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The American Dream in Vietnamese$
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Nhi T. Lieu

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665693

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665693.001.0001

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Consuming Transcendent Media: Videos, Variety Shows, and the New Middle Class

Consuming Transcendent Media: Videos, Variety Shows, and the New Middle Class

(p.79) Chapter 4 Consuming Transcendent Media: Videos, Variety Shows, and the New Middle Class
The American Dream in Vietnamese

Nhi T. Lieu

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the cultural and representational work of niche media and videotexts produced by and for the Vietnamese diaspora in the United States. As the VCR revolutionized home entertainment for non-English speaking households in the 1980s, Vietnamese Americans witnessed the creation of Paris by Night videos—a series of commercially produced videotapes of Vietnamese variety show performances consisting of elaborate musical and dance numbers, comedy skits, and fashion shows of Vietnamese women in traditional dress. As cultural commodities, these music videos had powerful ideological resonance that transformed viewer experiences by projecting multiple possibilities for the articulation of post-refugee gender, ethnic, and cultural identities. Combining pictures and sounds, the videos, in particular, offered audiences conflicting ways of imagining themselves as part of a larger community. These inexpensive, accessible, conveniently mobile technologies became the primary communicative means for Vietnamese Americans to grapple with issues such as gender, sexuality, acculturation, assimilation, and “the generation gap.” Vietnamese cultural productions privilege a “new” diasporic Vietnamese subjectivity, shedding an “impoverished refugee” image for a new hybrid bourgeois ethnic identity.

Keywords:   media, videotexts, Vietnamese diaspora, Vietnamese Americans, Paris by Night, music videos, acculturation, assimilation, generation gap, ethnic identity

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