It should be no surprise that I found this book to be both entertaining and informative, as I’ve long has a fascination with what I knew of pop tiki culture since I was in high school and was introduced to it through MTV’s Beachhouse Tiki God. The MTV version was terrible on nearly every level, but it was the seed that grew into wanting to know more and forming an identity for myself. I’m the proud owner of a ton of pop tiki stuff, including a tattoo of a defunct tiki toy line taking up a large portion of a calf, and about half a dozen tiki masks that friends and family have gotten me through the years. Jason Henderson and Adam Foshko have put together a well researched and mostly light hearted 126 page book that goes into the morbid details of the origins of the genre, how it faded into near nothingness, and why it’s been in something of a resurgence in the last decade.
Of particular interest to me is the amount of transmedia sections there are with dozens of movies, music albums, and musicals to check out to get a solid feel for what the original pop tiki movement was like. No need to just take their word for it, just go watch “Gidget”, “GIrls Girls Girls”, or “The South Seas” to see for yourself, maybe even thrown in “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit” if you want a much heavier story that gets to real origins.
Pop Tiki might be the last large scale cultural appropriation that the USA will be able to get away with, and it may be the one that lasts the longest since it’s so well rooted in the ideology of American exceptionalism, escapism, and appreciation for open hospitality that the islanders exhibited during WW2 that led the returning military personnel to create their own versions of cargo cults here in the mainland.