In February 2019, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that Netflix Mexico would produce fifty television shows and films over the following two years. The promotional video following the announcement features Sarandos driving around Mexico City and picking up six of the stars of Netflix Mexico original series. Though the video intends to showcase the diversity of content on the platform (reality, thriller, comedy, musical), implicitly it also illustrates a key similarity among all these stars: they are all white.
This year, the whiteness of Netflix Mexico’s programming has returned as a topic of conversation. On social media, this renewed discussion has been bolstered by the trend of calling out “cosas de whitexicans,” i.e. media and cultural fads that foreground white (usually affluent) Mexicans. For instance, a widely popular tweet featuring the all-white cast pictures of Casa de las Flores (2018-2020), Control Z (2020), Made in Mexico (2018), and Monarca (2019) points out that this is “what Mexicans look like according to Netflix.” More notably, Netflix talent impacted by racism in production and reception contexts have unequivocally made their concerns heard. In a recent New York Times op-ed, the star of Roma Yalitza Paricio writes of the racist backlash on social media that she suffered following her Oscar nomination. (She does not mention the brownface sketch mocking her on national television or the actresses who allegedly conspired to prevent her from a nomination to the Mexican film awards). Amidst the current Black Lives Matter protests, Tenoch Huerta (of Narcos: Mexico) tweeted “When you’re done supporting the much-needed anti-racism movement in the United States, can we talk about racism in Mexico? Or is that still taboo?” Long outspoken on the rampant racism in Mexico’s screen industries, Huerta repeatedly receives pushback whenever he brings up these issues on social media. Paradoxically, his association with Netflix has allowed him greater recognition to address issues of racial disparity even as the platform emerges as a prime example of these issues.
In my In Focus article, I argue that Netflix Mexico is a middle class platform in terms of access, content, and imagined audience. This has implications for how to make sense of its original programming within the country. That Netflix Mexico is a white middle class platform has further implications for understanding its cultural work around the world. As scholars and fans have pointed out, white affluent protagonists have long been a staple of Mexican television giants Televisa and TV Azteca. Netflix Mexico, however, aims to interpellate an international, multilingual audience with its content: notice in the promo video that, despite the titles in Spanish, all the actors speak fluent English. The whiteness of Netflix Mexico’s original content represents the projection of intra-national racial hierarchies onto a transnational arena.