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The Politics of Race of Elizabeth Wong: Dramatic Strategies in Kimchee and Chitlins

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(2), pp.5-29
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Yoon, Nang-Hee 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Elizabeth Wong, an Asian American female playwright, stands out as a strong representative of the racial minority of dramatists. Her second play Kimchee and Chitlins has been described as a “prophetic drama,” as it adumbrates the 1992 Los Angeles riots in Koreatown. The play not only raises the racial issues between African Americans and Korean Americans, but is concerned with the innate prejudices of mankind in general. In the play she discards her journalistic objectivism, and adopts a sympathetic stance toward the Asian American population. However, the play involves more than racial problems; it covers financial and gender issues as well. Wong adopts several unique dramatic strategies and implements the metadramatic element in Kimchee and Chitlins, utilizing lighting, chorus, role-doubling, and a play within a play. Humour and discomfort are Wong’s principal objectives, thus the play is permeated with humour giving the play a light touch. Another characteristic is the staging of the play as a metaphor of the mass media with its simulations of technical difficulties; commercial breaks and news reports; the portrayal of the news editing process that debunks the myth of the news media’s impartiality. The title Kimchee and Chitlins derives from Wong’s idea of food as being a representation or reflection of the culture in which it originates. Thus, Korean culture and African culture are represented by kimchee and chitlins respectively. Her point is that different cultures can come together and exist in harmony with the medium of food, and therein lie the message and vision of her play. Wong criticizes the media for manipulating the truth of things, courting their viewers by caving into their tastes and preferences, but, more than that, by interpreting events subjectively such as the 1990 African American boycott of Korean groceries aroused in Brooklyn, which were fundamentally racially incited but were put in, and thereby, explained in a social context by the media. However, Kimchee and Chitlins is not limited to the riots of the 90’s USA but pertains as much to the 21st century.

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