Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation? The Fine Line.

April 19, 2015

Dearest my lovely readers,

Last night I watched THE WORST OFF-BROADWAY SHOW of my life. Typically, I am less direct about how I feel about theatre shows, because I realize that people’s art and love went into a project, whether I agree with it or not, but this one definitely takes the cake for being without intention, insensitive and guilty of perpetuating both racial and gender stereotypes, so to me, I don’t feel bad saying it’s the worst.

Image from: http://thatbacheloretteshow.com/about-the-show/

Image from: http://thatbacheloretteshow.com/about-the-show/

That Bachelorette Show is an immersive experience, so one would think that the amazingness would exceed theatre expectations, as most other immersive plays typically do like Sleep No More or Here Lies Love, even if the content is somewhat questionable. Immersive experiences tend to be unique and out-of-the-norm kind of experiences. The acting was okay, but it appeared most of it was improvised and the script was minimal. I felt like I was at a club with male caricatures running around playing stereotypical dudes, at best.

It was painful to watch the stereotypes being played up on stage by the white actors and even a few actors of color. While it was supposed to be a parody, it falls short — highlighting stereotypes without any catharsis and set in a club scene where all are encouraged to drink.

White people, plus alcohol, plus stereotypes makes for an undignified and racist show.

Parodies are great when people are conscious of what the joke is and can navigate around it and have the tools and language to understand the underlying joke. The lack of consciousness for this show is scary. Of the many “bachelors,” three are “people of color,” one is a Spanish speaking doctor (who accent highlighted the lisp of people actually from Spain), the other was a white male who played a prince (whom the host referred to as Prince Ali, Aladdin and various other names to discount him as an actual person), and a black woman who was physically characterized as butch and lesbian and, not to mention, is the only character not advertised on the main picture of the show (shown above).

My friend and I, both womxn of color, were uncomfortable and I, especially, felt quite unsafe in the environment. The show even celebrated stereotypes and caricatures of white people. I guess the creator might say something like, “Come on, it’s a parody. It’s supposed to be funny.” Well, here’s what I say to that, it’s probably not that funny to people of color, especially to the Queer community and especially not to those who identify as Middle Eastern. Maybe to some white people it’s funny, so if you want to make fun of your own culture, go right ahead, but if you’re going to do it, be more creative. I honestly think this show is just created for money making reasons, so, I urge you, don’t waste your money, your energy and your humanity to go to this show, IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

Overall, it was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have had in my life — but it doesn’t beat the drunk, white girl in college who said “ching-chong” repeatedly over to her friends and physically slanted her eyes to spite me for confronting her when I asked her to respect a Mexican worker’s space (she drunkenly grabbed one the worker’s face over the counter while she was ordering her burrito and I was pissed about it so I said something. He’s a fucking human, so treat him like that, kind of idea).

Image from: http://sjwiki.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation#.VTQafPaG2zE

Don’t your remember when the band “Day Above Ground” made a parody entitled Asian Girlz and “apologized” for it? Backlash ensued on their lyrics and their inappropriate and racist remarks and interpretation on “Asian Girlz.” I won’t get into the lyrics or begin talking about the images that it portrayed — in their argument, as a parody. A writer I admire, and a friend of mine, Jamilah King, said it best in an article on ColorLines,

“Just because someone didn’t intend to be racist doesn’t erase the impact of their actions.”

There is a fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation and some people who call themselves artists tend to walk that fine line. I urge all to push yourself to see that line and walk on a side.

I’m sick of the lack of roles out there for people of color — and especially sick of the simplified versions of who we are and the mocking of our cultures.

Let’s continue to build more work for each other that does not create caricatures of who we are as people, let us feel empowered to identify intentionally and celebrate our diversity. The privileged have the power to create plays and projects that appropriate culture and jeopardize America’s ability to see past oversimplified displays of culture or identities and I will continue challenging these ideas by sharing my own love for my culture and people.

I recently watched this video of a 16-year-old actor who played Rue from the Hunger Games, express her ideas on some similar ideas regarding appropriation of hip hop and its connectedness with the Black Lives Matter movement. I appreciated the knowledge she drops, so I hope you do, too.

Also, since I love it when people wear their culture proudly in unexpected places, so, here’s also a Miss America video that I love, and there are only a few of these on my list.

By the way, this especially goes for Halloween. Please stop wearing cultures. Get out of my way you vultures, we got work to do. Thanks.

Love and rising,

Renee

Oh, BTW, follow me on TWITTER : RENEERISES. Thanks!

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