After issuing an apology, then perhaps realizing their apology was insufficient, the leadership of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has decided to meet with the two dozen members of Asian descent who signed a letter protesting the racist jokes that aired during last month's Oscars broadcast.
After Failed Apology, Academy Agrees To Meet With Members On Treatment Of Asians During Oscars
To recap: Oscar night featured a couple of blatant off-color references to Asians, including a skit in which host Chris Rock introduced three Asian children as accountants (because we're great at math!), and a joke by presenter Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ali G) about "hard-working, little yellow people with tiny dongs."
This week, twenty-five members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences who are of Asian descent -- including director Ang Lee and several other Oscar winners -- sent a letter to the organization protesting the telecast's "tasteless" Asian jokes and its "perpetuation of racist stereotypes."
March 9, 2016
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
"Oscars: Why Make Cheap Jokes at the Expense of Asians?"
"The Oscars anti-Asian racism was alive and well."
"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.
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
The letter was delivered to the Academy -- specifically, to its Board of Governors, AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson and Oscar producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill.
Not long after the letter went public, an Academy spokesperson issued a statement in response to the protest:
"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."
That's pretty weak. The Academy also sent out a letter of apology to the 25 members:
Dear Friends and other concerned Academy members,
Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about our 88th Oscar show, which are valid. We appreciate your perspective and take your points very seriously. It certainly was never the Academy's intent to offend anyone.
We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future Oscar telecasts be more culturally sensitive.
It pains us that any aspect of the show was considered offensive, and I apologize for any hurt the skits caused.
Our Awards Committee and Academy leadership will be exercising more oversight to make sure that concerns like yours are fully addressed.
With warm regards,
Also really weak. This apology was met with swift criticism because, frankly, it's a crappy apology. It's barely an apology. How many times have we seen press releases with boilerplate claims that "it was never our intent to offend anyone" and apologies expressed "for any hurt caused." The Academy also failed to address any concrete steps to make sure this kind of shit doesn't happen again. Because come on.
On Wednesday, Academy leadership said it would take time to meet with the signees of the original letter.
All of this required a letter, more letters and a meeting -- not to mention widespread public outcry -- to get the promise of oversight for something that so clearly should never have happened in the first place. Ridiculous.