The first Pitch Perfect was a treat. A somewhat surprise hit, it garnered a dedicated following in niche groups. I happen to fall into the subgroup of women in their 20's and 30's who dig acapella, and I am a fan.
So I was pretty stoked about the sequel. Of course, my expectations for sequels are always tempered because you can't always recreate a good thing. And then I was forewarned about a new, Guatemalan character who may have been, let's say, handled in an indelicate way.
I watched Pitch Perfect and came away with some conflicted feelings. I was prepared to be offended, but I'm still not sure if I was. But I still wasn't okay with everything. I'm telling you, conflicted.
So I watched it again, had a couple conversations with others, and here's a breakdown of my take on Pitch Perfect and the Guatemalan character Flo.
The Pitch Perfect franchise is inappropriate.
That's their thing, right? All the jokes are borderline offensive, and the writers seemed to work hard to insult everyone - from race to religion to weight to gender to sexual orientation to hair color. In fact, I think they tried to protect themselves from being called racist, sexist, nationalist, you-name-it-ist by taking shots at everyone. Some of the jokes were funny, but some were just plain awkward and fell flat.
That said, what are your options?
So if Pitch Perfect is a movie that makes inappropriate jokes, what options are available to you for a Latina character? The way I see it, you could not have one. That's the choice they made for the first film. But that's a bummer.
The second option is to have a Latina and not make inappropriate jokes about her ethnicity, which I have to say, would have been awkward on a different level. The third, in my opinion, would be to balance her character with a little more finesse and nuance.
Because no one likes to laugh at the little guys.
Not saying Flo is Tiny Tim, but her lines almost entirely focused on human trafficking, illegal immigration, and abject poverty. (I can only think of one time she mentioned anything else.)
Her jokes were aimed at some of the world's most vulnerable people, and (rightly so) we feel uncomfortable laughing at them.
And then there's Paul from the Bible.
No, this is not a Jesus juke. And no, I'm not so spiritual that I'm in the theater reflecting on the epistles. Here's what I'm saying, and I'm about to share some details, so if you're a total purist, here's your spoiler-ish alert.
As the girls discuss their post-graduation plans, Flo stands up. She announces that after graduation (from college), she is likely to be deported. Then, she follows up with comments about trying to return to the States and how she will probably die at sea.
Now the second time I saw the movie, people laughed. And I know because I was paying attention. But the first time I saw it, I'm pretty sure no one really laughed. It was more of a collective gasp. And there's a part of me that doesn't care if the joke was funny or not, or offensive or not, because it's another opportunity to remind the masses that deportation is a real struggle that many young adults are facing. (Do you see the Paul connection now?)
Cuban actress Chrissie Fit, who plays Flo, talks a little bit about that approach in this interview. She notes that none of the other girls every make fun of Flo - that she is making the jokes. And even a lot of her lines about poverty are in response to other characters making a big deal out of essentially trivial matters. Again, I'm conflicted.
What I wish would've happened.
I wish Flo's character had been given a bit more depth and nuance. It would have been nice to see her have a role that was more than just delivering one-liners about kidnapping, malaria, and deportation. Pitch Perfect makes fun of Anna Kendrick being short, but that's only one aspect of her character.
Even Flo's role as a singer is underwhelming. There's no explanation where she came from or why she's a new addition to the Bellas. And her voice and skills are never explicitly highlighted or mentioned, though we do see her bust out some impressive flips. Personally, I think a little more from Flo could have couched her references to pain and suffering in a more sophisticated way.
So these are my in-progress thoughts, and I'm interested in your take, too. I'm still hovering in the conflicted zone. Although there's one thing I can say for sure about Pitch Perfect 2. The music (except maybe that flashlight song) was on fleek. (Am I using that right???