Did the Academy throw Chris Rock under the bus about his ‘Asian jokes’?

At first, I felt sorry for Chris Rock, because his task as Oscar host this year was never going to please all the people all the time. But at the end of the day, Rock did not do a good job by any stretch of the imagination. He punched down when he should have punched up. His jokes about equal pay were a mess. He seemed to say that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was stupid because black folks were being lynched 60 years ago, and wasn’t that worse? One of the most offensive moments came when Rock brought out three Asian children and “joked” that they were the accountants. Of course, the most offensive “Asian joke” came from Sacha Baron Cohen, doing his Ali G bit. All in all, it was a bad night for the Asian community and a bad night for Hollywood.

So the Asian and Asian-American Hollywood community sent an open letter to the Academy, asking them to do better. You can read the letter here – it was signed by people like Ang Lee, Sandra Oh, George Takei and several Asian Oscar winners and documentary filmmakers. The Academy responded with a statement:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences apologized on Tuesday for the Asian jokes on the Feb. 28 Oscar telecast, after receiving a protest letter signed by 25 AMPAS members, including Ang Lee. An Academy spokesperson issued the statement, “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.”

The letter asked for “concrete steps” to ensure that future Oscarcasts will avoid the “tone-deaf approach” to Asians that was exhibited last month. The protest was delivered in advance of today’s board meeting, where the Oscar show and issues of diversity are undoubtedly on the agenda. The missive was sent to the board, AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, and ceremony producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill.

[From Variety]

While I feel like Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been particularly vigilant in speaking out about black representation in the film industry (both in front of and behind the camera), it does seem like the #OscarsSoWhite debacle and this year’s Oscar telecast inadvertently highlighted the Academy’s major issues with Asians and Asian-Americans. So is this apology merely a “whatever, bro,” or is it a promise to do better? Page Six says that the Academy’s apology was a way to throw Chris Rock under the bus, even though they were well aware of the Asian-children “joke.”

“This is massive hypocrisy on the part of the academy,” the source said of the apology. “It wasn’t a surprise — they knew about this joke because it was rehearsed by Rock with the child actors in front of over 100 people before the show, including the academy’s representatives and the actors’ guardians or agents. Nobody had a problem with it at rehearsal.”

(One of the kids’ parents, Laura Kung, said in a radio interview that they didn’t know the content of Rock’s “inappropriate” joke till the rehearsal, after they’d signed a contract.)

But the insider said, “They hired Rock because he pushes the boundaries, they knew what they were getting. There is so much turmoil at the academy.” Reps didn’t get back to us.

[From Page Six]

Yeah, I’d be willing to bet that this source is right. Oscar producers knew about the Asian jokes (minus Sacha Baron Cohen’s) days before the Oscar telecast and no one had a problem with the jokes. And that’s the bigger problem.

Photos courtesy of Getty.

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47 Responses to “Did the Academy throw Chris Rock under the bus about his ‘Asian jokes’?”

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  1. Jade says:

    If Chris Rock wrote the joke he is accountable for apologizing for it. Why has he said nothing about this?

    • Denisemich says:

      Why is anyone apologizing? This is such a stupid mess. The whole monologue was rehearsed and approved by a large group of people. If there were zero asians represented when the monologue was rehearsed … that is an academy issue.

      However, I disagree that Chris Rock did a poor job. Chris Rock did the job he was paid and asked to do. Comedians always have dissenters and people that don’t get the jokes. Fine.

      But Chris did a much better job than Neil Patrick Harris or Ricky Gervais at this years GG.

      • Jade says:

        Apologies shold be made when tone deaf stereotypes are used. Most of what he did was good but this particular joke was in poor taste.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Because regardless of how many times it was practiced it was an embarassing decade late spectacle that didn’t end up doing more than putting Asian children in the spotlight insultingly?

      • CornyBlue says:

        He should apologize for getting children involved in his stereotypical mess if he did write it .

      • denisemich says:

        I disagree. Chris Rock’s comedy has always been about making some people uncomfortable by making them face stereotypes they hold relevant.

        The joke is in your face about the stereotype that Asians are all good in math and science.

        We are just now changing this theme for Chinese, Korean and Japanese Americans.

        Watch one of his shows ..understand what he is about.. this is not his racism…this is about making the audience face theirs.

      • elle says:

        Did the parents of the Asian children not know what they were going to be doing?

      • nimmi says:

        Echoing what has been said above, if you have watched Chris Rock throughout his career then you know this is EXACTLY what his shows are about. Forcing people to confront racism by literally throwing stereotypes in their faces. If they hired him, then they knew exactly what they were getting. Place the blame where it lies.

        But all that has happened is what usually happens when people try to expose racism in an industry. We have an academy and film industry that is institutionally racist but rather than address this they have shoved the entire burden of responsibility onto the shoulders of one token black man who now must singlehandedly make sure all their wrongs are righted with one heartfelt speech.

        Just like the one black man in the old days who was wheeled out at half-time and expected to win the match, once again we see the responsibility shifted onto black people. It seems the magic negro trope may be mocked in cinema, but it’s sure as hell still alive on the internet.

  2. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    The thought process here is just amazing to me. “Apparently we have been discriminating against black people. Don’t do that anymore. Asians? Go for it. Oh, that’s wrong, too?” Who ARE these people?

  3. Who ARE these people? says:

    It’s appalling that in this day and age people of supposed sophistication and wide influence think that trading in stereotypes is still a funny crowd-pleaser.

  4. KB says:

    The Academy responded with a damn form letter initially. It was so dismissive, I still can’t believe it.

    And Chris’ jokes were mostly lowest common denominator. Asian kids were accountants and Carol was a “girl on girl” film. I kind of expected that after he dismissed Jennifer Lawrence’s essay because she’d make even less if she were an African American woman. He seems to have an issue with false equivalencies. OscarsSoWhite can’t matter because it used to be worse.

    • lexx says:

      But AA actresses do make less than white actress on average, how is that a false equivalencies.

      • KB says:

        By false equivalency I was referring to the fact that if you care about one, you can’t care about another. Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about the gender pay gap, but she makes more than African American actresses so what is she complaining about? It’s just another way to silence the disadvantaged. And that train of thought can go on forever. “African American actresses may not be paid the same amount as white actresses, but they get more opportunities in film than Indian women!” And on and on. It’s not a valid argument and it doesn’t make for good jokes, in my opinion.

  5. Esther says:

    Rock performed it and certainly had veto power, i doubt that pressured him into making racist jokes after the whole debacle before.
    you have to insanely dumb to do a racist joke like that on that night while you are calling out the Academy.

    its important to have this discussion because diversity basically only means black people and as we can see black people also have a long way to go to stop being racist to other PoC.

    • Celebwatch says:

      I wasn’t surprised honestly. Rock is over 50 and out of touch. And his gender stuff has always been very retrograde. He doesn’t ‘get’ multiculturalism, intersectionality, or much contemporary discourse aroutnd identity, frankly.

      • Elsie says:

        That is a perfect analysis on Rock, Celebwatch

      • Lizzie McGuire says:

        You can say the same thing about the 80% of the Academy voters, out of touch & over 50. It would’ve been great to see Aziz Ansari or Hannibal Buress but they’ll never happen.

    • Magnoliarose says:

      My problem with your statement is saying black people have a way to go. How about Chris Rock and the Academy have a way to go. Last I heard black people didn’t elect Rock as their official spokesperson for all things black.

  6. Mia4s says:

    It was desperately tone deaf. Oh, and not funny in the slightest. I’m not opposed to politically incorrect humour but there’s a time and a place and FFS make it funny!

    Also kind of sadly out of touch when you see how desperately the studios are trying to cater to China! And the Academy thought this was a good idea??!

    • Naya says:

      This. It wasnt even funny! There isnt a Chris Rock special I havent watched and he is usually hilarious. This was aggressively unfunny, NOT that doing this to those poor kids would be ever be ok in any way.

    • KB says:

      Agreed. The only time the jokes bother me is when they aren’t funny and most of Chris Rock’s weren’t.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Trying to cater to China WITH WHITE actors, don’t lose focus on that part.

      If China for a second asked Hollywood for more Asian leading men and women Hollywood would take their toys and go home in a huff. It’s easy to appeal to someone when they don’t ask you to change and throw money at your cliches and stereotypes.

      • Lille says:

        I just got back from a trip to China, and surrounding areas. In Macau, once casino had huge pictures of Brad Pitt every where, which seemed so cheesy.

  7. lucy2 says:

    It’s amazing to me that they did this “joke” at all, but especially in the midst of a huge diversity controversy. The Academy shouldn’t have to be reminded against racism.

  8. Chinoiserie says:

    Comedians that make some jokes are not big deal (even if this should have been avoided). The bigger issue is how Rock’s monolugues, jokes and the media controversy was just about black people and no other groups. There was no Asian (or hispanic) presenters either there were they? Dispite the fact that there seemed to be a large number of black ones even if you would have assumed they would boycot. And there was those black people in other films joke, just questioning black film audience and just black girl scouts too I think. So to have Asian jokes on top of this is just too insentive. You can’t make the entire show about one group that is not represented and then ingore and make jokes about other one.

  9. CornyBlue says:

    I read an article that the children’s parents were not even aware of what the joke would be and when they were they had already signed a contract and could not back out. Also not only was there an Asians are smart joke but there was a damn Child labour joke! How and why did this get approved ?
    Ang Lee remains flawless yes

  10. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    It was a mess. I believe the parents of the children more than the Academy since the whole show was a mess (apparently the Girl Scout troop that was featured didn’t even get their check either).

    Lack of diversity hurts us all. I think many thought Chris would be able to bring intelligence and humor to the issue realizing it’s not simply a black and white thing (and I honestly don’t expect black celebrities to be stand ins for every other race when it comes to discussing diversity in interviews. Celebrities of other ethnicities have to pull their weight too and stop quiet and well behaved) but he didn’t.

    It’s almost shocking how far left he went with it all. He punched down instead of up. Misrepresented the issue. Attacked Jada for doing more than he was capable of and made many cringe jokes. It was such a wasted opportunity that could only come from an event that basically put a ‘Whites Only’ sign on its doors in terms of nominations.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Yes. The more I think about it, the more dismayed I am at Chris Rock’s entire performance. He didn’t so much address the diversity issue as poke fun at it. Seemed to me he was very much playing to the white crowd. Even in the skits where Tracy Morgan played The Danish Girl and Leslie played the Revenant bear. As if to say, see how ridiculous it would be to have black people be in every thing? The Asian joke just proved to me that the Academy is more interested in tokenism than effecting real change.

      But we’ll see.

  11. Div says:

    I feel like the diversity issue was turned into a poorly handled binary black and white argument…while leaving out Latinos, Asians, LGBQT, etc.

  12. lexx says:

    1. The Asian Joke was foul and he shouldn’t have made it, and he should apologize. End of Disscussion.
    2.With that being said, I can see how he saw the Peter Liang protests that were going on and continue to go on, and thought well, F _ ck you. Still it doesn’t matter the joke wasn’t cool.
    3. For everyone who is like he should have spoke for everyone and not just black people #Notyourmule
    4. IMO it’s really rich that two groups with extreme anti black sentiments in their respective communities expect black people to stick their neck out on behalf of them while they sit back keep quiet and reap the provisional privileges thier proximity to whiteness allows
    5. The issues between Black Americans and Asian Americans is complicated and fraught with tension and needs to be discussed with nuance, something that is not going to happen on an internet comment board, so really we all should keep quiet until we sort out our issues.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      “The issues between Black Americans and Asian Americans is complicated and fraught with tension and needs to be discussed with nuance”

      Truth. I think the simplest answer comes down to: We don’t have to like anyone. We have and continue to have Latino individuals deny they are black publicly because they feel it makes them feel inferior to associate with that aspect of themselves (Zoe Saldana did that in her early career). But we ALL deserve respect and job opportunity. Put all the likes aside and we all deserve to go to the job interview (so to speak) and be hired for our talents and skill. That is what Hollywood is lacking and there is so much tone politics and fear of rocking the boat from those who made it that they want others to be their spokesperson.

      I do think Chris was wrong because he completely misrepresented the issue but I don’t think he has to speak for everyone all the time. For the sake of this special however he should have done more to discuss how ridiculous the standards of Hollywood are (no leading Asian men anywhere but on TV? Come on.)

      • lexx says:

        Truth. And I hear what you are saying about rocking the boat, but black people cannot keep taking the brunt of the political and social backlash. While other groups stay silent. And in some cases perpetuate anti blackness. We just can’t.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Agreed lexx, and my rocking the boat comment was more for celebrities of other ethnicities that basically bow down and refuse to comment whenever the issue of diversity comes up. You have these individuals who DO have a platform and refuse to speak up because I gues they’re afraid Hollywood will revoke their admission ticket. It doesn’t help anyone, including themselves.

  13. Talie says:

    With some time gone by — yes, it’s clear that he flopped. He failed to acknowledge diversity across the board.

  14. ellie24 says:

    im not a fan of chris rock but i wish you guys would stop using that pic of him for every article. it feels really shady and it’s not something ive seen you do with other (white) celebrities

  15. MsAurba says:

    he looks like Tracy Morgan and the Grinch in that photo

  16. Coconut says:

    I nominate Aziz Ansari for Oscar host next year. He understands all these intersectionalitities and microaggressions.

  17. word says:

    The parents of one of the children was interviewed and said the producers wouldn’t tell them what the joke was beforehand. They had no clue until right up until the day of the Oscars or day before. At that point the child was so excited, they didn’t want to pull out of the show. Either way, you can’t cry racism and then be racist yourself. Rock disappointed for sure.

  18. vauvert says:

    The lack of sensitivity was terrible, and to say those things after the whole #OscarsSoWhite debacle shows that people are really, really deaf. I think both the Academy and Chris are at fault. One wrote the jokes, the other approved it, rehearsals were held, this was not a surprise to anyone involved. Hugely bad call.

    Now, I don’t expect Chris Rock to stand up for every minority or disadvantaged group. I just expect him, and every other performer and every human being in every walk of life, to behave with common decency – that means NO to racial jokes. No to “dumb blond”, “gay friend” or any other of the myriad insulting stereotypes jokes out there. We are better than that – or we should strive to be. Not standing up for a minority group is one thing – and I agree that no one person should carry the burden for all groups. BUT just because you are part of a minority and being discriminated against doesn’t mean you should be tone deaf and turn around mocking other minorities.

  19. Magnoliarose says:

    I am not sure anyone could have really done a good job this year because the issue is so deep and Hollywood has actively ignored what is so obvious to so many people. I think the movement on a whole had much more impact because it was everywhere and impossible to avoid. Maybe 3 women of color would have been better but it was black actors who spoke up the loudest and brought the most focus to this issue. Chris Rock’s humor is centered around black people in a white dominated society therefore I don’t think more could be expected from someone like him which further demonstrates the problem. It’s like they decided they could only deal with one minority at a time which is ridiculous. Intersectionality would be hard from them to grasp when they haven’t dealt with the primary issue.
    Chris was ok but the Asian thing was wrong on so many levels and to be honest I never gave a thought about Sacha because he’s been doing AliG for so long and I hadn’t heard anyone protesting him. Maybe it’s because I don’t pay a lot of attention to him.
    Now I’m waiting for results and other minorities to join in more calling for fairness. I’m white and Hollywod is not reflecting my own diverse world and I find its boring and shameful.

    I was also tired of Award Shows, the fashion, Leo and the nominees.