Delia Malia Caparoso Konzett has published the first full-length study of the American film industry’s fascination with the Pacific in “Hollywood’s Hawaii: Race, Nation, and War.” The book is part of the War Culture Series from Rutgers University Press.
“Hollywood’s Hawaii” presents a history of cinema from 1898 to present that examines Hawaii and the Pacific and its representation in film in the context of colonialism, war, Orientalism, occupation, military buildup and entertainment.
“My family is from Hawaii and I’ve grown up in Hawaii partially,” says Konzett. “For my family, the representation of Hawaii in Hollywood always appeared at odds with the reality of our experiences. This discrepancy stirred my curiosity about Hollywood films set in the Pacific. My father, who also served in the military, steered my interest towards Pacific war films and I began to see two identities that Hollywood attached to Hawaii, namely a leisure paradise and a geopolitical site of military interest. My book tries to explore this complex relation between two seemingly contradictory identities and its relevance for the national imagination and its representation in Hollywood film.”
In “Hollywood’s Hawaii,” Konzett highlights films that mirror the cultural and political climate of the country — from the era of U.S. imperialism through Jim Crow racial segregation, the attack on Pearl Harbor and WWII, the civil rights movement, the contemporary articulation of consumer and leisure culture, as well as the buildup of the modern military industrial complex.
Gary Y. Okihiro, author of “Island World: Hawai`i and the United States,” writes of Konzett’s book: “A marvelously comprehensive gaze at cinematic representations of Hawaii, this insightful study shows how those fictions constitute and are constituted by U.S. imperialism, Christian capitalism and white nationalism. Moreover, the imagined South Pacific is not a distant, fleeting pleasure but an imminent, durable presence.”
Konzett is associate professor of English, cinema and women’s studies at UNH. She is the author of “Ethnic Modernisms: Anzia Yezierska, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Rhys, and the Aesthetics of Location” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).