Academy apologises for “offensive” Asian joke during Oscars ceremony

The apology comes after 25 members of the Academy – including Ang Lee and George Takei – condemned the culturally-insensitive skit in an open letter

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apologised yesterday for jokes made about American Asians at the 88th Annual Academy Awards. 

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“It pains us that any aspect of the show was considered offensive, and [we] apologise for any hurt the skits caused,” the statement read. 

The apology comes after 25 members of the Academy signed a letter of protest condemning the awards body for the culturally insensitive jokes made by Oscar host Chris Rock. Among those who signed were director Ang Lee, actress Sandra Oh and actor/activist George Takei. 

“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,” their letter read. “Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.

The skit in question saw Rock bring three Asian children wearing suits and carrying briefcases onstage, claiming that they were ‘bankers” from PricewaterhouseCoopers. “They sent us their most dedicated, accurate and hard-working representatives,” he said. “Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz.”

 “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” Rock added during the segment.

While the Academy’s response delivers an apology, it does not specifically address the “concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect” that the letter asked for. In their statement, the Academy simply says that they “will be exercising more oversight” in the future. 


Read the full protest letter 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,

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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® AMPAS
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