The MEDIA ACTION NETWORK FOR ASIAN AMERICANS (MANAA) is the first organization solely dedicated to monitoring all facets of the media – television, motion pictures, print, advertising, radio, etc. – and advocating balanced, sensitive and positive portrayals of Asian Americans. The all-volunteer, non-profit group was formed in April of 1992 to address the negative stereotypes long perpetuated by the media which detrimentally affects all Asian Americans, hurting not only their self image, but how non-Asians treat them.
MANAA operates a 24-hour hotline (213) 486-4433 and (888) 90-MANAA which enables the community to report incidents worthy of criticism or praise. The group then checks out the item and, if appropriate, contacts the sources responsible, trying to educate them and prevent such offense from happening again.
- In July 1993, after months of fruitless behind-the-scenes negotiations with 20th Century Fox, MANAA launched the first nationwide campaign by Asian Americans against a film, “Rising Sun,” since 1985’s campaign on “Year of the Dragon.” The year-old organization coordinated educational protests in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco and other cities.
- MANAA’s concern over Warner Brothers’ radically divisive film, “Falling Down” (1993), led director Joel Schumacher to produce a public service announcement film trailer promoting the need for people of all races to understand each other.
- In 1994, MANAA met with Marc Platt, President of Tristar Pictures, over another insensitive depiction of Korean American grocers in “It Could Happen to You.”
- In 1995, after a year and a half battle and after targeting the station’s advertisers, MANAA got KKBT FM’s morning show, “The House Party,” to stop its practice of imitating well-known Asian Americans with fake accents.
- In 1997, the organization also got Los Angeles radio station Power 106-FM to agree to the same policy within a month’s time. That same year MANAA met with the Executive Vice President and head of casting at CBS Television to discuss the network’s dismal handling of Asian American regulars on their programs (this was a follow-up to 1996’s talks with the President).
- In 2001, Founding MANAA President Guy Aoki put comedian Sarah Silverman on the map when he debated her on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” after she used the slur “chinks” in a joke on Conan O’Brien’s talk show. In her biography, Silverman, still bruised by the encounter, spent 14 pages talking about MANAA.
- In 2003, MANAA organized a protest against “Banzai” aired by Fox. MANAA, along with activists across the country, successfully persuaded advertisers from pulling their ads. The show was soon removed from the network.
- In 2004, MANAA, in conjunction with other API organizations, met with the Editor-In-Chief of Details magazine regarding an article titled “Gay or Asian.”
- In 2006, working with a coalition of community organizations, MANAA got CBS Radio to agree to mandate sensitivity training for its employees and to develop a pamphlet outlining for its on-air talent the responsibility they have toward ethnic communities after host Adam Carolla aired a skit mocking the Asian Excellence Awards with people saying nothing but variations of “ching chong” for almost a minute.
- In 2007, Aoki convinced CBS President Nina Tassler to host a meeting between the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) and the writers and producers of her TV shows to discuss ways of incorporating people of color into their existing shows and creating new ones. This historic event become an annual one including the heads of the Multi-Ethnic Coalitions (APAMC, NAACP, Latinos, Native Americans) beginning in 2011.
- In 2009, MANAA met with the President of Paramount Pictures over their offensive movie The Goods and M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming The Last Airbender; the following year, MANAA coordinated the Hollywood protest (over 100) against the white-washed casting in that latter film.
- In the Fall of 2011, while co-chair of the APAMC, Aoki gave the top four television networks three years to air a series where Asian Americans were the star—first name in the credits. By Fall 2014, ABC (“Fresh Off the Boat”), CBS (“Stalker), and Fox (“The Mindy Project”) had succeeded.
- In the summer of 2012, because Aoki pushed CBS to include more local Asian/Pacific Islanders in their rebooted “Hawaii Five-O” series, the network flew over diversity and casting executives to Honolulu to host a mixer and actors workshop to find new talent.