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Archive for December 16, 2006

Dec. 16, 2006 — Nights in Paris

Had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, and on the plasma screen was an entertainment program which is part political, part entertainment, part time capsule.

Paris By Night is a wildly popular variety show taped for sale to a Vietnamese exile community spread around the globe after the Vietnam War. The episodes have all of the glam and trappings of an awards show. Guests are dressed to the nines. A pair of emcees engage in witty banter from an onstage podium.

Recording artists sing, and production numbers unfold in glittery technicolor glory straight out of 1975. In fact, when you look at a singing duo composed in a male in earth tones and a woman in a rainbow of colors, you wonder if Vietnamese exile culture is stuck in the mid-1970s — the era in which South Vietnam fell to the North.

Paris By Night is one of the few shared experiences amongst Vietnamese exiles and, as such, is very influential in that subculture.

When you are able to listen to some of the songs, the vast majority of them are slow ballads, sung in minor keys, meant to evoke feelings of loss, separation, and a wish to go back home.

Vietnam, for all of its free-market reforms the last decade, is still a socialist nation of 84 million people. An influx of exiles — many of whom have been Westernized in Canada, France, and the United States — will have a major impact on a country still recovering from the economic damage from the war some three decades after the fall of Saigon.

It’s pretty ironic, when you think about the wars and armed conflicts that the United States was involved with during the Cold War, how often those displaced by those wars have emigrated to the very nations (in this case, France and the U.S.) responsible for the bombings, coups, and destablizations of their homelands.

The band U2 said it best:

Across the field you see the sky ripped open
See the rain through a gaping wound
Pounding on the women and children
Who run
Into the arms
Of America.