A discernible identity of the Japanese American film audience coalesced at a pivotal moment in the history of Japanese immigrants in the United States. That audience formed amidst a discrete event in early American cinema, the release of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat in December 1915. The social construction of that audience emerged as a result of both the historical forces and the public discourses at work: 1) the social circumstances, particularly on the West Coast of the United States, involving intensifying racist thinking; and 2) the discursive event that was negotiated publicly as a controversial response to The Cheat in Japanese American publications. The production of a Japanese American film audience was inevitable by the mid-1910s, and The Cheat was the nodal point. Still, the public controversy over The Cheat in the important Japanese American newspaper Rafu Shimpo made the formation of such a filmgoing identity complicit and transparent.

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