The Fairy Princess would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy Holiday Season and is cheerfully slamming the door on 2016.
There have been some good things happening in terms of Asian Americans on Broadway – for example, the opening of IN TRANSIT on Broadway, featuring the wonderful Telly Leung in a lead role.
There was the announcement that the Broadway cast of GROUNDHOG DAY is complete and is featuring Raymond J. Lee and Vishal Vaidya (making his Broadway debut) in the cast.
The first shots of Philippa Soo as the lead in AMELIE, which will make it’s Broadway bow in 2017 are out, and they are charming.
And FINALLY, TFP’s favorite, Miss Isabella Russo was featured in THE TOYCRACKER extended theatrical commercial for a major retailer, where she co-starred along with Chrissie Teigen and John Legend! (TFP knew this already but could not let the cat out of the bag, but she did say that this was a kid to keep an eye on!)
So of course with all that goodness abounding, there has to be some abject f*ckery coming our way, and of course, it’s coming at us from a few different angles.
First off, The Hollywood Reporter did one of their year end wrap up discussions at a table, and they asked a bunch of white guys how to not make an animated film not chock o block full of stereotypes.
The only bright light in this conversation which boils down to “All the White Guy had to do to appease the other people in the world and what a drag that was...”
is that apparently John Lassester, the Disney Animation Chief, chose to demand that his team on MOANA (which, truly is beautiful), do actual research on the culture that they were going to be exploring in this film.
Seemingly the recipient of that ‘enforcement’, kind of resented it, but it wound up enhancing the film!
Imagine! Knowledge is actually good for you! This is soooo anti-alt-2016 this concept, but there you go.
Asking and employing actual Pacific Islanders to inform on a film that is about Pacific Islanders can help make the film deeper.
It is still a ‘pan-Pacific Islander’ take on this story, however it is not a documentary, and it is closer than they have gotten since MULAN.
They had sensitivity with the casting of the voice actors and there is no forced romance in MOANA, which is great for little girls to have as an image in their heads.
Although it seems like he much preferred the non-research his team invested in when they did ALADDIN – had they done that research, they may have learned that that particular story was not part of the original Arabian Nights, but was added later by a Frenchman.
Also that the story of Aladdin was supposed to take place in a border town along The Silk Road in…wait for it, China.
Also, TFP does NOT GET how asking Seth Rogan about sensitivity in animation really is justified since, in his animated film coming out, he has a character named FIREWATER.
Think about it.
So there you go, Hollywood enjoying the perks of having people of color in their stories, but not having people of color direct those films, or even inviting them to the conversation.
Where was the Director of KUNG FU PANDA 3 – Jennifer Yuh Nelson?
Where was the Director of SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM – Sanjay Patel?
Tired. So tired.
Also hot on the heels of the aftermath of BREXIT, comes this offering from the U.K. – In The Depths of Dead Love, presented by The Print Room at The Coronet coming in January.
It is a play. Ah, a play. TFP loves plays.
Enjoys plays. Does plays.
Where, she wonders, is this play set, perchance?
Specifically? Let us go to their website:
Set in ancient China, In the Depths of Dead Love tells of a poet exiled from the Imperial Court & the favour of the Emperor, who scrapes a living by renting his peculiar property – a bottomless well – to aspiring suicides. Among these is a married couple who exert an appalling influence over him. Told through Barker’s celebrated exquisite language and affecting humour, In the Depths of Dead Love is the witty and poignant tale of a man facing an impossible dilemma.
Ah, a play set in CHINA!
OF COURSE! WHY NOT?
CHINA of course, had a ton of intrigue and politics, and is one of the oldest countries around from which to draw cultural inference, and stories about China should of course, be told.
There is no one, NO ONE in this play on the stage, who happens to be of East Asian heritage.
Again, this is a play SET IN CHINA, telling a story of CHINESE PEOPLE, and there are zero British East Asian Actors in the play.
Do we really have to go through this again?
Do we really have to try and figure out that China is a real and actual place?
Do we need to again, look at map?
All right, esteemed playwright Howard Barker, here is a map of CHINA. TFP will even pick a Dynasty.
Here is one from the HAN Dynasty. BOOM!
WHY do we need, again, to look at images of Ancient China?
Also, which specific part of Ancient China, my dear Mr. Barker?
Because…not listed. Not listed in the information TFP was able to glean – so it’s just some ephemeral part of Ancient China – no Dynasty, no actual researched period – which, btw, are all available to find out.
On the magic of the Interweb.
So we know a few things – aside from no British East Asians on the stage- we know that the costumes are going to be wrong. Why?
Because it’s Amorphous Ancient China.
In Amorphous Ancient China anything can happen. It’s like an Animated film. Wardrobes can talk. Dragons appear from nowhere and cause documented events to occur.
Matt Damon can save China in Amorphous Ancient China.
Tilda Swinton becomes an Ancient Asian One in Amorphous Ancient China. (Which is potentially when Tibet’s status which all the fighting is currently about was more or less defined, but let’s recognize that really doesn’t matter to them)
In Amorphous Ancient China, Scarlett Johansson can become Japanese – it is just THAT Amorphous and magical!
Because where countries lie on maps simply does not matter when words like Ancient and China are in the same sentence.
Let’s put it this way – in Amorphous Ancient China, Elvis is probably still alive and ruling over it from a tricked out rumpus room in a basement room in The Forbidden City!!!!!
It. Is. Magical.
People fly in Amorphous Ancient China.
Why not? It’s Amorphous.
The air is different in an ‘exotic’ and ‘ancient’ way which causes Caucasians to become inebriated with the possibility of co-opting every bit of the Chinese experience and then white-washing the Chinese faces from the stories they want to tell!
After all, why have Chinese faces tell stories about things that happened in China?
That just makes it all far too Chinese, right?
Too many Chinese people in China and what DO you get?
Like, over a billion Chinese people.
Who can devalue the US dollar any time they choose.
How DARE ‘we’ think that British East Asian faces should represent heritage that actual British East Asians have?
Why, we are upstarts! We are non-Public School, non-gentrified Gentlemen’s Club out of order!
The bravado of us! The notion!
Why, the sentiment that British East Asians should portray East Asians is enough to send the women to the powder room in a fit of the Vapors!
Corset strings must be loosened!
The whale bone industry will be in jeopardy!
What WILL the mere presence of these faces lend to the proceedings, anyway?
In the theater, we fight, don’t we? We fight for veracity. We fight to find the dignity in characters. We fight to be ‘authentic’ in our portrayals.
Here, the Creative Staff and the Theater Company have done something completely different. They have invested in lies. Investing in lies is not theater. Investing in falseness is a betrayal of all that theater has become. The characters are betrayed. The text is not worth hearing.
Because you are starting with the absurdity that abject racism can be forgiven within the context of the play, simply because white people wanted to do this play.
Read that again – you cannot ignore the foundation and setting of the play, which is specific, just because your personal hubris believes that being a Caucasian gives you the right to decide when and where ethnic faces will be allowed.
What was it the great Mick Jagger often sang? Sing it with TPF now, SING, DAMMIT:
No, you cannot, oh denizens of THE PRINT ROOM, always get what you want.
You cannot decide upon a portrayal of China in which there are no British East Asians to tell the tale. It is categorically racist. It is unquestionably absurd in premise, and it is the epitome of elitism in British theater.
Would you do this if the play was set in Ancient Africa?
If there was intrigue in Amorphous Ancient Africa would you be comfortable with portraying an Ancient King of Africa? Would you invite friends?
Would you consider it ‘your right’ to get onstage and proclaim that you were, indeed, an Ancient King of Africa?
Which is the point.
TFP could continue to go on and on, but the simply truth about racism is – people like it.
Artists like it. They must. Especially Artistic Directors, Producers, and Writers of a certain stature. They perpetuate it with glee. They delight in telling Actors and Writers of minority status where their ‘place’ is, they love the premise that we all exist when and where they say we do. That they ‘allow’ our stories to happen. They also ‘allow’ us to appear in them when they say so.
They hide their preferences about it – chalk it up to ‘well, this is who came in.’, or ‘an actor should be able to portray any role‘, or ‘we had no qualified people of color‘ – but that is all a lie.
You can find any actor.
Repeat – YOU CAN FIND ANY ACTOR YOU NEED. There are things called ‘recommendations’, there are people called “Casting Directors’, there are places to advertise, there are Drama Schools to call – any actor of color needed can be found.
In this case, they simply did not want to. The Director, Gerrard McArthur -did not want to. The Playwright, Howard Barker- did not want to. The support staff were fine with promoting a play set in China, but not in promoting British East Asian faces to tell that story. The other issue is – white actors took the job. They had the hubris to take this job.
All of that, all – is racism.
It is societal, and it is both unconscious and conscious – the simple truth about why there are more working Caucasians in theater, and why their stories get told more, is because there is bias – they ‘default’ to themselves.
What we have learned in America this past election, is that white people – and TFP, again, is ½ white – do not like to admit their biases.
They KNOW it is wrong, they know it is small minded, and ignorant. They know their perceived moral and genetic superiority is a fallacy – but they like it. It makes them comfortable. They want the world to remain horribly pre-disposed in their favor.
Theater artists are no different from anyone else. In fact, sometimes they are worse, because they are mostly politically liberal, they are mostly believers in equality – or that is what they tell you.
However this is not what we, the Artists of Color in the world are being shown. We are not being given an opportunity lightly – it is always conditional. We are not given the benefit of the doubt with our knowledge or experience – it must always be proven.
Look at the plays of the West End – how many tell the stories of people other than Caucasian? Look at Broadway – same thing.
We are all talking more, yes. But are we changing things?
TFP is giving The Printing Room the benefit of belief – they are showing her their bias and prejudice, and she is simply going to believe that is who they are.
Congratulations Old Chaps, you are Bigots!
200 Smacks of the Wand to all at The Printing Room – you are whitewashing the Chinese from China!
The audacity of that speaks volumes as to your worldview.
Also – you are hereby banned from entering any Asian food eatery!
Why should we feed you when you erase us?
Oh yeah, this includes curry – how DARE you think it does not?!?!