Film Academy Responds to Letter from Members, Including Ang Lee, Criticizing “Tone-Deaf” Portrayal of Asians

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The 88th Academy Awards, held more than two weeks ago, were racially charged from the moment the nominations were announced. For weeks, hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite dominated the normally unimportant award season chatter, culminating in a ceremony that made attempts to chastise Hollywood for its lack of diversity. It did an OK job at it. And then there were the Asian jokes.

The gags didn’t go over well among those in the nearly silent attending crowd, and they didn’t go over well for members of the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences, including George Takei and Ang Lee, who decided Tuesday to write an open letter. Addressed to AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, Oscars producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, and the Academy’s Board of Governors, the letter expressed pretty thorough disappointment over the show’s “tasteless and offensive skits.” It read, in part:

The Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians. We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts.

The Academy responded today, saying, “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive…We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”

Read the full letter from Takei, Lee, and other members of Asian descent below.

Dear Cheryl, Dawn, Members of the Board of Governors, Reginald and David:

We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes.

In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.

We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts.

We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.

We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.

Sincerely,

Don Hall, Sound Branch, John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, Academy Governor, 18 years Freida Lee Mock, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner, Academy Governor, 6 years Arthur Dong, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee, Academy Governor, 4 years Ang Lee, Directors Branch, Two-time Academy Award winner Chris Tashima, Shorts and Feature Animation Branch, Academy Award winner Christine Choy, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee David Magdael, Public Relations Branch France Nuyen, Actors Branch George Takei, Actors Branch Janet Yang, Producers Branch Jessica Yu, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner Jodi Long, Actors Branch Laura Kim, Public Relations Branch Marcus Hu, Executives Branch Maysie Hoy, Film Editors Branch Nancy Kwan, Actors Branch Peter Kwong, Actors Branch Renee Tajima-Pena, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee Rithy Panh, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee Ruby Yang, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner Sandra Oh, Actors Branch Steven Okazaki, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner Teddy Zee, Executives Branch William Hoy, Film Editors Branch Yung Chang, Documentary Branch