There’s no denying that when we first learned that the CWs beloved 90s hit Charmed would be turning it’s three witches into brujas that we were massively thrilled. News of the series reboot and its trio of Latina sisters felt like a huge win for all mujeres mostly because up until that point our very real thirst for representation in the media we consume has gone unsaturated. So much so, that we weren’t just thrilled about the Latinx reboot, we were excited, enchanted, embrujado. So, you can imagine our massive disheartenment and disappointment when we first learned that reports of the show’s seeming commitment to ensuring Latina representation were grossly over exaggerated. The ultimate stab to the wound, however, was our realization that the big time TV network behind shows like “Jane The Virgin” and “Riverdale” has done nothing to correct the misinformation surrounding its cast.
In a recent roundtable discussion of the upcoming series, two of the three lead roles confirmed that they aren’t Latinas.
— But Why Tho? ???? #TwitchCon (@ButWhyThoPC) October 10, 2018
The revelation came during this week’s New York Comic Con when two of the show’s actresses Madeleine Mantock and Sarah Jeffery set to portray the Latinx charmed ones acknowledged that they were actually Latina at all.
“Playing the Afro-Latina character I think for me I’m just trying to be open,” Mantock shared. “I’m open with the writers and trying to be respectful because I’m Afro-Caribbean. I’m not actually Afro-Latina and I want to make that inquiry because Melanie [Diaz] is actually the only person in her real life who is Latina.”
Mantock did go on to say that she learned Spanish to prepare for this role. Additionally, Jeffrey added, “Yeah, I know that we are representing the Latina community. I actually am African-American. I’m not Latina, which is a common misconception.”
Of course, we’re excited any time we get to see women of color achieve success, particularly in Hollywood when they’re so underrepresented. Black, Asian, disabled, Latinam, and LGBTQ women have been underrepresented and ignored in mainstream television and film for so long that any time we get to see just one cast in a role it feels like we’ve finally come across an oasis. Still, the latest reveals around the cast’s ethnicities do highlight the very real fact that in their effort to promote a reboot, the CW used colorism and exploitation to spark our excitement and interest.
The biggest issue with this “misconception” is that the television network responsible for the reboot, CW, has not bothered to correct it.
The biggest source of hype for the new reboot has been the reports of it’s Latina representation. Not correcting the error outright is equal to endorsing it as true. Let’s not forget that the CW has largely benefited from the false claims of representation which in my opinion is just plain shady. Our Latin American community has long struggled with the Anti-Black nature of its culture and its one that has long been hawked and perpetuated by Hollywood which has only in recent years begun to cast women who don’t look like Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz as Latinas. (In the entertainment sphere, Afro-Latinas just barely squeak by with representation. Just look at the range of Black Latinas who have actually been able to play the part of Latinas on screen and you’ll see that even then Hollywood prefers its Black girls to be as light skinned and straight haired as possible.) So, as you can imagine, having a series that said that not one, but two Afro-Latinas were set to take on iconic roles in a TV reboot was a pretty big deal for us. It made us believe that we were one step forward towards inclusion. Now, knowing that these roles will be played by non-Latinas doesn’t just feel like Afro-Latinas have been left out on a major opportunity but it also feels a bit like a threat to the future of representation on screen.
Ultimately, it isn’t the fault of the actresses mistakenly playing these Afro-Latina sisters.
I am Afro-Caribbean and Caucasian. The internet is wrong about a lot of things! https://t.co/8xPD5Zx5G6
— Madeleine Mantock (@missmads) July 4, 2018
Old Twitter interactions between the actresses and fans have shown that both Madeleine Mantock and Sarah Jeffery have disputed reports that they are Latina. Jeffrey also cleared up claims that she is Latina during a press roundtable in which she identified herself as African-American and her mother as Indigenous Canadian. Nope, the blame falls entirely on the CW network team and “Charmed” showrunners who promoted the series by boasting of its Latinx characters and never once explaining that two out of its three protagonists were not Latinx in the first place. In fact, a superficial google search into the new series will reveal a mass of media coverage that praises the show’s Latinx casting while also featuring interviews with the show’s producers and creators.
Besides the blatant issue with casting, writers and show creators are rooting the Charmed ones magic in European traditions. Instead of exploring the vast mystical world of Brujeria, they have chosen to ignore it. Instead, they have forced European folklore— like the use of the triquetra as their symbol of power— into their narrative. These Celtic traditions don’t align with the “Latina” series that the CW claims they’re making. These inconsistencies seem to add up to a television network attempting to capitalize on our culture and demographic.
Instead of hiring non-Latinx to tell our stories, we need people from our communities representing us. Hiring Latinx talent in front of and behind the camera is an absolute necessity. Simply put, media that attempts to represent us without us has lost its charm.