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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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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