Hollywood’s Haiti : popular culture, representation, and American exceptionalism




Butler, Tia Katheryne

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On January 11, 2018, during a meeting at the Oval Office about protecting the rights of immigrants from locations such as Haiti, El Salvador, and various African countries, President Donald Trump asked, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" These racist, xenophobic, and derisive remarks point to the urgency of my dissertation, Hollywood’s Haiti: Popular Culture, Representation, and American Exceptionalism. Living in a post-Trump America, we can easily see how space has been created for public declarations racial bias, prejudice, and xenophobia. With racism moving from the periphery to the forefront of American public policy, this project is critical as it a large-scale study of how certain stereotypes about the Afro-Caribbean, and Haiti in particular, have been codified through a consistent negative representation in the United States popular culture and media. This dissertation examines mass media and primary sources ranging from Hollywood’s first zombie flick, White Zombie (Halperin 1932), to more contemporary 20ᵗʰ and 21ˢᵗ century artifacts of popular culture including; The Serpent and the Rainbow and FX’s 2013 horror anthology series, American Horror Story to demonstrate the unique power media has on sustaining tropes about Haiti. Building off of works such as Kyle William Bishops How Zombies Conquered Popular Culture, Domino Renee Perez and Rachel González Martin’s anthology Race and Cultural Practice in Popular Culture, my dissertation contends that the Haiti that is seen across US media (news and entertainment) is actually an imagined Haiti that has been crafted through generations of sustained media tropes.


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