Creators issue apology for “How I Met Your Mother” racism

I don't know how Josh Radnor is, but now he's immortalized on Google in yellowface. Yay.
I don’t know who Josh Radnor is, but now he’s immortalized on Google in yellowface. Yay.

I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM), but am a long-time fan of both Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan (I’m a Whedonite), and support both of their careers. So I was bummed to learn that on Monday, the show ventured into the realm of stupid racism.

Contextually, the episode featured a “fantasy vignette” where one character played by Jason Segal imagines learning the legendary art of “slapping” in a scene where he trains with “kung fu masters” played by three of the show’s other cast members, including Hannigan.

What results is exactly what you would expect would happen when a show written by a predominantly White writing staff “pay homage” to kung fu movies when they have at their disposal a bunch of White actors.

It’s like someone raided the “geisha” and “coolie” sections at the Day-After-Halloween sale at Spencers.

How do you turn a White girl Asian? Apparently, liberal application of chopsticks and black eyeliner.
How do you turn a White girl Asian? Apparently, liberal application of chopsticks and black eyeliner.
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This dude is wearing a Fu Manchu moustache and eyebrows, guys. Not cool.
Oh Willow, why?
Oh Willow, why?

Ample digital ink has been spilled about why this is messed up; you don’t really need to hear me spell it out for you. And, if you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong, nothing I can say to you will change your mind. If you think this is okay, chances are you’ve said something along the lines of:

  1. It’s referencing a culture, not a race; it can’t be racist!
  2. They were playing “smart” and “wise” Asians, not brutish, stupid Asians. And being “smart” is a good thing, right?
  3. But the Asian garb was so pretty and exotic! What’s wrong with that?

This is all pure nonsense designed to obscure one simple point: racial drag is not okay. Racial drag is never okay. Racial drag is racist. Period.

It took the show’s creators nearly three days to post this series of apologetic Tweets (via Huffington Post). But, to their credit, this isn’t a pseudo-apology. This appears to be a genuine, “oh geez, how did we not see how fucked up this was?!?” apology.

So, thanks to HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for this apparently sincere apology.

I mean, yes: this idea should never have made it past the crumpled napkins and soiled boxes of half-eaten stale pizza in the writing room — and probably wouldn’t have had there been even just one lone race-conscious person somewhere in the food chain who could’ve been empowered to step back and say “what the fuck, guys”. But in the end, kudos for taking the classy apology route, guys.

Now, how about next time, we don’t write a stupid scene involving yellowface or brownface, in hopes that racial humour is automatically hilarious? Kungfu “slap master”? I mean, come on; that’s not just racist, it’s also shitty, cliched, and uninspired.

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