"We're Not on the Other Side:" Social Complexity and the American Melting Pot in John Sayles's _Lone Star_
Although the dominant discussions with regard to John Sayles’s Lone Star centre around the influence of the past on the present, there is little written concerning the ways in which the past as depicted in Frontera, the town in which the film is set, is treated in light of the American cultural discourse of the melting pot. As a town situated on the border between Mexico and Texas, Frontera is inherently multicultural. That said, there is a distinct naïvety presented in the film with regard to one’s ability to cast off one’s personal history and “start from scratch,” which speaks to the influence of the melting pot mythology, and the way in which it can override the influence of cultural experience and discourse. This mythology, however, proves problematic in Lone Star, as Sayles acknowledges the importance of the influence of blood to one’s self-realization as a part of the community. It seems clear that the discourse of the town follows the postcolonial imaginary of the American melting pot, and as such the town promotes itself as a unified whole. However, if individual and group histories are the keys to self-realization as Sayles seems to indicate, it follows that the community should embrace a heterogeneous multicultural model, rather than a homogeneous model based on the demands of the American melting pot. To that end, I examine the importance of personal history in Lone Star as a means of destabilizing the melting pot ideology. In doing so I discuss the possibilities of individual autonomy in light of what is presented in the film as a hyper-deterministic social and cultural context. This requires a look at the way in which communities built around differences actually function, and I use Manuel De Landa’s philosophy of social complexity to elucidate the fallacy of seeing a society as a unified and homogeneous whole and promote the idea of various moving and interchangeable components within an overarching social structure. In viewing Frontera this way, the impossibility of starting from scratch is made apparent, as one’s past is shown to be a necessary part of one’s future.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
Copyright DateAugust 2012
Society, Sayles, Mexico, Melting Pot, America, Texas, Film