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Bow down to the Lord High PC Executioner: “Mikado” now deemed too “racist” to stage

September 21, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

It’s not about Japan: It’s about pompous Brits in kimonos

“Blogger Leah Nanako Winkler, who received a flyer promoting ‘The Mikado’ earlier this month, had called the production ‘an embarrassment’ in a recent blog post, and asked readers to join her in contacting the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players to voice discontent.

“‘Are we going to settle and accept that having two Asian actors in this production of “The Mikado,” isn’t quite as egregious as none whatsoever and allow the yellowface set in the “fictional” land of Japan to be depicted in our expensive, wonderful city that we work hard to exist and be heard in every single day?’ Winkler wrote.”


Of course, the whole point of The Mikado is casting Caucasian actors to play Japanese characters. That’s because The Mikado isn’t really about Japan at all. Like other Gilbert and Sullivan works, it’s an elaborate satire of British institutions and British stuffy mores, with a sentimental love story thrown in. Putting portly, pompous Brits into kimonos and clogs is part of the comic fun–analogous to John Belush’s hilarious samurai warrior on Saturday Night Live (of course, that character would probably be banned as well in today’s ultra-politically correct culture). Gilbert and Sullivan were taking advantage of a passion for all things japonais that infected Westerners during the late 19th century.

Furthermore, the setting of The Mikado is feudal Japan. (In the opera’s mythical town of Titipu, flirting is a capital offense.) Complaining that the opera perpetuates ugly ethnic stereotypes of contemporary Japanese-Americans is like complaining that a toga party perpetuates ugly ethnic stereotypes of Italian-Americans.

And playing the victimology card seems a stretch for Japanese-Americans, whose median household income is $78,500, compared with $53,046 for Americans as a whole. Hardly indicative of a “strugge to exist.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen


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