restricted access "If I was not in prison, I would not be famous": Discipline, Choreography, and Mimicry in the Philippines

In 2007, 1,500 inmates in the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) went "viral" with their online rendition of Michael Jackson's music video Thriller. Representing an exercise program aimed at building teamwork and reducing gang activity through dance, the CPDRC version circulated as performance-based proof of prisoner rehabilitation. Central to the production's worldwide popularity are narratives of discipline, colonial choreography, and the gender and sexual alterity of Wenjiel Resane, the cross-dressed leading lady. By situating these components in relation to the African American original, the actions of the prison administrators, and ideologies of Filipino mimicry, this essay examines how choreographic practices fundamentally influence the social construction of Otherness. As part of a history of intercultural performances that naturalize racial inequalities through stereotypes, the CPDRC's Thriller offers insight into both the traditions of colonialism and the powers of today's global social media.