boycott brooklyn bridge park/syfy channel's screening of breakfast at tiffany's

Here's the deal. Next month, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, with the sponsorship of the SyFy Channel, is scheduled to present an outdoor screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's free for the public, August 11. Seriously?

If you're not familiar with it, this 1961 movie notoriously features the blatantly racist Japanese character Mr. Yoniushi, played in full-on yellowface -- buck-toothed and slanty-eyed -- by Mickey Rooney. It has to be one of the worst caricatures in Hollywood history.

Who thought this was a good idea? Some concerned citizens have started an online petition urging a boycott of the screening: Boycott the SyFy Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy screening of the racist "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
On Thursday August 11th, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy with the sponsorship of the SYFY Channel plans to screen "Breakfast at Tiffany's" free for the public. This 1961 film features a blatantly-racist, minstrel-show, buck-toothed portrayal of a Japanese American, played by Mickey Rooney which has for decades offended the Asian-American community and its allies. Please boycott this film, the SyFy Movies with a View series, and let people know that despite direct communication from the NY Asian American community, the BBPC is committed to showing this horribly offensive film, which it calls a "beloved" "American classic". The film series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

In 2008, a similar public outdoor screening was successfully aborted by the city of Sacramento in response to protests over the yellowface Mr. Yunioshi caricature. The controversy over Mickey Rooney's bumbling portrayal is not new, and the BBPC and SyFy should be aware of the impact of putting this offensive portrait on the big screen.

Why any publicly funded organization in a city where 1-in-8 residents are Asian-American or any channel with a huge Asian-American viewership would choose to show a film with a racist caricature like this is beyond me. It's not funny; It's not classic; It's not beloved to us. By screening this film, the organizers are sanctioning the racism it contains, and subjecting new audiences (including children and Asian-Americans) to a minstrel show of racist ideology. It's 2011. It's New York. Do we still have to fight the hostile, hurtful world of 1961 Hollywood?
Like the petition says, this film series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. I don't know about you, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that this movie and this damn character is being celebrated at what's supposed to be a fun, public event. Have a blast explaining that one to the kids. Or will you just laugh along when Mr. Yunioshi does his racist schtick? Sign the petition here.

UPDATE: The petition has picked up the attention of mainstream press. Well, the New York Post, at least: Asian-American group takes aim at 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' Brooklyn showing. Don't read the comments if you don't want to feel the strong desire to kick someone in the head.

angry archive