I could pay my mortgage with the money I’d make if got $1 for every cheap attempt at diversity made in television. One of my favorite blatant attempts at courting a specific demographic is from my childhood when the Hanna-Barbera television program Super Friends added the Latino character El Dorado to the show.
Super Friends was basically an all-star team of superheroes from DC Comics banded together to fight crime, evil scientists, etc. It included Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman at its core, and some version of the show ran on Saturday morning television between 1973-1986 (the title changed a few times along the way, and the superhero line up varied as well).
In order to spice up (ha! ha!) the formula the geniuses at Hanna-Barbera decided to add a character of their own making in 1981 that had never appeared in any DC Comics publications—the mysterious El Dorado. Now there are several wonderfully awful things about this character:
1. He spoke a heavily accented form of English and punctuated most of his lines with “sí,” “amigo,” rápido,” or “muy bien.” Similarly, I have a habit of injecting words like “yes” and “friend” into sentences when I’m speaking Spanish with someone. It’s only natural.
2. He seemed to appear only when the Super Friends needed help in a Latin American country or they were dealing with some piece of Latin American culture…say a stolen Mayan artifact from Metropolis’ anthropology museum. However, El Dorado himself seemed fairly ignorant of Latin American culture and history. Often he would say something like, “this is a mysterious artifact of my people,” when explaining to the rest of the gang what something was.
3. His powers were ambiguous and never clearly defined. And the ones that were apparent sucked. His most used skill was transporting himself through space, along with anything else wrapped inside of his cape. We knew he was teleporting because little speckles of light appeared where his body once was. He also had some sort of ability to create illusions. I mean, I’d love to be able to create illusions myself, but when you compare that with Superman’s strength and X-ray vision, it’s pretty weak.
4. His name. El Dorado? Give me a break.
Here’s his first appearance on the show. You’ll quickly see what I mean about the lack of cultural understanding—keep an ear out for the phrase “these are the mysterious ruins of my people.”
Despite the shallow character development (or perhaps because of it), El Dorado has become a bit of a cult favorite, even though he has never appeared in any DC Comics. Later this year, Mattel is releasing an El Dorado figure in its DC Universe Classics line of toys. And like the original animated character, he has NO nipples! ¡Muy bien, amigo!