Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MANAA demands Jonas brother apologize for eye-slanting gesture in a public photo

Press Release from MANAA
Contact: Guy Aoki, Media Action Network for Asian Americans: (818) 241-7817

LOS ANGELES–Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction of Asian Americans, is demanding that Disney star Joe Jonas apologize for slanting his eyes in a picture that has been widely seen throughout cyberspace. Given its historical significance in degrading people of Asian descent, the mock-Asian pose is considered racially offensive and continues to have a negative impact on the Asian American community.

Nineteen-year-old Joe Jonas is the middle-brother of pop-rock boy band Jonas Brothers, which has become a worldwide teen sensation. His older brother recently dated fellow Disney star Miley Cyrus, who was also caught slanting her eyes in a public photo that offended the Asian American community. She offered two public statements (initially insisting she was only making “goofy faces”), but neither fully acknowledged the significance of the hurtful gesture in a way that was satisfactory to civil rights and media groups like MANAA.

Given the outcry over the Cyrus controversy, the organization demands that Jonas issue an apology for his actions to discourage similar inappropriate and harmful behavior and to make it clear to his fans that this should not be repeated. Because Joe Jonas is a popular star and role model, he could turn this embarrassing situation into a positive learning experience for his fans.

MANAA President Phil Lee notes, “It sounds like the photo was taken a couple years ago but only surfaced last week. If there is an explanation, we’d very much like to hear it, as the silence just seems to be making the controversy grow.” A few days after the photo went public, MANAA contacted Lillian Matulic, Vice-President of Publicity at Jonas’ label, Hollywood Records, for further information. Matulic said she was not aware of the specific photo and that the company had no comment.

MANAA member and college student Sylvia Pham explains, “The eye-slanting gesture is not only offensive because it is used to mock the physical features of individuals of Asian descent, but it also perpetuates the alienation of Asian American individuals within American society, which creates a hostile environment for us.”

An audit report made by The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium found that “insensitive media coverage of minority groups and issues, leading to the perpetuation of stereotypes, instead of the recognition that Asian Pacific Americans are just as American as their neighbors,” is one of the main factors leading to the rapid increase of anti-Asian American violence.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Racist caricature at Label's Delicatessen

One version of Bruce Krakoff's offensive sign

A recent Chinese American visitor to Label's Delicatessen in West Los Angeles was horrified to find a racist caricature advertising their chinese chicken salad, with the phrase "You don't have to be Chinese to enjoy our new dish." He left the restaurant and called owner/manager Bruce Krakoff to ask that the sign be removed, but Krakoff stated that he was free to do whatever he liked in his store and would not remove the sign, which he also claimed that his customers loved.

This is unfortunate, because the caricature is evocative of anti-Chinese discrimination and violence from the turn of the century, when the image of the "coolie" represented an oppressed lower class that was systemically excluded from citizenship and civil rights in the United States because they were seen as alien. Given this history, it is by no means a harmless cartoon, and should not be used in this context.

Since then, the Anti-Defamation League and OCA have both sent letters to Krakoff, and as far as we know this sign can still be seen in the deli. The original complainant says that this is not the picture he saw, which was much more offensive, suggesting that there are multiple versions of the chicken salad advertisement.

MANAA would like to add their voice to the mix by requesting not only that all advertisements with racist caricatures be removed from the store, but also that Krakoff issue an apology to his customers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Adam Carolla takes it all back in last show

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.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yet another 'chink eye' photo

Not again -- pictures of what looks like Joe Jonas from the Jonas Brothers pulling his eyes back in the "chink eye" gesture have surfaced. He seems to have completely ignored what his brother Nick's ex-girlfriend Miley Cyrus recently went through, complete with botched apology #1 and more sincere apology #2.

We expressed our disappointment when we saw the pictures of Miley, but by now it's starting to get old, so let us be explicit -- there is no situation where this gesture can possibly be construed as funny, goofy, or merely a joke. It is always offensive, demeaning, and belittling, evoking a long history of the mistreatment of Asian Americans. This sends a terrible message to the group's fans.

If this is really Joe Jonas, we ask that he gets it right the first time, and makes a sincere apology that helps to educate others about why this gesture should never be repeated again.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Washington Post covers Airbender controversy

The Washington Post wrote about the Airbender controversy, including quotes from MANAA's Guy Aoki -- as well as casting director DeeDee Ricketts. It's nice to finally hear someone from the production side respond to the criticism, but of course it still seems like they're going to populate their world with Asian extras and White heroes.

Monday, March 02, 2009

MANAA on Breakfast At Tiffany's

We've been voicing our feelings about Breakfast at Tiffany's for years now, which is a bit sad since the movie is 47 years old. Still, the racism of the Mickey Rooney character was too much to let go, even with a movie so beloved, and it continues to teach a valuable lesson about the dangers of "yellowface."

We're proud to say that our voice has been heard, and is now part of the
Breakfast at Tiffany's Paramount Centennial Collection, which was released this January. The remastered edition includes a good deal of new material, including a documentary called "Mr. Yunioshi: An Asian Perspective". The segment stars our very own Guy Aoki, Phil Lee, and Jeffrey Mio, as well as actress Marilyn Tokuda, and has been getting great reviews so far.

A sample:
Colin Jacobson from DVD Mag:"It proves pretty interesting. I worried that “Perspective” would do little more than act as an apology for the awful Yunioshi character, but it doesn’t. Correctly, the participants regard the portrayal as a product of its time, but they don’t simply excuse it. This turns into a thought-provoking chat."

Frank Sifaldi at "The reason I was glad to see this included is because I remember the first time I saw this film, I was a bit disgusted to see Mr. Rooney is such a horrible, comically stereotyped role as an Asian...It appears that time has healed the wounds of 47 years ago when some Chinese people wouldn't go see the film because of the unjust portrayal of their people. I hope that in the future, ethnic persons will be able to get their roles played by persons of that ethnicity."

Jeremy Thomas at 411 mania: "It's certainly not the kind of featurette that you would expect to see on a celebratory DVD set, and Paramount deserves some praise for addressing this one issue with the film quite candidly and in a balanced way."