I’m going to create a new Tumblr: Weak Sauce Apologies For Racism.
Initial entries would include Emma Stone’s “my eyes have been opened” apology for appearing as an Asian American woman in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha; James Bond writer Anthony Horowitz’s 140-character mea culpa for calling Idris Elba “too street” to play his titular character; and Mark Wahlberg’s request to be pardoned for an anti-Asian hate crime assault.
We can also add another one to the list. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a weak sauce, two sentence apology today, nearly three weeks after it aired a skit during the Oscars that invoked anti-Asian “model minority” and “child labour” stereotypes while exploiting three Asian American children as racial props.
The tone-deaf anti-Asian joke involving host Chris Rock — as well as another innuendo by Oscars presenter Sascha Baron Cohen in his fictional persona Ali G — outraged Asian American viewers. They also initiated an outpouring of angry think-pieces penned by Asian American writers, including one by myself as well as by guest contributor Larissa Lam. Asian American actors tweeted their displeasure, and netizens created the #OnlyOnePercent hashtag to juxtapose the jokes against studies showing that Asian American actors receive less than 1% of speaking roles in major films.
And today, 25 Asian and Asian American members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came together in a letter to decry the Oscars’ anti-Asian jokes. The 25 industry professionals included actors, producers, documentarians and directors such as Ang Lee, Sandra Oh, and George Takei and Arthur Dong, and featured six Academy Award winners, four nominees, three former members of the Academy Board of Governors, and a recipient of the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for outstanding achievements in sound.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that only about 50 of the Academy’s approximately 6,500 membership are Asian. Thus, the letter represents the opinions of more than half of the Academy’s Asian and Asian American members.
The Academy responded to the letter later today, telling The Hollywood Reporter:
Hours after the Academy offered that horribly trite mea culpa, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson offered a follow-up statement, calling our community’s concerns “valid” and promising to make future Oscars ceremonies more “culturally sensitive”.
That is, pardon my French, some bullshit. We’re sorry people were offended by the shitty racism that we beamed into the homes of millions of people on Oscars Night? Here’s a thought: How about you don’t give me some crappy apology three weeks after the fact? How about instead you just don’t act in complicity with racism?
(By the way, it’s worth noting that Chris Rock — who certainly had a hand in writing the skit even if it received subsequent approval from Oscars telecast producers — has so far remained mum on the controversy.)
A few years ago, I questioned the cultural relevancy of the Oscars after Fruitvale Station and a number of other prominent films featuring filmmakers of colour were snubbed amidst growing reports highlighting the lack of diversity in Hollywood film-making and the Academy membership. Two years later, I find myself still asking that same question.
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Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!