When the United States acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico, it reconciled its status as an empire with its anticolonial roots by claiming that it would altruistically establish democratic institutions in its new colonies. Ever since, Filipino and Puerto Rican artists have challenged promises of benevolent assimilation and portray U.S. imperialism as both self-interested and unexceptional among empires.
Faye Caronan's examination interprets the pivotal engagement of novels, films, performance poetry, and other cultural productions as both symptoms of and resistance against American military, social, economic, and political incursions. Though the Philippines became an independent nation and Puerto Rico a U.S. commonwealth, both remain subordinate to the United States. Caronan's juxtaposition reveals two different yet simultaneous models of U.S. neocolonial power and contradicts American exceptionalism as a reluctant empire that only accepts colonies for the benefit of the colonized and global welfare. Her analysis, meanwhile, demonstrates how popular culture allows for alternative narratives of U.S. imperialism, but also functions to contain those alternatives.