racist Thorough Modern Millie

Today I am on the Front Page of The Boston Globe

Today I am on the front page of The Boston Globe for the past week of posts that I wrote on my microblog, I Love Newton, about the anti-Asian racism in the local high school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

School play’s stereotypes bring outcry and apology. “Millie” touches nerve in Newton by Ellen Ishkanian, Globe Correspondent

In case you are trying to find the posts, they are here:

Thoroughly Modern Millie is Thoroughly Racist

NNHS Responds to Concerns About Thoroughly Modern Millie

My Take on Thoroughly Modern Millie

Talk Back: Racism in Thoroughly Modern Millie at NNHS

Throwndown NNHS: Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk? Regarding Racism in Thoroughly Modern Millie

MTI Advises How to Squelch Dissent on Thoroughly Modern Millie

Rebuttal to ’Millie in Newton: Turn Stereotypes into Lessons

More Than 50% of Asian American Teens are Bullied in School

White Privilege and Thoroughly Modern Millie


I need one day to clear my head but tomorrow I will post my response on I Love Newton to the Talk Back and article. Thank you so much for caring about this issue.

The storm of controversy that my blog posts caused also put me very behind in this blog so I apologize for those posts I have promised to bloggers that I am late on, for being non-responsive on Twitter and for being very, very behind in my email.

I will try to catch up and post on this experience of fighting racism in my backyard. Thank you for your patience.

racist Thorough Modern Millie


The Boston Globe: School play’s stereotypes bring outcry and apology. “Millie” touches nerve in Newton by Ellen Ishkanian, Globe Correspondent

The Boston Globe: ‘Millie’ Flag Highlights How Old Plays are Rife with Stereotypes by Don Aucoin

The Telegraph: US high school show triggers race row by David Millward

NECN TV Segment: NECN Broadside with Jim Braude, Historical Musical Sparks Controvery at Massa chusetts High School

The Boston Globe: ‘Millie’ Fight Creates a Chilling Effect by Joan Vennochi

The Boston Globe: Musical is Little More Than Staged Racism by Jeffrey Melnick (Letter to Editor in response to Joan Vennochi’s article above).

A case study published by UMass Peter Kiang almost 20 years ago (see pages 9-13), parallels almost exactly what happened at newton north. ScholarWorks at UMass Boston, We Could Shape It: Organizing for Asian American Student Empowerment by Peter Nien-Chu Kiang.

Monitoring, Exposing & Fighting Against Anti-Semitism and Racism: Thoroughly Modern Millie’ play draws controversy in Mass. over racial stereotyping

Company One: In the Intersection, Thoroughly Modern Millie Controversy at Local High School

Inside: Boston high school in trouble over racism in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ 

A case study published by UMass Peter Kiang almost 20 years ago (see pages 9-13), parallels almost exactly what happened at Newton North High School. ScholarWorks at UMass Boston, We Could Shape It: Organizing for Asian American Student Empowerment by Peter Nien-Chu Kiang.

Resist Racism: Thoroughly Racist ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’

Genki Speak: Racism in Our Backyard

Angry Asian Man

Village 14: Decision to Stage ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ at North Challenged

AsAm News: Play Filled With Offensive Images Sparks Town Hall Meeting

AsAm News: I Love Newton: High School Production Fails To Address Heavy Dose Of Asian American Stereotypes

Greer Tan Swiston: Kudos to Newton North for a thoroughly modern update of ‘Millie’

The Boston Globe: Oh, by the way, how about a round of applause for the kids? (Letter to the Editor from a grandparent)

The Boston Globe: Choice, execution of musical informed by thoughful education process (Letter to the Editor from the writers who comprise the Theatre Arts Opportunity Committee at Newton North High School.)

The Boston Globe: We miss a vital chance for understanding when we swap out ethnic characters (Letter to the Editor from a great-grandmother, teacher and volunteer)

Arissa Oh ‏@arissaoh  1h

3 white ppl on @GreaterBoston unhelpfully discuss HS prodns of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” http://bit.ly/1ijHR9k 

Pawprint: Millard West Student NewspaperThrough with Thoroughly Modern Millie

The Washington PostTwenty-Three Skiddo: ‘Modern Millie’ Doesn’t Dance

IMDbThoroughly Embalmed Musical

Project MuseThoroughly Modern Millie (review)

MyvanwyReview of Thoroughly Modern Millie

Someone sent me video of a local comedian’s youtube video of a character I’ve seen him portray once before. To call it infantile and racially insensitive would be a gross understatement. For the targets of his ridicule, it’s every bit as offensive as a mean-spirited performance in blackface. But because it’s against one of the few groups for whom bigotry, hostility, and ridicule is still acceptable (Chinese Americans and others of Asian and/or Pacific Island descent), it’s seen as okay by most and even encouraged by other local comedians. Kevin Marshall’s America

Zak KeithHollywood Asian Stereotypes

Racism against Asians is often “unawares”—a form of racism that flies under the radar due to its widespread acceptance as the norm. Its interactive dynamic resembles that of an unwritten social contract. Asians in the West are expected to accept patronizing remarks and racist taunts so demeaning that perpetrators would think twice before dishing them out with such unwavering consistency to any other minority group, such as Latinos or African Americans. Asians who object to such treatment are typically met with befuddlement and offense at their audacity to make an issue out of it.


Mia Wenjen blogs at PragmaticMom: Education Matters, I Love Newton and occasionally at her Asian American blog JadeLuckClub. She resides in Newton with her husband and three kids, the oldest of which will attend Newton North High School this fall. She can be found on PinterestTwitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Sulia, Google +, Instagram and YouTube.

Photo credit: Grasshopper and Sensei, my oldest.

Follow PragmaticMom’s board ‘Best of’ PragmaticMom on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Dee

    I’m so proud of you, Mia! I love that you were quoted front and center and that you took on the issue on your other blogs. So often, we are upset by things but don’t speak out. I’m glad you did. Did you feel as though the show director from the school heard you or do you think he was just saying what you wanted to hear.

    I had no idea about the plot of Thoroughly Modern Millie. I have vague memories of my mom watching it on TV or video when I was young, but I’ve never seen it. Now I know!

  2. I’m glad you got people to pay attention to this, Mia!
    maryanne recently posted…After School Learning for Kids: Build a NestMy Profile

  3. Way to go, Mia! I can’t believe that no one questioned it before it came to the time of production–the racial stereotyping is so blatant!

    Good for you for bringing this front and center! I’m sure that there are a lot of kids who feel vindicated, and perhaps wanted to say something about it, but didn’t feel that they could.

  4. Unacceptable. It’ time for people to start paying attention, you know? I am glad you were outspoken. It’s important for people to be outspoken and out the “wrongs”.

    I think it’s important that people are more sensitive. If I went to a play and white people were in blackface – I would be LIVID.

    Congratulations to you!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…Essential Parenting Collection on Mindful parenting – 10% off Today!My Profile

    • Hi Lisa,
      It’s so weird to me that people in my community totally seem to get the blackface is wrong and they would never do a musical like Ragtime without African American actors. BUT, they just don’t seem to get that yellowface is also equally offensive. I think it’s because the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is not as outspoken as the African American community and that hurts us.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…March is Women’s History Month Picture Book of the DayMy Profile

  5. a fight worth fighting for. Thanks for all you do.
    iGameMom recently posted…100+ Spring and Easter Activities for KidsMy Profile

  6. I’m still shocked they even thought of performing it let alone doing it. I am so proud you fought it and hope it will help in the future for them to really think about the message their choices send to the community.
    Carrie recently posted…Welcome, Spring!! Spring Craft Round-UpMy Profile

  7. Wow! I’m just catching up on all the links now…good for you! I’m so impressed with your bravery an fortitude. Thank you for caring!

  8. Bravo! I’m late with the applause, but no less sincere. To have spoken ‘UP’ on an issue that is significant and one that you understand, is to have enlightened many in this case, Mia. If we would each follow your example and find our voice on an issue that we ‘get’ it would move everyone forward — toward a time when we are indeed MODERN, even if not Thoroughly.

    I applaud your tenacity to follow through here, and to spend time and energy to document the many tangents of the conversation. You have cut a swath through the darkness and allowed light to shine. For that we are all clapping on your behalf.

    Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for using your platform to INform. Thank you.


    • Thank you so much Debbie! You have no idea how much your kind words and support mean to me. It’s been a battle, for sure, and at times, it’s unclear what “victory” even means. But you are right. It is important to speak up and social media is a very effective means to get a message across. I am stunned, personally, by how powerful it’s been and thankful for it as well.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Huge Self Published Kids Book GIVEAWAY and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge