Pedro Infante Dressed Up as Thor: Mexican Fan Art, Mexican Film History, and Global Media
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
1:25-2:40pm, West Duke 105, Duke East Campus
Lecture by Prof. Anne Rubenstein, Professor of History, York University, Toronto
The most famous figures of Mexican film – Pedro Infante, Sara García, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, María Félix, Cantinflas, Delores del Río, La India María, El Santo, Lola la Trailera – flourished in the 1950s through the 1980s, but have lived into the present. Their longevity was guaranteed by constant re-runs of their most important movies on Mexican television, and more recently through the widespread availability of (legal and illegal) digital copies globally. Mexican film and television has deployed their films and their public personae in its longstanding competition with imported media, arguing that participating in Mexican film culture was patriotic, but Mexicans who enjoyed Hollywood movies were undermining Mexican national identity.
Mexican fan art tells a different story. Rather than viewing the border between the U.S. and Mexican film industries as a site of inevitable conflict, it erases it. Art by Mexican fans keeps images of the greatest national stars in circulation by imagining these stars in the context of recent Hollywood film and television. For example, fans have drawn Pedro Infante as Thor and Ironman from the Avengers, and found a place for Lola la Trailera in the Fast and the Furious. Fans expressing their love for these stars and these narratives in visual terms, rather than creating text-based fanworks, again emphasizes the connections which fans draw between Mexican and Hollywood media. Fan artists can give the Mexican stars in the foreground equal importance to the Hollywood narrative in the background. And they can avoid issues of linguistic purity by refusing to pick either Spanish or English in the textual surroundings of these fanworks, for example by codeswitching in responding to viewers’ comments. Mexican fan art gives us a way to understand Mexicans’ enthusiastic reception of the recent Hollywood movie Coco (which premiered in Mexico and soon became the most successful movie ever seen there, both in terms of ticket sales and in terms of money earned.) The film’s depictions of Frida Kahlo, Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, and Pedro Infante use strategies pioneered by fan artists to meld national and international imagery in a way that supports and celebrates transnational mexicanidad, Mexican-ness.