Justice

George Takei, Ang Lee, and 23 Others Are Outraged over Offensive Jokes About Asians at the Oscars

March 16th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

George Takei is setting his sights on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over off-color jokes about Asian Americans during the 88th Academy Awards last month.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, the actor and activist said that he was "left... aghast" by the lack of diversity during the ceremony.

george-takei

"I mean, diversity means much more than black-and-white. It means Asian-Americans, it means Latinos, it means LGBT people, it means Native-Americans, it means — particularly in today's context — Arab-Americans," he told The Reporter.

On March 9, Takei, who joined 24 other prominent Asian American Academy members sent a letter sent to the Academy calling for "concrete steps" to "preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts."

This year's Oscars, they wrote, were especially disappointing given the negative attention the Academy received over a lack of minority representation in the run up to the February 28 production.

"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," they wrote.


The letter comes as the Academy's governors hold their monthly board meeting this week, according to The Reporter. At last month's ceremony, presenters including host Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen lobbed a number of jokes that included stereotypes pegging Asians as being good with numbers, and having small genitalia.


"When that skit came up in the middle of the Oscars, we all went like, 'What?' There was a collective, 'That didn't just happen.' We found a lot of people who said, 'We're not going to accept this sort of joke anymore,' especially right after [Academy president] Cheryl Boone Isaacs gave that speech about diversity," David Magdael, a publicist, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Read the full text of the letter, per the Hollywood Reporter, below:

"Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President
Dawn Hudson, CEO
Members of the Board of Governors
Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, Oscars® Producers
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

RE: “Oscars: Why Make Cheap Jokes at the Expense of Asians?”
(Hollywoodreporter.com)
“The Oscars anti-Asian racism was alive and well.”
(PsychologyToday.com)
“Asian-American Jab at Oscars reveals deeper diversity woes”
(Associated Press, Salon.com)

Dear Cheryl, Dawn, Members of the Board of Governors, Reginald and David:

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.

Sincerely,

Don Hall, Sound Branch, John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, Academy Governor, 18 years
Freida Lee Mock, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner, Academy Governor, 6 years
Arthur Dong, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee, Academy Governor, 4 years
Ang Lee, Directors Branch, Two-time Academy Award winner
Chris Tashima, Shorts and Feature Animation Branch, Academy Award winner
Christine Choy, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
David Magdael, Public Relations Branch
France Nuyen, Actors Branch
George Takei, Actors Branch
Janet Yang, Producers Branch
Jessica Yu, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Jodi Long, Actors Branch
Laura Kim, Public Relations Branch
Marcus Hu, Executives Branch
Maysie Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Nancy Kwan, Actors Branch
Peter Kwong, Actors Branch
Renee Tajima-Pena, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
Rithy Panh, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee
Ruby Yang, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Sandra Oh, Actors Branch
Steven Okazaki, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner
Teddy Zee, Executives Branch
William Hoy, Film Editors Branch
Yung Chang, Documentary Branch"

Update 3/16/15, 10:20 a.m.: Since 25 Asian American Academy members sent their letter of complaint, the Academy announced plans to meet with the group to devise solutions moving forward, Deadline Hollywood reports. The meeting comes after an apology by the Academy, saying that they were "committed to doing [their] best to ensure that material in future Oscar telecasts be more culturally sensitive."