Monday, May 05, 2008

Top Five Mexican American Geek Icons

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Although it's the most well-known Mexican holiday in America, Cinco is actually kind of a non-event in Mexico proper. Speaking as a Mexican-American, however, I take it as a great excuse to party. In honor of the holiday, I challenged myself to come up with five nerd icons of Mexican ancestry, no small task as Mexico isn't high on the list of geek culture exporters (it's no Japan, I'll tell you that). Nevertheless, what follows is a collection of folks both real and fictional, born inside and outside of Mexico, united by their place in geekdom.

5. Pedro

Pedro Sanchez hails originally from the town of Juarez, a place where, according to Pedro, they bust up pinatas that look like real people pretty much all the time. Though Pedro features heavily in the film's plot, the filmmakers never pull the curtain too far back on Pedro's inner-workings; we become well aquainted with Napoleon's specific areas of geekdom, but we never get a good idea of what Pedro's special skills really are. Still, it's a cool spin on the mixed-race buddy-comedy formula that Pedro's ethnicity is never mentioned or possibly even noticed by Napoleon, as the two are united by their mutual asbergian personalities. Sweet.

4. Guillermo Del Toro

Del Toro first scratched the surface of the American geek's consciousness with Mimic, but he really made his mark with Blade II and Hellboy, showing he had a respectable flair for adapting geek source material. Now that he has the prestige of Pan's Labyrinth on his resume, he's gearing up for the motherload of nerdy adaptations; Tolkien. He's in post-production for The Hobbit, and is talking a big game about using super-advanced animatronic techniques for the creature effects, as opposed to computer generated effects. This stance racks up some big points in my book. Isn't everyone sick of CG? Filmmakers think it looks real, but it doesn't. You know what's real? Puppets. Puppets and robots. Del Toro has also said in an interview with MTV that he has some European comic book artists in mind to bring to the film's design team, and all of this makes me think that dude is a serious nerd and will do right my favorite Tolkien book.

3. Betty Suarez

I don't care what anyone says, Season 1 of this show was some of the best network TV I've seen in years. It's pretty awful now, but nothing good ever lasts, unless it's on HBO. Betty is pretty much everything a leading lady on a prime-time series isn't supposed to be, including not-white, not-beautiful, and not-not-a-nerd. Betty isn't just a girl with glasses who will one day be made into the belle of the ball; she's a overly enthuasitic know-it-all who is actually confident in her high-functioning brand of nerdery. She's also unabashed about her Mexican hertiage, as seen in the above still and various of plotlines about going to Mexico or getting hassled by the INS.

2. Jaime Reyez

The greatest Mexican superhero since El Santo, DC Comics' third incarnation of the Blue Beetle is the most funny, unique and sympathetic teen hero in comics today. Or at least he was during writer John Rogers two year run; now that Rogers is off the book one can only hope the quality stays high. Jaime protects his Texas hometown from supervillians and alien invaders, and manages for the most part to have a pretty good, largely angst-free time while doing it. Throw in some hard working immigrant parents, some spanglish speaking friends, a red and orange texas backdrop, and you've got a book that feels new and authentic, even if it is written by a white dude.

1.Robert Rodriguez

An auteur with an obsessive attention to detail and a willingness to push things right over the top in the name of awesomeness, Robert Rodriguez makes movies for action geeks, horror geeks, and sci-fi geeks. You can feel the love of a fanboy coming through every frame. This indie director gave American audiences the only great Mexican action hero of the 20th century with El Mariachi. Or does Zorro count? I think he's Spanish (so is Antonio Banderas, who plays the titular Mariachi, but why split hairs?) Rodriguez has featured Mexicanos in just about every film he's made since his initial success, and provided one of the greatest poster taglines ever; "Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN'T?" Rodriguez's films feel specific to what he knows and enjoys, yet their enthusiasm and eagerness to entertain make them accessible to anyone looking for action, provided their not put off by a bit of camp. Next up from Double R should be a direct-to-DVD version of Machete, a completely awesome-looking revenge flick starring Danny Trejo. The film appears it's getting held up in production, but I hope it gets made. If anyone can make Trejo a leading man, it's Rodriguez.

That's it! Now go drink a Miller Chill and eat chips! Happy cinco!


Lena said...

Nice post. Love that first season Ugly Betty.

Alejandra said...

Ugly betty is originally colombian. It was redone in mexico and THEN in USA.
I assure you, the colombian version was the best of all.
PD: I'm not colombian XD