Black at East High? Good luck.

By: Cheyenne Figaro

The 2000s will be remembered by for a lot of things: Brad and Angelina, the Online Streaming revolution, the rise of the Kardashians, and so many other pop culture phenomena. But if you were to ask the children of the 2000s about the most iconic parts of their childhoods, High School Musical, would make just about everyone’s list. The 2006 film, directed by Kenny Ortega and written by Peter Barsocchini, follows teens Troy and Gabriella as they’re outcasted by their school for enjoying theater and still having lives—I know scandalous! But the real scandals of the movie aren’t Troy’s pipes (later revealed to be Drew Seely because Zac Efron wasn’t a good enough singer) or Zeke’s crème brûlée, instead the real scandal is how racism is weaved throughout the entire script, highlighting Troy and Gabriella, at the expense of Chad, Taylor, and Zeke.

High School Musical is a production near and dear to my heart. I’ve rewatched the trilogy over and over again to the point where I can quote each one as if I’ve read the script. My sixth birthday party was to see HSM 3 (remember movie theaters what a throwback), and I wore my East High cheerleading outfit the first time I went to Disneyland the next year. My full circle moment came when I played the role of Taylor McKessie in my high school production of the show, an experience I’ll treasure in my heart forever. Yet, playing the role of Taylor was an eye-opening experience as it showed me how people view the characters of the musical. When I revealed to people that I was playing Taylor, most responded with “Who?” to my surprise, and then I’d say “Taylor… Gabriella’s best friend… the smart one… *sighs* the Black one” to which I’d receive an “Ohhhhhh her, yeah now I remember.” Not only was I offended as a HSM fan, since Taylor was literally a main character, but I was also offended as a Black girl myself. It shook me that people watched all three movies and only knew Taylor and Chad because of their race. Even worse, I started to realize if Chad, Taylor, and Zeke are merely racial symbols to most fans, then Disney had done a huge disservice to the Black community with their roles.

For a movie all about circumventing stereotypes, the portrayal of the Black characters in High School Musical raises a big question mark for several members of the Creative Team. Disney has a reputation that precedes itself when it comes to Black characters. “Positive” Black girls are usually brown to light skinned, with wavy to straight hair, while “negative” girls are darker skinned with braids or afros. Taylor is the former, her long, wavy hair fits Disney’s idea of what a bright Black girl looks like, pushing aside the fact that most Black people have Type 4 hair which is much kinkier and short. This idea is further reinforced by the casting of Corbin Bleu as Chad, whose hair is light brown and curly, and light skinned. In fact, the only Black character who is darker skinned with short hair is Zeke, and the movie portrays him as desperate and undesirable to a White female lead. Disney has done this time and time again, subliminally messaging that there is a right look and a wrong look for a Black person.

I’ll admit that when I was younger, I didn’t really notice featurism in movies like HSM. Yet, as I got older most of the girls around me started to get perms or texturizers, essentially damaging their hair to get the straight hair look that all the Black girls on TV had. Even worse, we’d unconsciously gained self-hate and turned that internalized racism on girls who had kinkier 4C hair or who were darker skinned. Watching Disney shows and movies as a teen always make me question: Why? What was the motive behind perpetuating racism and damaging the self-esteem of a generation of Black boys and girls? Chad and Taylor may not have been main characters, but they were just as important as Troy and Gabriella to me and every other Black child watching the show. So why couldn’t we have seen ourselves on the Big Screen looking the way we do in everyday life? Having any representation at all is great, but it wasn’t really me who was being represented, but a vision of me that White directors and writers wanted to uphold. In a perfect world, Taylor would have been a revolutionary character with braids or kinkier hair because she would affirm what every Black girl already knows in her heart—the Black girl with natural hair can be successful too. Zeke could’ve showed Black boys that they’re desirable too. But no, this isn’t a perfect world, and so the Black audience is just left to deal with the fact that this what we get, and it’s what we usually get: lackluster representation because of negligent decisions with casting.

Here’s a fun fact: Casting Directors and Writers should be best friends throughout a project. It’s astounding that Peter Barsocchini never realized that the delivery of his story was heavily based on the race of the actors playing each role. Let’s take Taylor for instance, a smart, ambitious brainiac who recruits Gabriella for the Science Decathlon. On the surface, Barsocchini did quite an amazing job in breaking stereotypes by highlighting a studious and ambitious Black student, as opposed to the typical script of the Black students who don’t care about school at all. Yet, the musical takes things a bit further by labeling Taylor’s assertion as bossiness, and her advice as demands. This attitude shift would have been fine if Taylor’s race wasn’t a factor, but unfortunately it is. Taylor, as well as Chad, is villainized for not fitting into the Black best friend trope. They have their own ideas and are equally as intelligent or athletic as their leads, and the writers compensate for this by making them use their power with bad intention. Taylor starts to play into the angry, Black woman stereotype (as much as she can in a TV-PG film), and her intelligence is eclipsed by her sneaky behavior and aggression. Obviously, there must be drama in the story, but the writing for Taylor conveys the message that Black girls who are too focused or too ambitious are in some way harmful.

 The Black men get the short end of the stick as well, in fact a shorter end. Chad, who is literally just trying to tell Troy that he doesn’t have time to for Basketball practice and musical rehearsals, is made out to be the bad guy to fit a narrative. First of all, I wish someone could’ve been on top of my time management in high school and told me to drop an extracurricular or two. Second, this movie gets Black male representation so wrong. Chad is the dumb jock, who couldn’t possibly see past a basketball for two seconds (seriously why does he always have that thing?) to envision a world with multifaceted people. Zeke’s entire role is to be comedic relief, a role that Black men often play as even in real life they’re taken more seriously as comedians. Not only that, but his chasing after Sharpay is subtly denouncing the idea of a successful interracial relationship, making even the suggestion of one seem funny to the audience. The characterizations of Taylor, Chad, and Zeke suggest that nobody behind the scenes even for a second considered that these characters were Black, or they considered it and didn’t care. What’s abundantly clear, above all else, is that there were barely, if any, Black creators behind the scenes of the production, a fact that jumped out the screen every time one of these characters was present.

There were a few moments throughout the movie where I scratched my head thinking, “Nobody saw an issue with this?” Moments where a Black creator was desperately needed in the Writers’ room or on the Production team because the scene made absolutely no sense. The worst of these is when Taylor refers to athletes as “Neanderthals” and “Aggressors” who “contribute little to society”, as if most of the NBA and NFL aren’t Black men. Excuse me, but Taylor the Black girl is the one calling Black men useless animals? Whoever wrote that entire monologue should have been fired on the spot because Taylor really equated one of the few roles where Black men successfully dominate to the Darwin evolution chart (Did they miss the lesson on Darwin being a racist?). Many Black athletes were the first in their families to move out of impoverished neighborhoods, have set up charities and foundations, and many of them provide for their families in ways that Black people were excluded from for centuries in the United States. Taylor’s rhetoric about Troy Bolton isn’t really about this fictional White character but instead attacks Black boys who were supposed to feel lesser for being good at sports. There’s nothing wrong with Black boys wanting to be athletes, and just like any other race of people they should be pushed to succeed in whatever they enjoy in life. This doesn’t have to be sports, because Black boys aren’t only athletes, but it very well could be and that should be acceptable. Aside from this very offensive moment, on a broader scale the whole musical is tone deaf towards Black people. It is simply unrealistic that two of the main proponents of stereotypes in East High are Black students. More than most other people, Black teens understand what it’s like to be labeled as one thing for your whole life when you have the potential to be so much more. Taylor and Chad should have been Troy and Gabriella’s main supporters, but instead were written in more of a colorblind manner to serve the narrative. Unfortunately for High School Musical, colorblindness doesn’t do much but give breathing room to microaggressions, and racism, and a complete mishandling of characters because they aren’t written with intention. Taylor, Chad, and Zeke could have and should have been much more, but they were shorthanded to make other characters shine even more.

Despite their negligence towards race, the High School Musical creators did create something magical. I’m still obsessed with the trilogy and I’ll forever attach my love for musicals to watching the films as a child. Truthfully, Disney has evolved in terms of social awareness both in front and behind the scenes. Many shows like Andi Mack, Raven’s Home, K.C. Undercover and more, work to help children unlearn the harmful stereotypes that Disney was too negligent to catch in its earlier days. They also ensure that children of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations see themselves in a multitude of storylines and roles so that they understand the possibilities are endless. I’m not saying Disney is perfect, of course there’s always room to grow, but I’m glad that children now aren’t only limited to movies like High School Musical and have tons of Disney Originals to choose from to see accurate representation and purposeful, wholesome representation, which is what all production companies should strive for.

BOGO: Rose Colored Glasses for Sale in Hamilton!

By: Cheyenne Figaro

I’ll be the first to admit that I never planned on watching the musical Hamilton. Something about its massive success made me think it’s too good to be true. It turns out I was right and wrong. Both on and off stage (and screen, more recently) Hamilton presents itself as a challenge to American social norms. The musical, brought to stage by composer/lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2015, is most famous for its color conscious casting of the founding fathers, and it’s clear from the start that race isn’t something to be ignored in the show, instead being amplified and celebrated. Surely, the musical could have been done with historical accuracy, but that would’ve meant an all white cast aside from any slaves or servants. For, too often period dramas take people of color out of the narrative completely unless they’re showing them in bondage or another traumatic circumstance. Hamilton serves to place people of color back where we belong: in the center of America’s history. However, revising history through a modern lens has its drawbacks. While Hamilton uplifts people of color through meaningful representation, it also undermines itself by ignoring the disadvantages of people of color not only during the colonial era, but also in modern day society. Furthermore, while the musical makes waves for racial progression, it makes a failed attempt at women’s empowerment which begs the question: if women don’t win in actual history or rewritten history, exactly when is our time to shine?

At its very essence Hamilton is an underdog story about “a bastard, orphan, son of a whore” who defied the odds in front of him to become a founding father. Hamilton is an immigrant and an orphan, but Miranda makes it known that he isn’t bound by those labels. In “My Shot”, he finds a community in the revolutionaries of New York City. They proclaim, “I am just like my country/I’m young, scrappy, and hungry,” and the words resonate not just because they hold true for the characters, but because they hold true for the cast. People of color can relate to having to fight against convention for a respectable place in this world. Mulligan wants a revolution for social mobility, Lafayette for a more stable society, and Laurens because he’d like to see the slaves freed from bondage. Especially in America, there is a universal experience amongst marginalized groups of desire for more. Desire for more rights, more opportunities, or just the desire for more visibility. Although the show is based on the lives of white, heterosexual men, their struggles and their visions take on a deeper meaning when applied to people of color, and this scene specifically conveys the idea of building a community out of a struggle, something that many people of color can relate to. Yet, past this proud display of diversity the musical does little to reflect BIPOC and women in America, at least not in America outside of the Hamilton universe.

A director of a show must know their audience to appeal to them, but unfortunately for this production, Miranda (Accidentally? Intentionally? Who knows) appeals to the more revisionist and idealist side of America. The show is the perfect gift for Americans who can confidently say that racism ended in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. They deny the effects of systemic racism and honestly believe that any person of color who is unsuccessful is unsuccessful because they didn’t apply themselves enough. Now Lin-Manuel Miranda, a proud Puerto Rican-American Democrat, doesn’t believe any of those things. So why does Hamilton enforce this idea over and over and over again? Hamilton’s immigrant status is brought up so many times as if equating it to being an immigrant today. Hamilton may have been an immigrant, but he was White and the country wasn’t even formed yet when he arrived, making his immigrant status marginal to the rest of his identity. Thus, he easily “Got a lot farther by working a lot harder/By being a lot smarter/By being a self-starter,” in ways that many people of color in real life have tried and failed to do. Miranda as Hamilton, Leslie Odom as Aaron Burr, and Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson present an illusion of the man of color, who once educated, can get through any doors he sets his mind on. However, this illusion is so grandiose because the entire main cast is diverse, that it blinds the audience from reality. A person of color who has an unstable household, works multiple jobs, and lives in poverty will actually see the effects of these disparities in their life. Whether they have less access to quality education, or less time to pursue passions, they will not have the life of Alexander Hamilton who was put in charge of a trading charter at fourteen, and who gained access to the President of the United States because of his revolutionary ideas.

Contrary to the experience of POC in America, one can ignore mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other forms of systemic racism when watching Hamilton, because no people of color face challenges because of their race. The color-conscious casting created a color-blind musical which reinforces the idea that any immigrant or person of color who loves this country more than life, and who is willing to put endless amounts of work into contributing to American society will be exceptionally successful. The narrative pushed by the story is that “patriots” of any color belong in this country, and that’s a distasteful message to promote in 2020, a time riddled with valid social unrest. It was this narrative that made me the most uncomfortable because I should be allowed to be a Black woman in America who can criticize the country and still belong in it. The message appeases White Moderates and Conservatives while condemning the liberal person of color, a counterproductive move on Miranda’s part.

Furthermore, the success stories of POC are imaginary in the context of Hamilton, as the diversity of the cast is in place of the Whiteness of the real people, but even if they weren’t only a few POC would have reached success while the rest were slaves. For the musical all but ignores the fact that slavery was rampant during the time period, but then goes a stretch further to paint the main characters as abolitionists, when Hamilton himself owned slaves. In many scenes, the ensemble are definitely playing slaves or at least servants, wearing minimalist off white garments compared to the lavish coats and garments of the main cast. Yet, they’re hardly given a second thought and it begs the question: how was slavery erased in a musical set during slavery? Well, I guess Miranda couldn’t have the entire main cast look like the hypocrites their real-life counterparts were, the audience was supposed to believe in these characters after all.

Yet, at least Hamilton attempts impactful racial representation on the stage, for it certainly falls short in uplifting the women of the story. Although the Schuyler sisters play a pivotal role in the story, their characters can be broken down into two main tropes. Eliza is the good wife: white passing and compromising. Angelica is the modern-day woman: independent and headstrong. One would think from their introduction that the Schuyler sisters were included to bring a woman’s perspective to the show, but at times this feminist approach feels forced and most times it is non-existent. Much like he does with slavery, Miranda addresses misogyny in Hamilton by bringing it up once and brushing over it for the rest of the production. The lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident/that all men are created equal/And when I meet Thomas Jefferson/I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!”, followed by a collective “Work!”, are meant to empower the women in the audience, to emphasize the fact that women have been and still are fundamental to the fabric of the country. The entire “Schuyler Sisters” number redefines the colonial woman as someone who was knowledgeable, who looked for a man who suited her desires, and who wouldn’t settle for just anyone. So color me surprised when Eliza and Angelica spend the rest of the musical doing just that, throwing empowerment to the wind. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly at this point, this is when the show gets a little racist.

Eliza, the white-passing sister, is of course Hamilton’s wife and mother to his child. Angelica, played by Renee Elise Goldsberry, entertains Alexander’s affection behind her sister’s back, perpetuating the stereotype of Black women being hypersexual and deceptive compared to White women, an idea built upon by his mistress Maria Reynolds. Even more offensive, Angelica spends half the musical stroking Alexander’s ego in letters and the other half picking up her sister after a tragedy. Where was her storyline? I’m aware she was a side character, but every other side character was alluded to having an important task at hand when off stage, while Angelica’s only purpose was to worry about Hamilton and Eliza.  This heavily conveys the idea of black women having to bear the burdens of society without anyone supporting them. Hence, the feminist tone in “The Schuyler Sisters” looks extremely performative in comparison to the portrayal of women in the rest of the musical. Moreover, the jubilant “Work!” which is shouted throughout the number is almost a mockery of the BIPOC women who coined the term, since their representation dwindles from that moment on. Even in Hamilton, a show revising history, the women of color didn’t really belong, at least not in their own independent, nurturing spaces.

Aside from covert racism, Hamilton’s misogynistic angle is established through the absence of character development for the women leads. Eliza isn’t really given much character besides caring mother and loving wife, but this is exaggerated to the point where she decides to “[erase] herself from the narrative” when she finds out Hamilton cheated. Phillipa Soo does an amazing job portraying Eliza’s defiance through her tone during “Burn”, but even that performance begs the question: was it really defiant for a woman not to speak out against her husband in the 1700s? And was the audience supposed to be shocked when she took him back after their son died? I truthfully have so many questions on what Eliza’s character was meant to convey. For a musical that took so many other historical liberties, this portrayal of the textbook colonial woman was disappointing and offensive. It seems less like Eliza was erasing herself, and more like Miranda was erasing her from the storyline out of convenience to the plot. Eliza embodies the misogynistic ideals of colonial America that women are relevant only in the context of being someone’s wife or daughter. The script only revealed Eliza the mother and wife, and never gave insight into Eliza the person until the very end of the musical, and only after Hamilton dies. Audience members can’t name one thing Eliza did during the musical besides teach her son piano and return to Alexander after he cheated. Even Angelica, who is introduced as a character looking for a man with ideals and a vision, falls into the trap of Alexander’s “charm”, and then only shows up in the musical when their relationship is mentioned and when she comes to console her sister- both events revolving around Hamilton. What exactly is this musical saying about women? Honestly, I have no fucking clue. Because all that the audience gets in the two hour and forty minutes is that Eliza was a humble woman who served as Alexander’s doormat (Was her pain supposed to be empowering? Because a majority of her scenes were spent crying and not one minute of that made me think: Go Women!), while Angelica was a supportive and wise sister who was sometimes morally ambiguous, and in the end the two spent the years until their deaths working to preserve Alexander’s legacy, as well as the legacy of the other men he worked with.  “Who Tells Your Story” becomes a rushed history lesson reminding that audience that Yes! Eliza did in fact have a life outside of Alexander. But this revelation is too little, too late, and Eliza never gets the relevance she deserves. 

No questions asked, Hamilton deserves the accolades that it’s received for the outstanding acting, choreography, and lyrics of the musical. What’s clear throughout the entire production is that the cast performed with well intentions to instill pride in BIPOC across America, reminding them that they are a visible, integral part of America. The rapping and the grit of the characters reminded me of New York hip hop culture in a way that made me homesick. Nevertheless, the show falls short in its representation of women and BIPOC in so many ways and this deserves as much acknowledgement as the positives of the production. The truth of the matter is that one show can’t tackle everything, and no show is going to be perfect no matter much thought and intention is put into it. Miranda wants others to use Hamilton as a blueprint, but not the end all be all. Diversity in casting is important, but more important is the impact of this diversity on the messages conveyed in a production, and this is where future shows must expand past Hamilton’s limits to create a much more authentic representation of Americans and America itself.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist- and Broadway a Little Bit More

BY: Cheyenne Figaro

The Broadway stage is often heralded as a center of creativity, a celebration of culture; however, it is just the opposite. For decades, the very stages that had brought to life Upper West Side in West Side Story and Vietnam in Miss Saigon have also perpetuated racist stereotypes, sometimes as apparent as blackface or yellowface, and other times through the much more subliminal use of lyrics, choreography, and dialogue. The importance of racial distinctions is only built upon when other identities such as gender and class are also interpolated into musicals. For proof of this, look no further than Kim in Miss Saigon and Miss Anna in The King and I. While both women face obstacles because of misogyny, Kim’s race and class cost her much of her autonomy and opportunity while Anna’s whiteness and “civility” gives her the upper hand throughout the production despite often contesting with a monarch.

It would be remiss to venture into the racism and sexism of Miss Saigon, without first touching on the fact that those were fundamental principles of the production. The show is based on Madame Butterfly, a one-act play which follows the same storyline of a fallen Asian woman desperate to meet her white savior, and going to extreme lengths for him to take their child back to America. The show was widely popular, and turned into an opera that was just as successful, before receiving the modern updates that made it Miss Saigon. However, the production wasn’t a celebration of Asian culture as it should have been, instead choosing to go the more American route, making a mockery of an “exotic culture”, and presenting it in a way that made Americans feel like they had to save the China Doll from the woes of her broken down country. These ideals remain ingrained in the modern version, where Kim is presented as an innocent, lost girl needing a strong, patriotic, white army man to come sweep her up. Kim’s entire identity is formed around inferiority but also around her need to be controlled and guided. She is a seventeen year old virgin, and instead of paying for her and setting her free, Chris actually proceeds to have sex with her. Yet, this sordid act is made out to be one of romance, and one of the only times in which Kim is able to voice her opinions, she decides that she wants Chris to buy her, despite the fact that she doesn’t know him from a hole in the wall. This scene heavily conveys the idea that the white patriot is inherently positive for the lost Asian girl, who wants to go with him and be obedient and give him what he wants. Hence, despite prostituting herself, Kim is happy with the outcome of her tryst with Chris and quickly falls in love with him. They sing of staying together even if this is the “Last Night of the World”, because they see themselves as soulmates. Of course, this dream comes crashing down not even fifteen minutes later with Chris leaving Kim behind, but it was good while it lasted, right?

Further into the story, the race and power dynamics between Kim and Chris become more relevant and apparent in the story. Chris leaves Vietnam and one year later gets a new wife. Correction: he gets a new, white wife. In the biggest slap in the face to Kim, he decides that the only way to forget her is to get someone who is the opposite of her. The fact that white, blonde, and affluent just happens to check those boxes is a coincidence, right? No. Although Kim and Chris were married in a non-traditional way, they were still in fact married. His new marriage is a statement of what a real wife should look like: white, clean, and American. She can’t be a lowly prostitute and she isn’t just a fetish for white men as women of other cultures often are. Hence, Chris being bound to Kim through nightmares is supposed to evoke pity from the audience, as we are made to feel bad for this man who is now being “burdened” by his past. Of course, the audience feels bad for Kim’s minor inconveniences too– left with no job, no house, a three year old, and an obsessed army general searching for her– but still Chris. Kim’s being a burden is reiterated when Chris finds out he has a son and instead of beaming with joy is filled with sadness. His son is another burden, and as soon as Ellen realizes Kim is in love, they make a joint decision to leave Chris’s family, Kim and Tam, in Bangkok because that would be the most comfortable to their lifestyle. Thus, Kim has to beg on her knees, sing on her knees, and literally pull out all the stops until her suicide just to get a white man to listen to her, to consider her opinion. Kim, an Asian woman, only experienced freedom throughout her story when she was living in poverty with Tam, and even then she was singing “I Still Believe” and thinking of her white knight in shining armor, because the musical is an endless cycle of American praise. Her autonomy is limited in every way, and yet all of Kim’s decisions revolve around Chris- from having sex instead of running away, remaining in poverty instead of going with Thuy (even if he is her cousin), and lastly taking her own life so that Chris can acknowledge and help their son. Kim’s story is one of fallen glory, of giving your everything to your love (even if they try actively to forget about you for three years and only come back for their son). Yet, Kim is portrayed as a victim of her circumstances, but not as a victim to the racism and misogyny that placed her in those circumstances to begin with. 

Anna’s story juxtaposes Kim’s in so many ways you would think that Broadway is trying to say that white women are inherently better in the face of conflict. Oh wait, that’s precisely what they’re saying. When first introduced to Anna, the words WHITE-WHITE-WHITE flash before the eyes, because she could not stick out more as an embodiment of whiteness. “Whistle a Happy Tune” is all about keeping a poker face when one is afraid, a skill that Anna’s son needs because apparently he is afraid of anyone who dresses differently than him- in this case differently meaning in rags or you know- like they’re poor. Throughout the number, Anna’s class is amplified as she walks with her nose turned high above the common people, as they grovel and run around for the coins that she throws on the floor like they’re pigeons. Her costume, a blue, flowy skirt, white gloves, and a tilted hat, emphasizes her wealth in comparison to the people of Siam dressed in brown and red rags. This wardrobe decision is once again emphasized when Anna speaks to the prime minister. She is nicely dressed whereas he is “half-naked”, already tilting the conversation in her favor as she seems to be more put together (read: ideally Western) than him. If anyone else were to talk back to the Prime Minister they’d surely be punished, but Anna, a white woman, is accepted by the audience as being right in this situation. She’s allowed and expected to talk back, breaking the Siamese way of doing things, because she must invade the space with her whiteness in order to correct their barbaric way of doing things. Thus, the show automatically sets up the dynamic of a fine and proper white woman having to deal with “savage” and poor Asians.

Her relationship with the King is the most apparent example of how Anna’s whiteness makes her superior in positions where women like Kim would be at the bottom of the totem pole. When the King calls her a servant in front of the Royal Children and Wives, Anna responds no, she is not a servant, and she doesn’t have to be in Siam teaching. She is doing him the favor, and reminds him of that loudly, scolding him in front of a large audience and making a fool of him. Anna’s insistence that she is not a servant despite the fact that she is being paid for is a clear contrast from Kim’s role as a prostitute in Miss Saigon. Anna holds strong to the fact that her time and obedience can’t be bought, the opposite of Kim whose virginity is purchased and is sold by the Engineer for an entire day to Chris. Anna also has the autonomy to leave whenever she would like, something that she fully intends to do until the King’s wife has to beg her to stay because the King needed her help. The musical establishes Anna as the person in power in all of her scenes, giving her the same type of white savior storyline as Chris but adding in her femininity as a way of saying that white womanhood trumps even the highest status of foreigners, despite white women being the lowest of white Americans. This idea is reinforced time and time again throughout the musical, most notably when Anna is allowed to have her head at equal height with the King whilst everyone else must bow into tiny “toads” on the floor when he walks in a room. Anna’s equal height, and thus equal importance, to the King is a stark contrast to Kim who spends the majority of Miss Saigon on her knees and staring at the ground. This physical distinction conveys everything that needs to be known about their status and role in their worlds, but also the way that these characters, a white woman and an Asian woman are viewed by American society. Thus, it isn’t peculiar that the entire last scene of The King and I is centered around Siam becoming more westernized instead of the children losing their father, and the wives losing their husband. The King is dying, yet the headlights focus on the Prince reversing every “savage” rule the kingdom has, and the children bowing to Anna in a Western fashion. The lights and dialogue in this scene are meant to move the audience to praise Anna for essentially colonizing Siam without them even knowing. Because while Kim struggled the entire show to get someone to listen to her, Anna was given that privilege the moment she stepped off the dock as a white woman. She is the American that Siam has been waiting for. She teaches them out of their ignorance, she guides them out of their “barbaric” views on love, and she overall uplifts Siam into a more progressive (Western) position.

Both The King and I and Miss Saigon bring color to the Broadway stage as it had never seen before. Full ensembles of Asians and Asian-Americans were revolutionary, and the productions opened up roles for these underrepresented groups in vast amounts. Yet, all representation isn’t positive representation, and both productions painted the picture of Asians- usually poor and uncivilized- needing to be saved by their whiter, more Western counterparts. Though completely unrelated, juxtaposing the roles of Anna and Kim reveals the twisted stereotypes that are perpetuated by the shows, as Anna is given the upper hand throughout her entire show, whilst Kim continues to experience loss and disaster at any moment that she isn’t with Chris. Hence, both roles serve to establish white supremacy in the eyes of misogyny, for Anna’s being a woman never derailed her as much as Kim’s being Asian did throughout their stories.