Cultural Synthesizer or Perpetuator of Ethnic Bias?
Author: Tina Kosikowski
As one of the most famous programs in the history of television, I Love Lucy provided lighthearted and humorous entertainment for audiences in the 1950’s. However, on a less superficial level, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball provide insight into the cultural and social climate of North America in the time of Cold War isolationist tendencies and ethnocentrism…
As a biracial-bicultural couple both on-screen and off, Ricky and Lucy managed to endear audiences with their chemistry while exploring Latino culture in a stereotypical Anglo-American New York setting. From Santiago, Cuba and self-described as proof of the “American Dream,” Desi Arnaz was a successful drummer and band leader who symbolized the Spanish-speaking Latino presence in American society on I Love Lucy.
An Emmy Award winner of European descent, Lucille Ball spoke symbolically to overly domesticated women in the 50’s yearning for the professional success and time in the spotlight that their mail counterparts enjoyed. Arguably, Lucy’s Anglo presence softened and legitimized any ethnic disparity or controversy their biracial marriage presented. Although very commercialized, the show symbolized the first attempt by mainstream America to portray non-violent bicultural coexistence.
From the perspective of then and now, does I Love Lucy bridge cultural gaps which we still struggle with today or does it worsen inter-American divides by reinforcing stereotypes?
This episode explores many socio-cultural issues as Ricky leads El Cumbanchero (a Puerto Rican song by Rafael Hernandez), and the La Raspa (more commonly known as the Mexican Hat Dance, originated in the Veracruz region of Mexico). All the while, their apartment is literally “sold out” to a common Anglo audience! With a closer look and listen, Puerto Rico, Cuba, North America, and Mexico all speak to viewers of this clip. Afterall, Ricky is Cuban, the Cumbanchero is Puerto Rican, and La Raspa is Mexican…
What do you think?
*Images courtesy of TVLISTINGS.com