Underappreciated Actress of Color #11: Sara Ramirez

~Special Edition Post~

You're probably wondering why an actress who's scored a no doubt lucrative deal with Grey's Anatomy is on this list.  Quite frankly, I'm not too happy with how Hollywood's treated Sara and here's why: go to google and type in her name.  In the helpful hints list which pops up, you'll see "Sara Ramirez" as the first listing, followed by "Sara Ramirez Weight".  So for one, there's that.

Hollywood's perception highly influences viewer perception.  Sara (pronounced Sada, by the way) was the "gorgeous, curvy" wife of a main character who left her for a "stacked blonde" main character (before he was killed off).  After that, her character started dating women ('cause that's just what WoC do when one man decides he doesn't want us).

Now, I'm all for a healthy representation of lesbians/bisexual women--regardless of color.  And I applaud Sara's portrayal as a functional, professional, accomplished fleshed-out woman of color in relationships with women (she's yet to define herself as strictly gay).  I hope she continues and I hope the writers remain good to her.

But in the meantime, straight women of color also need healthy representation, and Hollywood has yet to provide it consistently--Sara--a tall, thick Latina--initially offered the show some hope in that role.  From day one, Sara was not being appreciated on the show.  Her love interest was hooked on one white character who didn't want him, and later we find he carried a subconscious torch for another white character who initially didn't want him either.  He avoided telling Sara's character he loved her, he avoided commitment, she was called a "mistake" by one of the women he really wanted.  He should have never been made her love interest; the writers should've given her a man who was into her for her and who stayed into her (or at least shown her having a healthy, normal dating life).  They did it for the main character on the show; they can do it for her as well.

Here's what gets Hollywood in trouble with us: avoidance.  There's this desperate avoidance of showing women of color (black women in particular) being desired in a healthy heterosexual manner.  Homosexual women of color are portrayed a lot better, perhaps because they're not seen as a "threat".

White writers have this really bad habit of drumming up some reason--any reason--why our characters just have to be left for white ones (Dr. Callie Torres [Sara Ramirez] on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Camille Saroyan on Bones, and Cho Chang in the Harry Potter Series).  If we finally do get a seemingly balanced female character of color in a healthy relationship, her man gets offed (Gina Torres's character loses her husband in Serenity; Gabrielle Union's character is "fated" to lose her fiance on FlashForward).  One popular excuse for, say, the last two, is that black women are stronger than others, can handle the loss of a man, and so portraying them in this light honors that strength.  Survey says?  FAIL.

The scariest part is that Hollywood's actually having trouble reversing its own white audience-conditioning.  Because when we do get finally get a smart, competent, confident black woman in a relationship with a guy who loves her back, and they don't break up, and he doesn't die, whites in the audience (especially females) don't like it and find every means possible to devalue and reverse it.

The excuses of "we don't mean it like that" or "it's not that bad" or "we didn't realize it was causing harm" won't be bought, and most certainly not in the 21st Century.  Hollywood needs to do start doing much, much better by us, especially since women of color aren't the only ones getting sick of its formula.  We need better portrayals of women of color in film and we need it yesterday.

Comments

  1. All the more reason for us to start taking of our stories and how said stories are rendered in the media. As much as Tyler Perry's movies tend to grate on me, at least he's doing something. We need more people to stop the bitching and start putting in the work. It won't be easy, but few things in life are trouble and sweat-free.

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  2. From my understanding Callie is actually bisexual and she's been exploring her queer side. Because even after she came I think she hooked up with Sloan once or twice.

    Maybe it's because they may not get as much representation in the media and it seems they're perceived as safer and not a threat, but actually I would argue that queer women of color catch just as much hell as their heterosexual sisters.

    Cause God knows racism in the LGBTQ community is probably worse than it is in the straight community.

    Perfect examples of racefail dealing with women of color: Papi and Tasha from the L-Word.

    Tara from True Blood. You see her going queer didn't stop the producers from torturing her and doing what they did to her this season.

    I would argue that society doesn't like WOC being desired in a healthy manner at all: straight or otherwise.

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  3. *came out

    as in even after she came out, I think she hooked up with Sloan once or twice.

    *facepalm*

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  4. I would argue that society doesn't like WOC being desired in a healthy manner at all: straight or otherwise.

    And I agree, but I think this society (read: straight white women) sees homosexual WoC as the lesser of two evils. Keeps the menfolk safe, you see.

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  5. "And I agree, but I think this society (read: straight white women) sees homosexual WoC as the lesser of two evils. Keeps the menfolk safe, you see."

    *nods*

    Fair point.

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  6. Kinda like how gay men of color are seen as much more acceptable than straight men of color.

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  7. if we're talking about cis straight white women again, that might be true. Those who find a use for us jungle thug savages for their m/m slash fetish.

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  8. The men too. Keeps the womenfolk safe.

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  9. No because then the men think we're out to molest their kids or worse yet rape them. Because that's all gay black men want to do is rape pure white boy ass. Because that's what they saw on Oz so it must be true.

    I was watching this show once on gay African Americans and the narrator made the best point ever, gay black men are two things that society fears the most. After all, how is the black man perceived: criminal, savage, subhuman, a predator, a monster, a beast. The gay man: deceptive, weak, cunning, treacherous. They see both when it comes to us.

    Whereas white queers might get deemed a cute fashion accessory and patted on the head by the worst of homophobes, we still get treated like perverted deviants.

    Because we're not only the lesbian. We're the big black butch lesbian. We're not just the gay guy. We're the big black gay guy. And we queers are out to rape and defile all of white people.

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  10. I was referring to that recent study I posted on my Facebook a while back in which white folks tended to prefer the faces of gay black men to those of straight black men because the gay black men seemed "friendlier."

    Granted, male and female attitudes towards homosexuality vary. Supposedly "straight" men are downright terrified of gay men. To some straight women, however, lesbianism is not only no cause for worry, but almost becoming something to aspire to.

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  11. Ronnie Brown12/18/11, 2:40 PM

    As a man who has lost a brother and uncle to AIDS (both gay men) i've always been perplexed about Homosexuality...so, i'm gonna put my attitude out there. I've come to feel that male homosexuality is an expression of masculinity in crisis or masculinity in search of a home that uses sex with other men to find it...that why i feel that gay Black men are deemed "friendlier" or less threatening to straight white men. White men know their domination/emasculation of Black men over the centuries has consequences and repercussions...A confident, assertive Black man is a daily reminder that the bill is due...A man who has sex with another man is deemed by most straight guys as emasculated whether he's "straight acting" or effeminate...lesbians however don't generate that same response unless they're butch...it's like they say they are not into men and yet they adopt the mannerisms and dress of a male...why is that?...straight acting lesbians seem to have an extra allure to men because they seem to have a gender bond...women are soft, delicate; they have sleep overs, they're at the club, they go to the bathroom together, they express emotions and hugs together...they seem free...and a man wants to join in because he feels "invited" in a sense...I hope this make sense to you...and i'm really hoping i might glean insight from someone who is comfortable in their skin enough not to write me off as a homophobe...

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  12. I've come to feel that male homosexuality is an expression of masculinity in crisis or masculinity in search of a home that uses sex with other men to find it

    ...and i'm really hoping i might glean insight from someone who is comfortable in their skin enough not to write me off as a homophobe


    These two statements contradict.

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  13. Ignoring the whole masculinity = real men or straight men = default masculine men because I think we can all agree the likes of Edward Cullen debunks that nonsense, let’s discuss this and I will try my best not to go Trent Hirosawa on this damn post.

    “Homosexuality...so, i'm gonna put my attitude out there. I've come to feel that male homosexuality is an expression of masculinity in crisis or masculinity in search of a home that uses sex with other men to find it.”

    First and foremost, homosexuality and masculinity are not mutually exclusive. History has shown time and time again that the fiercest and most powerful warriors in history were gay men or at least men who had sex with other men. Alexander the Great immediately comes to mind. The Greeks, the Spartans (don’t let that Frank Miller homophobic bullshit trick you), the Sacred Banders of Thebes, the Samurais of feudal Japan, the Romans. Even in modern times, gays, lesbians and other queer people have proudly served as firefighters, police officers, soldiers.

    My masculinity is not negated by being a man who has sex with other men, any more than my intelligence is negated by being a black man.

    Homosexuality itself is being attracted to someone of the same gender. It has does not affect how I conduct myself as a man. And I am a man. A real man. Gay, queer, and trans men are real men every bit as cis straight men are.

    “that why i feel that gay Black men are deemed "friendlier" or less threatening to straight white men.”

    Oh if only that were true. Let me break it down for you. Gay black men go through the same shit that straight black men go through and then some. We get accused of being savages, criminals, rapists, monsters and then on top of that we get accused of being diseased pedophiles who are looking to deflower the first white boy ass we can find.

    Being gay DOES NOT negate the hardships of being a black man. It compounds it.


    “lesbians however don't generate that same response unless they're butch...it's like they say they are not into men and yet they adopt the mannerisms and dress of a male...why is that?”

    I’m sorry but I missed the memo that says that straight men have the patent on masculinity. And there’s no such thing as “straight acting.” What’s straight acting? Being masculine if you’re a man or effeminate if you’re a woman. There are legions of effeminate heterosexual men and masculine heterosexual women.

    “women are soft, delicate; they have sleep overs, they're at the club, they go to the bathroom together, they express emotions and hugs together...they seem free...and a man wants to join in because he feels "invited" in a sense.”

    What the fuck?

    Aside from your uncle and your brother how many queer people have you actually interacted with?

    We’re not a monolith, anymore than black people are.

    Interesting I get this message after reading the fourth issue of the Kevin Keller comic that tackles this very issue.

    You might want to do more research in regards to queer people. Because believe it or not we do tend to be complex three-dimensional human beings.

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  14. I will try my best not to go Trent Hirosawa on this damn post.

    *dead*

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  15. Ronnie Brown12/19/11, 1:20 AM

    Neo-Prodigy, you asked how many queer people have i actually interacted with apart from family...well as a freelance music writer interaction with gays is par for the course; but interaction is not information or insight. You insist that i do more "research" in regards to queer people...Well, this is why i posted; i wanted some feedback...instead i get "what the fuck?"...so be it.

    ...and who the heck is Trent Hirosawa?

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  16. First of all, it's not my job (nor the job of any other queer person) to play teacher. So check the entitlement.

    Next you make offensive statements about gays being in crisis with their masculinity and it was explained to you why it was wrong. If working with so many gays is par for the course, I wouldn't have to explain to you why your comments were fucked up.

    You asked for an explanation, I was gracious enough to give you one. So you don't get to get mad because I don't tell you what you want to hear or heaven forbid I insist you do the heavy lifting your damn self.

    "and who the heck is Trent Hirosawa?"

    Ask K about that one.

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  17. And another thing Ronnie. If you work with so many gays, why didn't you ask any of them?

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  18. Ronnie Brown12/19/11, 6:23 PM

    Neo-Prodigy, I asked you, didn't I?...but like YOU said, "First of all, it's not my job (nor the job of any other queer person) to play teacher."...

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  19. @ Ronnie

    I knew I recognized that name. I've seen on my blog before. Been meaning to just flat-out delete your comments on sight & have done with it.

    Here's what I'm getting from you: "I'm a homophobic troll. I want to make homophobic statements and cling to my homophobic thoughts. I'm not remotely interested in actually learning anything about gay men.

    "But I don't want to be written off as homophobe. I want my homophobic thoughts and opinions to be valued and not dismissed for that they are."

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  20. @Ronnie...you conveniently omitted the second part: so check the entitlement.


    "Here's what I'm getting from you: "I'm a homophobic troll. I want to make homophobic statements and cling to my homophobic thoughts. I'm not remotely interested in actually learning anything about gay men.

    "But I don't want to be written off as homophobe. I want my homophobic thoughts and opinions to be valued and not dismissed for that they are."

    +1.

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