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The Hispanic Image in Hollywood

A Postcolonial Approach


Jorge Barrueto

The Hispanic Image in Hollywood: A Postcolonial Approach offers an in-depth analysis of how Hispanics are represented in American cinema. Film production is a reflection of American historical processes that have defined Hispanics and American mainstream identity as oppositional forces in the domestic political establishment. Hispanic difference, as depicted in film, is understood as the by-product of Western philosophy, Western science, territorial expansion, colonialism and American nation building, wherein Hispanics have been identified as the antithetical, ubiquitous Other. More precisely, specific Hollywood films not only mirror American history but also a variety of political discourses that have defined Hispanic identity. Thematic categories of American history used to construct Hispanics reflect, in many ways, a deep-rooted, Eurocentric, colonial worldview. As the research of this book clearly shows, film depictions of Hispanics have created negative visual taxonomies based on gender, race, and class.


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Introduction 1


1 because they make insignificant contributions to society; Hispanics are, in actuality, already perceived as an outside threat to the security of the United States.36 This reification of Hispanics is all the more troubling because Hollywood films are even used as didactic tools and a source of knowledge in educational settings. Without question, the learning about Hispanics takes place both at the multiplex and in public schools. According to Jeremy Stoddard and Alan Marcus, commercial films are widely used to teach historical events to American students. They suggest that teaching American history through these films is a dangerous practice since the stories in Hollywood films are made to accommodate ethnocentric cultural beliefs and social hierarchies.37 Moreover, this idea of the natural division of society is a common perception not only in public schools, but also in institutions of higher education. In a college study about primitivism, students were asked to describe their understanding of the term “primitive.” The responses were rather uniform and the students saw the primitive as hardly comparable to human. Students wrote that the primitive had a life attuned to basic instincts unaffected by time and history. The primitive, the students noted, lacked culture, intelligence and development; moreover, the primitive was seen as a dull, naïve and amoral savage. The conclusion of this study indicated a far more serious predicament expected in a typical academic exercise. These ideas of the primitive are, in effect, popular free-floating historical signifiers that are routinely applied to actual ethnic minorities.38...

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