Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Marginalized

In the hit musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie, the villain Mrs. Meers plays an ex-actress who works for a white slavery ring based in Hong Kong. She kidnaps pretty American girls and ships them to the Orient, using the help of her easily manipulated Chinese sidekicks, Ching Ho and Bun Foo.

The Mrs. Meers subplot has been sharply criticized for its racist undertones (though the musical version was toned down from the original film, which named the two Asian men only “Oriental #1” and “Oriental #2”). Critics have also found fault with the incredibly lighthearted way the film and play attempt to discuss human trafficking.

But the storyline is also problematic historically.

In the early 1920’s when Millie was first arriving in New York City, “white slavery” was primarily a term for sexual slavery of European descendants, including forced prostitution, private ownership, and use of a slave for ritual religious purposes.

Overwhelmingly the slaves were women and children. They were kidnapped or sold in many ways, but some of the most common included kidnapping by Barbary pirates in Europe and the inter-state trafficking of women through the United States.

The term “white slavery” produced a panic in Europe and the United States that is deeply troubling: after centuries of head-turning to arguably the most barbaric slave trade in history, the enslavement of white women caused an immediate stir.

The fierce anger against “white slavery” caused racial profiling of Arabs in Europe and Chinese immigrants in America. While there were some examples of Chinese mafia members engaging in human trafficking during the 1920’s, the sad distortion is that in actuality, many more Asian women and children were and still are trafficked from China and other Asian countries to the United States.

So it is not surprising that many people are offended by Thoroughly Modern Millie’s portrayal of poor Asian immigrants. And considering the wickedness of the crime being discussed, it is not surprising that survivors of human trafficking might also be offended by the play’s comedic treatment of the subject.

Fortunately, the slavery ring is only a subplot to an otherwise incredibly entertaining musical filled with glamor, hit songs and a lot of great dance numbers.

The piece has become a favorite for high school productions. And there is some hope that the offensive subplot will be left out: since all Asians are presumably either conniving white slavers or mathematical geniuses, perhaps many high schools won’t be able to find any available to play the parts of Ching Ho and Bun Foo…

Join in!

Have you seen Thoroughly Modern Millie?

What did you think of the musical, and of the Mrs. Meers slavery subplot?

Advertisements
Comments
4 Responses to “Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Marginalized”
  1. Claire says:

    I have! It is one of my favorite musicals, minus the Meers subplot. It is always my least favorite part and I fully support skipping that element! Thank goodness they did tone it down from the movie, but still. Particularly NOW, it would be better to edit!

  2. foakleys says:

    The use of medications to cure uterine fibrosis is one of the more common approaches employed by a lot of women. This method is effective and has been lauded by many couples. Medications for uterine fibrosis include the following; Gonadotropin; which decreases the hormone level of estrogen and progesterone which are responsible for menstruation. Gonadotropin also causes the fibroids to shrink up. Progestin; released via an intrauterine device (IUD) aids the alleviation of heavy bleeding and pain. And Androgens; these are used to reduce the symptoms fibroids.

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] So it is not surprising that many people are offended by Thoroughly Modern Millie’s portrayal of poor Asian immigrants. And considering the wickedness of the crime being discussed, it is not surprising that survivors of human trafficking might also be offended by the play’s comedic treatment of the subject. from The Marginalized […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Copyright

    ©TheMarginalized.com