Photo courtesy of Esperanto Filmojs / IMDb

Cultural Appreciation Through Streaming Services

The cycle of a culturally insensitive comment, superficial apology, and slow fading of the situation into the depth of society’s collective memory has become increasingly common in today’s hyper-aware culture. With the influx of comments that fit these criteria, it is becoming more and more difficult to discern which statements are worth expending physical and emotional energy to discuss. The recent comments by Sergio Goyri calling Yalitza Aparicio “a fucking Indian who says, ‘Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am” are within the category of further analysis.

As actress Yalizta Aparicio prepares to attend the 91st Academy Awards as the first Indigenous woman nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Mexican actor Sergio Goyri came under fire for his offensive characterization and diminution of the actress. Although he almost immediately apologized for his statements, clarifying his pride at having a Mexican woman recognized at the awards show, his comment demonstrates a need for the mainstream appreciation of indigenous stories.

What Goyri exposes is the otherness typically assigned to indigenous people. Despite being natives, indigenous people’s culture and identity are typically deliberately overlooked or only appreciated in very specific scenarios. Goyri clearly believes Aparicio and her experiences as an indigenous woman are separate from Mexico as a nation. When, in reality, her experiences are just as valid and authentic as his own. They are simply not as promoted to be as much a part of the mainstream culture.

It has been hotly debated whether "Roma" belonged on Netflix’s platform, particularly in the broader context of the value of theater viewings of movies in general. However, there is something particularly poignant about a sensitive and nuanced story of an indigenous woman being shared on such a widely consumed platform. It makes the context more accessible, more likely to be consumed by people who would never consider going to see a black and white foreign language film in an actual theater. Aparicio’s face, the culture, and the complexity of an indigenous woman are consumed in an easily accessible way, promulgating much-needed acceptance of experiences such as her own.

It could be argued, quite strongly, that "Roma" loses artistic value when being viewed on a computer screen. However, by being released on a platform as wide-reaching as Netflix, its cultural value is infinitely increased. Although "Roma" was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, a highly respected and sought after director, that does not account for the sheer number of people who would consider seeing a movie simply because it is easily available to them on a popular streaming sight instead of featured at a theater. Although there has been a mixed release with both Netflix and theatrical showings, Netflix has remained the top vehicle for viewing. Netflix has not released the official numbers on streaming, however, The New York Times reported that 50% of Netflix’s accounts in Mexico have streamed "Roma" and it is the second most popular original movie release—about 4 million people.

Yalitza Aparicio responded to Goyri’s comments by saying she is “proud to be an Oaxacan indigenous woman and it saddens [her] that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of words.” Her response, in essence, proves the reasoning for "Roma"'s release on such an accessible platform. Aparicio’s story, her character Cleo’s story, and the rich identity of indigenous people is not one which should be seen and understood by the few who are willing to put in the effort of viewing but should be widely accessible and influence people who have the pleasure of viewing it.

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