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.

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