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The musical Miss Saigon recently played in Minneapolis and the upcoming London re-staging broke the record for West End box office ticket sales, making 4.4 million pounds in one day. Many defenders of Miss Saigon, a play written by two white men based on a photograph they saw, insist that the play is “truthful” and “historically accurate.” What is especially problematic is that Miss Saigon is the longest running and most enduring pop culture representation of Vietnamese people in the Western world – and to a certain extent and by extension of racism, it presents a narrow lens through which all Asians are viewed.
While we recognize that there are many truths, we also see that institutional racism, sexism, and colonization continually reinforce shallow stereotypes of people of color, and the ‘truths’ that are most often lauded and supported are exploitative works that reproduce and validate harmful power structures and chauvinism that ultimately harms the people they claim to portray. Miss Saigon is such a spectacle: a big budget ode to colonialism that romanticizes war and human trafficking.