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You're a Better Filipino than I Am, John Wayne: World War II, Hollywood, and U.S.-Philippines Relations

Charles V. Hawley
Pacific Historical Review
Vol. 71, No. 3 (August 2002), pp. 389-414
DOI: 10.1525/phr.2002.71.3.389
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/phr.2002.71.3.389
Page Count: 26
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Abstract

Between 1939 and 1945 several Hollywood studios produced significant films set in the war-torn Philippines, including Bataan (MGM, 1943), So Proudly We Hail (Paramount, 1943),and Back to Bataan (RKO,1943). Although these films immediately preceded Philippines independence in 1946, they do not position the Philippines as a soon-to-be autonomous nation. Instead, these films reaffirm, and even celebrate, the unequal colonial power relationship that marked the history of U.S. occupation of the archipelago. A careful reading of these films, which is the subject of this article, reveals the stamina of this colonial ideology (colonial uplift, tutelage, and nation-building) that legitimized U.S. colonial rule in the Phillapines and dates back to the turn of the century. What the perpetuation of this ideology suggests is the postwar neocolonial relationship between the two nations that U.S. government officials anticipated. This revised neocolonial ideology is expressed through the racialized and gendered images of Filipino characters and their interaction with U.S. American characters. The U.S. government attempted to control such images as part of its wartime propaganda, but had to rely on the voluntary compliance of the major Hollywood studios. While the Filipinos in films like Back to Bataan, made at the war's end, appear to challenge the racist stereotypes of prior films, they are re-inscribed by a neocolonial form of U.S. supremacy— framed as wartime U.S. guidance and Filipino dependency.

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