In the summer of 1943, race riots stirred waves of violence across several US cities, the largest taking place in Detroit, Harlem, and Los Angeles. During wartime, patriotic anger was aimed not only outward at the Axis powers, but also inward at US citizens. This article focuses on Los Angeles’s Zoot Suit Riots, exploring how in a surprising number of accounts of the alleged riot, movie theaters serve as backgrounds alongside white, Mexican American, African American, and Asian American women, who appear as minor, nameless characters. Finding instances in work from Beatrice Griffith and Carey McWilliams, in fiction from Fernando Alegría and Chester Himes, and in the canonical Chicano films Zoot Suit (1981) and American Me (1992), the article traces the supporting roles women and movie theaters serve in these diverse narratives, and how both come to visually and discursively represent dangerous wartime boundaries.
Embodying the Background: Connecting Pachucas and Movie Theaters in Filmic and Literary Depictions of the Zoot Suit Riots
Veronica Paredes is an assistant professor in the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include reconfigured urban media spaces, feminist digital practices in pedagogy, and collective organizing. She is an active member of the networked feminist collective Situated Critical Race and Media (SCRAM) and FemTechNet. Her work has been published in Amodern, and work she has collaboratively written has been published in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies.
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Veronica Paredes; Embodying the Background: Connecting Pachucas and Movie Theaters in Filmic and Literary Depictions of the Zoot Suit Riots. Feminist Media Histories 20 October 2020; 6 (4): 68–93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.4.68
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