George Takei explains why he’s not happy about ‘harmful’ Asian jokes at the Oscars
Star Trek actor George Takei has demanded an apology from Oscars organisers – after jokes about Asians at the Academy Awards.
Oscars host Chris Rock attracted ire for the skit last month, which featured three Asian kids dressed as accountants – while Sacha Baron Cohen also joked about Asian genitals.
A letter co-signed by 25 member of the Academy including Mr Takei expressed concern to the Academy, explaining: “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.”
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Mr Takei added: “The damage that stereotypes can do is enormous, and for the Academy that touted the Oscars as an Oscars about diversity to define the word ‘diversity’ as black and white left me aghast.
“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. And yet it was a show in black and white — black-and-white pictures, like going back a half-century.
“I was astounded at the obliviousness and the ignorance of the Academy people with regard to the notion of stereotypes. And then they perpetrated that in today’s context: They had Asian children dressed in tuxedos with briefcases as numbers-counters, which is a stereotype that Asians have today.
“Back in those days, we were depicted as merciless villains or obsequious servants or buffoons to be laughed at.
“And then, in that same skit, they talked about Asian children making computers and iPhones — har, har, har.
“I mean, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is supposed to be made up of distinguished people — the elite of the motion picture industry — to be so oblivious and so ignorant of the worst stereotypes and the damage, the profound damage, that they can do?
“Watching the show, that just gnawed at me, and then I got on the phone with friends and fellow colleagues in the Academy and we all agreed that this is unacceptable.
“And since the Board [of Governors] is having a meeting today, we thought this might be a well-timed release of our letter to the Academy.”
He added that he hoped the Academy would apologise for the harmful jokes, and that the issue would be resolved.
An Academy spokesperson responded: “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”
Following the letter, Deadline reports that organisers will meet this week with leading Asian film figures including Mr Takei and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee to discuss the issue.