The Politics of Performance in Miss Saigon: Prostitutes, Pineapples and Globalization
The Politics of Achievement in Miss Saigon: Prostitutes, Pineapples and Globalization
The article “The Heat is On…in Manila” at www.worldroom.com starts with the line: “Miss Saigon has assuredly appear home.” The article explains that the Philippines, not London or Vietnam, is the accurate home of the agreeable because its lead, Lea Salonga and abounding of the casting were Filipinos. The assembly of Miss Saigon about is beneath a amphitheater assembly than a allegory for globalization.
This cardboard hopes to acknowledge to the afterward questions: How can we abstraction Miss Saigon as a allegory for the globalization of culture? What does Miss Saigon accomplish that audiences all over the apple get absorbed to it? How does the assembly participate in the post-Vietnam war discourse? How has the “theater of spectacle” been acclimated as a apparatus of both colonization and globalization?
Miss Saigon as Commodity
The production, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, opened on 20 September 1989 at the Amphitheater Royal Drury Lane in London. It was reportedly accounting by artisan Claude-Michel Shonber and artist Alain Boubil aback “they saw a photograph of a Vietnamese babe about to lath a plan from Ho Chi Minh City to the United States, area her father, and ex-GI was cat-and-mouse for her.”1
According to London’s West End Amphitheater Guide, from the time Miss Saigon opened to the time is bankrupt in London on 30 October 1999, it had played 4,264 performances and was the longest active appearance at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. In London alone, it had fabricated a accumulation of over 21 actor pounds, authoritative it the third best assisting agreeable in the history of British theater.
Added than twenty eight actor bodies accept watched Miss Saigon in twelve countries and seventy-eight cities. It is additionally advised to be amid the best high-tech productions anytime mounted. Dave Lunrssen belletrist that “a dozen IBM and Apple computers activate the 200-plus set changes, 50-some automatic accomplishments effects, over 400 acceptable lights additional 400 Vari-lights able of casting 230 colors in nine patterns…” He writes further, “Miss Saigon beyond the country is a military-style operation with smoke and fog machines, a 1959 Cadillac and one 700-pound calibration archetypal of a Huey helicopter with its Animatronic pilot, Virgil.”2
Theatergoers accept watched it either in English or in one of the seven languages it had been translated into. Abounding accept paid added than a hundred dollars for their ticket. In
the Philippines, admission prices ranged from 250 (5 dollars) to 4,000 pesos (80 dollars). If one considers that the minimum allowance is alone 6 dollars a day and that calm cadre acquire alone 40 dollars a ages in the Philippines, Miss Saigon was abnormally expensive. Tickets for the performances in Singapore ranged from 50-125 Singapore dollars. This is about 25% of the account allowance (350 dollars) of a Filipino calm worker.
Admirers accept bought Miss Saigon cassettes, videos on the authoritative of Miss Saigon, ample badges, brazier hats, baseball caps, abrasion pads, and T-shirts. Those who bootless to buy these items at the amphitheater could calmly defended them through online.
Internet business has absolutely pushed sales of the production. The New York Internet business bureau T3 media, for example, developed a armpit for Miss Saigon alleged www.miss-saigon.com. According to T3 Media President Michael Diamant, the Miss Saigon armpit enabled admirers “to be absolutely absorbed in an ambiance cogitating of the capacity and capacity of the production.: Thus, it featured Real Audio and Video clips, amateur online “concession stands” for appearance merchandise, photo databases, actual accomplishments information, an online bivouac complete with agreeable accessory and abstraction guides.”
What makes the business of this article added circuitous in Southeast Asia, however, are the colonial histories of the countries in the region, the absolute abjection brought about by bread-and-butter liberalization policies, and the coaction of gender and chase issues.
Miss Saigon and Canned Pineapples as Metaphors for Globalization
Fredric Jameson defines globalization as “an untotalizable totality, which intensifies bifold relations amid its parts, mostly nations, but additionally regions and groups, which however, abide to clear themselves in the modes of civic identities.” What Jameson emphasizes is the astriction and animosity amid parties involved, and “the attempt to ascertain itself adjoin the bifold other.”3
Miss Saigon can be apprehend as a allegory for globalization because ultimately, it is not altered from the raw materials, such as pineapple, candy by bargain activity in a bunch branch (e.g. Dole, Del Monte) and awash appropriate aback as canned ambrosia to a developing country with the aid of bounded businessmen and politicians who accept the liberalization of industries. In these developing countries, abounding of which are above colonies of Europe and the United States, these articles are added ambrosial because the bodies accept been conditioned to accept that aggregate the colonizer produces is above to that of bounded products. Hence, the canned pineapple is sweeter and added analogously cut than the one from the bounded market.
What is acute about Miss Saigon is the West’s architecture of a Vietnamese woman as a prostitute who annihilates herself at the end of the play. The producers casting Asians (the admired antecedent for bargain labor) through a chase depicted in the video The Authoritative of Miss Saigon as agnate to that of a adorableness pageant, as the producers went to New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Manila attractive for the absolute Kim. Then, they awash the accomplished artefact appropriate aback to Asia.
In the Philippines, the assembly displaced alternative bounded performances and artists so as to board a allegedly new and abundant absorbing “import”. By prioritizing Miss Saigon at the amount of bounded culture, amphitheater administrator Behn Cervantes states that “[the] Cultural Centermost of the Philippines as a quasi-government academy [thus] clearly states that Philippine ability is absolutely inferior to Western Culture. It smacks of the affliction affectionate of colonial mentality that the Centermost asked the citizen companies to footfall abreast for this avant-garde adaptation of Madame Butterfly.”4
What is annoying is that audiences all over the apple abounding the amphitheater anniversary night of the performance. The consumers begin in this “product” the aforementioned address that conceivably they acquisition in Coca-cola, a alcohol the apple is absorbed to, and to go aback to our aboriginal metaphor, the canned pineapple, which comes broken or diced, and accessible to mix in one’s bake-apple salad. According to Julie Po, arch of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Miss Saigon can be credible as “a surplus cher consign artefact re-channeled to the Philippine bazaar afterwards the European and U.S markets accept been saturated. In the spirit of globalization, it is allotment of the big business of exporting media and ability at an cher in the following of big bucks and colonial propaganda.”5
Decoding the Dream: Confronting History
The play’s artifice has been declared by critics and reviewers as follows: “the adventure of a US Marine who is affected to leave his Asian helpmate abaft during the hasty aborticide of Saigon,”6 “the adventure of a G.I. and a prostitute in Saigon, during the war,”7 and the “simple ability affray adulation adventure of an American soldier and a adolescent Vietnamese girl.”8 The comedy about is added than a call of the Madame Butterfly/Pinkerton adventure through the Vietnam War accomplishments of Kim and Chris. The Asian women/Western man adulation adventure is the love/hate story amid the colonized accountable and the colonizer. It is accessible to apprehend in Miss Saigon the contradictions of the postcolonial accountable as represented by Kim.
In Miss Saigon, we see the adulation triangle artifice of the affair mode. Kim rejects Thuy, the antipathetic soldier (representing angry in the play) to whom she was betrothed, and avalanche in adulation with the American soldier, Chris (representing hope). Incidentally, President George Bush’s interviews anon afterwards the September 11 bombings chase this dichotomy: on one hand, America (including its soldiers) apery aggregate that is acceptable and strong, and anybody abroad (Thuy, communists, ‘terrorists,’ all those adjoin America) as evil.
Also, Hollywood’s ceaseless assuming of the American aggressive hero in the East, anchored the angel of the American as “conquering hero.” It is absolutely this angel that is reproduced in the Miss Saigon plot.
The constancy of the “conquering hero” allegory in post-War Asia is so able that it has about asleep all anamnesis of the crimes committed by the United States in the region. For instance, abundant historians accept accurate the barbarous analysis (including hamleting, torture, abolition of property, afire of villages) of Filipinos during the Philippine-American War of 1899-1913 aback America succeeded in colonizing the Philippines. Renato Constantino calls it the “original Vietnamization”9 and Jonathan Fast calls it “the aboriginal Vietnam.”10
The complete fantasy of the colonized is axiomatic in the play’s aboriginal arena which appearance the song “The American Dream.” Gigi, one of the bar girls, and Kim, the lead, sing these lyrics:
“…The cine in my mind
The dream they leave behind
A arena I can’t erase
And in a able G.I.’s embrace
Flee this life
Flee this place
The cine plays and plays
The awning afore me fills
He takes me to New York
He gives me dollar bills…”
The confined in Saigon were abounding with women with alone one dream – to ally an American G.I., drift to the United States, and accept dollars in their pockets. This is not aloof their bogie account but a absoluteness they ambition for themselves.
This attitude appear American servicemen, however, is additionally credible in best genitalia in Asia. It is this aforementioned address of “the white man as liberator from poverty” that we see in confined in Thailand and Korea, classified ads, mail adjustment helpmate catalogs, and Internet pages. The book Hello, My Big Honey (2000) by David Walker and Richard Erlich, chronicles the relationships amid Thai bar girls and adopted men through belletrist and interviews. The book additionally attests to how the Bangkok bar arena has been afflicted by the Vietnam bar scene:
In the backward 1970s and aboriginal 1980s abounding phrases catholic to Bangkok from the American GI confined in Saigon: “Cheap Charlie,” “Number One (or Ten if you’re absolutely bad),”I adulation you too much,” “No money, no honey,” “I buy, you pay” are announcement which are about extinct… The Bangkok bar arena has mutated abundantly back the Vietnam war, aback American troops on R & R (rest and recreation) or added bargain I & I (intoxication and intercourse) – helped actualize Southeast Asia’s bar culture11
In its introduction, Hello, My Big Honey shows how the “Madam Butterfly” affection can be credible in the Southeast Asian bar girls, although in a “clumsy, fallacy-riddled way, while the interviews with the girls acknowledge their contradictions: they are both admiring and repulsed by the adopted chump alleged farang; they authority to accept yet discount his promises; they assume at already to be both victim and predator, gluttonous yet affectation love, and absent alone the foreigners’ money.”12 The adventure of Kim is analogously played in the affected towns abutting aggressive bases in Korea. According to Katherine H.S. Moon’s Sex amid Allies, there is a circuitous stratification arrangement amid prostitutes, with women affiliated to servicemen application the top of the kijich’on amusing ladder, followed by women who accept entered kyeyak tonggo or arrangement cohabilitation. Moon notes:
…All the woman I men in the affected towns either actively dremed of had dreamd of abrogation corruption and arch alleged accustomed lives, marrying a GI, accepting a ancestors and a home. Some had approved to leave kijich’on corruption and apprentice abstruse skills, and assignment in accustomed jobs, e.g., factories. But I heard abounding sotries of women abiding to kijich’on assignment because they could not acclimate psychologically to the “normal world” or could not alive on the low wages…13
As we analyze these abstracts on Thai and Korean prostitutes and the women in Miss Saigon, the comedy seems to accept accurately portrayed the bar girl’s dream of marrying a G.I, beat abjection and accepting a “normal life.” However, what it bootless to portray is the actuality that the confined anchored abreast aggressive bases in countries such as Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam and sex touring in countries such as Thailand are by-products of the circuitous relationships amid these “third apple countries” and the United States. Moreover, it is the American affliction that takes centermost date in the play: Chris agonizes over his role in Kim’s activity in the song “Why God Why?” John agonizes over interracial accouchement in the song “Bui Doi.” Ellen agonizes about her husband’s alternative woman in “Now That I’ve Credible Her,” and Chris and Ellen afflict calm about the approaching of his son in “The Confrontation.”
Miss Saigon is appropriately added about the affliction of Americans than the atrocious bearings of Asian Women. And why not? To allege of the corruption that has led Kim to accommodated Chris would be to allege about abjection and to allege about abjection would beggarly speaking about the history of (neo)colonialism. Thus, it is the bind of the American as victim of war by his own government that has prevailed. Jim Nielsen’s Warring Fictions (1998) credibility out the chain and revisions of war belief and the amusement of Vietnam through the soldiers’ narratives. It is this post-Vietnam War address heavily centered on the American soldier that Miss Saigon participates in, alike as it professes to be “simply a adverse adulation adventure with the Vietnman war as backdrop.”14
Several scenes of the comedy may be apprehend as “interrogative texts.” The song “Bui Doi” is an allegation of the ageism appear interracial children. “Movie in My Mind” is an acrid attending at the cultural imperialism adumbrated by the Hollywood movie. “The American Dream” alike satirizes imperialist values. Alike Kim’s suicide at the end of the comedy can be apprehend as an act of empowerment, not artlessly as sacrifice, because she rejects the accommodation fabricated by Chris and Ellen and armament them to booty her son Tam to the US.
However, the comedy is aboriginal and foremost, a amphitheater of spectacle, and as such, expects its audiences to be bugged by the ball unfolding, afflicted by the addictive melodies, addled by the helicopter, and it turn, bawl for the tragedy of a Vietnamese woman, and leave the amphitheater with a activity of catharsis. This amphitheater of comedy is as abundant as apparatus of globalization at the about-face of the 21st aeon as alternative cultural forms such as vaudevilles, and Hollywood films.
1. Alain Boubil and Claude Schonberg. In www.theaterhistory.com . Date accessed: October 20, 2007.
2. Dave Luhrssen, www.shepherd-express.com.
3. Fredric Jameson, “Notes on Globalization as a Philosophical Issue,” In The Cultures of Globalization, edited by Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, Durham: Duke University Press, 1998, p. xii.
4. Behn Cervantes, [from a column] Businesswrold, 11 September 2000.
5. Julie Po, “Cultural Issues are Civic Concerns,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 September 2000.
6. Tannenbum, Creative Loafing Online, www.CLN.com, Date accessed: 17 October 2007
7. Bryce, www.NandoNext.com, Date accessed: 17 October 2007
8. Donovan, www.digitalcity.com, Date accessed: 17 October 2007
9. Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited, Manila: Renato Constantino, 1975.
10. Jonathan Fast, Conspiracy for Empire: Big Business, Corruption, and the Politics of Imperialism and America, Manila: Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 1995.
11. David Walker and Richard Ehlrich, eds. Hello, My Big Honey, San Francisco: Last Gap, 14
13. Katherine Moon, Sex Amid Allies, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, p. 26.
14 Jim Nielsen, Warring Fictions, University of Mississippi Press, 1998.
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