Juandering Out Loud: Blue Beetle, Representation and Strikes

The writer, Dallas senior Juan G. Rodriguez, stands on the sidewalk looking at the “Blue Beetle” posters that the Bohm Theatre has on display. In his left hand is an issue of “Blue Beetle: Graduation Day,” the second-most recent series that the character has had, as of the time of writing (Photo illustration by Bonnie Lord).

My younger sibling and I make an active effort to call one another every week or so. It’s hard to not miss one’s family, especially when they’re thousands of miles away in a different time zone. 

We were catching up the other day; I asked how things had been since I left and my sibling wanted to know what I’d been up to since regaining my freedom. I told them that I’d mainly spent my days with friends, but I did manage to make some time for myself to just decompress and exist on my own. 

“Literally,” I said to them, “I went to go watch ‘Blue Beetle’ on my own the Sunday after y’all dropped me off.”

The excitement in my sibling’s voice was uncanny. I couldn’t help but match their excitement as well; how could I stay quiet about the most recent film to get a visceral reaction out of me?

Everything about the film – from the music to the acting to the language – truly made it feel like this was a film created by Latines with the intention of showcasing one aspect of Latinidad: the Mexican American identity. Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, and his family are written as being of Mexican heritage, both in the comics and in the film. That comes through clearly, so much so that at times I couldn’t help but feel as if the team working on the film reached into my childhood for moments to flesh out the environment and its characters.

I didn’t say all of this to my younger sibling at the time; I was so caught up in my excitement at their excitement that all I managed to get out was an enthusiastic recommendation for them to go watch it. 

I can only hope it’s still in theaters by the time they get to it. 

One of the most disheartening things about the current media landscape is that if a film doesn’t become the next blockbuster, then it’s considered a failure. What’s the point of keeping such a film in theaters if the theaters aren’t able to keep the lights on, some would argue. 

I feel the need to raise the defense that “Blue Beetle” is in a delicate situation, more so than other films. An overwhelmingly Latine cast is leading this film, a breakthrough for my people – and yet the conversation centers on how it’s underperforming. 

Do you have any idea how heartbreaking it is to know that people are going to look back on “Blue Beetle” and think of it as just another of DC and Warner Brothers’s failures at replicating the Marvel Cinematic Universe? It’s unfair, especially when it’s brutally apparent to me that this was made with love and care, not as some hackneyed attempt to further perpetuate the exhausting nature of cinematic universes. No, unlike other superhero films, “Blue Beetle” knows what it’s about. 

This isn’t a traditional superhero film. Those reviewers who insist that it doesn’t break the mold are actively ignoring how groundbreaking it is that a film like this even exists. Its very existence as a film is one that has been built up by other projects that have allowed Latine creatives to garner the attention needed to advance their careers in the media industry. Such a thing has only been possible because there have been people prioritizing Latine folk telling their stories. 

Bit by bit, Latine creatives have been fighting to have their stories told. As underrepresented as we may be in Hollywood, every project like this is another step towards making our stories more common and reflective of our lived experiences. Stories like these matter. They deserve to be told and their creative teams deserve to be properly compensated for their important work.

AI can’t do that, and it’s laughable that studio executives think they’ll succeed in replacing the writers that have helped to create some of the most important pieces of media in the last decade or so. It’s even more entertaining to see these studios flounder as actors join in on the strike efforts currently underway. 

Creative professionals of all sorts deserve proper compensation. It’s their talent that enables the creation of projects like “Blue Beetle.” Studio executives would be wise to recognize that they are talentless monkeys in suits who lack the smallest shred of creativity and empathy needed to create truly engaging art. 

“Blue Beetle” deserves to succeed. It’s a movie with a heartbeat. It has no intention of being quiet about what it is. It was lovingly crafted by a team of people that had a story to tell and they got the chance to put it out into the world. Unfortunately, the very people who employ these teams are making it more difficult for workers to earn their livelihood. They cut corners, they exploit loopholes and they remain vigilant for any way to not give these teams their deserved compensation. 

As much as it breaks my heart to see “Blue Beetle” struggle in the midst of these strikes, I remain steadfast in my support of the cause. Writers deserve to be able to support their families while also sharing with the world the stories that have gone unheard for far too long. Actors and their loved ones deserve to be properly compensated for their likeness if they consent to have it used outside of its original purpose. Studio executives deserve every bit of bad press that comes as a result of not complying with union demands.

If studios like A24 can meet the demands put forth, then larger ones like Disney can absolutely afford it. So long as A24 productions abide by the terms of the last offer SAG-AFTRA made during contract negotiations with studio/streamer representatives AMPTP, they can make movies – they can do their jobs. Not only that but these films can be promoted to a general audience, something that heavily impacts the success of films. Word of mouth is crucial to the success of any movie trying to get people in seats. 

No film exists in a vacuum. Any movie will be dependent on a favorable wind to carry it to new shores. “Blue Beetle” is doing its best with what wind it’s got behind its sails. I can only hope that this doesn’t dissuade creatives from making more stories that shine a light on the Latine experience. 

“Blue Beetle” is an important story, but it’s not the only one. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what projects come about in the years to come once the strikes are over and the studios meet the demands of the workers.

If “Blue Beetle” flops, then so be it. But, let’s all take a moment to recognize that it won’t have failed because it was a bad film. Rather, circumstances surrounding its release hindered the success of a great film. If creators aren’t being treated right and properly compensated, then they are more than justified in fighting for their dignity to be recognized.

I hope to someday see a story like this get the chance to bask in the warmth of the sun with no storm clouds on the horizon. For so long, the stories of Latine folk have been relegated to the shadows – never seen as profitable enough to justify pouring millions of dollars into making and promoting such projects. 

Everyone deserves to be seen, to know that they belong and that they are a part of something greater than themselves. So I hold onto that hope because it’s all I know. It’s how I manage to move forward when all I want to do is lie on the ground and come undone. I choose to believe that others like me will see “Blue Beetle” and fight to make their own stories heard. 

You can bet that I’ll be sitting in theaters with my younger sibling, eagerly awaiting a fresh take on a part of our lives that means so much to us.

About Juan G. Rodriguez 42 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

3 Comments

  1. Indeed, while AI has made leaps and bounds in many domains, it can’t replicate the depth and soul of human writers. Every day, numerous websites spring up, and one such is futuretoolsweekly.io. They provide insightful reviews on the latest AI tools, but even they’d agree: the human touch in writing is irreplaceable

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