Buddy Villa (VEE-yuh), a Hollywood bit-part actor. Buddy is a fifty-seven-year-old Chicano who has risen from the barrio of East Los Angeles to a comfortable middle-class suburban life. Buddy is fiercely proud of having achieved the American Dream of material success, even though it has been bought with an ignoble career playing stereotypical roles such as gardeners or “banditos.” Buddy rationalizes his position by pointing to the comfortable life it has given his family and by anointing himself and his wife “The Silent Bit King and Queen of Hollywood.” Such bravado compensates for the frustration of never rising to better roles. Buddy’s frustration is manifested by his continuous daydreams of new films in which he is the star. Buddy’s latent bitterness toward Anglo America is often expressed by his reference to a film in which he played a bandit who dismisses the authorities with the line, “I don’t have to show you no stinking badges!”
Connie Villa, Buddy’s wife, also a bit-part actress. Connie is a forty-eight-year-old Chicana who only recently joined her husband in film work after a life as a conventional homemaker. Although Connie works professionally only when she can do so in tandem with Buddy, she quietly yearns for better roles and personal independence. When she is offered a speaking role, Buddy refuses her permission to accept the part because he cannot accompany her on location. A clash is avoided only when both are offered parts on a soap opera. Connie is relieved at this turn of events; she usually seems content to defer to Buddy, and she genuinely appreciates the good life Buddy has provided.
Sonny Villa, Buddy and Connie’s son, a law school student. Sonny arrives home one day to announce that he is dropping out of Harvard Law School to pursue a new ambition to become a film superstar. Buddy and Connie oppose Sonny’s decision because they believe that he is throwing away his opportunity for an autonomous life. Sonny’s parents do not see, however, that he is suffering from a classic identity crisis: As the son of immigrants, Sonny is at home neither in the Anglo culture of Harvard nor in the Mexican culture of his ancestors. Sonny’s impulsive decision to pursue acting is a self-conscious capitulation to his inability to recover a sense of history in which to root his identity. Sonny ultimately fails in Hollywood and returns to law school, tacitly accepting his...
(The entire section is 609 words.)