The nasty Asian jokes at the Oscars highlighted Hollywood's other big race problem.

Last night, Chris Rock forced Hollywood to confront its race problem.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


Rock didn't let up all night, using not just his slashing monologue, but nearly every appearance to make those in the audience face up to the lack of diversity in the room — particularly the ceremony's exclusion of black actors, directors, and writers.

It was glorious.

A couple of jokes, however, came at the expense of a group just as frequently ignored and stereotyped by Hollywood: Asian-Americans.

In one bit, Rock brought out three kids to represent "PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountants," a joke which appeared to trade on the stereotype that Asian and Asian-American kids are good at math.


"It's OK, it's OK, thanks guys, thanks a lot. If anybody is upset about that joke just tweet about it on your phone, that was also made by these guys," Rock said, apparently, jokingly, referring to the charge that iPhones are often made under poor labor conditions at the FoxCon factory in Shanghai.

Later in the program, Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ali G) drudged up one of the oldest, crudest stereotypes in the book for a gag.

"I is here representing all of them that's been overlooked," he said as he took the mic.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

"How come there's no Oscar for them very hard working little yellow people with tiny dongs," he said. "You know, the minions."

So ... yeah. That's an "Asian-American men have small penises joke," folks. At the Oscars.

Since 2000, only 1% (!!!) of Oscar nominations in acting categories have gone to actors of Asian descent. And, sadly, that might be the best that can be said about Hollywood's historic treatment of Asians and Asian-Americans on film.

Emma Stone, who portrayed the part-Asian Allison Ng in "Aloha." Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images.

Yellowface — white actors portraying Asian characters on screen — is an unfortunately common practice in movies, ranging from the just-kinda-boneheaded (Emma Stone in "Aloha") to the weird (Fisher Stevens in "Short Circuit") to the grotesque (Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany's).

Even when portrayed by actors of the same ethnicity, Asian or Asian-American characters in movies are often conceived as one-note stereotypes or the butt of a joke ("Van Wilder's" Taj or "Sixteen Candles" Long Duk Dong).

Needless to say, Twitter wasn't here for it.

A hashtag was started in response...

...as commenters called on Hollywood to do better.


Others used the tag #RepresentAsian, in reference to "Fresh Off the Boat" actor Constance Wu's insistence that even though she plays a mother of Asian descent on TV, she doesn't need to "represent every Asian mom ever."




The silver lining to Rock and Baron Cohen's stumbles? An often invisible prejudice is now getting some much-needed attention.

Progress is already being made on TV, by shows like "Master of None," "Fresh Off the Boat," and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which feature nuanced, complex Asian and Asian-American characters in leading roles.

"Fresh Off the Boat's" Randall Park and Constance Wu. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

But as more and more people speak out, the more likely it becomes that the film industry will start to get the message too.

And the bigger push they get? The more likely that there will be a lot more celebrating at next year's ceremony — by actors, writers, and directors of all genders and ethnicities.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less