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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 Four: Cinematic Humor and Difference 121


Chapter Four Cinematic Humor and Difference n 1989, many heads of Central American states, along with President George H. W. Bush and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, met in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The subject of the conversations was the ongoing civil war in Nicaragua and the possibility of a peace accord. There were different propositions about ending the conflict, but at the end there were no agreements. However, after the failure of the talks, President Bush’s comments about President Ortega revealed strange concepts not only about the President of Nicaragua, but also about Hispanics. President Bush seemingly did not like Ortega’s proposal about the cease fire. Later, at a press conference, and unable to strengthen his own position and propose a viable alternative to Nicaragua’s offer, Bush opted to take the low road, calling the president of Nicaragua a “skunk.”1 This statement might have been the unforeseen result of political anxiety and frustration, but it provides a glimpse of the political apparatus’ humoristic representation of Latin America and Hispanics. In this line of thinking, political humor can be seen as a tool of ethnic assessment since it reflects common social apprehensions and perceived ethical and biological differences between the United States and the inverse humanity represented by Latin America. This dual approach has as its humoristic targets in what is thought to be the representative aspects of the Hispanic world. In prior chapters we have seen Hispanic gangsters, exotic women and hazardous geography as the...

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