By Mari D. González
As a Mexican household name who has made it into the English-language media, George Lopez is mainstreaming Latinos for which he is considered by many a hero. He uses the most recognizable and marketable Latino symbol —Spanish language— just enough to remind you that he is one from the hood. He is not political correct. He can dispose of cursing republicans publicly and yet, he has a large following across blacks, whites, Asians, and Latinos alike.
So, What Is His Formula?
His Lopez Tonight Show is multicultural. He brings in and interviews white- and black-American celebrities. His diverse band plays diverse music and more importantly, he gets into issues that are close to Latinos and working-class Americans openly.
He brings in the urban flair popular among younger generations which has given way to fashionable music including regaetton, rap, and hip pop. He invites regular people to his show and make them feel at home, showing them respect and consideration.
He dresses elegantly. His shows around the country are sold-out, “even in a down economy” as he put it. His state-of-the-art studio is filled up with young people of all shades who will certainly come out with additional Spanish-language words that they did not or would not learn from their Spanish high school teacher.
Exploiting Culture and Humor
He brings racial issues into the open and even asks his guests for their opinion on them. He can certainly poke at Latinos and for that matter, working-class blacks and whites alike, because he is one of them. He grew up with those experiences; he is an insider and cannot be guilty of prejudice. He can be forgiven by those he represents for he talks about what he lived and endured. He is one of them thus, he can laugh at them.
There is a free flow at his shows. He converses with his audience and feels equally comfortable interviewing Clint Eastwood or the black pregnant dancer in a Corona bikini. He swiftly shifts between social classes and across ethnicities and that is a real skill.
He is attempting to demystify the difference between one’s ethnic label in the U.S. and one’s DNA. And, whether or not he is accurate, it is not the issue. The issue is that he is starting up these conversations in English-language national media.
De or Re-politicizing Chicanos
He is depoliticizing the term “Chicano” by calling himself “Tall, Dark and Chicano” among his fans who are beyond Latinos. Yet, he makes you feel that the Low Rider is still cool while he angrily gets into the political debate as to why some republicans did not vote for Sotomayor.
He might no be the funniest of all or even funny at all but, he has what a great majority of the U.S., so called, minorities have been waiting for –a charming, dark-skinned guy from a poor upbringing who is still in touch with his parent’s culture and has been able to secure a spot not in ethnic but in regular mainstream media where many with more influence have not made it.
Forget about his humor, which I can only stand for a few minutes, that ranges from off-color, vulgar, and borders black comedy. Even for those who find his jokes offensive, he is still looked up to and respected for he can definitely arouse multicultural crowds.