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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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Chapter Two: Hotel Maid in Manhattan 49


Chapter Two Hotel Maid in Manhattan n 2009, when Sonia Sotomayor, an American judge of Puerto Rican descent, was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States, a conservative uproar challenged her candidacy.1 Many conservatives, afraid that a Hispanic woman might sit on the country’s highest bench, expressed their disapproval couching their views not on the judge’s accomplishments but an ethnic discourse of rejection and estrangement. The attacks on Sotomayor were wide-ranging, but much of the conservative teleology concentrated on Sotomayor’s ethnicity and gender. Conservatives accused her, among other things, of being unintelligent and deficient in legal objectivity; others argued that Sotomayor lacked judicial experience. Some conservatives even used clear racial and cultural remarks accusing the judge of being unfamiliar with American ways, and even having a last name difficult to pronounce. It appeared that the conservative criticism had dual objectives. It aimed at building an image of New York-born Sotomayor as a foreigner who could not be trusted. The attacks seemed to ignore Sotomayor’s extensive judicial career and her professional and unbiased views of the law,2 and instead attempted to inflame demographic and ethnic fears. As in the history of American ethnic relations and the politics between the powerful and the powerless, the labeling and the diffusion of negative images about the judge were not actually about Sotomayor, but about old prejudices. The attacks mirrored old colonial discourses which pointed to a paradigm of racial desires. The conservative attacks in the wake of the Sotomayor nomination were...

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