Yellowface and brownface seems to be all the rage these days.
The Asian American blogosphere has been leading a vocal online conversation over the inappropriateness of yellowface in stage productions of “The Mikado”, prompted by this July 14th op-ed by Sharon Pian Chan; you can check out the wonderful guest-post by Sean Miura that was published on this site last month in protest of Seattle’s latest yellowface “Mikado” production. Meanwhile, HBO is touting its newest cross-over show “Jonah From Tonga”, which premiered last week, and which features Australian comedian Chris Lilley in anti-Pacific Islander brownface; you should read my post on the offensiveness of Lilley’s show and his routine use of yellowface and brownface and then sign this Change.org petition. In both cases, we’ve seen abjectly racist use of racial drag defended as artistic license, when the rhetoric in defense of yellowface can be understood at all (which isn’t always the case).
Apparently, a conversation on race in the arts is overdue, at least for those who forget the first rule of yellowface and brownface. I still assert that yellowface and brownface is one of those “obviously racist” aggressions that really doesn’t warrant additional exposition; but, hey, everyone can benefit from a little dialogue, right?