Publication Date

January 2013

Document Type



Issues related to immigration have long been present in U.S. television and print news cycles. In recent years, those issues have become more prevalent in U.S. popular culture, especially in television and popular music. In this essay, we analyze three representative and diverse examples from U.S. popular media to better understand the representation of immigrant narratives: ABC’s Ugly Betty, the Chicano band, Los Lobos’s 2006 album, The Town and the City, and CNN Presents ‘‘Immigrant Nation.’’ From our analysis, we advance three interconnected arguments: First, personalized narratives of the immigrant experience reify stereotypes through accumulation and repetition that contributes to the construction of border spectacle. Second, audiences interpret individualized accounts through ambivalent readings that function to entrench audience beliefs and attitudes about immigrants and immigration which create unmotivated sympathies. Finally, individual accounts humanize issues related to immigration, but they also individualize responsibility and absolve collective responsibilities by emphasizing immigrants’ hard work and pursuit of the U.S. American Dream.