Islands of Empire

Islands of Empire: Pop Culture and U.S. Power

CAMILLA FOJAS
Copyright Date: 2014
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/756304
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    Islands of Empire
    Book Description:

    Camilla Fojas explores a broad range of popular culture media—film, television, journalism, advertisements, travel writing, and literature—with an eye toward how the United States as an empire imagined its own military and economic projects. Impressive in its scope, Islands of Empire looks to Cuba, Guam, Hawai'i, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, asking how popular narratives about these island outposts expressed the attitudes of the continent throughout the twentieth century. Through deep textual readings of Bataan, Victory at Sea, They Were Expendable, and Back to Bataan (Philippines); No Man Is an Island and Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (Guam); Cuba, Havana, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Cuba); Blue Hawaii, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style (Hawai'i); and West Side Story, Fame, and El Cantante (Puerto Rico), Fojas demonstrates how popular texts are inseparable from U.S. imperialist ideology. Drawing on an impressive array of archival evidence to provide historical context, Islands of Empire reveals the role of popular culture in creating and maintaining U.S. imperialism. Fojas's textual readings deftly move from location to location, exploring each island's relationship to the United States and its complementary role in popular culture. Tracing each outpost's varied and even contradictory political status, Fojas demonstrates that these works of popular culture mirror each location's shifting alignment to the U.S. empire, from coveted object to possession to enemy state.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75631-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE. Our Island Frontier: THE PHILIPPINES, GUAM, HAWAI‘I, PUERTO RICO, AND CUBA
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION. Islands of Empire
    (pp. 1-30)

    Is the United States an empire? This question might be answered in part through popular culture, the locus of the most spectacular displays of U.S. hegemony. Michael Mann’s cinematic remake in 2006 of the popular television seriesMiami Vice(NBC, 1984–1989), which he produced in the 1980s, is a particularly appropriate place to start, for a number of reasons. First,Miami Viceglorified the war on drugs in the Caribbean basin, strongly suggesting that the onus of law enforcement in the Americas rests on the United States.¹ That position is a reminder of the country’s role after World War...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Foreign Domestics: THE FILIPINO “HOME FRONT” IN WORLD WAR II POPULAR CULTURE
    (pp. 31-59)

    In 2007, after becoming a YouTube sensation, the young Filipina singer Charice Pempengco sang two songs on Ellen DeGeneres’s television show to an audience stunned by her vocal range and maturity. She previously had enjoyed success in the Philippines as a finalist on the talent showLittle Big Star, though DeGeneres was thought to have discovered this raw talent. She readily crossed over to the U.S. market, a sign of the extent to which Filipinos are already transnational subjects. Her facility in English and her knowledge of U.S. popular culture, both markers of Americanness, are typical traits of former U.S....

  7. CHAPTER TWO Imperial Grief: LOSS AND LONGING IN HAVANA BEFORE CASTRO
    (pp. 60-92)

    For almost a decade, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, were one of the most beloved “real life” couples on television. Indeed, the indomitable couple ofI Love Lucy(1951–1957) moved into a market shaped by domestic situation comedies such asThe George Burns and Gracie Allen Show(1950–1958). The show reflects its title; it is a comedy about Lucy and her antics, which Ricky goes about trying to put right. The popular embrace of this mixed-race and bicultural couple at a time of antimiscegenation laws and immigration quotas was perhaps a symptom of...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Paradise, Hawaiian Style: POP TOURISM AND THE STATE OF HAWAI‘I
    (pp. 93-131)

    Princess Kaiulani(2010) opened across the United States without much critical or box-office success. In Hawai‘i, the film was widely panned for its historical inaccuracies, use of a nonnative Hawaiian in the lead role, and melodramatic simplicity. The synopsis in theHonolulu Weeklysummarizes its shortcomings concisely: “Its lack of character development, its strictly PG-rated sentiment and the insertion of fictitious romances is more reminiscent of Sunday afternoon on Lifetime Television. The real Ka‘iulani deserved better, both in life and in this movie.” Outrage over the film led to a spirited panel discussion on July 9, 2010, with some of...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Tropical Metropolis: WEST SIDE STORIES AND COLONIAL REDEMPTION
    (pp. 132-166)

    The Elvis and Gidget films celebrated and deployed youth cultures to enhance the global position of the United States, but a film contemporary with those tourist films vilified youthful rebellion and the colony from whence some of the unruly youth emerged. Th e Hollywood film version ofWest Side Story(1961) is the popular-culture primal scene of Puerto Rican and Anglo-American intimacy; it produced the imaginary of Puerto Ricans in the United States. A primal scene is a terrifying and fascinating encounter with a spectacle of origins. It contains traumatic material about the form and meaning of intimate congress—in...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Guam Doctrine: COLONIAL LIMBO IN THE PACIFIC
    (pp. 167-189)

    As colonies and former colonies of the United States, the Philippines, Guam, and Hawai’i form a strategic military trio in the Pacific in which Guam is an invisible bridge between the two other locations. It is no coincidence that Guam is identified with U.S. global wars, particularly the spectacle of the triumphant contest with Japan in World War II. After the war, Guam became a key militarized colony in the Pacific, second only to Hawai’i. Like the Philippines, Guam experienced the imperial domination of Spain, Japan, and the United States because of its strategic location in the Pacific; like Hawai’i,...

  11. AFTERWORD. Whither Empire? THE COLONIAL COMPLEX OF U.S. POPULAR CULTURE
    (pp. 190-204)

    In recent years, a number of events converged to create an enabling context for a popular confrontation with U.S. chauvinism and imperial overreach. The most compelling example was the global movement to occupy Wall Street and resist U.S.-directed capitalism and the enabling of wealth accumulation among the very rich. The movement was inspired in part by Washington’s history of tax cuts for the wealthy, excessive military and war spending, and the deregulation of the financial industries, which lead to the collapse of the mortgage and credit industries in the United States and all over the world. The movement was preceded...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 215-222)
  14. Index
    (pp. 223-238)