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Julio Torres Is Candid About Representation: It Is 'Not the End-All, Be-All of Progress'

By Emma Chance | Celebrity | June 11, 2024 |

By Emma Chance | Celebrity | June 11, 2024 |


When you cover entertainment news, after a while you start to hear the same aphorisms about art and culture repeatedly. Phrases like “representation matters” ring in my ears until they lose all meaning. Creators and directors and even actors talk about their work and their industry with increasing ego and disillusionment, and the effect is one of decreased motivation to watch anything that isn’t botox-ed women yelling at each other in their copy-and-paste mansions (ahem—speaking for myself).

Julio Torres is not that.

“I don’t want to do a symbolical gesture to bow down to the system so that I can have a home,” he said in a recent interview with The New York Times when asked why he doesn’t have a credit card. I shook my fist at the sky in triumph as I have to listen to well-meaning friends, family, and strangers tell me almost daily how I should “really get another credit card” (I only have one, quelle horreur!) so I can get “travel points”, and I have to tell them, “I don’t have enough money to travel in the first place.”

He was talking about credit cards and credit scores because in his new show, Fantasmas, his character is plagued by a bureaucratic form of ID called “proof of existence.” He rejects the notion, proclaiming, “I’m different. I’m my own thing. I’m the exception. So no, I don’t need proof of existence.”

“I think it represents any system that phases out those who have less, and that those who are able to be in it don’t really question it,” he explained. “Which I think is what a credit score is, or immigration and whatnot.”

He describes Fantasmas as “a show preoccupied with the way that technology alienates us from each other.” He believes that science fiction is “at its best when it’s commenting on a collective anxiety.”

One such tech-borne anxiety is the problem of “onscreen representation as a solution in and of itself” to bias and discrimination.

“I don’t reject the conceit of people being able to relate to what they see. I think that is a very human thing we all do. I just think that relatability is not completely cosmetic. It’s not just that the person literally looks like you; there has to be something about the portrayal and the experiences there that are actually informed by reality. And [representation] is not the end-all, be-all of progress.”

He thinks representation serves a purpose so long as it’s “actually rooted in genuine curiosity for the people being represented and genuine interest for those experiences.”

“You need to question the systems that oppress people, not just show them,” he emphasized. “Otherwise, it’s just cosmetic.”