MANAA Asserts Offensive Use of Yellowface Make-Up and Exclusion of Asian Actors In The Film “Cloud Atlas”

LOS ANGELES – The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) is criticizing the new Warner Brothers motion picture “Cloud Atlas”—promoted as artistically groundbreaking because its actors swap racial and sexual identities—as business-as-usual in its exclusion and offensive yellow-faced renditions of Asian people. A multi-ethnic epic spanning 500 years and around the globe, “it’s an artistically ambitious approach to filmmaking,” according to the organization’s Founding President Guy Aoki. “Unfortunately, it reflects the same old racial pecking order that the entertainment industry has been practicing for decades.”

“Cloud Atlas,” written and directed by Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix” trilogy) and based on the novel by David Mitchell, utilizes an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, and Hugo Weaving. In order to stress a thematic continuity among the movie’s six different interwoven stories, the filmmakers cast many of the same actors as different characters in each time period. One of the stories takes place in a totalitarian, mechanized Neo Seoul Korea in the year 2144. An Asian female clone (South Korean actress Doona Bae) is encouraged by another female clone (Chinese movie star Xun Zhou) to break out of her oppressive pre-programmed routine to serve men and become an independent thinker. The segment also includes White actors Sturgess, Weaving, and James D’Arcy as ostensibly Korean characters, using eye prosthetics to make their Caucasian features look more Asian.

“’Cloud Atlas’ prides itself on its ‘multi-racial cast,’” said Aoki, “but that basically means White men and women of color, like La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘The Nightingale,’ which was criticized last Summer for using only two Asian American actresses but allowing five White men to play Chinese characters. Aoki said, “’Cloud Atlas missed a great opportunity. The Korea story’s protagonist is an Asian man–an action hero who defies the odds and holds off armies of attackers. He’s the one who liberates Doona Bae from her repressive life and encourages her to join the resistance against the government. It would have been a great, stereotype-busting role for an Asian American actor to play, as Asian American men aren’t allowed to be dynamic or heroic very often.

“But instead, they cast Jim Sturgess in yellowface,” Aoki continued, referring to the historically frowned-upon practice of using cosmetics, such as eye prosthetics, to make Caucasian actors look Asian. “In fact, every major male character in the Korea story is played by non-Asian actors in really bad yellowface make-up. When you first see Hugo Weaving as a Korean executioner, there’s this big close-up of him in this totally unconvincing Asian make-up. The Asian Americans at the pre-screening burst out laughing because he looked terrible–like a Vulcan on ‘Star Trek.’ It took us out of the movie. And Jim Sturgess and James D’Arcy didn’t look much better.”

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Meet Frances Kakugawa at the Japanese American National Museum

Mark your calendars (September 29 @ Japanese American National Museum) to attend two events MANAA is sponsoring for award-winning author/poet Frances Kakugawa (who’s written past books on caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s) and her humorous and sobering book Kapoho: Memoirs of a Modern Pompeii about growing up in the small town in Hawaii (later covered by lava) while battling wartime prejudice against Japanese Americans and the limitations of her pidgin English culture.

To read an interview with her, click here: http://rafu.com/news/2012/08/into-the-next-stage-surviving-prejudice-lav…

To read excerpts from the book, click here: http://rafu.com/news/2011/12/itns-21/ Please RSVP if you’re interested in coming.

We’re trying to reach ex-Hawaii residents living in Southern California and those caregiving for loved ones, so please help us spread the word.

MANAA Praises DirecTV for Reprimanding Former Howard Stern Disc Jockey For Soliciting Racist Jokes Inspired By Jeremy Lin

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 praising DirecTV for disciplining two on-air talent who, after discussing New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, asked their listeners to call in with “the most racist Asian jokes you know.” Although the disc jockeys apologized two days later, they invoked the Ku Klux Klan and did not adequately explain what they had done. After MANAA asserted the apology was not enough, DirecTV placed them on probation.

On the February 15th “Nick and Artie Show” (produced by DirecTV Sports Group and syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks since October 3), Nick DiPaolo and former Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange asked their listeners to call in with their “most racist Asian jokes.” As an example, they offered Lin having to do teammate Carmelo Anthony’s laundry (the hour in which it occurred has since been taken off DirecTV’s website). They also criticized Woody Allen’s wife Soon-Yi for not showing enough enthusiasm at Knicks games, saying if she didn’t appreciate the United States, she should go back to the Philippines (she’s from Korea). Tuesday, MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki spoke with Chris Long, DirecTV’s Senior Vice President of Entertainment and Production, and Darris Gringeri, VP of public relations. They informed Aoki that although the solicitation did get callers, none of them were put on the air as someone realized it was a bad idea. Long told Aoki he’d learned of the broadcast the following night, spoke to the disc jockeys and their supervisor, and asked them to apologize.

After hearing the apology, MANAA’s board wasn’t satisfied. “Artie Lange wouldn’t even come clean on what they’d done,” said Aoki. “He referenced the New York Post headline ‘Amasian’ and took that as a sign it was fair game to ask his listeners to call in with other Asian puns. DiPaolo corrected him, admitting they’d actually asked for stereotypical jokes. Lange dug an even worse hole by saying: ‘Right, we want bad, awful jokes that you hear like from someone at a Klan meeting at 4 in the morning after a couple of scotches and you can make fun of him ‘cos it’s stupid. Uh, that’s what we wanted. And we wanted to make fun of that whole situation. And if we offended anybody in that process, we’re sorry about that ‘cos that’s not what we’re about here.’”Aoki asked rhetorically, “How can you say you wanted your listeners to hear what drunk Ku Klux Klan members would say and not think it would offend people?” Added MANAA board member Miriam Nakamura-Quan, “I was appalled and surprised that their lackluster apology included a reference to the KKK. They contradicted themselves in the worst kind of way. You can’t get any more extreme or offensive than by invoking the spirit of the KKK. That doesn’t seem like a sincere and honest apology to me.”

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Asian American Coalition Protests Paramount and ‘The Goods’!

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Thanks so much to everyone who came out to support us with our protest at Paramount. It was a stunning success, with over 40 protesters and of course lots of supportive horn honking and a few tv station trucks to boot.

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We rallied with cheers of “The Goods were rotten, that’s why no one bought them!” and “Your humor is tasteless, stop being racist!” Eric and Sylvia came up with some great chants and were great chant-leaders!

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Dariane from Racebending showed awesome support and helped to organize, which was great since Paramount is the studio behind the whitewashed “The Last Avatar” as well. We look forward to working with Dariane and all of the folks at Racebending on future activist endeavors!

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Floyd Mori, executive director of JACL, brought a squadron of protesters and was interviewed by Channel 7 News along with MANAA’s Guy Aoki.

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IW Group, Inc. also sent a huge group of supporters and as well as provided materials for the posters and space to create them.

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And boy did we have a lot of posters! Some favorites — “Hate Crimes Aren’t Funny” and “The Goods are Bad.”

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Thanks again for all the support, we think that Paramount is starting to get the picture now!

Adam Carolla Takes It All Back in Last Show

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We thought that MANAA’s Guy Aoki and Adam Carolla had reached a gentleman’s agreement of sorts, after their clash over Carolla’s use of “ching-chong” to mock the Asian Excellence Awards in 2006. That was a battle that Carolla decidedly lost (both by his own admission and apology, and by his advertisers, seven of whom pulled out of his show). But when Rosie O’Donnell came under attack for her “ching-chong” comments, Carolla brought Aoki back on the show to make sure he was after her as well, and it appeared that the two had made amends. Carolla told Aoki, “I like this, I feel like this is like Terminator 2, I came back down and now I’m on your side…Keep up the good fight my brother, I feel like we’ve won an ally now.” Then he tried to get Aoki to go after Mazda for not representing any Asians in their commercial.

Fast forward to last month, when Carolla’s show was cancelled. In his second-to-last show on Feb. 19, he was in the middle of talking to a caller who was sad to see Carolla go, and suddenly he started talking about how he was so glad that he didn’t have to keep an eye on “swearing or a-holes like Guy Aoki. Racist a-holes, by the way, like Guy Aoki, who’re gonna climb up my ass if I say anything about all the Asian people that he, evidentally, represents. That’s every single Asian person on the entire planet. I will no longer have to worry about a-holes like that or guys like Jack Silver that are paranoid about extortionist racist a-holes like Guy Aoki.” Jack Silver was Carolla’s program director at the station Carolla broadcasted from, 97.1 FM.

Apparently he’s not over the situation after all. Disappointing indeed.

The Last Airbender – Letter to The Producer

Scene from the animated series  Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005_

Scene from the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005)

 

Lots of people have contacted MANAA about the casting of the movie “The Last Airbender.” As a group we’ve discussed what the best way to join in these efforts. What follows below is a letter that MANAA sent to Paramount.

This issue is not over. Stay tuned for more.

 


 

February 11, 2009

Dear Mr. Mercer:

I left two messages with you—one with your assistant Ricky on Monday and another with Lauren yesterday. I’m writing on behalf of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), which is dedicated to monitoring the media and advocating for balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. Since 1992, we have consulted with movie studios and met regularly with the top four television networks about ensuring diversity.

We would like Avatar: The Last Airbender to become a successful movie trilogy. However, given the recent outcry over the lack of Asian/Asian American actors in the lead roles, we fear bad word of mouth may doom the first film before it gets off the ground and stop the potential franchise dead in its tracks. Indeed, the outrage over its casting has been greater than anything we’ve witnessed in the last several years. On Entertainment Weekly’s website alone, there are 78 pages of comments from people who feel a strong emotional connection with Avatar, and most of their responses are strongly negative with many threatening to boycott the film.

Surely you have already seen or at least heard some of these concerns. While the show Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko created was a great success in creating a fantasy world inspired heavily by Asian and Inuit elements, M. Night Shyamalan chose Caucasian actors to play all four main characters. Recently, Prince Zuko’s character went to an actor of Asian descent, but otherwise, the only Asian presence in the film is in the sets and background characters. Compared to other shows, including many anime imports, Avatar: The Last Airbender was unique because it was created for an American audience yet used Asian faces for its main characters. We appreciated that the Nickelodeon series (with the help of Asian American consultants) was intelligent enough to avoid using many of the common Asian stereotypes—both positive and negative–often seen in the media, and that it even made strides in casting Asian American voice talent.

The Asian American community, and the movie-going public at large, is used to seeing Asian men depicted as villains and rarely get the opportunity to see Asian heroes they can get behind and cheer for. This is also an historic opportunity to give Asian American actors a chance to shine in a big-budget film franchise which would bolster their careers for future projects. You will get deserved credit for launching those careers and can break down barriers by understanding that the audience that loved the television series is ready (and expects) to see Asian Americans playing those characters on the big screen. One of the reasons the Avatar television series was so well-received was that our former Vice President, Edwin Zane, served as its cultural consultant for the first two seasons and helped the producers avoid ethnic missteps.

Likewise, please take advantage of us as a resource. We invite you to dialogue with us about the film so that it can really be something fans of the show (and potentially new future fans of the movie) can get excited about.

Sincerely,

Guy Aoki

Founding President, MANAA

cc: Mike DiMartino Bryan Konietzko Dan Martinsen, EVP corporate communications, Nickelodeon Jenna Lutrell, executive in charge of production, Nickelodeon

MANAA’s Interview with “On the Lot’s” Shalini Kantayya, MANAA’s 2004 Scholarship Winner

“On the Lot,” Fox’s reality show about 50 directors (chosen from 12,000 submissions), aired its finale on August 21, 2007 with Will Bigham named the winner of the $1 million development deal with Dreamworks Pictures. The series faced many problems, including an ever-dwindling audience that sunk to less than two million viewers (the finale got the attention of 2.5 million), the firing of Chelsea Handler as original host, and the hiring of greenhorn live host Adrianna Costa. The main interest of “On the Lot” to MANAA supporters, though, was the participation of Shalini Kantayya, a 30 year old director originally from Connecticut who’s lived in Brooklyn for the past 10 years.

The Indian American won MANAA’s 2004 scholarship and demonstrated her commitment to the cause week after week, finishing in the Top 10. Guy Aoki, a MANAA Board Member and the group’s founding president, interviewed Ms. Kantayya by phone. The following interview previously ran in an abridged version of Aoki’s “Into the Next Stage” column in the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.

Guy Aoki: Well, first of all, we’re so proud of what you’ve done.

Shalini Kantayya: Oh thank you!

GA: I mean, what’s really terrific is that you used at least one Asian person in every one of your films (SK laughs). And you know, that’s so refreshing because I often hear Asian American writers say, “Well, I’m gonna have to wait ’till I make it [to help Asian Americans].” They get onto the writing staff of a TV show, and they’re still very self-conscious about being Asian American. I understand that: If there’s like only one Asian in the whole writing room and everyone else is white, then they don’t want to be an advocate right off the bat. They want to just kind of fit in and show that they’re like a team player.

SK: Very understandable.

GA: And then you wait and wait and wait and you wonder, “Well, are they going to remember when they make it, or are they just going to get so used to doing white stories and casting white people that they’re gonna forget about it by the time they, quote, ‘make it?'” So I was so happy that every one of your films featured an Asian person, and it didn’t take away from the piece, and it was part of the success! Was it [intentional?]

SK: Well, we had a pool of actors to work from so you’re pretty restricted. Do I have a commitment to diversify? Absolutely. But I think more than that… I never want to be held back or boxed in as an Asian American filmmaker. I hope that if I’m asked to make a film about Latino gangs, I’ll be able to do it, or white American suburban life that I’ll be able to do it. But I think as my voice grows as a filmmaker, we make films about things that we know about. And I happen to know, for instance, the script for “Doctor-In-Law” was great. That script could’ve been about any immigrant community. It could’ve been Czechoslovakian people, could’ve been any first generation family, but I think those kinds of immigrant stories are very close to my heart and Doctor-In Law, I think, was a script asking for me to direct it.

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MANAA Founding President to appear on Adam Carolla Show

MANAA Founding President, Guy Aoki is scheduled to appear on the the Adam Carolla show on Wednesday, April 26th at 9 a.m. to discuss the host’s ching-chong parody of the Asian Excellence Awards and history of denigrating Asian Americans.

Adam Carolla can be heard in Las Vegas 107.5, Los Angeles 97.1 FM, Pheonix 101.5 FM, Portland 101.1 FM, San Diego 103.7, and San Francisco 106.9 FM.

MANAA President Guy Aoki Appearance on “Politically Incorrect”

 


 

Into the Next Stage by Guy Aoki

Behind the Scenes at “Politically Incorrect”

It was like preparing for an oral exam where you were gonna go in front of professors deciding whether or not you knew what you were talking about. Only this time, they’d challenge you if they disagreed and wouldn’t feel obliged to let you finish your sentences. Oh, and it would be broadcast to millions of people across the country.

Well, Aoki, you always said you wanted to educate America to the Asian American perspective. Yeah, but with David Spade probably making wise-ass remarks in between your attempts to make serious points? With a host- Bill Maher- openly hostile to your cause? And against a comedian- Sarah Silverman- who hates your guts?

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