Lives Will Change When Tomorrow Comes:
Miss Saigon the Musical as Reflective Prospective of War
Love, loss, sacrifice, and freedom are among many things people encounter and fight for in times of war. The musical Miss Saigon takes place in 1975 Saigon during the Vietnam War and is a Broadway rendition of the classical opera Madame Butterfly by the composer Puccini. A Broadway hit, Miss Saigon has brought a lot of controversy among press and public on whether is an appropriate musical for public viewing. The musical’ synopsis is a reflective prospective on the issues the Vietnam war encompassed such as American soldiers promoting human trafficking within Saigon, racism, and immigration of the Vietnamese into America.
Miss Saigon begins at a after hours show club in Saigon called Dreamlands. It is there that we are introduced to our main character Kim, a seventeen-year-old girl who now an orphan is working as a bar-girl after her family is killed and her village burned by the Viet Cong. The owner of the club known as the Engineer, introduces Kim as his newest employee and pushes her to explicit herself in front of the many American Marines visiting the club. The American soldier Chris is forced into interacting with Kim when his best friend pays for the girl to spend the night with him. The bar-girls are often involved in human trafficking; the act of people being forced into involuntary prostitution, by the Engineer. Though many of the girls are anxious to meet a soldier that will take them back to America with them before they are killed in the war. After being sold to Chris against her will, Kim binds up the courage to spend the night with Chris and to turn on all the charm that she can before she is sacked. Chris sees the innocence and good Kim and the two fall in love with each other. At this point in the synopsis, human trafficking is brought into play. American soldiers were well known in supporting the human trafficking corrupting the streets of Saigon. The men were often lonely and without romantic relations for long periods of time during their deployment and therefore turned to prostitutes to satisfy their needs. Though some soldiers didn’t care about the situation of the girl as long as they could get her for a good price. The reflection of human trafficking within this synopsis brings controversy to the public here in America. American citizens looked down the thought of American soldiers participating in a criminal activity upon as the soldiers were out there with the purpose to protect the people of Vietnam rather than contribute towards their mistreatment. Just recently the website DontBuyMiss-Saigon.com in result of the touring Miss Saigon musical put on by Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on October 8th, 2013. The Kare11.com protestors erected the website in their disgust against the human trafficking, racism, and sexism that appear in the show. The Ordway Center for Performing Arts claims that these people are trying to hide away from the truths behind the Vietnam War along with the truths that exist within their own communities here in America. The protesters admit to acknowledging the truths, but feel that the play is romanticizing such issues.
Continuing on in the synopsis, Chris looks to take Kim with him to America but plans fall through when complications arise concerning her soon to be husband form a previous arranged marriage. Chris is forced to leave to American leaving Kim behind. Three years later where Kim is now present with a two-year-old child of whom Chris is the father. Kim and her soldier have had no contact between each other and now more than ever, Kim looks to find a way into America to be with Chris and introduce him to his son. Kim in trying to escape the a wretched life that results in the fall of Vietnam, finds herself being searched for by the Engineer who has been hired by her once husband to be. Her previous husband to be named Thuy, has been looking for Kim to arrange the marriage her dead father had set up for her. Kim comes face to face with Thuy and refuses marriage with him in hopes of soon returning to Chris. Thuy sees the half blood child of Kim and declares him an enemy that must be killed so they can marry while accusing Kim as being a traitor to her country. Kim threatens Thuy that if he tries to harm the boy, she will shoot him down. Thuy goes after the boy leaving Kim no choice but to shoot him dead. Later feeling horrible about what she has done, Kim finds herself discussing the problem with the engineer. It is than Kim realizes that Thuy was a commissioner to the Viet Cong and must now take her son and flee Vietnam before they too are killed. The Engineer finds this the golden opportunity to escape the country himself by using the half Vietnamese, half American child as a ticket into the USA. The three of them travel on a boat filled with other Vietnamese refugees to Bangkok where they will apply for their visas. Throughout these scenes, the child is often referred too as a half-breed brat and even referred to as an “it”. They synopsis at this point reflects the prospective of racism towards inter-racial children, which there were many as a result of the Vietnam war. Later in the musical, we learn of the Bui-Doi children who were those American and Vietnamese that were conceived during the war. Many of them were interracial due to American soldiers having sexual relations with Vietnamese women. The children were treated down upon when it came to racial standing in both America and Vietnam. An article titled Children of the Vietnam War quotes,
They grew up as the leftovers of an unpopular war, straddling two worlds but belonging to neither. Most never knew their fathers. Many were abandoned by their mothers at the gates of orphanages. Some were discarded in garbage cans. Schoolmates taunted and pummeled them and mocked the features that gave them the face of the enemy—round blue eyes and light skin, or dark skin and tight curly hair if their soldier-dads were African-Americans. Their destiny was to become waifs and beggars, living in the streets and parks of South Vietnam’s cities, sustained by a single dream: to get to America and find their fathers.
Due to the color of their skin, and the origins of their parents, interracial children were often the victims of cruel racism to an American country still adjusting to the acceptance of African Americans and another country racist against their own Asian county neighbors and American’s all together.
Our synopsis ends with Chris finding out that Kim is alive, in Bangkok, as well as the mother to his child. He sends word to Kim that he will be meeting her in Bangkok. Meanwhile, Chris has since married and now has to face telling his wife about his first love and now, two-year-old son Tam. On his search to find Kim in Bangkok, the two of them fight the complications and crowds of immigrants struggling to get through the embassy. Unsuccessful at getting through to each other, the two take an alternative rout to where Chris’s wife ends up running into Kim and breaks the news of their marriage and life together. Kim broken hearted tries to give her son away to them to live a life in which she feels she will never be able to provide for her son. In the end, Chris’s wife being upset at meeting Kim, wishes her not to return to the United States with them. Kim not being able to provide for her son without Chris’s financial support, especially while still in hiding in Bangkok, Kim decides the only way that Chris and his wife will take her son is to kill herself. She talks to her son and tells him to love his father and to remember her, that she gave her life so that he could live. The controversy of immigration is apparent within the synopsis of Miss Saigon. A line sung by the immigrants on their way to Bangkok quotes “No life, no hope. No chance, no change. No regret, no return, no good-bye.” The crowded scenes of immigrants fighting for their access to freedom are a reflection of war forcing people to leave their homes for better opportunities. Engineer at the end of the musical makes it to America and sings a song about how it is the land of opportunity and possibility. America is a place for Engineer to start his new life. History shows that Vietnamese Americans were usually boat refugees who often left behind family or sacrificed their lives to flee persecution, war, and poverty. They started immigrating shortly after the Vietnam war ended in 1975. They have settled throughout the United States, but many sacrificed lives and family to get here. Refugee camps were even temporal residencies for these immigrants. This of course was an issue here for American’s. New adjustments to communities were made, cultures were added to the melting-pot of America, job situations arose with hiring immigrants for low pay aside form hiring United States born Americans for minimum wage or more, and the residencies of the immigrants were another issue. Immigrants were pushed into the slums and with low poverty levels already existing; the slums became even more decaying and degrading.
In Conclusion, the synopsis of Miss Saigon brings reflective prospective to many controversial issues brought on by war such as human trafficking, racism, and immigration. The issues may be hard to face and admit too, but the fact is that they are out there and theatre such as Miss Saigon are reflections of the issues many face as result of war.
N.A. “Vietnamese Americans.” Wickepedia. 7 October 2013. Web. 13 October 2013.
Boubill, Alain, Schonberg, Claud-Michel. “Miss Saigon.” 1989. Text. 12 October 2013.
Bwww News Desk. “Protestors Boycott Miss Saigon at the Orway in St. Paul.” Wisdom Digital Media. 8 October 2013. Web. 13 October 2013.
Lamb, David. “Children of Vietnam War.” Smithstonian Magazine. June 2009. Web. 12 October 2013.