Chris Rock’s Asian child skit slammed

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

A skit that co­me­dian Chris Rock put on at the Academy Awards cer­e­mony drew a back­lash of crit­i­cism from mem­bers of the Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­nity and be­yond as play­ing into old stereo­types of Asians.

Rock was gen­er­ally praised for the way he dealt with the ab­sence of black artists among Os­car nom­i­nees at the awards pre­sen­ta­tion on Sun­day night in Hol­ly­wood. All 20 nom­i­nees in the best act­ing or sup­port­ing act­ing cat­e­gories were white.

In pre­sent­ing the skit that drew crit­i­cism, Rock said, “The re­sults of tonight’s Academy Awards have been tab­u­lated by the ac­count­ing firm of Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers. They sent us their most ded­i­cated, ac­cu­rate and hard­work­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives. So I want you to please wel­come Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moscowitz.”

He then brought on stage two boys and a girl of Asian her­itage play­ing em­ploy­ees from the ac­count­ing firm, car­ry­ing brief­cases and stand­ing to the side as Rock fin­ished his skit.

“Now if any­body’s up­set about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by th­ese kids,” Rock said, ref­er­enc­ing the of­ten-made stereo­type about Asian child la­bor­ers.

Peo­ple re­acted across US and China-based so­cial me­dia and var­i­ous other sites.

Justin Chang, Va­ri­ety’s chief movie critic, tweeted, “Think my brain shut down for a few min­utes. Did that ap­palling joke about Asian kids re­ally hap­pen?”

Con­stance Wu, one of the stars of ABC’s FreshOffthe Boat, tweeted, “To pa­rade lit­tle kids on stage [with] no speak­ing lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is re­duc­tive [and] gross. An­tithe­sis of progress.”

Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion star Jeremy Lin ex­pressed sim­i­lar frus­tra­tion: “Se­ri­ously though, when is this go­ing to change?!? Tired of it be­ing ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians,” he tweeted.

Many oth­ers said that the joke, in light of the con­tro­versy over the lack of di­ver­sity in this year’s Os­car nom­i­na­tions, was hyp­o­crit­i­cal.

“It felt com­pletely in­con­gru­ous with the whole tone and the broader pic­ture that was try­ing to be painted about di­ver­sity,” said Phil Yu, who runs the pop­u­lar An­gry Asian Man blog.

“It just came out of nowhere and it was shock­ing — it wasn’t even a smart joke. It re­ally felt su­per clumsy and out of place. You would ex­pect some­thing like that to hap­pen on a bad sketch com­edy show or on SNL, but at the Os­cars?” he said.

Rock and the academy could not be reached for com­ment.

“Rock is of a mi­nor­ity group, yet he shows the lack of aware­ness and sen­si­tiv­ity to the fact that what he’s do­ing is very harm­ful,” said Welling­ton Chen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Chi­na­town Part­ner­ship. “We’re in a very deep hole when it comes to neg­a­tive stereo­typ­ing, de­spite all the good, de­cent, hard­work­ing peo­ple that are here. This has been por­trayed again and again.”

Chen said that jokes like Rock’s seem harm­less on the sur­face, but can have much broader con­se­quences down the line. Rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Asians as nerds and over­achiev­ers hurt not only Asian stu­dents, but the com­mu­nity at large when it comes to gain­ing lead­er­ship po­si­tions at cor­po­ra­tions, car­ry­ing the ti­tle of “per­pet­ual for­eigner”, or even an in­stance like Danny Chen, the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can sol­dier who com­mit­ted sui­cide af­ter suf­fer­ing from racially-based haz­ing, Chen said.

Crit­ics also pointed out that de­spite much talk about the lack of black ac­tors and ac­tresses in film and me­dia, Hol­ly­wood and the gen­eral pub­lic have not even be­gun to have con­ver­sa­tions about Asian ac­tors, who have far less rep­re­sen­ta­tion in TV and film.

Ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased by the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia An­nen­berg School for Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Jour­nal­ism, at least half of all Amer­i­can movies, tele­vi­sion and stream­ing sto­ries re­leased over the last two years lacked one speak­ing or named Asian or AsianAmer­i­can char­ac­ters. Fig­ures com­piled by the Econ­o­mist show that only 1 per­cent of Os­car nom­i­na­tions ever went to Asian ac­tors.

REUTERS

As part of a skit dur­ing the Os­cars in Hol­ly­wood on Sun­day, three chil­dren posed as ac­coun­tants from Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers. Welling­ton Chen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Chi­na­town Part­ner­ship

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