It’s A Sin giving Juan Pablo a Spanish name is erasing Portuguese culture

‘We really do not get enough representation on TV as it is, so making this type of mistake makes it that much more painful’

I would like to ask the screenwriter; do you know of any Portuguese people named Juan Pablo?

The new Channel 4 hit show It’s A Sin features a supposedly Portuguese character, Juan Pablo, within its first episode, who plays the boyfriend of Neil Patrick Harris’ character.

It’s A Sin has been praised for their inclusivity and diversity, however an overlooked flaw in the screenwriting of Juan Pablo has made the show unenjoyable for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the show teaches valuable lessons about LGBTQ+ community and the AIDS epidemic through a punch hit show, and Neil Patrick Harris’ classy British accent makes it that much more captivating.

It is therefore frustrating that they completely disregarded and erased Portuguese culture despite including a Portuguese character.

This name is not Portuguese it is Spanish. A quick google search will tell you this much. By choosing this name the show disregards Portuguese culture and further perpetuates the stereotype that Portuguese culture is a subset of Spanish culture, this is not the case.

Portugal has a rich culture and its own language it is necessary to include these aspects when writing a Portuguese character. How else would you know he is Portuguese?

Rather than erasing Portuguese culture and rewriting it as Spanish, a too common a stereotype in Europe which is damaging to Portuguese communities, visit Portugal to understand its culture and get to know some of its people and their names.

Juan Pablo is not a Portuguese name. However, there is a similar name in Portuguese but it is spelled and pronounced different- João Paulo. This would have made all the difference for me because the character becomes believable. As a Portuguese person I will not take your show seriously if you have attempted to portray a Portuguese character but gave it an obviously Spanish name.

If you want to distinguish this character through their ethnicity, start with a Portuguese name, include Portuguese culture and language. By placing the character into its cultural and geographical context, it makes the character more believable, teaches the audience about another culture and makes us Portuguese people appreciate it for its factual representation. We really do not get enough representation on TV as it is so making this type of mistake makes it that much more painful.

Many in the Portuguese community including myself were hoping this issue would have already been flagged up. The fact that it hasn’t shows you just how misrepresented Portuguese culture is in the UK. This is a big issue because the 2011 Census reveals there are 88,161 Portuguese born immigrants in the UK and I am sure this number is likely to increase in the next Census. Even though Portuguese is an ethnic minority in the UK, this does not mean Portuguese culture should be misrepresented, ignored, or reinterpreted as something it’s not.

An acknowledgement and apology from the creator and screenwriter are due here.

In future I would love to see more shows portraying Portuguese characters and using elements of Portuguese culture or even filming in a Portuguese location. Too many people think that Portuguese people speak Spanish, look Spanish and share the same culture as Spanish. This show only reinforces this by giving the character a Spanish name.

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