Tuesday, November 13, 2018

EXTRA: No more Oriental Theater? Amazed change didn’t occur years ago

Reports of the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago planning to change its name made me thankful that this change is not being made amidst a stink of controversy.
Marquee to be replaced. Photo by Gregory Tejeda

For it seems the theater, built on the site of the old Iroquois Theater that was the location of a major catastrophic fire in Chicago history, is now going to take on the identity of its owners.

THE ORIENTAL WILL now become the James M. Nederlander Theater. As in for the family long involved in live entertainment that operates the Nederlander Organization.

It takes on an identity that people with knowledge of theater and drama in general will recognize while also replacing a label that some people will manage to find great offense with as an ethnic insult.

“Oriental,” of course, referring to the Far East and anything Asian. As opposed to “Occidental,” which refers to the Far West. Occidental University, for example, is in Los Angeles.

Some people find Oriental to be offensive on the grounds that it tries to put a generic label on all the assorted cultures that comprise the totality of Asia. Whereas rarely do people try to dismiss the entirely of Western culture as Occidental.

WE TRY TO acknowledge the great differences on what makes up the “other” half of this planet we all call home.
Interior of Iroquois, following fire of more than a century ago
But you just know there will be the kind of people, particularly in this Age of Trump in which we’re now all caught up in, who will want to take great offense at being told their generic label is too generic to apply to modern-day life and society.

If this is one name change that can take place without a large amount of controversy and complaints about political correctness run amok (which usually means whoever is saying it does not want to be called out about their own bigotry and ignorance), that would be a plus.

The last thing we need is another controversy about the name of a place that I suspect many of us Chicagoans rarely find time to visit.


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