I participated in the August 18th community forum on artistic freedom and responsibility at Seattle Repertory Theatre, held in response to the controversy over the Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado” (See The Seattle Times' “The Yellowface of The Mikado in Your Face,” by Sharon Pian Chan).
Moderator Kathy Hsieh invited me to talk about the effects of cultural stereotyping on children. I have two daughters — one who is adopted from China, and one who looks Jewish like me. I talked about the stereotyping my children notice in television and film; how all too often in popular kids’ shows the ultra-competitive Asian-looking character reflects our uneasiness about our standing vis a vis China. I talked about how, in the Disney princess lineup, there is one Asian, one black, one Native American and one Arab representative, but nearly a dozen white princesses, and no Jewish ones at all.
That night, I couldn’t sleep.
Given the opportunity to speak from my heart, I had cowardly blamed the makers of mass media — the artists not in the room. Much braver would have been to stand before my friends and colleagues in the Asian American acting community and in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and point a way forward – beyond victim and victimizer.