The Black Idiot and the Mountain Woman: Interpretations of Discrimination in Peruvian Media
This thesis focuses on differing interpretations of racialized media (mis)representations and its impact within the Peruvian context. This is done through the case studies of two television characters—El Negro Mama and La Paisana Jacinta. In 2010, El Negro Mama faced major criticisms as well as temporary suspension. This is due, in part, to the organization of Afro-Peruvian advocacy group LUNDU, which stated that El Negro Mama is a harmful racist presentation of an Afro-Peruvian man. However, the ethics committee in charge of dealing with such complaints, as well as fans of the show, defended the comedic intent of the character. The same arguments were made in separate instances for La Paisana Jacinta. The longevity of both characters and their shared creator/actor—Jorge Benavides—is pertinent given that Benavides is mestizo and these characters are an Afro-Peruvian man and an Indigenous woman. This not only poses the question of what constitutes racism/discrimination in media, but also how interpretations of violence serve those who fit within the national image that Perú presents. In order to gauge their makeup and direction, each character’s trajectory from 1996 to 2019 is examined through textual analysis. A total of twelve clips were pulled from the shows each character appeared in (all found on YouTube): JB Noticias, El Especial del Humor, El Wasap de JB and La Paisana Jacinta. Six clips were dedicated to each character, with two coming from each show on which they appeared. This study utilizes NVIVO to codify the specific themes/traits that present themselves most frequently: class, conflict, violence, degradation, deviance, otherness, sexuality, stupidity and humor. Additionally, the examination of two distinct case studies concerning the removal of each character from the air is included to explore the differences in interpretation, intent and impact. What I found is that each character is incapable of changing according to the standards of advocacy groups and other organizations. The manner these characters present themselves from 1996 to 2019 remains the same, albeit some modifications to fit the context they existed in. Additionally, each character was found to be extremely stereotypical of each group they indirectly (mis)represent. Despite various forms of evidence, both characters remained protected by private ethics committees that deemed them as unproblematic. This thesis then examines how these committees are permitted to allow such (mis)representations. I make the argument that this is due to the reality imposed on these characters by the audience, a rigid definition of violence, and the overall impact racialized characters have on Peruvian society.