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Miss Saigon Forum


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Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...? 
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
I never said that Miss Saigon justifies or perpetuates imperialism. That's Madama Butterfly. Miss Saigon perpetuates interventionism and infantilization of an entire people for the sake of not offending the monied American theatre goers.

I forgot how receptive the drafted troops who went to fight in Vietnam were to the idea.


Sat Jun 30, 2012 10:35 am
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
Canadian Drama Geek wrote:
I never said that Miss Saigon justifies or perpetuates imperialism. That's Madama Butterfly. Miss Saigon perpetuates interventionism and infantilization of an entire people for the sake of not offending the monied American theatre goers.

I forgot how receptive the drafted troops who went to fight in Vietnam were to the idea.


I think it depends on how you as an individual see this musical. If this is what Miss Saigon is to you then it is like that. To me, I saw enough in this musical that shows the viewer that the Americans weren't in the right at all, and this musical doesn't try to make a political statement in my mind. Maybe I'm just a straightforward person who sees the rights and wrongs of every party involved. Like I said earlier, this musical is based on what is STILL going on in Asia. That is the disturbing part and that is the part of Asia that is highlighted in this musical. Therefore, if you can't deal with this subject and find it racist and are not able to look further than that, maybe it is not for you.

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Sun Jul 01, 2012 5:03 am
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
This is my opinion of Miss Saigon. My opinion is that it's an overrated and racist musical based on a worryingly antiquated concept. Of course opinions change from individual to individual. I am still entitled to present my opinions, as are you. I'm a bit more zealous right now because this is the first time in a long while that I've had a proper discussion on this board. You are all awesome. :D

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When in Cambodia I talked to girls that were in the same position as Kim and Gigi, selling themselves to try to get away.


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Like I said earlier, this musical is based on what is STILL going on in Asia.


Prostitution is not unique to women of Asia. It's not an issue unique to any region of the world. You could find women and men in the same position as Kim and Gigi in literally any country you can name.

On the flip side, female success is not something that is exclusive to the West. According to these figures, Vietnam's National Assembly is 17% women, nearly on par with the US Congress's 16%. The head of the major Saigon Commercial Bank is a woman.

I am certainly not saying that the above figures are representative of all women in Vietnam, but neither is the bleak picture painted in Miss Saigon. I feel it is not topical, even to its time period, when there were a great deal of women who chose fighting in the military as a career instead of prostitution or marriage.

In summation, Miss Saigon peddles a single story for the Vietnamese woman in the Vietnam War and in modern-day Vietnam. Even the title suggests a certain universality about the submissive Asian woman who kills herself for her white lover and his child. The fantastic writer Chimamanda Adichie talked about the dangers of the single story with a common origin becoming the status quo, and how it marginalizes and excludes the other stories that other people have to tell:



Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:41 pm
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
Canadian Drama Geek wrote:
I never said that Miss Saigon justifies or perpetuates imperialism. That's Madama Butterfly. Miss Saigon perpetuates interventionism and infantilization of an entire people for the sake of not offending the monied American theatre goers.


You're awesome too, CDG, and it's great that we can take opposite views on the same show without descending into abuse, that's what makes discussion here fun. :)

However, I really can't see Miss Saigon as racist. The only things that might appear "racist" about it that I can think of are:
(i) Kim thinks her son will have a better life in America than in Vietnam
(ii) the Americans show a condescending attitude to Vietnam, either condemning it or thinking it's their role to save it.

But actually I think both of those simply reflect what was factually accurate. In the 1970s, you probably would find a better chance of self-fulfilment in America than Vietnam, and even on that, the show is balanced: the "American Dream" song basically sneers at the whole concept of the American dream and satirises the shallower aspects of American culture.

As for the Americans' attitude to Vietnam, that too I suspect accurately reflects the views of the time (though I wasn't there so can't vouch for that from first hand experience).

It's not racist to show the truth even if it is unpalatable to modern sensibilities. Distorting the reality so that it sits more comfortably with anti-interventionist or anti-racist views is what people mean when they talk about "political correctness", and that in its own way is just as pernicious as racism.

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Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:37 am
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
I'm out of school. I'm just thrilled I can actually talk about something again.

I feel that the Vietnamese characters are not portrayed in a good life.

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(ii) the Americans show a condescending attitude to Vietnam, either condemning it or thinking it's their role to save it.


The viewpoint of the Americans about the Vietnamese being people who need to be villefied or saved is corroborated by how all the Vietnamese characters act, and that's problematic to me.

Kim and Gigi need to be saved from the horrors of war and forced prostitution. The only male Vietnamese character apart from the Machiavellian Engineer, Thuy, is abusive and traditionalist to the point of considering infanticide. Awkward.

They did dumb down the material. They totally justified the Americans' attitudes toward the Vietnamese by having the Vietnamese behave according to the appropriate stereotypes.


Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:02 am
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
I admit that some of the content it too edgy for my taste.

That said what I do like, besides some of the music, is that I think "Miss Saigon" protrayed commuism in a bad light. I guess I have gotten tired of the Anti-Americism in arts, media, and in our history classes, is it refreshing to have something like "Miss Saigon" that while it protrays Americans as far from perfect, as the better side(even if it seems slightly so). I find that refreshing.


Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:11 am
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
I just don't like the music. It's just kinda bland, and there's almost no variety in the voices - all the men are tenors. Chris is too much of a bland musical theatre romantic lead, which is a step down from his inspiration, Pinkerton, who was actually a colossal jerk. There are a few nice songs, but mostly it's just all blandish pop.


Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:11 pm
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
Its not a good show..the score is not up to par with their work on Les Miserables. as you said its dull. "American Dream" and "Last night of the World' are really the only standout numbers in the show.

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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
Salome wrote:
Its not a good show..the score is not up to par with their work on Les Miserables. as you said its dull. "American Dream" and "Last night of the World' are really the only standout numbers in the show.


That's true, but really, how fair is it to expect anyone to write something on a par with Les Miserables? If I'd written that show, I'm not sure I'd ever write anything else.

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Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:11 pm
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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
The Duchess of Mint wrote:

First of all, even though The Engineer makes sleaze sort of sexy, the fact that he never really gets punished bothers me (Okay, he can't use Kim and her son anymore, but there are plenty of prostitutes out there, and what can I say? He's a pimp.)


The Engineer dreams of going to America. His dream is shattered due to his selfishness and greed. He's not exactly punished, but he's certainly not rewarded either.

The Duchess of Mint wrote:
Then, there's the fact that not one single adult Asian character is painted as an ultimately successful person. I mean, The Engineer personifies any unfair, "sneaky Asian" stereotypes that Caucasians may have made up, while Kim's cousin represents deceit and cruelty.


Really, are any of the characters successful in the end? I don't believe so. Kim kills herself, Chris has been emotionally scarred for life, Tam loses his mother, Thuy is dead, and the engineer will never go to America. You could argue that John has been emotionally scarred as well, having witnessed all of this madness and having gone through war. Gigi's still a prostitute. She'll probably never go to America either. Ellen now has to take care of the child of her husband's former lover. None of these characters had it easy.

The Duchess of Mint wrote:
Then there's Kim, who, for all of her pure and honest beliefs in the future, and who, for all of her love for both her son and Chris, is defeated...by her own hand! Heck! Even Linda Low and Mei Li fared better in "Flower Drum Song".


While I agree that there could have been a better solution, let's recap everything that happens to this poor girl in the course of the show: Her village is destroyed in a fire, and she witnesses her parents being burned alive. She has to sell herself just to make some money to stay alive. She "falls in love" (I believe this is debatable) with a man who she barely knows because she's emotionally vulnerable. He is the only one left who loves her. She loses her virginity to him, gets knocked up, and marries him. She loses him and the chance at a new life in America. She has to kill her own cousin in order to protect her child (oh, and she was almost forced into marrying him). She is eventually reunited with her long lost lover, but only to find that he is married to another woman. They both refuse to take Tam to America to have a better life. She's emotionally destroyed. The suicide both forced Chris and Ellen to take Tam and put her out of her misery.

The Duchess of Mint wrote:
What happens to Chris and Ellen? They live happily ever after, of course, while ALL of the main Asian characters are reduced to nothing.


Chris is going to have to live with guilt for the rest of his life (and he's scarred by the war). He and Ellen will constantly be reminded of Kim every time they look at Tam. Ellen is now responsible for the child of her husband's former lover. That cannot be healthy for their relationship.

The Duchess of Mint wrote:
Is "Miss Saigon" more of a "War is Hell!" kind of a show than a hopeful, politically correct show?


Kim and Chris are both emotionally vulnerable teenagers. Kim's entire life had been taken away from her in that fire. Chris was drafted into a war and has seen horrors beyond imagine. Both of their innocence and youth have been stripped away from them. That is what the war has done to them. That is why they fall in love with each other. Not because it's genuine love (which is ultimately why it fails, in the end), but because they seek comfort and happiness in one another, something that they have been deprived of ("there in the shambles of a war, I finally found what I was looking for; Saigon was crazed, but she was real, and for one moment, I could feel").

So, yes, it is a "War is Hell!" kind of show in that it demonstrates what war can do to a person emotionally. It destroys them. Remember, many of the U.S. troops who served in Vietnam returned with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How is it politically correct?

The Duchess of Mint wrote:
I am not certain that I approve of all of the insulting, racially insensitive terms that just had to be thrown into various songs. ICK!


I don't find it out of place. Racism existed then and exists now. I find it authentic. It's a gritty show.


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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
Yikes, pretty deep discussion about a musical here, I love it because it is a real story, meaning it could happen, not a fantasy like some. I enjoy the music, the story, the realness of it.

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Post Re: Am I really not giving this musical a fair chance, or...
I absolutely agree. I think that whilst it's not AS good as Les Mis, the music, when given a fair chance, is absolutely gorgeous and the most beautiful numbers are overlooked. I mean, songs like "Please" and "You Will Not Touch Him" are standouts when done properly.

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