Asian film-makers Lee Ang, George Takei criticise 'tone-deaf' Oscar jokes, organisers apologise

Members of the Asian community were upset after the show at a skit in which host Chris Rock introduced three Asian children as Academy accountants.
Members of the Asian community were upset after the show at a skit in which host Chris Rock introduced three Asian children as Academy accountants.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Oscar organisers on Tuesday (March 15) apologised for what a group of actors and film-makers of Asian descent called the "tone-deaf" portrayal of Asians during this year's Academy Awards ceremony.

In a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, two-time Oscar-winning director Lee Ang, Star Trek actor George Takei and more than 20 other people criticised the "tasteless and offensive skits" regarding Asians and asked to ensure that people of all races are portrayed with dignity.

"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," said the letter.

The Academy, which has pledged to double its numbers of women and minority members by 2020, apologised on Tuesday, saying that it "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," it added in a statement.

February's Oscar ceremony was hosted by black comedian Chris Rock, who lambasted Hollywood for its lack of diversity and in particular the lack of African-Americans among the 20 acting nominees for a second straight year.

The letter writers gave no details of their objections. But members of the Asian community were upset after the show at a skit in which Rock introduced three Asian children as Academy accountants.

In another part of the ceremony, British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, appearing as a presenter, made an apparently off the cuff remark about the size of Asian genitalia.

"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," said the letter.

The letter was also signed by former Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh, The Joy Luck Club actress France Nuyen, as well as documentary makers and producers, all of whom are already Academy members.