| ||"Brown and Leggy" Says It All|
Oh, the irony. Just yesterday I was musing on what makes a play a Latino play. And then this morning on Twitter a friend pointed out a review of In The Heights that ran in Nashville Scene's online publication. Told ahead of time that the review had racist overtones I clicked on the link, but found that the page had already been taken down.
But as we all should remember, once it's up online, it's up there forever. Especially if someone takes a screen shot of it. (Update: the cache version is no longer up, but you can read it in the comments section of Poynter.)
"What will the American musical do for thematic material when the melting pot has completely turned to ethnic mush and no group is really underprivileged?"
Okay, that's the opening line and I'm already annoyed because clearly the author doesn't think much of our multicultural country. They would prefer the melting pot (and I must say while I was in college the idea of a melting pot where individuality was "melted" away into one homogeneous culture was abandoned. I often heard it described as a salad, where all the parts retain their unique composition yet add to the whole) without the "ethnic mush."
Someone is pretty careless with the words they choose 'cause I have to say "ethnic mush" sounds pretty pejorative to me (and pejorative is putting it nicely).
"Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s story — book by Quiara Alegría Hudes — tells of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, “where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.” In other words, an excuse to employ dynamic youthful minority performers who dance and sing and holler to a lot of salsa music and groove on lyrics about Latin loving and partying.""An excuse"?
Does that mean anytime there's a play with a non-white character or play with a predominantly non-white cast, that the character or play was "an excuse" to employ actors who aren't white?
Could it be perhaps that the authors were trying to tell the story of a particular community that happens to be ethnically diverse?
What's more disturbing is the unsaid idea that this play, with it's cast of "brown" people, isn't a legitimate play because of its "brown" characters and I guess it's "brown" plot.
I put "brown" in quotes for a few reasons. One because of the last line of this review which really annoyed the hell out of me (to put it nicely). And two, because to underscore how reductive a word it is when describing people as an "other." How it ignores the variance, the multi-ethnic, the nuance, the uniqueness and individual history and instead (to me at least) sets up an us vs. them mentality.
You see, I come from a state that used to have signs saying "No dogs, or Mexicans allowed" (that was the 1950s). Where my parents' generation was punished if they spoke Spanish in school. And as a student of history who's always been interested in cultural hegemony here in the U.S., the current anti-immigration sentiment in this country is something I saw coming years ago. Granted there's always been a good deal of it targeted at different ethnic and cultural groups throughout our nation's history, but with the shifting demographics pointing towards a Latino majority, I already had a sense that the changing face of our country wouldn't sit well with everyone. Especially if they're not keen on "brown" people.
Oh, and what was the final line of the review:
"But if you like your ingénues brown and leggy and your music “hot, hot, hot,” this is the show for you."
That just about says it all for me.
And what's missing from the review is any description of the love story in the musical's narrative, any description of the conflict that takes place on stage. You know, useful theatre review stuff. Instead if felt more like the reviewer was more interested in letting the reader know how much disdain he had for the show. Why didn't he like it? Was it the loud music that gave him a "headache?" Whatever it was, it didn't seem like it was the plot because he glosses over it.
On a final note, I will say that "a" review has been put back up, but with a note form the Editor, along with an apology:
"An unedited first draft of Martin Brady’s Critics’ Pick of In the Heights ran by accident in the online edition of the Nashville Scene. As is the case here, first drafts are places for writers to work out ideas that should often be discarded before they ever see the light of day. Instead, the uncorrected piece was published online, and many commenters were offended by the descriptive language in the piece — concerns that were raised with the author during the editing process, and which, to his credit, he apologized for and agreed to change. The Scene apologizes to all readers offended by the piece; I offer my own personal apology as well and accept responsibility for the error. The correct version, which appeared in the print edition, is posted below."
Yes, there are some "ideas that should be discarded before they see the light of day." It's too bad that in this case it wasn't the author himself, but his editors, that realized how insensitive the piece was.
Insensitive. That's putting it nicely.
| ||Posted 3/25/2011 10:51 AM - 2956 Views - 0 eProps - 0 comments|
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