By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
With February coming to a close, we’ve finally reached the holiest of award shows: the Oscars. Read on to see what the Academy Awards meant to Asians and other news in Hollywood this past month.
Asians: the butt of the joke
Even if you didn’t catch the Academy Awards, there’s a strong chance you’ve heard about the racist jokes that went down at this year’s Oscars.
For the annual broadcast, which aired on Feb. 28, Black comedian Chris Rock served as host. Rock had the difficult job of not only hosting, but also addressing the ongoing controversy of how people of color were not represented in any of the major award categories this year. Famous Black celebrities had boycotted the Oscars in response.
Rock talked a lot about diversity (or the lack of it) in Hollywood, but ironically, with little mention of Asians or Latinos. There was, however, one exception during the evening — when Rock brought three Asian children onto the stage that were posing as “bankers” from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the auditing firm that certifies all Oscar votes.
“They sent us their most dedicated, accurate, and hard working representatives,” said Rock. “Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz.” He followed this bit with, “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”
And rage-tweet people did. People were upset that one of the only mentions of Asians in the entire show came in the form of an overplayed stereotype on being a model minority and a casual remark about child labor.
To add insult to injury, these ‘jokes’ came immediately after two South Asians, in succession, won Oscars in the documentary categories. Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won the award for best documentary (short subject) for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” while Asif Kapadia, co-director of “Amy,” won the best documentary (feature) category. Additionally, actors Priyanka Chopra, Lee Byung-hun, and Dev Patel were presenters during the evening.
One could argue that Rock was being “equal opportunity” with his ribbing — he did roast fellow Black celebrities as well. But with so much of Rock’s race conversation skewed toward the Black experience, the lack of representation from Asians and Latinos in Hollywood went largely overlooked and this joke made Asians seem like a cheap prop.
What purpose did the joke even serve in the greater dialogue of diversity? The whole bit seriously felt like several steps in the wrong direction.
Kelly Marie Tran cast in next “Star Wars” film
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was one of 2015’s biggest smash hits and has become one of the highest grossing films in history. Even though “The Force Awakens” is still in theaters, the production team is already hard at work on the franchise’s next installment. Several new key cast additions were recently announced, including that of newcomer Kelly Marie Tran.
This is a huge deal. It’ll be amazing to see an Asian American face on the silver screen in one of the most profitable and popular franchises ever. Little is known about Tran at the moment except that she is active in the improv comedy scene in Southern California. Her current credits include appearances in numerous CollegeHumor digital shorts as well as small roles on television shows including “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
The franchise’s next film, “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” is scheduled for release December 2017. No word yet on who or what Tran will play. So, stay tuned!
Television castings for next season
Actor and comedian Elizabeth Ho has been cast as one of the leads in an untitled NBC comedy pilot from the executive producers of “30 Rock” and “Parks & Recreation.” Ho is best known for appearances on the shows “Melissa & Joey” and “Rake.”
Loosely based on “30 Rock” producer Matt Hubbard’s life, this untitled NBC project revolves around Andrew and Josie — a happily married interracial couple whose lives take a turn when they move closer to Josie’s family in Missouri. Ho will play a “hard-changing woman who has never failed at anything” opposite actor Chris Smith, who will play Andrew, a white and “likeable nerd lawyer,” according to an online article from Deadline.
Since Josie’s family sounds like they will play a significant role in the show, this sounds like a great opportunity for Asian American series regulars or guest starring roles in the coming future.
Meanwhile, actor, writer, and comedian Ali Wong has been cast as a series regular in the ABC comedy pilot “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport.” Wong will play Doris, a responsible and hands-on mother who doesn’t fit in with the other moms on the show.
Wong is currently a staff writer on “Fresh Off the Boat.” She also has a one-hour stand-up comedy special coming out soon on Netflix.
If you weren’t previously familiar with Wong, get acquainted with the name now — it sounds like she’s about to take Hollywood by storm. (end)
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.