Jessica Alba’s “Trigger Warning” Pushes Harmful Rhetoric

Trigger Warning. Jessica Alba as Parker in Trigger Warning. Cr. Ursula Coyote/Netflix ©2024.

Netflix’s Trigger Warning feels particularly malicious in a presidential election year in the United States.

The action flick starring Jessica Alba tells the story of Parker, a military woman who comes home after an unexpected death and finds herself seeking revenge. From the trailer alone, it had the classic makings of a 1980s action movie in the style of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone movie. What it ultimately ends up being though is a heaping load of harmful rhetoric, thanks to its nebulous lead character who is devoid of any cultural touchstones.

Just ten minutes in and it’s already clear that Alba’s presence is the only thing authentically Latinx about this film. Instead, the purpose of this movie appears to be to bring Latinx people into the conservative fold. At one point, a voice over the radio talks about protecting “our America” and how Senator Ezekiel, played by Anthony Michael Hall, is the solution. And the film even gives this lead antagonist a lengthy sequence where he clarifies that he isn’t racist, his father was a Native American, and he doesn’t understand why people are so afraid of a white guy spouting conservative talking points when “most Latinos are conservative.”

Even though I was ticked off while listening to these particular talking points, I thought Trigger Warning was doing the classic setup of the villain and that they were going to tie back to this in some way. They don’t. Instead, the Latina lead acquiesces to his points and lets him, a white man, be the only person initiating conversations about our struggles, daily realities, and existence. Which makes Trigger Warning feel like the quote “history is not grounded in facts, rather it’s the winner’s interpretation of them that prevails” come to life.

At no point does this movie does examine what it is to be a Latina. Alba admittedly speaks a couple Spanish words but that’s it. There is no cultural or ethnic connection. She’s a monolith of the Latinx experience. It also doesn’t examine what it is to be a woman besides Parker getting sexually harassed. It’s solely told through the male gaze to the point you could change Parker to a man and it’d be the same story. Even her name is ambiguous.

And that’s not even the worst of it. At one point, Trigger Warning has the Senator ask about the term “Latinx” and then he comments on how he doesn’t understand it. This bit of dialogue doesn’t add anything to the story – it’s just propaganda meant to erase the real Latinx LGBTQ+ community in the US and tell conservative Latinx folks, “See, we get you. It should be Latino and Latina. You’re just like us. That’s why you should vote to protect our America.”

Whether all of these decisions were a conscious choice or not, they stereotype Latinx people, perpetuating the myth that our backgrounds are interchangeable and we’re only capable of being blue-collar workers. This movie dismisses our experiences, providing instead just another example of how Hollywood prefers others to step in to tell our stories for us.

Admittedly there will be people who think I’m being too sensitive and that my analysis is “political correctness” at its finest. But to be part of the Latinx community within the United States is to be political. We can’t just “shut down” that part of ourselves and go with it because it’s “just a movie.” And that’s especially true during an election year where we are watching our people being shipped off to be someone else’s problem and our conservative tias or tios are acting like nothing is wrong, voting red because they desperately want to fit in.

Trigger Warning may slap a Latina sticker on this action movie and call it a day. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it as ours. No, I’m calling out this hollow and lazy propaganda film from a Hollywood that doesn’t care to know who we are.

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