October 10, 2007
Stranger Comes to Town, 2007
In Stranger Comes to Town, Jacqueline Goss returns to the themes of alterity and cultural disconnection of How to Fix the World to create an equally charming, humorous, and incisive rumination on the absurdity and moral ramifications of ethnic profiling in a post 9/11, terrorist-conscious society. In one episode, a characteristically neutered Department of Homeland Security footage demonstrating the ease and convenience of non-invasive biometric fingerprint identity verification at a border checkpoint plays out against the testimony of a young woman who recounts her far more intrusive experience of being subjected to an anatomical examination by an official under the security mandate of verifying her gender. Cutting to the image of her identified avatar - a pink-haired, warthog-like creature - the idiosyncratic juxtaposition is both comical and poignant in reflecting the speaker's implicit sense of alienness and arbitrary exclusion as a result of the "procedural" encounter. In another episode, a secular immigrant from a Moslem country is compelled to re-evaluate and reframe his identity - and consequently, alter his behavior - through an imposed, non-existent, but stereotyped cultural profile after 9/11. Composed of anonymous, interwoven, first-person testimonies of travelers - immigrants, naturalized citizens visiting their ancestral homelands, and ordinary tourists - recounting their personal experiences of being targeted for enhanced identity screening at a U.S. border checkpoint that have been juxtaposed against tongue in cheek animated sequences from canned Department of Homeland Security how-to videos and re-purposed, self-assigned avatars and otherworldly landscapes from the World of Warcraft videogame, Stranger Comes to Town is a subtle, but potent indictment of broad stroke, xenophobic policies that have rendered an essential myth the idea of the United States as a country built on tolerance and a paradigm for a cultural melting pot assimilation.