The Othered Woman: Sofía Vergara Gets Dissed At The Golden Globes

By Arturo R. García

Nobody said Sofía Vergara was sleeping with producers after Modern Family won a Golden Globe Sunday. Not with producers, anyway.

As you can see in the vid above, the joke starts around the 20-second mark, when Vergara, speaking Spanish, is mock-pulled by castmate Julie Bowen. At that point she announces that, because the Globes are an international award, her group’s acceptance speech for the Best Comedy/Musical Television Series would be done in Spanish and English. Which got laughs because, you know, Spanish. Or something.

Then the bit truly kicks off, with executive producer Steven Levitan “translating.” After they both thank the Hollywood Foreign Press, and Vergara thanks ABC Entertainment head Paul Lee and Disney CEO Bob Iger – was she thanking them for canceling Work It? One can only hope. But I digress – Levitan tells the audience she’s thanking the show’s writers, “who are so funny and so sexy.”

Then, Vergara thanks 20th Century Fox chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman, while Levitan continues, “Film actresses, please do them a favor at the parties tonight and give them your numbers.” Vergara thanks the whole production team, Levitan says, “They may look pasty and nervous and out of shape, but they’re the greatest lovers I’ve ever had.” With a rather sour look on her face, Vergara thanks the audience and presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, and wishes everyone goodnight. Levitan, ever classy in front of his younger cast members, closes with, “Seriously.”

So there. Doesn’t that sound so much better in context?

As if that wasn’t enough, this remark by Vergara’s castmate Jesse Tyler Ferguson made E!’s list of “Great Quotes From The Red Carpet”:

Sofia’s always a lot of fun because she is really like her character, I mean she messes up English all the time. She has no idea. Like, she calls stewardesses on the plane “plane waiters.”

While it’s admirable for the cast and producers to publicly defending its gay characters, directing this kind of humor at Vergara – not at her character – in such a public setting undercuts that good will. Vergara’s television career started, let’s not forget, as a presenter on the Univisión travel show Fuera De Serie, years before that network became a power player in U.S. television circles. She’s played Mama Morton in a Broadway production of Chicago. And this year she will become the new face of CoverGirl cosmetics. By any measure, her professional journey deserves some respect on what’s supposed to be one of her industry’s biggest stages. Or would that be too Modern for this “family” to consider? It’s telling that Bowen was spared Levitan’s “jokes.” And it’s becoming more apparent – Vergara can do better than this. Let’s hope she does sometime soon.

  • dfry

    I ended up on this blog after Googling Sofia Vergara and the Golden Globe stunt because she’s one of my favorites. Not because of her beauty but because I enjoy and have a lot of respect for her performances, and the “role” she’s clearly playing in pop culture. Rather than being offended by her willingness to play the sexy, language-challenged Latina, I admire her ability to manipulate the situation to her advantage. She’s this generation’s Charo, to some extent. 

    As for the GG moment in particular, I think you’re misreading the joke. The point wasn’t that her boss was saying she slept with him to get her role. The point was the writers, who always portray themselves as under appreciated and unloved (as compared with producers, directors, and actors), were taking advantage of the translation bit to (falsely) throw in a shout out for their lovemaking skills. The joke was NOT that the poor Latina girl had to sleep with them to get her job, the joke was that the slovenly writers were trying to make you think that the sexy Sofia Vergara would ever sleep with one of them! Levitan views himself as a writer first, producer second, and he and his team always make jokes along these lines when giving their acceptance speeches.

    I suppose there may be a Hollywood comedy writers blog somewhere that interpreted the moment the way I did and is as angered by it as the people here. :-)

  • Anonymous

    But these facts are not mutually exclusive; as other commenters have noted, she’s willfully taking part in her own Othering. That is her right, of course. But it doesn’t make it any less unfortunate.

  • DobbyGillis

    I think the whole thing started with Ricky Gervais who made some crack about how he presupposedly didn’t understand a thing said by Antonio Banderas when he talked to him backstage and Ricky Gervais being the asshole presenter he had been all night and the award’s show previous caused the reaction seen by Antonio who reacted with a poem in Spanish, by Calderon de la Barca, “La Hija del Aire”. It’s a very beautiful poem, like something by Shelley, and I think he was reacting to the joke that there’s nothing weird about Spanish by showing a very beautiful poem as the example of what Ricky wouldn’t understand.

    I read an English language press news article that said he was just “jokingly ranting” when he wasn’t really saying anything bad about anyone else anyways. As a matter of fact Selma Hayek said that she didn’t understand a word he was saying either. He rattled the poem off real fast.

    I don’t know if Sofia Vergara accepted the award in Spanish because of that or if there was any preconceived act they all put together beforehand for winning the award, anyways I think that Sofia must’ve liked speaking in Spanish on the awards show where Spanish is never heard.

    With the U.S. film industry always holding the standard as to what displays the maximum prestige worlwide and it being English language culture-centric even a small display from a foreign culture going full focus at one of the premiere showcases for something so globally significant is important.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. vergara is another exmple of an under-utilized acting asset because firstly people are too hung up on her beauty and sexiness to take her seriously, and second because too many (I think) don’t believe she can pull off comedy effectively with her accent. She’s obviously very bright (clothing line, two ad campaigns) and I think she’s playing their preconceived notions of a “sexy latina” to her advantage. Her talents were wasted in “Madea Goes to Jail”  because the part she was given was awful (as it would have been for anyone) but she still garnered an Image Award.

    Maybe her cast members will learn to think before they open their mouths a bit more often.

  • Anonymous

    I do not watch much network tv and only know of Sofia Vergara through commercials and chatter about her on blogs or entertainment shows/sites. From my cursory knowledge of her she fully lives up to the vivacious, oversexed, exotic Latina trope. I don’t know where the line falls between her willing complicity and conformance to this image and typical media exploitation and abuse of stereotypes. Either way, the above scene was not funny at all and shows perchance how much women are valued in Hollywood.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never watched Modern Family, and don’t expect to, but I did watch the Golden Globes and thought that the penis jokes and the “foreign” Spanish jokes were kind of odd, especially given it’s the Hollywood Foreign Press’ party. Still, the fact of the matter is that Univision and “ethnic media” en español is doing better than ABC, etc. are doing, so they’re grasping at straws for how to attract more “cross-over” audiences and haven’t a clue how to do it. Why? Because they’re still recycling old “I Love Lucy” jokes. Pitiful.

    http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/hispanic-media-fairing-better-than-the-mainstream-media/ 

    • Winn

      The jokes lobbed at Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek were painfully unfunny as well, and they even participated in one, like Vergara.  Are we still really so uncomfortable with people who speak and different language or who “mangle English” that this crap passes for amusing?  And I hear plenty of native English speakers twist the language into knots on a daily basis, but apparently it only matters if you are Latino/a. 

  • Jenna

    This kind of thing is exactly the reason I stopped watching Modern Family.  The show relies on stereotypes (of both the homosexual and racist variety) for laughs. 

  • Mafafa

    This is why I’ve never liked Modern Family. I tried. But I’m tired of this stereotype of the temperamental, clueless, sexy Latina, and how funny it is that she’s got an accent and mangles English.And it is so grating when people say things like what Ferguson said. Like, haha, this language that isn’t English is so funny, because its syntax is different, and people who are not native speakers can mess up English.He’s basically saying she’s “funny” because of the way she speaks English, and not because she’s genuinely a funny person. In other words, he’s describing her as someone to laught at, not to laugh with. That’s my problem with her character in the show, although apparently, it is also the way her colleagues have decided to talk about her in real life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.pizzuti Matt Pizzuti

    I think Modern Family has gotten very charitable response from commentators who might be concerned about the portrayal of Vergara’s character – not sure why it mostly got so much of a pass, but it might be because the producers appear to be trying to be responsible overall. But exploitative humor is low-hanging fruit that writers turn to when they start running out of other material. And as Modern Family’s audience grows there will be more and more viewers who expect it. I hope they really think about the issue and take a different course. I’d like to see Vergara’s character do something that surprises the audience, not fulfills all the expectations it has for her by now. 

  • Anonymous

    1) It’s “flight attendant,” not “stewardess.”

    2) “Flight attendant/stewardess” probably translates into “plane waiter” in Spanish.

    • Anonymous

      No, not really. There’s a word in Spanish (azafata) that refers to a stewardess. Some airlines may have gone the route of “asistente de vuelo” which is the correct translation of “flight attendant.” They use “waiter” (camarero) for ships–Vergara was likely just having a brain freeze and simply explained what the person does, especially in first class!  

  • http://twitter.com/politicsandfshn t olugbala

    i think vergara is a brilliant and  hilarious actress whose skill is undermined when she panders to the hypersexual latina stereotype. i understand this script is largely the foundation of her character on modern family; however, reality and fiction become blurred when she allows herself to be the punchline of demeaning jokes such as the one above.   the hilarity exists not because its inherently funny for a female cast member to sleep with her show’s producers–no one would have laughed if julie bowen would have said this–but purely because of a destructive stereotype. 

    the entire cast was present on insider the actor’s studio and i was disturbed when james lipton asked vergara about being a well-endowed teenager–evidently her body matured early.  this has nothing to do with her abilities as an actress.   later she spoke about wanting to be a dentist as a child and ed o’neil rhetorically asked, “wouldn’t you love having her lean over you in the dentist chair?”  a comment to which lipton responded–”i wouldn’t have needed anesthesia.  i would want to see every moment of it.” 

    all of this is incredibly sexist and i blame vergara for being complicit in her ongoing objectification.  it affects all women of color battling to develop an identity outside of negative stereotypes based upon our race, class and gender. 

    politicsandfashionblog.com

  • kkm

    seriously. and she has done several american movies  (chasing papi, 4 brothers, etc.) before modern family, while julie bowen was a strange token extra in jumping the broom!

  • kkm

    seriously. and she has done several american movies  (chasing papi, 4 brothers, etc.) before modern family, while julie bowen was a strange token extra in jumping the broom!

  • Heatherleila

     The acceptance speech seems to be a sketch in itself – something the group decided on and may have even practiced together beforehand. So, that would make Vergara complicit in the joke and in the way it makes a person speaking Spanish – even when saying the most banal things – something exotic and something to laugh at.

     …but her whole character is based on this notion. I still can´t figure out how I feel about it. On the one hand, I find the show very funny and thought  the baby-cheeses/Jesus  episode  – even while it hinged on her accent – was truly funny. Because, well, anyone who has learned a second language has made these mistakes and they can really be that funny.

    I´m more uncomfortable with her sitting on the couch sessions where she goes “Im my country they do this” or “In Colombia it is this way…” and always references violence or drugs or some stereotype. I wonder how she feels about those lines. Is she laughing at Americans for really thinking Colombia is that way? Does she just do it because the show is good for her career?