Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bollywood gazed

I just finished watching an ABC News report about Bollywood, "the biggest thing you've never heard of." This anonymity was the most prevelant theme through the twenty minute segment. The biggest stars that no one has ever heard of.

It was painful to watch seriously. Anyone who thinks that Orientalism is dead mustn't watch much TV. This news report was the perfect example. The describing but equally deflating discourse on Bollywood's hugeness as well as unknowness was particularly salient. Bollywood is huge, raw statistics show that, it makes more movies, has more than a billion viewers more than Hollywood. So how can they obvious awesomeness be contained so as not to threaten Hollywood, or American/Western superiority? You do so by inscribing it in specific ways, referencing the undeniable, but in a way which will assure the Western viewer universal authority, hence, Bollywood, is the "biggest thing you've never heard of," speaking to the "average American viewer," assuring them that their position as the most important people in the world is not being threatened.

There were other painful aspects as well. For example, Bollywood was constantly referenced as being in the process of translating itself into American terms, whether in Hollywood or Broadway. The main guide through this foreign and exotic world was Richard Corliss, a white film guy, who pronounced the names of things in uncomfortably correct ways. (Meaning, he made sure to pronounce every letter and syllable in the names of things). Ultimately, Bollywood while created to be this exotic extravganza, was simultaneously created to be this aspiring American adventure. Rather than showing how Hollywood is working to appropriate its power, passion, energy and color (hahaha, terribly correct choice of words), it instead made it seem like Bollywood was working its ass off to become this American phenomenon.

In relation to Guam, the use of the banal sentence that something important is something you've never heard of is something used often to describe Guam. Guam is constantly referred to as a very patriotic place, America has never heard of. A very American place that American don't know exists. There is alot of violence and assumptions of existence in that statement, and when its used, its impotant to identify what you are about to be convinced about, and hopefully resist it.

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