April 10, 2008

By Thomas Huang

I am having another late-night conversation with the Chinaman. He is my imaginary, politically-incorrect friend, a foil for my earnestness about all things diverse. Whenever I struggle with racial stereotypes, he rears his ugly, top-knotted head.

Tonight, I am confronting stereotypes in “Avenue Q,” the Tony Award-winning musical that mashes “Rent” with “Sesame Street,” where post-college puppets curse like sailors and have explicit sex, all the while searching for their life’s purpose. I’ve just seen its touring show in Tampa.
“I loved the play,” I tell Chinaman. “The music and lyrics were provocative. The characters were obnoxiously funny. The puppet sex scene would’ve made Kermit blush, if he could blush.”
“So what’s the problem?” Chinaman asks. We are slurping down ramen noodles, not because we are Asian, but because … we like ramen noodles.
What’s bothering me is that there’s a human-being character in the play named Christmas Eve. She’s a kimono-wearing Japanese therapist who doesn’t have a lot of success with her clients. You can barely understand her. She speaks in a sing-song voice, in broken, heavily-accented English.
Her show-stopper song is titled, “The More You Ruv Someone,” and it goes like this — except keep in mind that she mixes up her L’s and R’s. So “love” becomes “ruv,” and “kill” becomes “kir.”

The more you love someone
The more you want to kill ’em
The more you love someone
The more he make you cry

Though you are try
For making peace
With them and loving,
That’s why you love so strong
You like to make him die!

I explain to Chinaman that I wasn’t particularly offended by Christmas Eve. I even laughed at her. But what was the point of having an exaggerated Asian stereotype in the play?


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Tom Huang is Sunday & Enterprise Editor at The Dallas Morning News and Adjunct Faculty member of The Poynter Institute, where he oversees the school’s…
Tom Huang

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