By Timia Cobb
Web Content Contributor
In the last couple of years, TV and movies have been embracing more culture and representing minorities by casting them in leading roles of well-written popular movies and shows. These shows and movies give POC (person of color) actors the chance to pursue roles that aren’t about racial issues and the struggles of living as minorities. Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Coco, Black Lightning, Jane The Virgin and Insecure are just a few examples of amazing shows and movies that consist of a majority minority cast where the focus isn’t mainly on racial issues and minorities are not portrayed in despair because of their race.
Siempre Bruja (Always a Witch) was marketed as a show embracing the power of an Afro-Latina witch who just so happened to be a slave sent from 1646 to the future. Netflix publicized this show amazingly—the trailer showed a cast of full of Afro-Latina/Latino representation and embraced the Spanish culture. However, the show Netflix made audiences believe they were getting was anything but.
I wouldn’t say that Netflix lied, because they never exactly explained the plot of the show. They just gave us a trailer and let us think what we wanted to. You can watch the trailer here and gather a sense of the plot that Netflix was trying to represent:
However, the actual plot of the show is just confusing and somewhat disrespectful. Carmen, the main character, who is played by Angely Gaviria, is a witch who is in love with her slave master’s son, meaning that he technically owns her. I, unlike many others, can look past the romanticization of slavery, but I shouldn’t have to.
I would think in 2019 we would be past the slave and slave master love story, but I guess, sadly, we aren’t. One would think that this would be the worst thing this show could incorporate in the plot, but it’s not even close. She and her owner, or how the show describes it, her lover, Cristóbal get caught in the act and Carmen is accused of bewitching him into being with her. As a result, it is announced that Carmen is to be burned at the stake and her lover is killed by his father. In conclusion, Carmen makes a deal with a wizard to go to the future and in return, he will save Cristóbal.
What makes this this entire plot uncomfortable is when Carmen comes to future, she’s free, but that doesn’t matter to her. All she can focus on is saving Cristóbal’s life and getting back to 1646 to be with him. I feel disrespected by this plot because it’s showing a young Afro-Colombian woman wanting to be a slave again in order to be with a man who owns her instead of enjoying the freedom that’s been granted to her. What makes this even more frustrating is that this is all presented in the first two episodes.
I did watch the entire season because I believed this show could have a deeper meaning to it instead of what had been presented. The show has a talented and comedic cast; however, it seems like it’s being forced considering that the storyline appears to be of a more serious matter. The first couple of episodes are a battle to watch because of how conflicting it is to overlook the slave and slave master romance, but by episode five the show is actually okay and makes you want to see how it plays out. I would say to genuinely see Siempre Bruja’s true potential and enjoy it, you’re going to have to put your common sense of right and wrong aside while also keeping an open mind.
I expected so much from this show because of how amazingly it was promoted. It had so much potential, even after the plot was presented. It could have easily taken a different route. The reason I believe people will have an issue with the plot of the show is because it indirectly is saying that Carmen would be happier in 1646 as a slave again and knowing this show was targeted to POC audiences makes me question Netflix and the point they were trying to establish. They wanted to give audiences a show with Afro-Latino/Latina representation, but also made the main character come off as weak and desperate to get back to slavery. Knowing this just makes me ask: what was the point?
The representation of minorities is there, but the plot of the show contradicts it and belittles the importance of showing POCs in a good light. Media outlets need to do better. Our society isn’t only one race, so why do most shows and movies only reflect a white face when most of the viewers aren’t white? Also, when minorities are represented, they get humiliated or disrespected, and Siempre Bruja is sadly an example of this. We need better representation.
Representation can come in many forms and can mean a lot to someone. Representation tells a little Asian girl that she could one day save China, or show that a princess doesn’t always have to white. It tells us that there are other people like us in the world and if they can do it, so can we. If minorities are always in the background and portrayed in a negative or stereotypical light, what does it make us think about ourselves? What does it make others think about us?
More roles have started to be given to minority actors and it should continue to be that way, but Siempre Bruja isn’t the way to do it. People of color deserve better representation in films and shows. We make up a huge part of the world and we should see that on our screens.
Featured image screenshot via Netflix.