The Worst Responses I've Seen Regarding "The Mikado" Controversy

Chris Peterson

I'll be 100% honest with you. When I write a column, my mission is to do three things: 1. Shed light on various issues. 2. Get you to read my opinions. 3. React to my opinions.  

If all three happen, mission accomplished. 

Sometimes I share an opinion that isn't necessarily popular in some circles and in return, receive hateful, insane and moronic comments.

So in times like these, rather than try to respond one at a time, I like to do it in bulk in a piece like this. 

Here are some of the worst responses I've seen to the controversy surrounding the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of The Mikado which is being done in "yellowface"

Below are actual comments from readers and my responses. I have not changed any words, spelling or taken anything out of context. I have also left the names of those who made these comments because they freely made these comments on our Facebook page. 

So only gays can play gays and straights can only play straights? Let's get over ourselves and have FUN! Stop looking to be offended. If that were the case, then Michael Douglas and Matt Damon should have been vilified for portraying their characters in "Liberace". Just did a production of "Once on This Island" with a cast of mostly Caucasian students. They learned more by portraying another race than they would have by the teacher refusing to do the show. I've played South Americans in Brownface. That's why it's call ACTING! or Pretend if you like. Learn about what you're doing and make it into lemonade. Destroying history is a Taliban and ISIS tactic. - Rebecca Stewart

Okay where to start with this one? First of all, the criticism of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players was not due to the fact that they were having non-Asians playing Asian roles. The criticism derived from the way they chose to the design the characters and production in a way that would exaggerate stereotypes of Japanese people. Hence the term "yellowface", which is just as offensive and uncalled for as it is when people perform in blackface or when you chose to perform in brownface. And ISIS and the Taliban are trying to destroy progress and evolution, not history, you need to watch more Fox News. 

The Mikado is very much about the English Nation at the time of G & S and not about Japan at all.not in the least. At the time writers had to work around their main complaints so as to get their satire accepted. Pirates of Pensance is not about Piracy, etc. - David Keiserman

You're not wrong when it comes to the themes but Gilbert himself said, "I cannot give you a good reason for our ... piece being laid in Japan. It ... afforded scope for picturesque treatment, scenery and costume."

But regardless if the story is about Japan, it's based in Japan,  the design of the characters are based in Japanese stereotypes and the title of the show is translated "The Emperor of Japan". I'd say The Mikado has a lot to do with Japan. 

This whole "racial "sensitivity" and "color-blind casting" movement is the most destructive force in the theatre today. It has become impossible to produce anything in a historically accurate or even approriate manner. A fantasy of the past is being promulgated in which there were never any racial issues at all. I for one rarely attend theatre anymore, because I refuse to pay inflated prices to see absurdly dishonest and miscast pieces of crap.- Paul Mendenhall

I guess Slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, The Japanese Internment, were all just a fantasy in your mind? I guess in your mind Jim, the only roles I should be playing are Chinese delivery men, railroad builders, rice patty farmers and Viet-Cong Soldiers rather than playing roles where race was never within the description of the character. The root of your moronic/slightly racist argument is that many of the roles you feel are for whites only, never were written for whites only. And color blind casting and racial sensitivity is one of the best things about theatre today , but you wouldn't know that since its sounds like you haven't been to the theatre in a while. 

Oh, grow up. If you knew anything, you would know that the Mikado has nothing whatsoever to do with Japan. It uses Japanese tropes to satirize Victorian England. - Paul Mendenhall

You just contradicted yourself and proved my point in two sentences there Paul. 

And while my makeup may be heightened for buffoonery's sake, as I have done with many characters of any race religion and even species, it is not intended to be yellow face.  - David Macaluso

David, here's the point you're missing. It doesn't matter if it wasn't your intention to perform in yellowface, you performed in yellowface and the long tradition of the design of these characters is more than offensive to Asian people everywhere. 

Here's the thing people, donning any type of racial "face" to play a character is offensive and it's a practice in theatre that needs to stop. The "that's the way it's always been done" argument doesn't hold anymore. If you don't agree, then chances are, the 1950's version of yourself, probably would've had a tough time accepting black kids going to school with white kids. Times change, society evolves, what was funny back then isn't funny now. If you don't like it, move to Russia.