FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MANAA Condemns Sony Pictures And Cameron Crowe For Continuing To Erase Asian/Pacific Islanders In “Aloha” Film
LOS ANGELES– Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans, is calling out Sony Pictures for its white-washed film Aloha which opens Friday.
Taking place in the 50th state, the movie features mostly white actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel) and barely any Asian American or Pacific Islanders. “60% of Hawaii’s population is AAPIs,” says MANAA Founding President and former Hawaii resident Guy Aoki. “Caucasians only make up 30% of the population, but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 90%. This comes in a long line of films (The Descendants, 50 First Dates, Blue Crush, Pearl Harbor) that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s like tourists making a film about their stay in the islands, which is why so many locals hate tourists. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”
In a twitter chat with imdb, Aloha writer/director Cameron Crowe said he had “family roots in Hawaii” and that “I wanted to dig deeper into the real story of Hawaii… Not only was local community so inspiring to us, we wanted to hire many of them as actors and to make sure to pay respect and help educate everyone on the mainland about the rich history and culture of Hawaii… It was a long process involving a lot of research at Hickam Air Force Base and spending time with the native Hawaiian community too. The story grew and became personal.”
“Yet somehow, in the end,” Aoki points out, according to imdb, “Crowe hired at least 30 white actors, 5 actors to play Afghans, and the biggest roles for APIs were ‘Indian pedestrian,’ ‘upscale Japanese tourist,’ and ‘upscale restaurant guests.’ They didn’t even have names. How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history—AAPIs?”
In 2008, Sony released 21, which was based on the real-life story of an MIT math professor who taught some of his students how to win at blackjack in Las Vegas. Most of the principals– including the teacher and the student who won the most money–were Asian Americans. In the film, they were played by Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess, a Brit who had to have an accent coach on the set to teach him how to sound like an American. AAPI actors, Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira, played members of the team but had the least amount of screen time.
“Sony Pictures is missing the boat by ignoring a large potential audience for its film,“ declared MANAA President Aki Aleong. “Look at the Fast and the Furious movies where 75% of the paying audience is people of color. Despite the star power of Aloha it’s clear to audiences that they wouldn’t be seeing an authentic story about the 50th state. We ask them to support other movies this weekend because if this movie does well, it’ll encourage Hollywood to continue to not use AAPI talent.” Aleong, an actor who’s celebrating his 60th year in the business, adds, “There are many talented Asian Pacific Islander actors who could’ve played significant roles in this movie.”
MANAA is a founding member of The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) which, since 1999, has met regularly with the top four television networks–ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX—pushing for more diversity both in front of and behind the cameras.
The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) is a non-profit organization and receives neither direct financial support from the government nor any media corporation. Only through membership dues and the generous donations of individuals and organizations is MANAA able to meet its Goals & Objectives in serving the Asian American community.
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Mailing Address: (Please note our new address) MANAA P.O. Box 6188 Burbank, CA 91510
April 24, 2015
Mr. Paul Lee
President, ABC Entertainment Group
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
I hope this letter finds you well. Congratulations on an historic year for ABC.
You should rightfully be proud of showing the industry that new series starring people of color–“How To Get Away With Murder,” “Black-ish,” and “Fresh Off The Boat”—can be successful and that this model needs to be emulated if networks are to appeal to the ever-changing racial and cultural demographics of this country.
As you probably know, there have been several community screenings of “FOTB” in New York and Los Angeles, with hundreds having to be turned away. The night of its February 4 preview, #FreshOffTheBoat was the most popular twitter subject in the country even dethroning #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.
Obviously, Asian Americans have gravitated toward “FOTB,” the first Asian American sitcom in over 20 years. Nielsen tells me that for its first 7 episodes, 19.4% of all Asian American households watched at least one episode within 7 days and for the first 8 episodes, they over-indexed at 227, meaning Asian Americans were 127% more likely to watch the series within 7 days.
During that time, white and black audiences were also watching the sitcom in greater proportion to their populations.
“FOTB” is a favorite of the critics, many of whom (e.g., Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety, Huffington Post, Boston Herald) called it one of the best shows—if not the best show–of the season. Time found it “damn funny… Three episodes in, it’s the best broadcast comedy of the new season… a show with more voice after three episodes than most sitcoms have after three years.” Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “’Fresh Off the Boat’ does what few television shows do now, which is to make race not beside the point. It sits inside a minority culture and looks with bewilderment and bemusement at the dominant one… it’s a consistently funny and even important one, with some lovely, nuanced performances.”
It’s a prestigious show that you cannot afford to lose.
Despite being put in the tough Tuesday night 8 p.m. hour with no lead-in, new episodes of “FOTB” average a 1.73 Live+same day rating in the 18-49 age group, but jump to a 2.2 with Live+7 numbers, which consistently increased each of the past six weeks. Its 18-49 Live+SameDay and total viewership numbers always beat competitors “MasterChef Junior,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Flash,” and “Parks and Recreation.” “FOTB” is ABC’s top Tuesday night show, as well as the most popular comedy of the night outperforming “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “Undateable,” “One Big Happy,” “Repeat After Me,” “Weird Loners” and (in the 18-49) even re-runs of “NCIS.”
Impressively, “FOTB” held its 1.8 rating on February 24 even with the return of NBC’s “The Voice.” “FOTB’s” last three episodes have increased its 18-49 numbers. Also, its 18-49 and total viewership numbers are better than last season’s “The Goldbergs” (1.73, 5.75 million total vs. 1.68, 5 million total), which you renewed.
Last season, “The Goldbergs” held the Tuesday 9 p.m. slot but improved impressively when moved this season to Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. (up 30.87% to a 2.2 and up 39.94% in total viewers to 7.08 million) with “The Middle” as its lead-in vs. the less compatible “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Perhaps next season “FOTB” would also benefit from having a strong, compatible lead-in?
Given all of these considerations, we hope you will renew “Fresh Off The Boat” and give it sufficient promotion to ensure its long-term success. Thank you for your consideration.
Founding President, MANAA
cc: Samie Falvey
April 17, 2015
Ms. Nina Tassler
Chairman, CBS Entertainment
4024 Radford Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604
I hope this letter finds you well. Over the years, under your leadership, CBS has made great strides in including Asian Americans as regulars of its drama, comedy, and reality series. The two CBS shows which feature Asian Americans in the most significant roles are “Stalker” with Maggie Q and “Elementary” co-starring Lucy Liu. As Lt. Beth Davis and Joan Watson, respectively, their stories very often drive the narrative of the main plot of the week and both defy the traditional way Asian American women have been portrayed in the media. Davis is no shrinking violet and commands the anti-stalking unit of the Los Angeles police force, and Watson displays her own talent at solving crimes even under the formidable shadow of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and is not cast primarily as the love interest of anyone.
However, both series have not had strong 18-49 ratings, and we are concerned about their chances for renewal for the 2015-2016 season.
New episodes of “Stalker” average a 1.53 Live+same day rating in the 18-49 age group, but jump 62% to a 2.48 with Live+7 numbers. It usually beats NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” (which has already been renewed for the Fall) and ABC’s “Nashville.” “Stalker’s” last new episode (which aired February 18) fell to an all-time low of 1.15, but that was due to the weak lead-in of the two hour finale of “The Mentalist,” which averaged a 1.28, the lowest 9 p.m. rating for any CBS first-run episode all season.
Though new episodes of “Elementary” average a 1.3 Live+same day rating in the 18-49 demo, the Live+7 audience jumps 85% to a 2.42. The show was probably hurt by beginning Season 3 a month later than usual (October 30) and a weak lead-in from “The McCarthys,” which was pulled from the schedule in February (perhaps a drama lead-in would be more helpful next season?). “Elementary” has done considerably better in the 2015 calendar year than the Fall of 2014, perhaps due to viewer unhappiness with the dominance of the Kitty character (Opehlia Lovibond), whose storyline ended in January. “Elementary” is currently beating its competition on ABC (“American Crime”) and NBC (“The Slap,” “Dateline”) and is getting closer to producing enough episodes so it can be sold into syndication. In addition, we are happy that co-star Lucy Liu has been able to demonstrate her impressive talents as a director on the show.
Given these considerations, we hope you will renew both “Stalker” and “Elementary” and give them sufficient promotion to ensure their long-term success. We would also like to see more Asian American guest stars as, for some reason, they have been sparse on those shows. Thank you for your consideration.
Founding President, MANAA
Cc: Christina Davis
MANAA’s General Meeting is Thursday, April 16th. The monthly general meeting starts at 7:30 PM, in the upstairs meeting room of the Chinatown Public Safety Association. We welcome your input and thoughts on pressing issues regarding the portrayal of Asian Americans in print, radio, television and movies.
MANAA is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive coverage and portrayals of Asian Americans. Formed in 1992, it has pushed the television and motion picture industries to include more Asian Americans in their projects and educated Hollywood about the stereotypes that have often plagued the APA community.