So, Miss Saigon ads are all over my insta and fb feeds ever since I Googled “Miss Saigon” for an essay I was working on, about pop culture’s role in the perpetuation of over-sexualized stereotypes of Asian and Asian American women.
I find this frustrating. One, it’s a reminder that some algorithm is hard at work (or in this case, hardly working), selling me the very narrative that I was researching and criticizing to begin with. THE STORY OF MISS SAIGON IS RACIST, SEXIST, AND ROMANTICIZES WHITE SAVIOR SYNDROME. Two, the ads are popping up in my social media feeds regularly enough that it’s slowly normalizing Miss Saigon as “just a thing” that’s in my life.
NO THANKS MISS SAIGON, I’M GOOD.
But it seems the ads are working on me. I was compelled to look up some of the actors who’ve been cast in the show (“progress” since the show cast a white man who used prosthetics on his eyes to make them look more Asian back in 1989).
I feel no negative feelings for these actors who are part of a production that, in the year 2017, continues to perpetuate a very limited view of Asians, for, what I’m guessing, will be mostly white audiences. On the other hand, I have a lot of negative, complex feelings toward the producers of the show and the institutions like Broadway, who are in positions of power to choose what stories are seen by masses of people, and they choose the narratives of marginalized people that aren’t crafted by those people, but hijacked by white people and told and sold in the image they decide. See what happens to my writing when I’m all fired up? Pronouns abound and I begin fearing that I’m not articulating what’s most important to me.
When I see dehumanization of any individual or group take place, it rubs me. Yes, the wrong way. And any time a person or group of people is reduced to a one dimensional caricature, they’re being dehumanized. And once they’re not seen as human, it’s easier to say and do things that are not in their best interest, because, well, they’re not like us, right?!
Miss Saigon’s representation of Asians is dehumanizing. And now, every time I get on to fb, I feel like I’m living in Alanis Morissette’s mis-titled song of 1995.