The Value of Hawai'i (5-0)

[/caption] Craig Howe’s introduction of “The Value of Hawai’i” describes how he and Jon Osorio, the co-editors, came up with the idea of this book on one of their regular morning jogs as a means to help frame the upcoming debates in Hawaii’s upcoming 2010 elections. The content and themes of this compendium of Hawai’i issues were designed so that the public could begin to actively engage in discussion around the relevant issues that not only affect Hawai’i campaign issues, but the entire spectre that has settled upon, and has come to define our physical and economic health since statehood. Tom Coffman opens this dialogue by addressing the value of statehood.  In this chapter, the image that Coffman describes as representing 50 years of statehood is of an injured Kekuni Blaisdell participating in the 50th anniversary statehood protest. Coffman remarks how over 50 years ago, Dr. Blaisdell was interviewed by Lawrence Fuchs for his book Hawaii Pono.  Coffman writes that when he discussed this interview with Kekuni, he remarked, “at the time of the interview I was still brainwashed by American propaganda.” Like bookends to the 50 years of statehood, Kekuni’s injuries were emblematic of the social, economic and political wounds statehood continues to inflict upon the people.

[caption id="attachment_1466" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="statehood casualty"][/caption]
This metaphor is particularly resonant for me in that I was put in charge of caring for Kekuni while inside the Convention Center where the celebration was taking place. While there, I personally witnessed streams of Hawai’i’s professional elites come by and offer him acknowledgment and support. In the following article, Hawaiian Issues, Jon Osorio makes a prescient point that “independence from the U.S. is a logical and necessary step towards protecting the amazing society that matured in these islands.” Osorio addresses Kingdom law and occupation, energy and conservation issues, education, prisons, labor, law and farming, land rights and the larger environmental and economic questions that loom throughout the remaining 26 episodes…. Oops, did I say episodes?  I mean chapters. Having read through most of the content in this book, what has struck me most is that the overarching approach to these looming issues is one of justice and resolve. Although I am loathe to compare the real struggle of Hawaii with the manufactured and sterile corruption of TV cop shows,  I am currently having a difficult time separating the advocacy work these contributors represent from the current saturation of junkets promoting the premiere of the new Hawaii Five-O season. When Susan Hippensteele describes domestic violence, or John Rosa describes the history of race-relations in the islands, I’m sure that Meda Chesney-Lind and Kat Brady could’ve attributed the state’s infatuation with prisons with the allure of make-believe Hollywood when they penned: “Lock Em Up Danno: Hawai’i’s Imprisonment Boom,” in the chapter on prisons. As we are introduced to larger systemic injustices threatening kīpuka or traditional cultural markers (McGregor) or globalized agriculture (Reppun) or exploitations of tourism and its loss of local revenue (Taum), I see all kinds of unique stories being developed that depict corporate crimes, fraud, grand theft and money laundering where the politics of a reasonably real Hawaii (rather than an imagined one), establish a unique backdrop to at least several seasons worth of “Book em’ Danno.” A little known tidbit about me is that I am an MFA graduate of NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, Dramatic Writing Program and I learned that, in general, any successful TV show has to know how to tell a dramatic and engaging story. Beyond that however, there has to be an understanding of the market, complex characters that are believable and identifiable, a familiarity of the locale in which the drama derives, and a development of conflict and resolve consistent with the characters and locale.  Much of the success of the original Hawaii Five-O was a result of these four bullet points and the writers and producers of the new series should study and understand the current climate of Hawai’i or potentially face the chopping block of poor-ratings and cancellation, or worse public backlash for poor/negative representation.  Even Dog, the Bounty Hunter, in it’s inimitable way, explored the complex social, cultural and sometimes political stories that are unique to Hawai’i. Besides initiating public dialogue in this upcoming election season, the value of The Value of Hawai’i should be studied by the writers and producers of Hawai’i Five-O.  The backdrop of Hawaii is so much more engaging than whatever chemistry these heavily glamourized characters can bring to the screen, and this book credibly highlights the talking points that are most relevant to Hawai’i. Unfortunately, and I hope I’m wrong, but it seems from the previews that this series will only mimic the national obsession over terrorism and drug dealers and perpetuate the already tired device of buddy-cop homo-eroticism. Buy this book. Arnie Saiki]]>

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