After the smoke cleared from the 88th Academy Awards, many felt that though the entire broadcast was dedicated to undoing the damage done by the second straight year of all white acting nominees, it was ultimately ruined by a few tasteless jokes about Asians, particularly children, who were on stage in front of millions of people. Those jokes, by Chris Rock, essentially said: while we’re speaking out of actors, it’s still okay to make fun of Asians. The jokes sparked this statement by the Asian members of the Academy:
“We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes. In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.
“We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts. We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.
“We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.”
Variety says the letter was signed by prominent Asian Academy members:
In addition to Lee, other Oscar winners on the list include Chris Tashima (shorts and feature animation) and four members of the documentary branch: Ruby Yang, Steven Okazaki, Jessica Yu and Freida Lee Mock. Aside from Mock, two other former governors signed, Don Hall (sound branch) and Arthur Dong (documentaries). Another three signers were Oscar nominees: Christine Choy, Renee Tajima-Pena and Rithy Panh, again all docu-branch members.
Other signers were Yung Chang, documentary; Maysie Hoy and William Hoy, editors; Marcus Hu and Teddy Zee, executives; Janet Yang, producers; David Magdael and Laura Kim, PR; and six members of the actors branch: Nancy Kwan, Peter Kwong, Jodi Long, France Nuyen, Sandra Oh and George Takei.
The Academy is, always, in a Catch-22 when it comes to their hosts. The better the comedian, the more controversial they tend to be. The less controversial they are, the more boring they tend to be. They really had one of their best hosts in Ellen DeGeneres who was one of the few who managed to be both funny and not offensive. Either way, the Academy remains the standard bearer that should help guide the rest of the industry, I would think, in terms of leaving outmoded stereotypes behind. It is in the interest of everyone involved, I’d say.