What Happened after the Paramount Protest?

For those who want to know what’s been going on with Paramount and “The Goods” — Paramount sent a written apology to the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) right before the protest happened. Though the protest went on as planned, Paramount deserves some credit for actually responding with an apology, and a pretty well-written one at that (see below).

What’s really cool is Paramount and JACL agreed to have a meeting in the future. MANAA believes that not only will this be a chance to talk to Paramount about The Goods, but also The Last Airbender!

Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 14:42:24 -0700
To: <dc@jacl.org>
Subject: The Goods

Dear Mr. Mori:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding ‘The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.’ At Paramount, we take these concerns very seriously.

On behalf of the studio, I want to extend our sincerest apologies to the Japanese American Citizens League and the greater Asian-American community for the racially demeaning language used in scenes depicted in the film. While this film is intended to be an extreme satirical comedy, it was never the objective of the producers or the studio to single out any one group for ridicule or to promote hurtful, racially disparaging language. We genuinely regret the use of this language in the film.

We’ve discussed your concerns, at length, with the producers and we have discontinued online promotion of the red-band, age-gated trailer that depicts this scene. The general audience, green-band trailer has also been pulled out of theaters.

We appreciate you bringing to our attention the concerns of the Japanese-American community and the broader Asian-American community. We truly regret any anguish that this film may have caused. We assure you that this was never the intention of the producers or the studio.

At Paramount, we would welcome a continuing dialogue over the next several weeks with you and other leaders of the Asian-American community. Again, on behalf of Paramount and Paramount Vantage, we hope you accept our sincerest apologies.

Yours truly,
Adam Goodman

“The Goods” Protest

MANAA and other Asian American activist groups will be protesting the film ‘The Goods’ FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, at Paramount. From 4:30 to 6pm, Friday Aug 21 Paramount Studios 5555 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA We believe that the film condones the beating of Asian Americans and makes light of hate crimes. Visit http://manaa.blogspot.com for more info.

Why MANAA Protests “The Goods”

Message from the MANAA President

I received a copy of the following letter addressed to the Executive Chairman of Paramount. This letter expresses, as persuasively as any press release that MANAA could issue, why the studio needs to hear about “The Goods.” Not everyone is going to be convinced that MANAA and other organizations should protest this movie, but many will recognize their own anger, fear, and frustration, expressed right here.

Phil Lee
MANAA President

August 19, 2009

Mr. Sumner M. Redstone
Executive Chairman of the Board & Founder
Viacom, Inc.
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Redstone:

As an American of Japanese ancestry, I am writing to express my extreme outrage over a scene in Paramount Vantage’s comedy “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” depicting the use of a racially offensive slur followed by a physical attack against an Asian American character in the film.

The scene in question, broadcast across the country in the film’s trailer and now playing nationwide, shows the character, played by Jeremy Piven, giving his used-car sales team a pep talk. The Piven character then says, “Don’t get me started on Pearl Harbor-the Japs flying in low and fast. We are Americans and they are the enemy! Never again!”

A man looks at the Asian American character and says, “Let’s get him!” which results in a mob of men beating the Asian man. Piven’s character then says, “All right, stop! We have all just participated in a hate crime. Let’s get our stories straight. Dang came at us with a samurai sword, fire extinguisher and Chinese throwing stars.”

This is supposed to be funny? Ask the family of Vincent Chin, who was brutally beaten to death by two out-of-work auto workers who mistook him for being Japanese during the height of “Japan bashing” during the early 1980s. Ask them if this is funny. Ask the thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry who were called “Japs” all their lives growing up, and were later unjustly racially-profiled and incarcerated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor into American concentration camps for up to four years during WWII. Ask them if this is funny.

Using the word “Jap” is equivalent to the use of the “N-Word” when referring to African Americans. The use of the word alone is offensive enough. To combine it with the beating of an Asian character is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable in
today’s media. Imagine if this scene were to take place against an African American.
The African American community would not stand for it. And neither should we.

Earlier this week, the National Office of the Japanese American Citizens League voiced its strong objection to this scene, and called on Paramount Pictures to apologize to the Japanese American and Asian American communities nationwide.

Paramount has responded by saying “The Goods satirizes and exaggerates the extremes of the sales and celebrity culture” and “is in no way meant to be mean-spirited, disparaging or hurtful to any individuals and we regret any offense taken. We understand that when presented out of context, jokes and situations in the movie about a variety of topics might be offensive to some people.”

This does not sound like an apology to me. In fact, it fits conveniently into the category of “You people need to get over yourselves-can’t you take a joke?”

As Chairman and Founder of an international media conglomerate which includes Paramount Vantage, you are well aware of the power of both the written and spoken word, and how words can uplift, move and literally change the world, and the people in it. You also know that words, when used in a negative, mocking way, have the same power to insult, denigrate, and can cause unthinkable damage to our psyche, our spirits, and the world we live in.

I grew up in San Francisco, California and when I was in junior high school I heard words and phrases such as “Ching Chong Chinaman,” “Jap” and the like from fellow classmates who took great joy in taunting me. And I can tell you, as I stood by and took this verbal abuse, I also remember other kids standing by and laughing at me, pointing at me, and saying things like “Why are your eyes so tight? Why don’t you open your eyes?” Unless you stand in my shoes, and feel the humiliation of being singled out and ridiculed solely because of my race, you cannot understand what
I-and people of Asian ancestry have gone through in this country since we first came here over 150 years ago. I can tell you this: It hurt me deeply, and it’s a pain that I carry with me to this day.

These are the power of words, and how when they are abused-especially in film and television-can perpetuate hate, which can lead to more hateful words and mocking of Japanese and other Asian Americans, which can lead to hateful acts of violence and going one step further, murder.

As you can see, this is no laughing matter. May I remind you of Viacom’s Global
Business Practices, which on pages 23-24, states to your employees: “Therefore, you may not: Make inappropriate statements concerning a person’s race, religion, color, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic origin, disability, age, gender, sex, gender expression, etc.”

I’m assuming these practices extend to the products your company produces, and I’m assuming these words mean more to you than mere words on a piece of paper.
Therefore, I am asking you to do all in your power to edit or remove this scene from the film, and see to it that scenes such as these-that denigrate any racial group-do not happen again in the future.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Soji Kashiwagi

cc: Philippe P. Dauman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Viacom, Inc.
Adam Goodman, President, Paramount Films Group
Gary Sanchez, President, Gary Sanchez Productions
Floyd Mori, National Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League

Asian American Coalition Protests Paramount and ‘The Goods’!

thegoods protest

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!

the goodsprotest3

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!

Join Our Protest!!

MANAA and other Asian American activist groups will be protesting the film ‘The Goods’ TOMORROW at Paramount.

Join us at 4:30pm, Friday Aug 21
Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

We believe that the film condones the beating of Asian Americans and makes light of hate crimes.

Please email us at letters@manaa.org if you are planning on joining us, we need all the help we can get!!!!

MANAA Condemns Asian-Bashing in ‘The Goods’ as Harmful, Not Funny

Los Angeles — A scene from Jeremy Piven’s new comedy “The Goods” has incensed Asian Americans, who find the beating of Ken Jeong’s character frighteningly reminiscent of real violence perpetrated against Asian Americans.

“MANAA contacted Paramount to request a chance to screen the film. We tried to give them the benefit of the doubt that seeing the whole movie could somehow salvage this scene. But we received no response,” said Phil Lee, President of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

The scene in question, which has been widely promoted in trailers, begins with Jeremy Piven riling up his car sales team by saying, “Don’t even get me started on Pearl Harbor — we are the Americans, and they are the enemy. Never again!” The other workers start shouting “Never again!” as the single Asian American, played by Jeong, joins in but looks nervous.Then the crowd turns on him and begins a violent assault that visibly injures him. Piven’s character also uses the racial slur “Japs” — an insult that goes doubly unpunished since Jeong later tells everyone he is Korean, as if the attack would be acceptable if only he were really Japanese.

While the scene is played for comedy, the threat of physical violence against Asian Americans is all too real. December 7, the day of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, is commonly dreaded by members of the Japanese American community and the wider Asian American community. Many Asian Americans have been subject to slurs and verbal assaults on this day, and there is a widespread fear that individuals who still harbor anger against the Japanese will erupt in physical violence.

The scene showing the beating of Ken Jeong by auto workers is also painfully evocative of the killing of Vincent Chin in 1982. Chin was a 27-year old Chinese auto worker in Michigan who happened to be at the same bar as two white auto workers who felt that the Japanese were to blame for the loss of their jobs. They beat him with a baseball bat, and he died from the injuries. The scene in the movie similarly confuses Japanese individuals from Japan with all individuals of Asian descent. Even so, this does not justify retributive violence for an event that occurred during a war nearly 70 years ago.

“MANAA believes that this scene should be removed from the trailers, and asks that Paramount apologize and acknowledge the concerns of our community,” said Lee. “The fact it is a comedy makes it worse, because the anti-Asian violence is downplayed as harmless. Playing a hate crime scene for laughs or satire doesn’t automatically protect it from being offensive.”

MANAA is the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction and coverage of Asian Americans.