UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued an apology for the two derogatory skits about Asians that aired during the Oscars. Per Variety, it reads: “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.”
Director Ang Lee, actress Sandra Oh and Star Trek star George Takei are among 25 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Asian descent who have signed a letter protesting two derogatory skits about Asians that aired during the Oscars, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Host Chris Rock and presenter Sacha Baron Cohen — the latter appearing as his character Ali G — were behind the two objectionable jokes. In Rock’s, the comedian played up the Asians-are-good-at-math stereotype by “introducing” two boys and a girl of Asian heritage as the accountants responsible for tallying Oscar votes.
Meanwhile Cohen — who was not supposed to appear in character — referenced the backlash over the lack of diversity at the Oscars by quipping, “How come there’s no Oscar for them very hard-working, little yellow people with tiny dongs? You know, the Minions.”
In their letter, the protesting Academy members wrote, “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.”
Calling the two skits “tasteless and offensive,” the members requested an explanation as to why the bits were allowed to air, and what steps the Academy was taking to ensure that such “unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group” did not make it into future telecasts.
Among the 25 signees were six Oscar winners including Lee — Best Director for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain — documentarians Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision), Jessica Yu (the short Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien), Ruby Yang (the short The Warriors of Qiugang) and Steven Okazaki (the short Days of Waiting) and actor/director Chris Tashima (the short Visas and Virtue).