Paris By Night has become a leading cultural and political voice of and for the

Paris by night has become a leading cultural and

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Paris By Night has become a leading cultural and political voice of and for the Vietnamese diaspora— a ubiquitous presence in Vietnamese homes and Vietnamese-run busi- nesses such as restaurants and nail and hair salons. 23 Paris By Night 77 was the episode that my interviewees referenced the most: produced in 2005, it commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. The show interspersed three prominent themes: the cruelty and corrup- tion of communist rule, the flight and plight of Vietnamese refugees, and the progress of Vietnamese communities in the United States. Most com- pelling for my interviewees were the montages of frantic Vietnamese flee- ing Saigon, perishing at sea, and languishing in overcrowded refugee camps. Twenty-year-old Lisa Vu ˜, a third-year college student majoring in political science, explained how Paris By Night 77 helped her to “create”
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146 r e f u g e e p o s t m e m o r i e s memories of the war: “The images that I have [of the war] are created from Paris By Night : the mother holding her children and running . . . bombings . . . jungle warfare. I have this image of a family just running in the dark. It’s always at night. Oh, and the raidings and people hiding from the Communists so that they don’t get shot.” Many of the young Vietnamese whom I interviewed, like Ha ˘ ´ ng Võ, con- nected viscerally to the searing images of anguished Vietnamese on their screen: It’s just so emotional for me to watch what happened during the war and postwar and how people died. Even though I can’t relate to what my parents went though, I can feel it through those videos and have an idea of how dif- ficult it was. I don’t know why it’s so emotional, but whenever I watch, it always brings tears to my eyes. . . . Just seeing people running for their lives and running to try to get to the U.S. makes me imagine that those people are my parents and that was what they went through. All of my aunts that came over here were boat people. I see how the boat people go through all of that and I would think, oh my gosh, that’s what they went through. When I watch Paris By Night or Asia [another musical variety series] and when it gets to that part, I can’t watch and I just walk away because I get so emotional that I can’t sit there without crying. For these young viewers, the emotional quality of the Paris By Night thir- tieth anniversary show contrasted sharply with the objectification of Vietnamese often found in American media. As twenty-two-year-old Hân Trâ ` n, a psychology student, explained: I think from the American media, it’s a war that the U.S. lost. The U.S. came in as the heroes, helping these poor and ignorant Vietnamese people. We are always shown as peasants or hookers. So we were objects. From the Vietnamese perspective, there has much more emotion attached. This is the war that we lost. We fought and we fought but we still lost. It’s more per- sonal I think, hearing and seeing the Vietnamese perspective. The 30-year anniversary show was very moving. It was from the Vietnamese perspective
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