The cast of “KPOP,” the first Broadway musical of its kind celebrating Korean culture, are hitting back against a review by New York Times chief theater critic Jesse Green.
Green described the lighting done by scenic and lighting designer Jiyoun Chang as “squint-inducing.”
“Squinty eyes,” or “slanted eyes,”
are derogatory terms used to mock the eyes of Asian people.
Abraham Lim, who made his Broadway debut in the role of Jae Ik, was the first cast member of “KPOP”
to speak out about the language and tone used in the Times’ review.
“Using language like ‘squint-inducing’ in reviewing @KPOPBroadway, the only wholly original new show on Broadway with 18 Broadway debuts and an almost-all Asian cast,” he tweeted on Monday.
“By using language in such a way as one of the many white, male gatekeepers of the Broadway world, Jesse Green cast a show of mostly Asian bodies as the ‘other,'” Lim told NextShark in an interview. “Reading such ignorance and seeing his language weaponized against even things like my mother tongue as a reason to deter people from seeing our show made me want to hold him accountable and protect us.”
The actor and singer pointed out that former President Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric
has been blamed for fueling such biases against the Asian community.
Lim added that Western publications such as the Times can do better by hiring more BIPOC and AAPI journalists, and people who are willing to do the work to familiarize themselves with the subject matter at hand.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
“Journalists covering issues that concern our community need to go beyond their own myopic view of what X or Y should look and sound like,” he said. “Be curious, do the work. As Asians living in this country, we’ve been doing it all our lives and I think it’s people like Jesse Green’s turn to do the same.”
Lim encouraged his fans to speak up when they see language that perpetuates racist stereotypes.
“Amplify the voices that are speaking up,” he said. “It is not enough to feel something and contain it; and while everyone’s forms of activism may take on different shapes and colors, we can no longer remain silent.”
Lim also took to his Instagram page to voice his opinions.
“‘Squint-inducing’ to describe any element of the first Korean story on Broadway with a cast made up of mostly Asians (and the only wholly original new show on Broadway this season) was not it,” he captioned his video response.
The actor was not the only cast member to speak up, however.
“Green is entitled to his critical opinion, but he is not entitled to rely on racism — overt or subvert in doing so,” John Yi, who plays Danny in the musical, wrote in a statement on Instagram. “It is an even more insidious form of violence when you fail to say the quiet thing out loud, but let it linger beneath the surface by resting on tropes such as ‘squint-inducing’ when reviewing a groundbreaking show that features an Asian story, Asian characters, and a principally Asian cast with 18 Broadway debuts.”
“I am shocked that not a single [New York Times] editor caught this racist trope,” he continued, demanding an apology from Green to the show’s cast, creative team and to the AAPI community.
Other cast members commented on Instagram, with Kevin Woo (Jun Hyuk) writing, “Beautifully said John!”
“Abso-f*cking-lutely John. Thank you for sharing this, all of this,” Zachary Noah Piser (Brad) chimed in.
The production, which is playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre, also stars Luna, Min, BoHyung, Julia Abueva, Major Curda, Jinwoo Jung, Jiho Kang, Amy Keum, James Kho, Eddy Lee, Jully Lee, Timothy H. Lee, Kate Mina Lin, Aubie Merrylees, Patrick Park, Joshua Lee and Lina Rose Lee, according to Broadway
An original Broadway cast recording will be released on Feb. 24, 2023.
NextShark reached out to Green and the Times, but the news organization did not wish to comment. Green has since made his Twitter account private.
Featured Image via Getty