Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chihuahuas, Burros, T-Shirts, and "Mexicans": A Micro-Rant

There is nothing explicitly or implicitly demeaning or debilitating with associating particular animals with particular countries--poodles with France, say, or camels with Saudi Arabia, bulldogs with England, and chihuahuas with Mexico; animals, humans included, have a history, and because of the vagaries of evolution and climate, various preponderances of animals can be found in any number of nations. No big deal.

And it was no big deal years back, at least to this critic, when Taco Bell started its series of yo quiero Taco Bell commercials featuring an infamous and widely debated chihuahuahueño:

If anything, the star of this commercial, "Dinky" or "Gidget," (depending on your take on a controversy) is like the "Mexican," Miguel "Mike" Vargas (Charlton Heston) from Touch of Evil (tirelessly documented in the first chapter* of Tex[t]-Mex); but where Vargas eschews pre-Psycho hot gringa Janet Leigh for the affections of Orson Welles in a fat suit, Gidget/Dinky ignores the allures of amor for food--the culinary wins out over the erotic, as, coincidentally enough, with Welles!

Both "Mike Vargas" and the yo quiero Taco Bell pooch play against 'type, against stereotype, given that the history of "Mexicans" in the cine/cultural space of America was always decidedly sexual--a dastardly sexuality, a swarthy eroticism accelerated to the point where "Mexicans" as synecdoche for sexuality isn't much of a stretch.

But other efforts are less "innocent." So it is that I have taken the time to out the Tex[t]-Mextian "normalcy" of Disney's Beverly Hills Chihuahua coming soon to a theater and blu-ray disk near you. And now I take the time to note the "humor" of "Mexican" T-shirts:

Drunk frat boys do need to wear t-shirts in TJ, I'll grant you that--the spectacle of melanoma soliciting pale skin the last thing one needs to see while cruising the sights and sounds of Avenida Revolución. But this out sized, be-testicled beast, semiotically fused with it's semantic equivalent, "Mexico," cries out for further scrutiny. Already a synecdoche-rich term (testicles or "balls," as shorthand for moxie, chutzpah, fortitude, drive, etc. with virulently masculine overtones), here its symbolic equivalent looming there in green between the silhouetted burro's back legs, screams out with force, --this is the power of images they silently scream, they stealthily infuse the psyche through the eyes with the veritable force of an orchestrated cacophony: balls, testicles [texticles?], huevos, force, strength, machismo. ¡ay caramba!

More on this to follow.

* "Hallucinations of Miscegenation and Murder: Dancing along the Mestiza/o Borders of Proto-Chicana/o Cinema with Orson Welles's Touch of Evil"

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