There’s no doubting the fact that Hollywood has officially become the tía abuela who repeatedly gives us “gifts” we did not want or ask for. But, instead of barbies that are 20 plus years too late, the entertainment industry has been shipping us remakes of old classics like “Ghost Busters,” “Dirty Dancing” and even “Blues Clues.”
These days, it seems every movie and TV show once held to be sacred are now under threat of becoming a reboot starring Jack Black (here’s to you “Jumanji,” “King Kong,” “The Muppets,” and “Goosebumps”). In the past ten years, the film industry has poured billions of dollars into projects inspired by productions that were huge hits in their heyday. “The Mummy” “The Lone Ranger” and shows like “Dynasty” and “The X-Files” are among the many spinoffs and remakes they’ve “gifted” us. All films and shows audiences loved the first time around, but whose reboot box office numbers have proved that it’s no longer enough to just repackage fan favorites by swapping old actors and settings for new ones.
In fact, the formula for what once worked for reboots seems to be steadily evolving, particularly as production companies begin to heavily rely on the power and presence of Latinas.
Need proof? Take a look:
TV classics and the Latina takeover.
CREDIT: “Charmed” / The CW
With shows like “Will & Grace,” “Roseanne,” and “Twin Peaks” getting reboots it’s clear TV networks are on a mission to pull anything from of the 90s nostalgia pool and make something stick. Whether audiences like it or not. And truthfully, it’s hard not to sympathize with the groans that come with every FOX or NBC “reimagining.” Mostly because we live in an era where people of color and other marginalized communities (those with disabilities, of non-cis identities, and religions) are ignored on screen almost as much as they used to be ten and more years ago. It’s not lost on audiences that the shows of yesteryear, the ones today’s studios continue to re-greenlight, had little to no diversity. Fortunately, networks have started to clue in that as an audience we don’t want our TV in just minimally black and primarily white male anymore.
The proof can be seen in Netflix’s investment in the “One Day At A Time” remake that put a Cubana character, played by Boricua Justina Machado, front and center last year. The show has struggled to convince the streaming site to greenlight a third series in recent months, but it’s important to know that this is in spite of the pretty impressive and dedicated following the show has garnered.
The Latina power on TV doesn’t stop with Netflix though. This year studios have banked on the success of Latina casting even harder when it comes to shows that originally had all white leads. In January, Freeform announced that they had committed to an immigration take on the 90s drama “Party of Five.” In the weeks and months following, The CW network seemed to have completely committed to the power that comes when you combine Latinas and reboots. In February of this year they cast Cuban American Jeanine Mason as the lead in the 90s favorite “Roswell,” and last month, they confirmed that after a series of long casting deliberations they’d finally locked in the third sister of the much-beloved cult classic “Charmed.” The announcement sealed the deal on an all-Latina main cast.
Sci-Fi reboots and the power of Afro-Latinas.
CREDIT: “Men In Black” / Colombia Pictures
When it was first announced two years ago that Colombia Pictures would be doing a reboot of the 90s hit “Men In Black,” not too many were impressed by the decision. After all, it was only just six years ago that the franchise’s third installment hit screens. (Honestly, it would have been nice to have a few more years to sit in the nostalgia of Agent J and Agent K days.) This week though, the studio managed to turn popular opinion around when it was announced that Panamanian-Mexicana Tessa Thompson was cast as a lead. In the days since the announcement, the conversation around the film’s new take has completely perked up. But there are more projects besides “MIB” that are acting as proof that Latina actress is more than just a one time fix for movie studios, especially when it comes to her role in sci-fi reboots. HBO knows this. For their take on the 1973 film “Westworld,” the network employed Thompson’s talents and doubled down on latina power in sci-fi with the casting of Gina Torres who is of Cuban descent.
The two Latinas aren’t alone in providing value to some of the industry’s biggest sci-fi-reboots. Zoe Saldana and Lupita Nyong’o have both proved their worth to studios with appearances in remake and expansion films like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” The two franchise series have blown up box offices thanks, at very least in part, to the fandom and talent that has followed both actresses throughout their careers.
Blockbusters: proof that when it comes to reboots, Latinas can make studios bank.
CREDIT: “West Side Story” . United Artists
Would it have been nice to have a Latino director helm the “West Side Story” reboot that has literally every Latina in the business excited? Of course. But, for now, we’ll take Steven Spielberg and his commitment to dodging the brownface antics of the original film that did Latinos dirty back in 1961 and hope he sticks to recruiting a primarily Latino cast and crew. Particularly because there’s no doubting that unlike previous film remakes, the new “West Side Story” has potential to be an even greater box-office hit than the one that preceded it. (It’s a bold bet, but need I remind you of our impressive buying powering when it comes to movie tickets?) With a promise from Spielberg that the role of Maria will absolutely be played by a Latina, “West Side Story” is just another example in my argument that Latinas are bringing it home for Hollywood’s massive reboot fix.
The musical isn’t the only major blockbuster remake set to star Latinas. The 1990 psychological horror film “Jacob’s Ladder” is also getting another go at the big screen. Mexicana Karla Souza of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” will star and undoubtedly slay, as Elizabeth Peña did in the 1990 original that smashed records on its opening weekend.
We’re only three months into 2018, folks. If the studios are smart, they’ll continue to hire Latinas to doctor more reboots (and just make them present in films and shows in general). Look back at stars like María Félix, Rita Moreno, and Olga San Juan and it’s easy to see that Latinas have always killed when they have been given work in Hollywood. Look as far back as “Ben-Hur” (made in 1925 and 1959) and “The Great Train Robbery” (made in 1903 and 1904) and it’s equally as simple to see that Hollywood has been investing in reboots for just as long.
Fortunately, reboots of today are evolving and thriving. There’s no doubt that this is thanks to Latinas. Too bad “Ghost Busters” and “Ocean’s 8” never got the notice. Fingers crossed the “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” series, “Charlie’s Angels” and Walt Disney Studios clue in soon too.