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Pan-Am Cowboys: Children's Westerns and Emergent Media Globalization

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Abstract:

While much global media scholarship has highlighted the development of US export hegemonies during the 1950s and 1960s, a closer look reveals the origins of a more dynamic system of cultural exchanges. Well before the development of multinational distributors and US network syndication divisions, a handful of independent companies began circulating inexpensive US television programs abroad in the early 1950s. One of the earliest and most successful was the Western series The Cisco Kid. A dozen Cisco “B” feature films had been made in the 1930s and 1940s, the last of which starred Duncan Renaldo, who went with the character to Ziv Television Programs in 1950 to star in a new television series that quickly became one of the decade’s most profitable and popular syndicated programs. Despite the show’s crude cultural stereotypes, Cisco was central to Ziv’s efforts to expand distribution into both Latin America and Europe. Most importantly, the company exploited the persona of Latino star Duncan Renaldo.

While the program is now anchored in dominant discourses of nostalgic Americana, the show and its star were curious and complicated cultural emissaries. Renaldo’s ethnic and national identity had been scrutinized in the US for years, exacerbated by slander that put him in prison for a year for immigration fraud in the 1930s. Then and now, Renaldo’s birthplace was an open question; questions of his nationality first hampered, then helped support, his career as a stateless Latino star whose reach could extend from Europe to South America.

Part of a forthcoming book, this paper explores a variety of archival materials, including international sales and merchandising data, personal correspondence, and historical reception research in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. I argue that the contradictory discourses of liminality, exoticism, and modern global citizenship characterized by Cisco were central to the development of a global media culture. Informed by scholarship in race and nationhood, media globalization, and mid-century consumerism and childhood, the paper shows how from its earliest emergence, international television was not simply the indiscriminate selling of cheap American programs. Instead, in The Cisco Kid, we can see the beginnings of a global television landscape characterized not just by the dominance of US exports, but by regional and transnational cultural flows.
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Name: The American Studies Association
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MLA Citation:

Kackman, Michael. "Pan-Am Cowboys: Children's Westerns and Emergent Media Globalization" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186332_index.html>

APA Citation:

Kackman, M. , 2007-10-11 "Pan-Am Cowboys: Children's Westerns and Emergent Media Globalization" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186332_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: While much global media scholarship has highlighted the development of US export hegemonies during the 1950s and 1960s, a closer look reveals the origins of a more dynamic system of cultural exchanges. Well before the development of multinational distributors and US network syndication divisions, a handful of independent companies began circulating inexpensive US television programs abroad in the early 1950s. One of the earliest and most successful was the Western series The Cisco Kid. A dozen Cisco “B” feature films had been made in the 1930s and 1940s, the last of which starred Duncan Renaldo, who went with the character to Ziv Television Programs in 1950 to star in a new television series that quickly became one of the decade’s most profitable and popular syndicated programs. Despite the show’s crude cultural stereotypes, Cisco was central to Ziv’s efforts to expand distribution into both Latin America and Europe. Most importantly, the company exploited the persona of Latino star Duncan Renaldo.

While the program is now anchored in dominant discourses of nostalgic Americana, the show and its star were curious and complicated cultural emissaries. Renaldo’s ethnic and national identity had been scrutinized in the US for years, exacerbated by slander that put him in prison for a year for immigration fraud in the 1930s. Then and now, Renaldo’s birthplace was an open question; questions of his nationality first hampered, then helped support, his career as a stateless Latino star whose reach could extend from Europe to South America.

Part of a forthcoming book, this paper explores a variety of archival materials, including international sales and merchandising data, personal correspondence, and historical reception research in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. I argue that the contradictory discourses of liminality, exoticism, and modern global citizenship characterized by Cisco were central to the development of a global media culture. Informed by scholarship in race and nationhood, media globalization, and mid-century consumerism and childhood, the paper shows how from its earliest emergence, international television was not simply the indiscriminate selling of cheap American programs. Instead, in The Cisco Kid, we can see the beginnings of a global television landscape characterized not just by the dominance of US exports, but by regional and transnational cultural flows.

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