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Mixed Race Hollywood

Mixed Race Hollywood

Mary Beltrán
Camilla Fojas
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Mixed Race Hollywood
    Book Description:

    A Kansas City Star 2008 Notable Book

    Since the early days of Hollywood film, portrayals of interracial romance and of individuals of mixed racial and ethnic heritage have served to highlight and challenge fault lines within Hollywood and the nation's racial categories and borders.Mixed Race Hollywoodis a pioneering compilation of essays on mixed-race romance, individuals, families, and stars in U.S. film and media culture.

    Situated at the cutting-edge juncture of ethnic studies and media studies, this collection addresses early mixed-race film characters, Blaxploitation, mixed race in children's television programming, and the "outing" of mixed-race stars on the Internet, among other issues and contemporary trends in mixed-race representation. The contributors explore this history and current trends from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives in order to better understand the evolving conception of race and ethnicity in contemporary culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-3055-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Mixed Race in Hollywood Film and Media Culture
    (pp. 1-20)
    Mary Beltrán and Camilla Fojas

    According to mixed race novelist Danzy Senna, we have entered the “mulatto millennium.” Other scholars and cultural critics describe it as a new era in which Generation X has passed the baton to “Generation Mix.”¹ This certainly seems to be the case in relation to U.S. film, television, and popular culture since the mid-1990s. If you turn on your television, you might happen upon mixed race actors Vanessa Williams inUgly Betty(2006+), Wentworth Miller inPrison Break(2005+), Kristen Kreuk inSmallville(2001+), models of various mixed racial backgrounds competing onAmerica’s Next Top Model(2003+), or media coverage...

  4. PART I Miscegenation:: Mixed Race and the Imagined Nation

    • 1 Classical Hollywood and the Filmic Writing of Interracial History, 1931–1939
      (pp. 23-44)
      J.E. Smyth

      For decades, film historians have argued that classical Hollywood cinema portrayed the past as “male, white, and American.”¹ This does have a certain relevance for studio-era biopics (Abraham Lincoln, 1930;Alexander Hamilton, 1931;The Mighty Barnum, 1934;Diamond Jim, 1935;The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, 1939), which deftly transposed the nineteenthcentury heroic discourse of masculine biography to the screen. It was a historical genre dominated, with a few rare exceptions, by more white American men.² During the 1930s, however, Hollywood adapted the historical novels of several prominent American women, from the classic work of Helen Hunt Jackson to the...

    • 2 Mixed Race Frontiers: Border Westerns and the Limits of “America”
      (pp. 45-63)
      Camilla Fojas

      Many Westerns take place in the border region between the United States and Mexico, which accounts for the prevalence of titles likeRio Grande(1950) andRio Bravo(1958), all referring to the use of the river as a natural demarcation between nations rather than the result of war. The Western, the most enduring Hollywood genre, has always been associated with U.S.-style masculinity, the battle between civilization and barbarism, and the dramatization of the founding values of the early nation. But Westerns might also be examined for shared provenance, the preoccupation with Native American nation formation and immigration, the relationship...

    • 3 “Ethnic Ambiguity,” Celebrity Outing, and the Internet
      (pp. 64-84)
      Lisa Nakamura

      Multicultural, multiracial, or “multiculti” actors were reported as enjoying a newfound vogue in a December 2003New York Timesarticle entitled, “Generation E.A.: Ethnically Ambiguous.” In it, Ruth La Ferla writes that racially mixed actors are now “perceived as good, desirable, successful” because they possess “a face whose heritage is hard to pin down.”² In 2001, Paul Spickard wrote that “multiculturalism is all the rage” and that “in the last decade and a half, a multiracial movement has emerged in the U.S.,” resulting in a booming business in multiracial autobiographical narrative.³ In recent years the popular press has paid particular...

  5. PART II Identity, Taboo, and “Spice”:: Screening Mixed Race Romance and Families

    • 4 Catching Up with History: Night of the Quarter Moon, the Rhinelander Case, and Interracial Marriage in 1959
      (pp. 87-112)
      Heidi Ardizzone

      In 1925, defendant Alice Jones Rhinelander partially disrobed before a jury in White Plains, New York, to prove she had not misrepresented her racial identity to her husband, as charged. Leonard Rhinelander, the son of a leading New York family, was suing his wife for an annulment, claiming he had thought she was white when he married her. Showing the judge and jury portions of her torso and legs supported her lawyers’ claims that Alice’s nonwhite ancestry was visible on her body, evidence which her husband had had many opportunities to view during their three-year relationship before marrying. Although no...

    • 5 A Window into a Life Uncloseted: “Spice Boy” Imaginings in New Queer Cinema
      (pp. 113-135)
      Robb Hernandez

      In the summers of 1998 and 1999,Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss(1998) andTrick(1999) were eagerly anticipated by the popular gay and lesbian national news publications theAdvocate¹ andOutmagazine.² They were touted not as only the “big gay film” of their respective year (and featured as the opening-or closing-night films of international gay and lesbian film festivals), but also as films that might bridge the gap between homosexual and heterosexual viewers. In particular, each movie was commended for its marketing scheme, strategically advertising gay romantic comedy to gay and straight audiences years before industrial insiders had endorsed...

    • 6 The Biracial Subject as Passive Receptacle for Japanese American Memory in Come See the Paradise
      (pp. 136-154)
      Kent A. Ono

      When Alan Parker’sCome See the Paradisepremiered in U.S. theaters on December 22, 1990, it had been approximately forty-five years since the release of John Sturges’s filmBad Day at Black Rock(1955), starring Spencer Tracy. That film was Hollywood’s last substantial foray into the subject of Japanese Americans’ incarceration during World War II,¹ when, by executive presidential order, 120,000 Japanese Americans were either imprisoned or forcibly uprooted and then transported from their homes on the West Coast to inland “assembly centers” and then later to ten concentration camps in isolated parts of the midwestern and western United States.²...

  6. PART III Genre, Mixed Race, and Evolving Racial Identities

    • 7 Race Mixing and the Fantastic: Lineages of Identity and Genre in Contemporary Hollywood
      (pp. 157-181)
      Adam Knee

      Genres of the fantastic (and, in recent years, horror in particular) have functioned as a particularly significant popular means of working out cultural tensions, anxieties, and potentialities regarding racial and ethnic mixing, given the singular latitude their narratives offer for dramatizing interactions and amalgamations among all manner of beings. This chapter proposes to offer a comparative analysis of the way issues of racial, ethnic, and cultural mixing have been articulated within three recent highly popular Hollywood films in the realm of the fantastic—two horror films (Jeepers Creepers, 2001;Underworld, 2003) and a romantic comedy containing fantastic elements (Bewitched, 2005)...

    • 8 Virtual Race: The Racially Ambiguous Action Hero in The Matrix and Pitch Black
      (pp. 182-202)
      Jane Park

      In “Racial Actors, Liberal Myths,” Josephine Lee considers the ideological implications of the two dominant progressive approaches that have been used to represent nonwhite bodies in contemporary U.S. theater: the “color-blind” integrationist approach, which assigns roles to actors regardless of their racial background, and the more color-aware, cultural nationalist approach, which assigns roles to actors that explicitly politicize their nonwhite identities. Lee points out that the shared trope of racial difference as “mask” connects these two seemingly opposite approaches, an idea she sums up as follows: “If liberal integrationism felt that race was a false ‘mask’ over the deracinated real...

    • 9 From Blaxploitation to Mixploitation: Male Leads and Changing Mixed Race Identities
      (pp. 203-220)
      Gregory T. Carter

      These quotations bring together three male action leads from the past thirty years. The last two, Vin Diesel and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), rose to fame in the late 1990s as stars in movies such asPitch Black(2000) andThe Mummy Returns(2001), respectively. An important contributor to their fame is their mixed racial backgrounds; Diesel is black and Italian American, and The Rock is black and Samoan. The matter of their racial makeup is as central to their public image as the roles they take. The third, Ron O’Neal, played the lead in the Blaxploitation classicSuper Fly...

  7. PART IV Generation Mix?: Shifting Meanings of Mixed Race Figures

    • 10 Detecting Difference in Devil in a Blue Dress: The Mulatta Figure, Noir, and the Cinematic Reification of Race
      (pp. 223-247)
      Aisha D. Bastiaans

      The debate among critics as to whether or not film noir can be regarded as a genre and, if so, how to periodize the genre, has yet to be resolved.¹ When frustrated film scholars assert that film noir can be most easily identified by academics and audiences alike as a visual style, those scholars suggest that difficult though film noir may be to articulate as an idea,you know it when you see it. A similar tension between a slippery definition, on the one hand, and characteristics that are easily and instantly recognizable, on the other, animates race as a...

    • 11 Mixed Race in Latinowood: Latino Stardom and Ethnic Ambiguity in the Era of Dark Angels
      (pp. 248-268)
      Mary Beltrán

      Scholars of the status of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. entertainment media tend to be cautiously optimistic in this postmillennial era about opportunity and visibility.¹ Latinos are being featured in more nuanced and compelling roles, while a growing number of actors and actresses, among them Jennifer Lopez, America Ferrera, and Benicio del Toro, are gaining the publicity and popularity that qualify them as full-fledged members of the Hollywood star system.

      A less understood wrinkle of contemporary Latino stardom that speaks to both the permeability and the permanence of imagined racial borders is in regard to how a number of...

    • 12 Mixed Race on the Disney Channel: From Johnnie Tsunami through Lizzie McGuire and Ending with The Cheetah Girls
      (pp. 269-289)
      Angharad N. Valdivia

      Nearly everyone who has grown up either within U.S. culture or influenced by it elsewhere is familiar with the Disney canon.¹ Whereas the average U.S. person can easily name two or even all of the seven dwarfs, few of them can name any, let alone two, of the Supreme Court justices, as proved to be the case in my popular culture class this term, where out of sixty-three upper-division undergraduate students, nearly all could name all of the dwarfs, and only five could name more than two of the justices. Moreover, showing Disney film segments, even to these jaded and...

    • 13 The Matrix Trilogy, Keanu Reeves, and Multiraciality at the End of Time
      (pp. 290-312)
      LeiLani Nishime

      The filmThe Matrix(1999) ends with a monologue by the film’s protagonist Neo, played by Keanu Reeves.¹ He promises that he will show everyone caught in the Matrix “a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.” This fluid world of possibilities is also the world promised the filmgoer. Trailers and advertising for the film emphasized its mixture of live action and computer-generated special effects, as well as its melding of low-budget Hong Kong kung fu action and big-budget Hollywood bang. Most important, Reeves, the film’s multiracial star, provided a visual metaphor...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 313-316)
  9. Index
    (pp. 317-326)