BOSTON (CBS) – “Art can offend,” notes Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, and we’ve certainly seen that recently in Newton, where some Asian-American parents and students were offended by antique Asian stereotypes depicted in Newton North High School’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a 1967 movie that was made into a stage musical a dozen years ago.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
The show tells the story of a young woman who moves to New York City to seek her fortune but runs afoul of a white-slavery ring run by Asians. Enter the characters that disturbed some in Newton, prompting an apology from the play’s director, who says “we blew it.”
It’s unfortunate that people were upset. But what should Newton North have done differently?
Rejected the play outright? Might as well also boycott “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and scores of other great shows that don’t get a perfect score in modern-day political correctness.
Vennochi quotes a theater expert who says: “You start with one thing, and, before you know it, there are plays that are objectionable for every possible reason you can imagine.”
Should they have erased or re-written the objectionable characters and lines? Brookline High School’s production of “Millie” changed a “Chinese madam” to a Southerner, thus insulting all Southerners.
I could not agree more with Vennochi’s conclusion that “adults should remember that art reflects reality at a given moment in time. And while the past can be uncomfortable to recall, it’s better for the next generation to learn from it rather than forget about it.”
In other words, please, more teaching, less indignant preaching.
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.
MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON