Vietgone, Vietnam, And The Conflicts Of The Vietnam War

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Vietgone and Miss Saigon both center themselves around the Vietnam War but differ vastly in their portrayal of that conflict, and its effects on their characters. Both works tell the story of a romance that has been complicated by war and conflict. Vietgone stylizes the story of the playwright Qui Nguyen’s parents, who met in the United States in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and portrays a specific individual take on a historic event. Miss Saigon, however, reworks the opera Madame Butterfly, to fit the context of the Vietnam War without much commenting on the war itself or offering the perspective of a Vietnamese person who experienced it. The most notable difference between Vietgone and Miss Saigon is the pairing of characters which the creators have centered their stories around. Miss Saigon’s main characters are Kim, a 17 year old Vietnamese orphan, and Chris, an American Marine. The two meet and fall in love in a bar crowded with American GIs, near the end of the war, and are separated after the fall of Saigon. Chris’ experiences are central to the story, as it is his attraction to Kim in the bar that propels their storyline. Kim is young and vulnerable and even as a main character, has an initially passive role in her own story. The educational guide found on the Miss Saigon website describes how the relationship between her and Chris was initialized “Chris is taken by Kim’s innocence when the Engineer pushes her forward to solicit the crowd... Sensing that Chris is interested in Kim, John bargains with the Engineer to secure her for his friend. Kim and Chris dance as John plays the saxophone. Chris takes Kim to a tiny room overlooking the moonlit city” This passage summarizing the scene highlights how Kim is commodified as an object of desire. First, being used to “solicit the crowd” by the Engineer (the owner of the bar), then bartered for by John, and finally won by Chris. Although Kim and Chris fall in love, it’s difficult to ignore the lack of participation on her part in order for their pairing to occur. Chris, a white American, benefits from the vulnerability of a female Vietnamese teenager, a fact that the musical does not criticize. Chris has a dominant position in the relationship,

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