Fusion, the first channel for English-speaking multi-ethnic millennials debuted last week to much hype and a many groans.
The news and entertainment cable network is the offspring of Spanish-speaking network Univision and ABC. Early reports suggested that the channel was for Latino millennials only, but an entire network created around only our ethnic identity painted a one-dimensional image of us and fell flat. Now it seems that the network’s aim is to grab the ever-shrinking attention of individuals that fall between the ages of 18 to 34, with a special nod for those who look like me — a specific demographic of Latinos.
I won’t dismiss the need for a network that is diverse and addresses our multi-national identities and relationships. After all, 65% of Latinos are millennials and we come from a variety of nationalities, cultures, backgrounds, and socio-economic status. What I don’t understand is why Fusion does this by continuing to select hosts that only a fraction of us can relate to.
I have olive skin, long black wavy hair, and a medium build, and I am one those Latinas that can relate. I see myself reflected in all media, Spanish-speaking and English-speaking. Now add to that a college degree, a career, average looks, and an inkling toward progressiveness, and you’ve got the perfect hybrid for "marketable." A person like me is always the target audience.
I grew up in Brooklyn, watching Mexican telenovelas where all major actors had Anglo features and light skin. Because my features are already close this ideal (minus the blue eyes and perfect body) I never questioned my Latina identity. But the variety of skin tones, phenotypes, and hair found in my family and at large in our community were scarce in Spanish-speaking television shows. The millions of Latinos that are black, indigenous, or Asian (among other ethnicities), are simply erased.
A Latino look has been commodified and branded, and Fusion doesn’t seem to want to stray far from that norm. Fusion’s "The Morning Show" will be hosted by Univision reporter of Venezuelan descent Mariana Atencio, Brazilian journalist Pedro Andrade, and Greek-American comedian Yannis Pappas. They might be talented and witty but, just as expected, they all have Anglo features.
My looks are represented everywhere. NBCUniversal, along with Telemundo, pushed the network Mun2 for young Latino viewers in 1993, and re-launched it in 2003. I watched it with enthusiasm in my teens and felt that it was a step in the right direction, but looking back it helped codify that Latino-look.
I still believe Fusion can turn this around and have a network that is not only diverse, but also speaks honestly about the harsh issues facing us as a community. Jorge Ramos, respected news anchor at Univision and now Fusion said, they have a series planned on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that "no one would expect," so it seems that Fusion is already trying to break into important issues.
But, diversity-wise, as Latino Rebels so eloquently put it, Fusion is looking like the “Ivy League Latino privileged” channel. And that's a shame.