and their leads all have the common traits of being young white women that believe they deserve a better lot in life, and act wildly in defiance of expectations. I love it—and I’m tired of it. Where are my misbehaving Puerto Ricans? My "finding-themselves" Dominicans? My don’t give a fuck Cubans? My hilarious on their hustle Mexicans? If they appear at all, these women are supporting the women in those shows. Why aren’t they starring and creating in the same numbers? There are strides, such as Gina Rodriguez’s success and slayage as Jane the Virgin and America Ferrera who started with Ugly Betty and has led Superstore for three hilarious seasons. Still, we are often relegated to Americanized telenovela remakes or maids (even smart ones like on Devious Maids). Even shows with Latina protagonists, however, are mostly created and led by white people.
It sometimes seems when it comes to steps forward in equal representation—whether in media or in wages—white women must get their due first. I still make 53 cents to the dollar for the 75 cents my white female friends make compared to the white man’s $1.00. I have fewer female protagonists that look like me in the media, but I know that part of being oppressed means that asking for anything makes us seem ungrateful. There’s already backlash to women in general wanting representation, how could a lower social status woman push for more? We already gave you a female Jedi and Doctor, isn’t that enough for you snowflakes?
It’s not all bleak. I took heart at Spider Man Homecoming’s cast that was comprised of many actors of color. I eagerly anticipate Ava Duvernay's A Wrinkle In Time characters of color. Jessica Williams’ film The Incredible Jessica James on Netflix allows her character to be what Lena Dunham’s Girls leads were for five seasons: lost, self-righteous, hipster, selfish, and awesome. Issa Rae is crushing it on her HBO comedy Insecure. I want more black female protagonists on television. I want more Latina protagonists on television too. With all the progress, there remains a gap of representations for Latinos. Even for someone like me, who jokes about being a coconut (brown on the outside, white on the inside), aspects of my life are quintessentially Latino; I have a closeness with my large extended family members that often draws looks of incredulity from my white friends, despite having to actively take Spanish classes in high school and college in order to learn it I still sometimes lose a word in English or slip into Spanglish. It’s not stereotypical or cliche or a device, it’s my life. It deserves to be represented in books, and TV shows, and films. It doesn’t need to necessarily be represented by a British TV show about a time traveler; but it does need to be represented in the United States where Latinos make up 17% of the population but Latinas only 3% of cable and streaming. Latina women don’t deserve to be represented next, we deserve to be represented now. Right now.
Amanda Toledo is the feminist daughter of Cuban immigrants, with the loud voice and opinions to back it up. Her writing focuses on women and people of color in media as well as personal creative non-fiction storytelling. She received her degree in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. A Chicago native, she left winter behind her to write and work at a non-profit children's theatre in Southern California.