On April 25, 2022, Vanity Fair’s now-iconic video “Pedro Pascal Takes a Lie Detector Test” premiered on YouTube. In the video, Pascal jokingly calls himself “daddy.” And, at the time, it was a joke in the fandom to refer to Pedro as either “dad” or “daddy” (if you’re into that sort of thing). This wasn’t necessarily intended to sexualize him; instead, it was tethered to the actor’s history of playing many father roles. But since Vanity Fair‘s video – in just under one year – the word has become synonymous with specific sexualization.
I’ve been a member of the Pascalitos for years now. It’s such a big part of my brand that people I know will send me videos, pictures, and interviews of Pedro. I’ve flown out to attend fan events hoping to meet him. He and I even used to follow each other on Twitter before he deactivated his account. However, I am fully cognizant that Pedro Pascal is a real person who has real feelings and boundaries that should be respected, regardless of whether he’s a celebrity.
So what happens when those boundaries get pushed? And when a word that started out playful and funny overshadows an actor’s talent and personality, as outlets and interviewers hyperfocus on weaponizing his sexual appeal so they can go viral and in the process reinforce harmful stereotypes about Latin men?
In an article for The Gamer, Jade King discusses journalists’ bizarre violation of consent when they push to be in on the joke and squeeze as many clicks as they can out of it. In a response to King, Kate Sánchez, Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho?, raises the excellent point that doing so “feeds into the flattening of Latino stars into the ‘Latin lover’ and how the majority of women who have asked Pedro these questions are white.”
Sánchez’s comment reignited my fire to write this piece. This specific dilemma has been at the forefront of my mind for a very long time. So, before we get to the core of the issue, let me take you on a journey through the always-present, incredibly ironic racism towards fans of color – and particularly Latine fans – in the Pedro Pascal fandom.
Racism in the Pedro Pascal Fandom
When Pedro was on Twitter, he interacted with fans liberally, often replying to funny, friendly, and sometimes flirty tweets about him. We all knew him as a charismatic, carefree, and joyous person who was having fun. But if you’ve been in any fandom, you know that interactions between the fans and the person upon whom they fixate can lead to toxic jealousy. I know of people who’ve been doxxed over their interactions with Pedro and forced to leave the internet because angry fans compromised their safety.
In less-extreme, yet still alarming cases, bitter fans have created impersonation accounts that they’ve used to bully, spread misinformation, and try to ruin the reputations of people who call out this behavior. But as much as this was a big part of the fandom’s overall toxicity, the arguably more damaging issue is white fans’ oversexualization of Pedro’s ethnicity and the backlash against Latine fans who expressed discomfort with it.
To try gathering more information and not appear biased, I reached out to a number of people I know and friends of friends who were also in the fandom when this started to become a problem. I will refer to them as A, B, C, D, and E to protect their anonymity.
E told me that they stumbled into the Pedro/Star Wars side of the fandom when The Mandalorian Season 2 was coming out back in 2019, and they very quickly found themselves deep in the sea of thirst content. “What became clear very shortly afterward was how comfortable white fans were with calling Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal ‘Space Papis,'” they said. “What was also confusing to me at the time was the overtly sexual tone of the tweets. They ranged from standard thirst tweets to full-blown explicit content.”
E added that when Latine and trans fans spoke out about their discomfort, they were met not with understanding, but with a tidal wave of complaints from white fans outraged at being called out. This included going as far as “call[ing] Latines bullies,” “accus[ing] folks of harassment,” and “more often than not [using] respectability politics and tone policing to tell us how to feel about what we see happening right in front of our faces.” After E wrote many threads on the subject to try to help white fans understand where Latine fans were coming from, several E impersonator accounts popped up, including one in the name of E’s child.
Another painful betrayal comes when those we consider friends who call themselves “allies” reveal their true selves. C expressed how disheartened they felt when someone with whom they had once been close, who jumped to defend C when they expressed their uneasiness, ended up posting the exact content that C was calling out. “I personally was hurt,” they told me, “because for so long she was very considerate about our feelings and [I considered her] a friend.”
They also told me that “as a fan of Pedro and being Latine, it gets disheartening at times to be part of his fandom because of how easily we are placed in these predicaments where we want to tell people that their comments are out of hand, but at the same time have to worry of being attacked.”
And what exhausts me above all is that the onslaught of attention Pascal has been getting intensifies these issues tenfold since they’re now thrust into the mainstream. We already had trouble getting people to hear our concerns back when Pedro Pascal inspired a relatively small fandom. Now, his popularity’s explosion allows both new and old fans to get away with everything: raising concerns like these only gets us shot down, made into villains, and ultimately dismissed on an even larger, more troubling scale.
Sexual Appeal and Ethnicity
As much as we don’t like to think about it, personal preference and what makes someone appealing to us can be deeply tied to their race and ethnicity as well as their appearance. Sure, we may also like them for their personalities, what they stand for, and many other reasons; this is certainly the case with Pedro. He’s always been a standout guy, passionate about equality – he supported his sister, Lux Pascal, through her transition, and stands up for queer and Black issues.
At the end of the day, though, the first thing we talk about when we talk about attraction is looks. Pedro is a very handsome man. We’re first drawn to him because of it. And a big part of that attraction, at least from my perspective, is that Pedro being Latine, even if he is a white Latino. This by no means diminishes his experience as a Latine man in an inherently racist industry. However, because of his proximity to whiteness, Pedro has had many more opportunities than someone like Tenoch Huerta due to ever-present inherent colorism, even in Latine communities. Pedro’s proximity makes him more digestible and easier for white fans to comprehend why they find him attractive while also allowing people to fantasize about him as a spicy, fiery Latin lover. Because of the role looks have in our attraction, we must be cognizant of the history behind his Latin identity.
An incredibly foul incident that recently happened was how, particularly US American fans, were flooding comment sections of TikToks with jokes and cringy glorifications of the Chilean military coup of ‘73 because it “allowed Pedro to move to the States and put him on the path to becoming the star he is now”. B writes that fans glorify the event because “[…] that was why Pedro fled the country. I was angry and hurt. We as Chileans in a fandom of a Chilean man have been disrespected too many times.” To have a traumatic event used as the punchline to a terrible joke disregard not only Pedro’s and his family’s history with that traumatic event but also the larger history of pain surrounding it. Pedro’s family didn’t have a choice. They had to flee this occupation and seek asylum in another country for their safety. Minimizing both his family’s and the people of Chile’s struggles to satisfy the white gaze’s fetish, further proves the reduction of Pedro’s identity and humanity.
The Latin Lover and its Toxic Implications
Now, I must reiterate that Latin identity is not a race. It’s an ethnicity. We’re a mixture of many races and cultures from all over the world, and while Latin identity is not tied to race, it is tied to our culture, history, and roots. Which is why when the term “Latin Lover” broke into Hollywood, it immediately reduced all of our rich backgrounds to nothing more than a stereotype. The Google definition of Latin lover is “a Latin American or Mediterranean man popularly characterized as having a romantic, passionate temperament and great sexual prowess.” The historical definition of a Latin lover, which dates back to the Hollywood star system of the 1920s, has always been inherently sexual. This type of character in films was often characterized as always being the second choice, the experience white heroines sought out for a moment of passion before ultimately settling down with the white man with good American morals and starting her white picket fence life. But for female fans, the Latin lover became a symbol of masculinity, passion, and mystic eroticism, a seducer who conquers women just by gazing at them. It’s as if the character’s sole purpose was to appeal to the female gaze and cater specifically to their desires, existing for no other reason than to sell tickets to lady boners.
For a very, very long time, Hollywood has relied heavily on these types to tell their stories. They’re easily recognizable throughout all pictures, and because cinema was heavily catered to white people, it was obviously racist to people of color, but stayed ambiguous enough in their microaggressions for deniability’s sake. After WW2, the industry started to shift out of these stereotypes, and as much as I’d love to get paid to research the transition between them and the incredibly toxic and popular rise of the “narco” narrative of the early 2000s and 2010s, alas I fear we must jump forward in time to reach my next point.
“Narconovelas” are not a new thing. I grew up with them (take a beat to think on that, on the fact that little me was raised watching violent novelas that romanticized not only the insane violence of these criminals but also their inherent sexiness because of their violence). They continue to be one of the most popular genres in Latin American television, particularly in México and Colombia. Genesys Sanchez wrote in her Opinion piece for NPR in 2011 that “[…] with these new narconovelas, it’s easy to lose sight of the line between the real-life war and the entertainment inspired by it.” She notes that even in 2011, Narco cultura had broken into pop culture five years prior with almost war ballads geared towards men, “but the narconovelas on TV, on the other hand, target women.” Not just Latine women but also those in the USA. Even now, as adults, one of the biggest exports in the “dark romance” genre of the literary world is Mafia romance. It has been ingrained in us that aggressiveness, power, and corruption are sexy and that even by association with criminal culture through ethnicity, the mere possibility of being dangerous is sexy.
In 2015, Narcos premiered on Netflix. In my very biased opinion, the show was created by and made for white people. There’s no shortage of exploiting the traumatic, turbulent, and aggressive history of narcotráfico in Latin America as an exciting story of what “truly” happened in these countries for views. Trauma is exploited to show people a good time and romanticize the lives of these “patrones” just because the mafia sells. Many white people’s first impression of my country comes from this show, and I have been asked if cocaine is available everywhere before because of it.
Before my tangent snowballs any further, let’s return to Pedro Pascal’s part in this. Pascal joined the cast of Narcos in 2015 and played DEA agent Javier Peña, this sexy womanizer who wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty in the name of justice. This is one of the very few characters that Pedro has played throughout his career that directly connect to his identity as a Latine man. It is also arguably the most explicit one of his roles. The character’s flirty and sexual personality is one of the defining characteristics. When speaking with my friends in the Pedro fandom, D noted that “[…] something that has made me uncomfortable is many white women’s obsession, especially with the character of Javier Peña. While this isn’t Pedro himself, it’s still a weird projection of their fantasies onto a clearly Latino character who has been centered in a conflict that still affects people from Latin American countries today.” It’s through this character that the fetishization of Pedro because of his Latinidad is most evident.
There’s always been a severe lack of Latine representation in Hollywood, one that, as much as we like to pretend it isn’t happening as much anymore, still puts us in an uncomfortable position when we do get some representation. We continue to be lumped into the overly sexy yet unable to escape our “criminal” ways like Gloria (Sofia Vergara) in Modern Family and Andy Garcia in most of his career. Because it’s such a rarity to have Latine characters in media, the general public is not used to it, and when one “magically” appears and is deemed hot, the world goes wild. And, due to the new social media that blew up during the pandemic, it was incredibly easy to spread the word through thirsty, thirsty TikToks.
Now, I love TikTok. It perfectly scratches the ADHD side of my brain, and I can easily lose myself in the app for hours. However, the quick and always accessible nature of the algorithm has done something for fandom culture that I haven’t seen in a long time. It has made it mainstream. I remember the days when fandom was a dirty secret. Finding posts, community, and content was something that took time, was not easily accessible anywhere, and the community was spread out through various blogs, chat rooms, and hashtags so that you could still feel this sense of individuality – this was your particular interest that only a few people were also into. It allowed you to feel special like you were in on a secret that not everyone was privy to, and that allowed us to thirst in peace, away from the prying eyes of those who knew us in real life and away from the people we were thirsting over. But what happens when this overconsumption of edits and fancams leads to an even more significant demand than ever before? Well, like a good capitalist society, we meet that demand. And so the few hundred videos that have been circulating quickly became thousands. The handful of creators that are making them grow exponentially, some of them, like in the early days of fandom, becoming so well known that they even become like celebrities within the fandom.
If you’ve been on Pedro Pascal TikTok, then you know the viral edit I’m alluding to. Regardless of what you think about it or its creator, while I don’t think that the edit itself is the core of the issue here, the creator interviewed Rolling Stone, which I think further feeds into the fetishization and over-sexualization of Pedro. The creator of the edit is a white woman from Sweden. While she prefaces her attraction to Pedro with how much of a strong supporter of his sister and the LGBTQIA+ community, she states, “He’s older, and he’s mature, and he’s very attractive. He is just, daddy”. Boiling down Pedro’s attractive qualities to “he’s old and that’s hot” is a blatant disregard for his talent as an actor, and his many other qualities as a person, further showing the disconnect between “thirsting” and having fun within fandom. How quickly people can cross the line into fetishization, especially if you are unaware of all the cultural, historical, and ethnic backgrounds due to the normalization of “thirst” from white audiences. More often than not, fetishization is confused or, worse, dismissed as “appreciation.” The issue arises as whiteness often doesn’t understand that appreciation can devolve into objectification, and thirst is the oversimplification of reducing people of color to what they look like and how that feeds into stereotypes.
TikTok’s thirst for content, for keeping people glued to the app, created a ripple effect of virality that spread like wildfire. Eventually, it reached those people on the outskirts of the fandom who were just on the app and happened to watch and like content simply because they liked Pedro. I went from only a few friends who sent me images and videos because they knew how much I liked Pedro to being bombarded with edits, interviews, photos – you name it. With brands and outlets pivoting into this new era of video content, we’ve seen the rise of brilliant marketing strategies like the Duolingo TikTok account. Still, more and more media outlets are utilizing the platform to push clips of their content to reach a broader audience. And so, when short-form content and this innocent trend of calling Pedro “Daddy” collided…it was as if the gates of hell had opened. Every journalist forgot about respecting people’s boundaries as they sucked the trend dry, all because they wanted a thirty-second sound clip that they could use to try and go viral. However, this isn’t the first time outlets have done this.
A trendy BuzzFeed interview style that started a few years ago is Celebrities Reading Thirst Tweets, which is literally what you’re thinking. They print out thirsty, and sometimes funny, tweets that fans have made about the celebrity they’re “interviewing,” asking them to not only read the (often) very sexual or bizarre things fans say about them, anonymously, for their own silly enjoyment, putting these celebrities through visible discomfort at times. Blurring the lines between consent and the funny “bit,” they’re doing. The majority of these tweets are inside jokes for the fandom. They’re weird because we understand what they mean, and subjecting someone to reading them, even if they agreed to interview in the first place, is setting them up for failure because they were never intended to be consumed outside of the confines of the fandom in the first place. It’s as though journalists have let themselves be devoured by parasocial relationships between them and those they’re interviewing. They believe they’re entitled to ask these intrusive questions because the celebrity played along once, meaning they’re more likely to play along with them.
Confronting My Own Hypocrisy
I would be remiss to spend this much time grilling other people and not confront my hypocrisy. If you know me or have glanced at my online presence, you might know that my other “job” is being a “simp.” I love talking about film, TV, actors, and everything in between. It’s the industry I work in and am most passionate about. And yes, I do take my job as a simp very seriously, at least half of my content being about the gorgeous people I admire. You might even search everything I’ve tweeted about Pedro Pascal and prepare to call me out on my double standard – I believe there’s a difference between thirsting respectfully and fetishizing someone. When talking to A, they mentioned a specific incident that happened on Pedro’s Twitter around July 2021, where “[…] people would use the disgusting term “Chilean Massive C*ck” to refer to Pedro, there was a page on Urban Dictionary dedicated to that and a Facebook group with the same name.” This particular incident is precisely what I mean when we talk about this difference, as fans used prominent language to minimize Pedro as a sex object with ethnicity at the forefront of it.
There is a way to be respectful in the content that we share about the celebrities we find attractive, and we must remember that they are people too. At no point should we be diminishing their accomplishments, talents, experiences, and place on this planet to just the critical parts of them that make us horny. And if you do want to discuss whatever parasocial fantasy you have, make sure to educate yourself on the harm your words can have towards not only the person you’re talking about but also other fans within that community because as much as we like to believe we exist in our own little private corner of the internet, most of what we put out there is public for everyone to see.