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Miss Saigon Ages Horribly In Era Of #MeToo And Authentic Representation

UncleCharlie
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Very timely article given the broadway revival closed 18 months ago. But yes, let's beat this topic to death one more time.

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LizzieCurry
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Oh Charlie. It's a review of the tour.

"Miss Saigon is a story that needs to be told, but through a totally different lens. It’s a tragic part of American history that we must face, but when it is put in the context of the white savior narrative, that’s when problems arise. Chris, no matter what he does, is seen as the hero and the victim."

^ Yep!
"This thread reads like a series of White House memos." — Mister Matt
Broadway61004
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Miss Saigon is clearly problematic--from its casting to its stereotypes to its white savior narrative--so there's no argument from me there. But this article seems to be implying that if something happened in a time period that no longer meets our current moral standards, we should just forget about it (or worse, change it). Was Kim 17? Yes. Does that seem creepy now? Yes. But did that happen all the time during the Vietnam War? Absolutely. And some Vietnamese women also married white men for the sole purpose of making their children American. And lots of bars had girls dancing provocatively while men aggressively lusted after them, sometimes violently. Is all of that right? Absolutely not. But should we just pretend it never happened and forbid anyone from portraying that onstage because it doesn't mesh with our 2019 morals? If we can't look back at our past without sugarcoating it to make our present selves feel good, then we're in deep, deep trouble.
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CATSNYrevival
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LizzieCurry said: "Oh Charlie. It's a review of the tour.

"Miss Saigon is a story that needs to be told, but through a totally different lens. It’s a tragic part of American history that we must face, but when it is put in the context of the white savior narrative, that’s when problems arise. Chris, no matter what he does, is seen as the hero and the victim."

^ Yep!
"

Personally, I think Chris is an as*hole.

Wildcard
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Broadway61004 said: " should we just pretend it never happened and forbid anyone from portraying that onstage because it doesn't mesh with our 2019 morals?"

Sadly, the events in the show still happen in 2019. The sex trade, torn families, and the white savior complex still dominate many lives today. Everyday americans/asian americans may not experience them but to say these stories should not be told or should be revised because we are uncomfortable with it, is wrong. 

And I still think of Kim as the hero since she was the one who stood against the odds, even if the results were not entirely in her favor. 

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The Distinctive Baritone
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Miss Saigon is waaaaaaay less offensive than the opera on which it's based, Madama Butterfly. I finally saw the latter recently (having loved Miss Saigon for over twenty years now), and wow...

rosheider
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This sort of thing always goes on during wartime, people understand that.  Why are they not picketing Madame Butterfly?

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sabrelady
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Why is #METOO not picketing  performances of Tosca? ( Powerful figure promises freedom for loved ones if woman services him sexually)

SERiously there are real issues and problems and diverting energy to these "Tsimmis in a Teapot"  is about as ineffectual as it gets.

Words that confuse censors:Fecund,penal,taint, titmouse, cockatoo,coccyx, ballcock, cockeye, prickly,kumquat, titter,cunning linguist, insertion, gobble, guzzle, swallow, manhole, rimshot,ramrod,come, fallacious, lugubrious,rectify,Uranus, angina, paradiddle,spotted dick,dictum, frock,cunctation, engorge,turgid,stiff, bush, uvula, crapulence, masticate, Dick Butkus, gherkin and of course the always bewildering lickety split. As you can see, context is every thing. Chuck Lorre Addendum: 555 382 5968 "Sexarama, Hexarama, Queeriosis, Feariosis!" Alec Baldwin “I’m going to have to science the shit outta this.” The Martian
singer234
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Also, at least the way it came across in the revival, Kim's focus in the latter part of the 2nd act shifts almost entirely from Chris to Tam. She even sings something along the lines about it being fine to forget her, but him coming back for Tam. She literally kills herself- not for Chris, for her child to have a chance. I mean, yes, she dies in his arms, so maybe that isn't the best point. But still. How is she not the hero of the show? I definitely see the white savior narrative, but ultimately, Chris doesn't save...anyone. Or even really try that hard to. He doesn't do anything for Kim, so she takes matters into her own hands. To me, at least, that makes her the undisputed hero of this story, and ultimately makes the central theme of the show the strength of a parent's love for their child. 

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sabrelady said: "Why is #METOO not picketing performances of Tosca? ( Powerful figure promises freedom for loved ones if woman services him sexually)"

In regards to Tosca, I would guess it's not viewed nearly as problematically since Scarpia is never portrayed as anything but the villain of the piece. I've never heard of a production that tries to romanticize his plans, and of course Tosca herself is the one to stab him in a reversal of power at the end of Act 2.

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uncageg
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rosheider said: "This sort of thing alwaysgoes on during wartime, people understand that. Why are they not picketing Madame Butterfly?"

 

Thank you.

 

Just give the world Love.
Ravenclaw
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Miss Saigon is a problematic show which engages in stereotypes and the male gaze, but this article does a terrible job at explaining why and would not have convinced me had I not already agreed with the main argument. I remember in Nicholas Hytner's fantastic memoir Balancing Acts, he described how the musical's opening sequence only condemns the misogynistic behavior of the male characters after completely reveling in it for the first ten minutes--it tries to have it both ways. I thought Hytner's analysis from a couple decades after directing the original was very astute. This article just sums up the plot and expects you to be on board with the conclusion without any further explanation.

By the way, does anyone remember a review of the original Broadway production that was a scathing pan, describing the show as a bunch of contrivances aimed at putting more human suffering onstage? I remember a line that said something like "And then at the top of the second act, when you've seen enough images of suffering people, they bring on a video screen and stop the show to play a montage of suffering children." I remember reading the review a while back but have not been able to find it since. Does anyone else remember that piece?

bear88
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I don't, but I would have heartily agreed with it.

This piece is so unpersuasive that if I didn't recall how much I disliked Miss Saigon, it almost wants me to give the show another chance. This was early in my days of seeing Broadway shows in person, and it didn't encourage me.
AngusN
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You could say this about many musicals based on the past. I’m sure there’s a lot to say about Oliver being abused and Nancy suffering at the hands of the misogynist Bill Sykes.
There’s Higgins’ treatment of Eliza and her subsequent return to him.
The much discussed relationships between Fred and Lilli in Kiss Me Kate.
Like many have said, we must put these shows in the context of the era they are set.
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SweetLips22
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Good Lord---nobody been to Pattaya recently?

Go visit with your placards and pitch forks---good luck.

 

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Lot666
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To me, this argument is similar to the one about whether confederate monuments belong in public parks and at avenue intersections in southern cities. If the intent of the work is to glorify, and even "honor", the subject, then the answer is a resounding NO. But if the intent is to revisit historical situations to help us learn from the past, then the work makes a positive contribution to society and is valid as art. 

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greensgreens
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This show was the first in my life to ask me to reconsider the white savior narrative. Chris himself questions what that means throughout the show, as he goes from feeling like a savior ("Why God Why"Miss Saigon Ages Horribly In Era Of #MeToo And Authentic Representation to recognizing that "all he left was a mess just like everyone else" and perhaps the world would have been better from not trying to "save" everyone and everything.

As for Kim, she finds agency and a will to survive against all odds (no worse than any of the characters in Les Miz or a Dickensian novel). She makes the ultimate choice, not for herself, but for her son in a world where she doesn't have many opportunities, which many mothers can directly relate to.

This is the theatre, not real life and it upsets me that we're imposing realities upon it. We have never done that with the classics (as previously mentioned) and I do not understand why people think it's a good idea to start now.

SporkGoddess
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I also think that Miss Saigon challenges the "white savior" narrative. I think it's important to remember that the authors are French, everything in the show that seems to glorify American culture is actually a critique of it. The Engineer's obsession with American consumerism and culture is shown to be an unfulfilled and ultimately empty dream.

I agree that Chris is an asshole and he's unintelligent. I also think that Thuy is a complex character. It's easy to think of him as a villain, but look at the situation from his perspective. Even his attempt to murder Tam, although obviously wrong, is understandable. 

I have recently been thinking about Miss Saigon and the criticism of it and there are some valid points (conflation of the Japanese culture of Madama Butterfly with Vietnamese culture, even using a kanji-looking character for the poster when Vietnam doesn't use that writing system, orientialism). That being said, I do think that it's possible to acknowledge that the show has its flaws and still find it to have artistic merit. It's my favorite show and I'll forever love it, flaws and all. 

Also, I didn't like this line: "There is no female empowerment or ownership of their bodies whatsoever as men fling these women over their shoulders as if they are objects" - The prostitution portrayed in Miss Saigon is not exactly about female empowerment. There are women exploited by prostitution and the show reflects that situation. That doesn't make it "problematic."

Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!