Back in 1978, a Palestinian-American called Edward Said wrote an important book called Orientalism. It describes a way of seeing that exoticizes, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts the different cultures and people compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing other cultures (in Said’s case Arab culture) as backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous, which all adds up to often unfavorable country stereotypes.
These patronizing representations of the ‘other’ are still prevalent in our media today; in the books we read, the news we consume and the movies that we watch. In the U.S., it is usually Mexican culture and Latin America, which are the main targets of Orientalism. Mexican stereotypes often include it being a murderous place full of drugs, crime, and violence. According to Said, this creation of a dangerous and mysterious ‘other’ helps to secure the stability and supremacy of the Western self.
People have noticed that when Mexico (or a place that’s supposed to be Mexico) is shown on American movies, it is very often seen through a sepia-toned lens, giving it a hot, dusty, ‘foreign’ air that is actually far from the reality. Why do they do this? Where does this funny stereotype come from? Do they do it on purpose, or has it become ingrained as a subconscious habit? Who knows. But it’s clearly a thing, as you can see from some of the memes that poke fun at it below.