The Book of Mormon has been in my face in probably every major city I’ve been to recently so I’ve wanted to see it for a while. Finally, a few days ago, I get tickets for two and excitedly carry Princess along. But ooops. It was so racist we left the theatre halfway.
If you read the ratings on TripAdvisor, they fall into two camps: mostly white people saying the show was great and the music was nice and anyone who didn’t like it should grow a sense of humour, and mostly black or queer people saying the show was racist.
The play is written by the same guys who wrote South Park (which kinda tells you what to expect). I love dark humour so I expected to enjoy it. I came to laugh at the christian white saviour complex but got more than I could chew. The plot — about two young missionaries in Uganda — leans on so many tropes about the continent like poverty and AIDS and warlords who mutilate women’s genitals.
The parody of it all makes academic sense. Maybe if I was a white person sitting in that sea of white people watching a caricature of Africa complete with music and dance, it would be easy to “get it”. Obviously we all know Africa is better than that. Right? The show is simply making fun of how “those white people” see it. Right?
But here’s the thing about a caricature: it still shows the thing. As the only two Nigerians sitting among (literally) 1,000 white people laughing at silly, slapstick jokes about impoverished Africa and white supremacy, it was impossible to enjoy. It was deeply uncomfortable to sit in that theatre and wasn’t worth any of the other jokes. Half the time I couldn’t understand what was funny — it just felt like they were laughing at us.
For many hours after we left, I was still visibly upset. If I wanted to take my girlfriend to get roasted for 3 hours, I would have paid one of our friends. On the flip side, it was an introduction to a world that doesn’t care about me or my feelings. It made me think about capitalism and the politics of humour. Because even if all black people refuse to watch it, it will still be one of the “funniest”, most successful shows of the decade.
Anyway, after I calmed down I started searching for “book of mormon racist”. I felt like I should have seen something that said “if you’re an African going to watch this show, prepare to be the butt of the joke”. But there just wasn’t enough of that. Consider this my humble contribution.
The only other black people in the audience were a single lady and a guy with his white partner. I wonder what they thought about it.