I was genuinely excited to see Toy Story 3, and so I saw it the day it came out, June 18. Let me begin my critique by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the film, as did the others in the audience (which consisted of not only parents and their children, but adolescents, teenagers, and adults too). I marveled at the animation and 3-D graphics, I appreciated the well thought-out and executed story line, I laughed at the smart quips, I even teared up towards the end of the film.
But Buzz's "Spanish mode" isn't limited to his Spanish-speaking. And this is where I became uncomfortable. Before I elaborate, let me offer a bit of background: in Toy Story 2, Jessie the Talking Cowgirl Doll is introduced to the series, and the film hints at a possible romance between the cowgirl and the space cadet. The beginning of Toy Story 3 follows in this vane: Buzz is obviously smitten with Jessie but cannot bring himself to verbalize his emotions. The result is a sort of awkward tension typical of first love between the two characters. However, when Buzz becomes Spanish-speaking Buzz, he can do nothing but try to conquer his intended lover. Having no recollection of who he is, where he is, or who anyone else is, Buzz must get re-acquainted with his cohorts. He quickly rediscovers Jessie and openly makes it clear that he is interested in her. But when Jessie and Woody share an embrace, Buzz mistakes the friendly gesture as a romantic one; he becomes jealous and makes wooing Jessie his sole priority...
And this is where the problem of Latinization comes in. Let me first clarify between two homophonic yet distinct terms: Latinidad and Latinization. Latinidad implies a claiming of the Latino identity as a means of empowerment (whether social, political, personal). Although it groups Latinos together (generally disregarding their national origin), Latinidad is a positive phenomenon since it generates a sense of connection--almost a fabricated sense of a "Latino" nationality--among those who actively decide upon, accept, and claim their Latinidad. Latinization, on the other hand, is a negative process through which things are "Latinicized" from an Anglo perspective; that is, the object of Latinization is either hyper-ethnicized so that it is a farcical and almost minstrel-like representation, or intentionally repackaged and re-interpreted (by Anglos) with supposedly "Latino" signifiers. Whereas Latinidad is the result of an active claiming, Latinization is the result of a forceful branding.
...Spanish-speaking Buzz is clearly the product of Latinization in this film. As he tries to win Jessie's heart, he turns to tactics painfully stereotypical of the "Latin lover" type: Buzz serenades Jessie with romantic words; he flaunts his good looks, his masculinity, his machismo; he even courts Jessie with a pasa doble (much in the way an animal tries to attract its mate through a series of courting rituals). Spanish-speaking Buzz is a bit of a narcissist, a ladies' man who won't take no for an answer, a daredevil of sorts: a Latin lover. This portrayal is an intentional Anglo misunderstanding of what it means to be a Latino male. It is a (mis)understanding which equates Latinoness with a series of ritualistic actions, a primitive performativity of self. I won't say whether or not demo Buzz gets the girl, but I will say that he is eventually reset to his familiar, English-speaking self.
But the problem of Latinization neither ends here nor is it fully manifested until the film's end, more specifically during the credits. It seems Jessie was taken by Spanish-speaking Buzz and wishes to have another fling with the Latin lover: She cues music with a heavy Latin rhythm and Buzz, who is no longer in his Spanish-speaking mode, is overcome by the need to dance. His hips sway to the beat, his feet tap, his arms fling about in the air. He has no idea what he is doing, yet his body instinctively leads him into a reprisal of the pasa doble. One of the key elements of the Latinization of peoples is the belief that the Latino identity is a performative one. Not only did Spanish-speaking Buzz go through a series of performances to show himself off in an attempt to woo Jessie, but now the Anglo Buzz--a character obviously ignorant of all things "Latino"--is fully capable of performing the role of the Latin lover, of being a Latino male.
As a result, the Latin lover demo Buzz can be interpreted as purely an "act" which can be performed by anyone. Demo Buzz is denied any claim to Latinidad; instead, he is the product of Latinization. His character is purely for entertainment--more specifically, a commodity to be consumed by Anglo audiences. Said director Lee Unkrich, "When trying to make funny movies, then you want the characters to be fun. 'Demo Buzz' just seemed ripe with comic potential." And that's just it: the Spanish-speaking demo Buzz was a type employed merely to get a laugh. In a way, demo Buzz is a minstrel of sorts, a hyper-ethnic caricature used as entertainment.