You are here

Yeh, "A national score: Popular music and Taiwanese cinema," 1995

USC Dissertation in Cinematic Studies.
August 26, 2009

Yueh-Yu Yeh, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
Popular music and film were the two media most engaged in assisting the state construct a national identity in postwar Taiwan. What role did they play in creating the ideology of a modern, anti-communist, and Confucian-oriented Chinese identity? How did the media use their specific characteristics to represent an unequivocal Chinese identity? How did historical environments and socio-political changes reformulate the makeup of this national identity? To answer these questions, this study traces the evolution of national identity from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s in popular music and film. It designates six topics within the media's representation of national identity as it responded to the national crises that occurred during this period. The six topics are: the use of music in 1970's policy film and romantic melodrama; the folk movement and youth film; college folk and national identity; sonic realism, popular music, and the New Cinema; American popular music and neocolonial discourse; and the commodification of identity politics.

Judging from the historical and socio-political contexts in which these six topics are embeded, a circular development emerges in the relations between popular music and cinema. In the 1970s, a partnership was established between popular music and cinema to promote songs in the films as well as compensate for the lack of ambient sound. This partnership was suspended in the 1980s when the New Cinema excluded pop songs for the sake of greater authenticity and to emphasize its high-art quality. The expansion of commercial cinema made the reintegration between popular music and film possible in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, identity politics has become the new subject in popular music and cinema due to the late 1980s collapse of the national concept of nationalism based on a unified China. The combination of this ideological shift and the introduction of advanced cultural commodity apparatuses forms a national identity characterized by shifting loci of commerce, politics, and art.

Advisor: James, David E.