Life On and Off a TV Set
Maybe I was just cranky because I hadn't finished my first cup of coffee.
Sometimes I wish I could turn my brain off, and just think in single words, like a squirrel: Nut. Hungry. Car.
Instead, my overactive noggin' goes deep into contemplation mode, even before 9am, considering stuff like the great societal implications of a new Cover Girl commercial starring Sofia Vergara and Ellen DeGeneres.
The two funny ladies doubled up recently for this thirty second spot promoting some sort of two-in-one concoction. I wasn't even really paying attention until I heard Sofia say, "That's what I was supposed to say now." To which Ellen responded, "Well, no one can understand you."
The camera panned to Sofia, the beautiful Colombian actress and star of Modern Family, who gave some sort of self-depreciating, shy smile, like, oh, silly me.
If it stopped here, I could have let it go. But of course it didn't.
In the next frame, Ellen continues to mock Sofia's English, first saying, "See, that's what I was talking about. See, what did you just say?" But then it goes way over the top, with Ellen stuttering her version of a Spanish accent.
Pause and watch. I'll wait.
Now tell me, which part of this is okay?
Granted, I understand Sofia has developed her schtick from being cheeky, self-effacing and difficult to understand. I get that Sofia, as a Latina, has the right to make fun of her accent, all the way to the bank. I also comprehend both ladies are comediennes, acting in a scripted piece.
But you'd think that somewhere in the creative process, someone, anyone, would have paused and said, hmmm, if we lived in a world that could tell the difference between satire and stereotypes, we'd be okay. But we don't, so let's work out another angle for this advertisement.
Think the modern viewer isn't making assumptions from what they see on tv? Think again.
One of my girlfriends, born and raised in Puerto Rico, has lived on the mainland for 20 years. She speaks Spanish and English fluently. Yes, with an accent. Recently, while talking to her son, a girl approached and said, "Hey, you talk just like that woman on Modern Family. Do you live near her?"
Her son replied, "No, we don't live on a TV set, stupid."
These words? They bear repeating.