Saturday, 7 May 2011

Hemdean House School Stonefaced By Yellowface Racism?



Can a school drama production of Mulan using Yellowface be considered racist?


A friend of a friend recently informed me about a Mulan show performed at the 'fee paying'  independent school - Hemdean House School Caversham, near Reading. The photographs show classic female racial drag and yellowface caricaturing, the pose, hands palmed together, bowing, dark eye make up accentuating the sides and edges to create slanted or slitty eyes, Japanese kimono's, cheongsam's, white pale face with red lips like a Japanese geisha, hence orientalist.


On the website of Hemdean House School, the Race Equality Policy references the Macpherson Report - the school aims to counter institutional racism...defined as
”unwitting prejudiced, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping.”
However, from the photographs of the school's Mulan production, Chinese people are represented by "Yellowface" caricaturing, isn't this an exact example of unwitting prejudiced, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping?

Can 'oriental' shows such as Mulan ever be performed by non-Chinese without falling foul of accusations of racism? Should these shows be performed at all by non-Chinese?

Note: A complaint was lodged at the school. They refused to comment.

47 comments:

  1. I don't see how that is racist.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what if they put on black face paint and drew on their lips (with a pen or lipstick) to make their lips bigger like 'bubble lips' and held spears and wore loin clothes...to depict Africans?

    Is that ok? Isn't that racist?

    If you consider that to be unacceptable and a form of racial stereotyping of Blacks, then so is their Mulan depiction of Chinese.

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  3. East Asians aren't that different from white people, and they also weren't slaves to white people, as far as I'm concerned not in the same amount as blacks were.

    So that's why the black face paint and all that would be offensive, but putting some eye-liner on and dressing in traditional Japanese clothes is not a mocking your race, it's celebrating it.

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  4. East asians arent that different from white people? Really? I didnt know that, I guess thats why Chinese dont need any representation because whites can represent the chinese. Were much the same race after all.

    so a prerequisite is that they must have been have enslaved by whites in their history in order for anything to be considered racist? Oh i see, i didnt know that, so according to you, the only race that was ever enslaved in the history of mankind were blacks, so only blacks can be discriminated against - no other race, Oh I see, we are learning so much from you.

    Where else can your logic leads us...

    Wearing 'Japanese' kimono's is a celebration of chinese culture and the chinese race! Thats great, I love that one.

    Oh finally, the best one of all...putting on eye liner to make the eyes really long and slitty at 45 degrees isnt mocking Chinese people, but a celebration of the chinese race!

    There you go folks, now you know!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Daniel York writes-

    I'm always reluctant to get up on my high horse about a bunch of schoolgirls dressing up and having fun but the fact is they probably WOULDN'T be "blacking up" to do Porgy & Bess or even "browning up" to do Bombay Dreams.

    It does still seem to be somehow acceptable in this country to do that but, like I said, it's a bunch of little girls. It's really only when adults start doing it (and getting paid good money to do it) that I object.

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  6. No, don't you understand, those little girls are racist!!! They wear japanese kimonos not chinese clothes and eye-liner!! How can you not see it?


    Pathetic.

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  7. Daniel York writes-

    It's possibly misguided but I think describing a bunch of little girls as "racist" for not knowing the differences between Chinese and Japanese traditional dress is a somewhat hysterical over reaction personally.

    One of them's called "Amber Trinh". Trinh's a Vietnamese surname, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was being sarcastic, of course that's exactly my point, there's a disgusting, inappropriate exaggeration in this article.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Daniel York writes-

    Oh I get you. Sarcasm's hard on blog sites. Too easily misread.

    Mad, though, isn't it?

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  10. Is it ironic that Trinh is vietnamese? Shes clearly mixed race.

    Misdirection, reminds me of Simon Ledger, it is not wearing eye liner per se that is the issue, its what it is trying to represent, i.e face pulling, slitty eyes etc, its one of the one most common non-verbal forms of casual racism towards Chinese.

    When Miley cyrus took a photo of herself pulling her eyes she issued an public apology to Asian Americans. Hemdean house School performed Mulan for multiple public audiences, not just internally for the school, did the school issue an apology? No, they will not even address the issue.

    Not knowing the difference = 'ignorance,'
    Not bothering to check if theres a difference or if it causes offence = 'thoughtlessness,'
    slitty eyes = Racial Stereotyping

    Institutional racism in the Macpherson report is defined exactly as above.

    It is fail of the management of the school to adhere to its own race equality polciy, not the fault of the 'little girls.'

    ReplyDelete
  11. Daniel York writes-

    "Is it ironic that Trinh is vietnamese?"

    Not, it was an observation, Zeit.

    "She's clearly mixed race."

    Sorry, forgot that doesn't count!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Daniel York writes-

    You can call it "ignorance" not knowing the difference between Chinese and Japanese traditional dress but I can clearly remember when my school did a Nativity play we certainly weren't costumed in authentic pre Christian Palestinian attire. In fact my costume as 2nd Wise Man consisted of a pair of bright purple dungarees!

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  13. its not racism its honest ignorance. tell me the difference between a jamaican and an african. or are they just 'black'? a pakistani and an indian? or are they 'brown'. we are east asian. and there are over 8 countries in east asia so i wouldnt call this racist. 15 yr old school girls exoticising east asia in a school play is at least better than hollywood whoring the latest dragon woman incarnation. thanks to the apathy of bbcs and east asians in general, 'at least' is a good score in my book.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Didn't you hear? It's fine to be racist towards East asians. We are fair game. A survey was done in America, using similar derogatory names for each race they were judged (by white people) on how offensive they were... the N word (so evil that it can only be referred to by the initial) came up top... hispanics were second, then asians (as in south)... in dead last, racist names re: east asians were deemed not offensive at all. Wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  15. We are too passive and practical to care. And the media feeds off that.

    ReplyDelete
  16. We're also divided as a race across the country. I've always thought of blacks and asians congregating in specific areas (e.g. East london, Bradford) as a negative - it creates the impression that they are "invading" the (their) country... but now, after having grown up and seen the effects of racism through isolation, I believe it is the only way for protection and to eliminate any subdued racist (as in not violent) influences.... for example, if such an event towards African culture was organised in East London, it quite simply wouldn't happen - the parents of the kids who are black would pick it up, voice their objections and things will be changed. By spreading out, we have in effect suppressed our voice, because it means that when racism does occur, a single or no voice rises to object - in the former, that person is outed as "PC", "weak" etc... whilst the latter simply allows the mindset to carry on - imagine if the N word was allowed to continue throughout the generations without objection - that is what is happening now with us.

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  17. We are too passive and practical to care. And the media feeds off that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. chinese people put their hands together right?

    you guys, lets all make a group photo and stick your hands forward as if shaking hands...

    would you consider that racist?
    i wouldn't... having said that though... it does make me cringe that this chinese image still exists..

    chris

    ReplyDelete
  19. omg what the hell? this isnt racist at all they were just doing a production?! why does it matter if amber is mixed race or not? she just happened to be in the play and was chosen for that part. I think your being racist tbh...

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  20. Welcome to this blog, you'll see a lot worse.

    ReplyDelete
  21. ^ I dont necessarily agree that this production had racist intentions either , though as someone already stated, it's a shame that celebration of east asian culture in school plays in the UK still has orientalist elements.

    Having said that... if you cant provide critical thought on a specific article without generalising the whole blog from the comfort of your anonymous ID, then go back to your cake recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I go to this school and was involved in the production of the Disney film 'Mulan'
    Amber is part vietnamese and was not chosen for her part because of her ethnicity, she was chosen due to her acting ability and not for racial reasons as described in this blog.
    This was a production where girls from 11-16 got a chance to participate in one of the Disney favourites and was enjoyed by all ages as the Disney film was. So when Disney decided to portray Mulan herself with traditional 'Chinese stereotypical looks' was that racist? No! So why is this racist?
    The 'ignorant' make up was chosen to illustrate the play in finer detail to a younger audience

    ReplyDelete
  23. exscuse me like everybodys talking about me and i am actually amber trinh i am half vietnamese and half english ans clearly the eye linder was just for thw women of the play to describe that !!! and obviousley we needed to dress up in kemonoes because to get the effect of the play ? just like you so with anny other play GOD !!

    ReplyDelete
  24. i am Chloe Tann and is the girl on the front left this was just a harmless school production and we were not being racist in any way!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. haha brilliant this article still gets comments and i still cant spell contraversial

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lol, this article is funny! :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. BBCZeitgeist: Don't blame this school for copying disney. Just look at the image for Mulan 2 - http://cfensi.dramaddicts.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Mulan_asian-eye-stereotype.jpg. You should condemn Disney first - you muppet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you the kind of person who would burn themselves with a match and then blame the person who told you it was a safe thing to do?

      Delete
  28. Whoever wrote this about hemdean house school, mulan is a Disney play so you shouldnt be taking it out on our hemdean house school you should blame Disney for this we didn't come up with the play so delete this website because all the comments on here show that we didn't do anything racist!
    So listen person who did this, delete this bloody site

    ReplyDelete
  29. it may be an awful school but it not racisct trust me i used to go a few years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. why is it an awful school?

      Delete
  30. I would like to send my children to his school, it sounds like a smashing school.

    ReplyDelete
  31. why is this getting so much attention? kinda sad...

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  32. I have heard this story being passed through my friends and I think the person who wrote this is completely out of order!!!!! There is nothing wrong with a group of young girls putting on a play about Chinese history. You are obviously mad and has too much time on there hands.

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  33. Are there any Chinese that go to that school? if so, how many? I doubt they would have got away with that play if there were lots of Chinese in the school, they would probably have complained about it.

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  34. This school is not racist, any school could put on mulan. If you saw Chinese school performing a show that is all white people you wouldn't say that's racist would you!? The person who wrote this needs to delete it. Hemdean isn't a great school but it's deffinately not racist, believe me I used to go there.

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  35. To the poster that says history dictates whether it is deemed racism, you are serverely mistaken. Face paint is face paint. Has nothing to do with whether China had been under the rule of the British nor has it anything to do with never being part of the slave empire.

    Celebrations of a genre could be offensive if it's depicted from a western slant for the western market, and Disney only highlighted this show to promote harmony rather and closing of division than anything else. It's not really a celebration of Chinse/Oriental culture. Probably labelled under exotic and little-known, so Disney can be the first to add some high culture to its customers.

    The fault is the school's. For failing to educate its pupils and further enforcing racial stereotypes. For hiding behind Disney, how lucky it must be for Disney taking the flak. It's "if Disney's ignorant, I'm only ignorant because of Disney."

    I'm saddened that some pupils choose to defend their school. It would be nice to see an independent mind, free of social confines with friendship and loyalty to teachers. The fact that they failed to see how it could be seen as deeply condescending and ignorant is showing the fact that too many people are growing up unable to depict the many faces (so to speak) of racism. SF.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is the girl in the black dress Vietnamese? In subtitles there is someone with the suname "Trinh". I wonderer why she didn't say anything about it.

      Delete
  36. @Wong, this young pupil apparently came on here to write (badly) about her reasoning and really defend the school's play. And it appears she is half Vietnamese. Pretty ignorant and dare I say money not well spent by her parents! SF.

    ReplyDelete
  37. A friend of a friend recently informed me about a Mulan show performed at the 'fee paying' independent school - Hemdean House School Caversham, near Reading. The photographs show classic female racial drag and yellowface caricaturing, the pose, hands palmed together, bowing, dark eye make up accentuating the sides and edges to create slanted or slitty eyes, Japanese kimono's, cheongsam's, white pale face with red lips like a Japanese geisha, hence orientalist.swtor gold
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