If you follow me on Twitter you know I’ve been apprehensive about the reboot of the 2000s iconic witchy show Charmed. Debuting next week on October 14th, the show will follow three Latina sisters as they come into their magic. For many, it was a win for Latinx representation, in a medium where representation is abysmal in spite of being the largest minority group in the country. However, for me, I saw every promo as a copy and paste job, one that inserted Latinas into a white story and giving no regard to the sister’s culture.
The world of magic thee sisters inhabit in the original Charmed series is one of European mythologies and power, this has been seen replicated in the reboot through promos, specifically use of the triquetra as their sign of power, which is rooted in a Celtic history. This was my critique of what the public had been given in regards to a new Charmed aimed to put a spotlight on Latinx actress. It was ignoring the long histories and various practices of brujeria that are celebrated and feared in Latinx cultures.
The response I received from non-Latinx and Latinx alike was to trust the CW, to trust the show because the creators of Jane the Virgin were involved. But I didn’t trust them and in reality what I imagined happening would have been better than the realities of the show that have of come to light.
The casting of Melonie Diaz, Madeleine Mantock, and Sarah Jeffery has been branded by online media outlets as a win for diversity and the promise of a Latinx-focused Charmed, or at least that’s what we were thinking. However, the culture of the sisters has remained vague and until now. Diaz was cast first and media outlets, assumed, without Latinx writing the pieces, that all three actresses were in fact, Latina. This is not the case.
In spite of multiple media outlets continuously reporting that all three actresses were Latina, they are not. With no correction issued officially until New York City Comic Con. Although Mantock corrected a Twitter user in a tweet got no attention, the CW has yet to make attempt to correct the published work on media sites which have given them some of the best marketing for their show. That being said, there was an opportunity for them to cast three Latinas in the roles, as the sisters are all Latinas on-screen.
Mantock will be playing an Afro-Latina character, however, she is not Afro-Latina herself. At a New York Comic Con roundtable, Mantock explained “Playing the Afro-Latina character, I think for me I’m just trying to be open… [I’m] open to the writers and trying to be respectful because I’m Afro-Carribean. I’m not actually Afro-Latina and I do want to make that distinction because Melanie [Diaz] is actually the only person who is in her real life is Latina.” She later went on to say that she prepared for the role by learning Spanish.
In addition to Mantock, Jeffery is also not Afro-Latina. At the same roundtable, she said “I think that’s something the writers are still sort of pouring over. Yeah, I know that we are representing the Latina community. I actually am African-American. I’m not Latina, which is a common misconception.”
All this being said, Latinx culture is wider than a language and in casting Mantock the CW missed out on the opportunity to afford an Afro-Latina the chance to live her culture on-screen. Anti-Blackness in the Latin community is widespread and media visibility of Afro-Latinx is necessary, important, and although the character will be Afro-Latina on-screen, I’m sure there is an Afro-Latina actress sitting at home who could have brought her to life.
Ultimately it isn’t the actresses faults but Urman’s and the CW’s for not rectifying the printed mistakes while profiting from them. It seems that the writing of different fathers, and presenting a multiracial family was done by Jennie Snyder Urman to cover their bases, at least according to the NYCC roundtable. It also makes sense as to why the network, cast, and releases have been vague about the cultures of the new witches. For those of you who don’t know Urman is the creator of Jane the Virgin, or for me the woman I was told to trust when I voice apprehension.
With Urman yet to give a breakdown, it is supremely saddening and frustrating to know that no one thought of correcting media outlets up or publishing false reports until this point on the culture of the actresses. With the entire cast and Urman voicing the importance of representation and for Latinx to their stories on screens, why are we not playing the characters?
Until we have a clear answer from the CW this feels like a blatant attempt to make money from the Latinx experience without employing us. It is a moment in time when I am reminded that in a series of reboots that have been slated, they are inserting people of color without giving our cultures and lives the spotlight they deserve. This is highlighted by the revelation that although Magnum PI has cast a Latino as their lead, they employed no Latinx writers to tell his story.
Although race-bending characters in reboots of existing media serve as a pathway for a more inclusive culture, we are left not only in the shadow of the original but in the shadow of attempts that see the money our faces can bring in but do not value our experiences. When will diverse creators be given the chance to tell their stories and represent themselves instead of playing another version of the character who remains written by white writers or in Charmed ‘s case when will Latinx actors be allowed to play themselves?
I find it hard to see diverse reboots like Charmed as little more than money grabs that are empty. But even in the emptiness of it all, we keep seeing studios and companies gain social media successes just by announcing casts and instead of looking at the tradition of mistreatment we celebrate them with no critique. As Latinx buying power continues to increase, outpacing the entire population and with the GDP of whole countries, and we continue to make up the largest percentage of moviegoers from ethnic groups across the United States, it is obvious that media companies are finally trying to capitalize on that. But this is not the way to do it and we need to hold them accountable for their empty decisions.
Greenlight new stories with Latinxs at the center. Hire us to write them. Hire us to play the characters. Care about us.