“The Fall of [Miss] Saigon”: Racism and Representation

By Juyoung Kim, Amanda Sisung, and Jessica Zhang

In THTR 3333, students study the 25th Anniversary performance of Miss Saigon directed by Laurence Connor and Brett Sullivan. Miss Saigon is a famous (or perhaps infamous) 1989 musical written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. Inspired by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, the musical depicts love and tragedy in the Vietnam War. Students were asked to post an analysis of characters in the Musical and how they depict racial biases to a Brightspace discussion board. This assignment sparked an interesting conversation between three students. As the students discussed individual characters of the production, they came to realize that because race is a nuanced and complex social construct, its representation is inherently difficult and is influenced by racial biases whether consciously or not. The discussion page and replies are pictured below.

Amanda chose to write about Kim.

Juyoung chose to write about Chris.

Jessica chose to write about the Engineer.

ThroUgh their discussion, the students cAme to realiZe that Miss Saigon demonstrates moments of true representation as well as stereotypical racial biases, and the intermingling of these moments result in the riveting and problematic spectacle that is still loved to this day.

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