The Fairy Princess’s had a Birthday, so she wanted to blog a bit about KINDNESS.
I know, I know, you are all ‘WHAT, but she is SOOOOOO Snarky!” and while that is true, you may notice that my tone tends to be more one of flabbergasted disbelief at innate stupidity, rather than horrible statements that are taking more personal jabs. Also, my last few posts have been trying to focus on GOOD things that have been happening in the Asian American theater community AND…good things for Diversity in general.
So NOW I want to talk about KINDNESS, because I have noticed particularly that it seems to be missing.
It seems to be missing MOST in the Asian American Arts community at the moment, and I want to know why.
Here is the thing with the Asian American community – we eat our own.
A small band of people cannot hold the larger group hostage to their particular ideals and spew hatred simply because they choose not to acknowledge what the other side is saying!
Oh, wait a minute….
Maybe some parts of the Asian American community are taking our historical alliance with tea too seriously as they bag on some of our Artists.
In the long tradition of Tiger Moms, Tiger Children, Tiger Men, Tiger Pets who are actual Tigers, and of course – Tigerfish…nothing is ever good enough for Asian America.
Now, that is great if you are trying to become a world class speller,
or a doctor,
or a lawyer,
but the people who take the biggest risks as Asian Americans are the Asian American Artists.
We are laughed at because we do not have a ‘regular job’.
We are considered less intelligent (unless we play the piano – playing the piano is the great equalizer until someone says, “well, my son is a Doctor AND a concert pianist“, so then even IF you are a pianist you are ‘lazy’ because you did not also happen to cure cancer at the same time as practicing scales.).
Our Families apologize for us, “Uh, well…that is my Cousin she’s a…a…(whisper)….painter“.
It’s a rocky, rocky road.
Which is why WE as a COMMUNITY of Asian American Artists need to BE KIND to one another.
We do NOT have to agree, but we DO have to RESPECT that the people in the show are all highly trained members of a Professional Performers Union, and as such, we should respect the skill they have made it their life’s work to attain – even IF you do not agree with how they display it.
Name calling is not professional. It is not compassionate. It is not respectful.
We do NOT have to attend a show, but the audience who paid for tickets deserves respect for supporting the Arts, and journeying out for a night of entertainment. They should not have to sit through loud screaming during the show. They made their choice, they voted in the only way that counts in theater – THEY BOUGHT A TICKET.
In other words – YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF THEM.
You can of course, choose to protest anything in America, but if you are going to do that, be consistent.
So what is the issue, exactly? Why are there protests?
I mean, if you are going to protest based on the perception that the show in question portrays women in a negative light, you can feel free to do that, but picking just ONE show to protest based on women’s issues is…you know, discriminatory.
What are you saying? Asian prostitutes in a show are ‘bad’, but you have no opinion on Caucasian Prostitutes or Latin Prostitutes or African American Prostitutes?
Go right ahead and stand up for women (?), but show equality to ALL musicals who have lead roles where women play “working girls” or “whores‘ or “ladies of the evening“- but if you are starting on this madcap ride, you better be prepared, because you are are going to be BUSY.
WHICH shows in American Musical Theater feature “Ladies who have a lot of sex and enjoy it and occasionally get paid, but not by the guy they fall for’, or ‘maybe they do NOT get paid but they get branded ‘loose’ by the other characters in the show”? Or just have good old fashioned brothel workers?”
Off the top of my head…what is the first one I think of…oh right, RENT:
TWO BY TWO
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM:
I could go ON and ON like Sondheim on an arpeggio in a key with five sharps, but here are a ‘few’ musicals that are just, you know – top of my head, that you could get ready to protest based on main characters being women of ‘low moral fiber’: You can always tell who they are, because they always get the best songs…..here goes:
Oklahoma, RENT, Les Miserables, Two by Two, Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Life, Best Little Whorehouse, Whorehouse Goes Public, Showboat, Pal Joey, Steel Pier, Annie, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Little Shop of Horrors, TOMMY, Oliver, Chicago, Jekyll & Hyde, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Tenderloin, Gigi, Carmen Jones, Porgy & Bess, Cabaret, Little Night Music, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures…ok that is just off the top of my head….and what ELSE?
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list…. MISS SAIGON is on it.
Now….there WAS, yes, a protest at the beginning of MISS SAIGON‘s journey in the United States and it was not over subject matter, or roles for women, or that the rake on the stage of the theater was one of the highest and all the dancers wound up with back problems…no, the protest was over one guy who was playing a part and he was not Eurasian, as the script called for. He was 100 per cent Caucasian and in London, he used prosthetic eye makeup to make himself look ‘more Asian”.
Jonathan Pryce, the original Engineer in Miss Saigon
It was a HUGE fail on the part of Actors Equity (who initially blocked the show and then caved like a souffle after you clap your hands near the oven), on the Broadway Community (who should have supported the Asian Americans protesting), and actually, on the people who awarded Jonathan Pryce the TONY Award – the HIGHEST honor Broadway has – which rewarded his “Yellowface’.
It was super not cool. Not that JP was bad, he is an excellent performer, but it was a slap in the face, truly.
But, see…People liked Miss Saigon.
Because Miss Saigon is a love story.
It is a musical about a girl, standing in front of a war, asking a boy to love her. And, he DOES.
In fact, he loves her SOOOO much, he gets extreme PTSD and spends a very long time in a mental ward recovering from the devastation of losing the girl he loves when he is forced into a helicopter by his friend, unable to get her to the copter to go with him, due to a whacky misunderstanding.
(Ok, it’s not whacky, I just threw that in there, there’s got to be some sense of fun, Folks!)
While Chris has been in the mental ward, Kim has had to resort to prostitution to feed her Eurasian child because the country she is from is rocked with devastation from war. When she realizes that Chris and his new wife will not take her child to America, she kills herself so that they have no choice BUT to take her child to America and give him a ‘better life’.
So at the heart of it, it is two love stories. It is about love between two people, and about the love of a mother for her child.
AND….it HAS been done before – the Puccini Opera, Madame Butterfly.
I mean, if you are going to protest Miss Saigon, you have to be gearing to take on MADAME BUTTERFLY too, right? I will expect to see you protesting at each and every performance of MADAME BUTTERFLY that you are capable of getting to.
And if you are going to protest MADAME BUTTERFLY, well then FOR SURE you are going to protest any and every showing of the brilliant play by David Henry Hwang, M.BUTTERFLY, because the BUTTEFLY myth is so much a part of the storyline – and you know, you have to be equal.
Isn’t that what you want. Mr. Joe Protestor?
You do not want a show where there are characters that represent prostitutes and pimps, and, perhaps no musicals about soldiers…that last one I’m just throwing in, it is equally as valid. Perhaps you are protesting the impression that soldiers get PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? And it seems you definitely, but definitely do not want shows that have interracial love. Nope, that does not sound bigoted at all. Carry on. I know, I know, you ARE protesting, and YOU are right. Nothing good has come from Miss Saigon, according to YOU.
Strictly speaking, Mr. Joe Protestor, you are WRONG.
Just for historical accuracy, they ALSO awarded the TONY Award that year to a young woman, perhaps you have heard of her….oh right, Lea Salonga. That Lea Salonga is a pretty good thing. So are all the other women that have gone on and made careers that began in Miss Saigon. They are Asian American faces on Broadway – that IS a good thing.
Here is another something to keep in mind – since Jonathan Pryce left the Broadway production – both on Broadway and Regionally, the character of The Engineer has been played by people of Asian descent, and they do a great job with it. It is a role which is, in the pantheon of ‘the musical theater’, one of the GREAT, great roles for men – and due to our current sensibilities, it can ONLY be played by men of Asian descent.
I should hear a cheer about that. BECAUSE there are ONLY a few:
1. The King in The King & I
2. Sammy Fong in the DHH revised version of FLOWER DRUM SONG
3. The Reciter in Pacfic Overtures
But you are right, let’s take that part away from the literally
hundreds of THREE major roles for Asian American males – we should all protest because in all of the world, there has never been an Asian Pimp.
I think world sex trafficking statistics would prove you wrong there.
Not that The Engineer is representative of all Eurasian men everywhere, but there have, actually, been Asian men who have been Pimps. Possibly some of them have been Eurasian. As a Eurasian myself, I am not offended by that notion.
How do I know that? I read. The Fairy Princess does not just sit around flapping her wings getting confused by Mr. Joe Protestor, she pushes her Tiara to the side and surfs the world wide internet thingy.
According to the UN Sexual Trafficking Report of 2012, in Asian countries such as Maylasia, Thailand, and the Philippines, those convicted of sexually trafficking women, were 89%, 74% and 77% male, the rest were female- so…yes, Virginia, there are Asian Pimps.
(Seriously, only 102 pages, go ahead and read it, and THEN we can have a talk about Pimps)
I know what you are going to say now, it’s the perception. You want to protect all of America from the perception of all Asian American women being prostitutes.
I think, actually, we are safe. Because there are quite a few Asian American women on major television shows none of whom are playing prostitutes.
Sandra Oh – Grey’s Anatomy – Heart Surgeon
Lucy Liu – Elementary – Sobriety Coach and former Doctor
Ming Na Wen – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Super Secret Agent
Chloe Bennet – Agents of S.H.I.E.D. – Civilian recruit & Super Hacker
Jenna Ushkowitz – Glee – High school student
Hettiene Park – Hannibal – Investigator
Grace Park – Hawaii 5.0 – Investigator
Deborah S. Craig – The Blacklist – Bodyguard & Genius Programmer
Olivia Munn – The Newsroom – Journalist
Parminder Nagra – The Blacklist – CIA Operative & Torture Expert
Archie Panjabi – The Good Wife – Investigator
Maggie Q – Nikita – Spy
Well of course that list could be LONGER, don’t we all wish it was, but ya know….none of them are playing hookers. So the perception ‘issue’ is not really a issue, given that more people watch television in America than go to the theater. Thus the overall representation Americans are getting of Asian American women, via the Entertainment industry, looking at the roles listed above, is that Asian American women are smart -if not completely brilliant- and physically competent enough to kick anyone’s ass.
Hey, can we break it down for a second? Fairy Princess style – and btw, you can ‘come’ for me all you like, it’s not going to make a difference in my daily life, and LEST YOU FORGET – without tooting my own horn TOO much, but it MUST be cited here like a friggin’ term paper – I AM THE ONE WHO FIRST GOT YOU ALL RILED UP ABOUT THE NIGHTINGALE AT LA JOLLA.
I am also the first in America to draw attention to what happened at THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY.
I gave THIS speech at LA Stage Day about NO MORE YELLOW FACE
I have a few ‘legs’ on this issue.
I am standing WITH the Cast of MISS SAIGON.
No one goes into a MUSICAL thinking that it is historically accurate. Who does? Oh yeah - NO ONE.
Because it is a MUSICAL! No one walks down the street and bursts into song with a live band playing and instantly appearing backup dancers in matching outfits with giant flags. (But if you hear of someplace like that, let me know, ok?) Hence, it is not real. It is not reality. The very premise of it is it’s UNreality. Because it is, say it with me now, A MUSICAL.
Protesting MISS SAIGON is something that The Fairy Princess does not understand. And to my Asian American Blogger pals that jumped right on this clown car ride without actually looking at what you were doing, you sadden me. I thought we were known for being good at homework.
1. Most of the protestors have not seen the show. Not this version. Not only that, they have ADMITTED they have not seen the show, and they are NOT going to see the show because they think they know better.
That is like calling yourself a Doctor and not going to medical school “Oh, I can totally do a mitral valve replacement because I have used the ‘think system’ from The Music Man”
2. The Protestors were offered tickets, they were offered opportunities to come meet the Cast and discuss it, they were offered a lot of things by the Producers, in order that they educate themselves – THEY REFUSED.
So that is like getting a full ride TO medical school, and telling them you prefer the ‘think system’ from The Music Man.
3. No musical represents ‘all women’ – it only represents characters in a story. It’s a fable. Do not all lands use fables to teach? To inspire? To frighten children into good behavior? This one just happens to have a giant helicopter as a set piece. The moral of the story is, to me, “No one will ever love you more than your Mommy”
Actually, The Moral could also be “Don’t get caught in a land war in Asia“, as Vizzini said, “one of the classic blunders”
4. The American Dream is a kick ass number. Anyone would and should be proud to do it.
So….Asian American Bloggers….you highlighted the efforts of a few admitted uneducated (on this particular show) people, and you have given them a nice, big forum to spew about their ‘rights’ as a non-musical performers over what jobs musical performers are allowed to be in. Isn’t that like letting someone cheat off your term paper when you KNOW they did not study?
Whilst repeating that I do not understand this whole protest, I wonder at the motives, are they just trying to draw attention to their own work, rather than having touring companies come in? Are they launching an alternate piece, with the same benefits and paycheck to the actors that they would so easily un-employ?
Are they prepared to become the Tea Party of Asian American theater?
Can they imitate Robert Preston?
Let me tell you something- and this is as straight as I can say it – Asian American Actors can take ANY part they choose. Period. The End. Asian American Actors are under NO obligation to make Asian America ‘comfortable’ with their personal choices. We do not stand over your shoulder at your job and tell you that you cannot do it, merely because it is our opinion that it should not be done.
Re-read that sentence, it’s accurate, but it’s kind of insane.
We are Actors. First and FOREMOST we are Actors and WE tell stories. We do not have a group check in to get Asian American Community approval, and we do not have to have it. Because this is AMERICA.
Asian American Actors can use accents. Asian American Actors can play Pimps, Doctors, Prostitutes, Deli Owners, Thieves, Kings, and whatever else there is out there. We audition and people hire us. And if we can perform, on Broadway, or on a Television show, or in a Feature film, where it is so competitive even to get a a callback – then YOU, Mr. Joe Protestor, are not allowed to rob us of our right to do it to the highest possible level we can.
THAT is what Equality means TO US. That our choices are unlimited.
YOU are NOT the BOSS of US.
The Fairy Princess is sick as hell of this ‘issue’, which is not really an ‘issue’.
You don’t like MISS SAIGON? Fine. Do not go see it. End of story.
And Mr. Joe Protestor? You can kiss my Fan, Tan Fannie!
PS: Feel free to post comments, but do us all a favor, make them readable – check your grammar, check your spelling, and do not use profanity. If I can refrain, so can you