If you haven’t been following the web blog, You Offend Me You Offend My Family crew (
www.youoffendmeyouoffendmyfamily.com ), then there’s a small storm of controversy brewing over an article written by Sung Kang over CBS’ travesty of a show, “Two Broke Girls.”
We can scream online all day WITH ALL CAPS regarding the racial caricatures of the show, but ultimately at the end of the day it’s down to one question: Do I take the role or turn it down and keep my dignity?
Now many people would say that actors don’t have any dignity to start with, which I’d agree with. However, the larger picture here is, of course, with the marginalized media images of Asians. Do actors have a responsibility for their portrayals and should they be held accountable?
What promoted me to write this guest blog is that recently a friend has sent me a role for a YouTube project he’s helping out on. However, as soon as the script came around I felt my blood pressure going up (and that’s not caused by the sodium and MSG in takeouts).
The premise basically revolves around a speed dating scenario and the character is simply “a crazy Asian man.” I hope this is considered “fair use” to post this portion of the script:
A crazy Asian man is sitting in front of [redacted]. [redacted] is bored, but suddently his big gold watch catches her attention. She gets excited!
[redacted] So, Cong, Chong, Chung..
ASIAN MAN: Chang! me, Chang!
[redacted] Right! So Chank what do you do for a living?
ASIAN MAN: Me business man!
[redacted] Nice! And nice watch!
ASIAN MAN: Oh, watch, thank you, thank you!
[redacted] You have good taste!
ASIAN MAN: Want one?
[redacted] smiles big all excited. He opens his jacket, inside the jacket we see a lot of watches and other fake gold stuff hanging.
ASIAN MAN: Five dollas!
[redacted] take a deep breath and she drinks a whole drink at once.
There are several other — what I thought of as offensive — characters, from a Nigerian scammer to “an illegal short Mexican” looking for a green card.
And the biggest shocker about this project? The writer/director is an Asian guy.
I declined because I was simply aghast such images can be considered over the top funny for anyone’s tastes. Granted, I did enjoy Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” and those gross out comedies don’t faze me one bit – so I’m not prudish about different styles of humor. However, for me at the end of the day, can I look at myself in the mirror and respect my own decisions for not perpetuating what I believe to be offensive racial caricatures?
I’m glad that I declined the project and hope that my friend still considers me a friend if he ever reads this. But what about other actors who might be trying to get involved with anything to get ahead? Who am I to judge what people find offensive or funny? At the end of the day, is there a standard by which we should hold actors accountable for offensive portrayals?
I don’t buy the rationalization of “if I don’t take this gig then somebody else will, so it might as well be me and maybe I can convince the director to change the character around.” If anybody really believes that, then I only have to point out Bobby Lee’s career nowadays in response to that.
This article first appeared on the blog, www.8Asians.com and is re-printed with permission.