Oscar Night: Asian American onstage presence, reactions to racist joke 

‘Inside Out’ Filipino director takes home prize

Amid the glitz and glamor of the much-awaited Academy Awards, the 88th annual awards show was criticized after the show’s host, comedian Chris Rock, made race the butt of his jokes.

“I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” Rock said to an audience during his opening monologue. “Hey, if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have black categories.”

“Hollywood is sorority racist,” he continued.

Another tense moment occurred when Rock brought out three young Asian Americans for a joke that perpetuates racial stereotypes. “The results of tonight’s Academy Awards have been tabulated by the accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers. They sent us their most dedicated, accurate, and hard-working representatives,” Rock said, before three Asian American kids wearing professional attire came out onstage, named “Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz.”

“If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone, which was also made by these three kids,” Rock continued, as the audience laughed at the Asian kids–dressed as accountants/bankers–standing onstage.

The award joke upset many people and minority groups alike, many of whom took to social media to express their views.

“Seriously though, when is this going to change?!? Tired of it being ‘cool’ and ‘ok’ to bash Asians [shaking my head] #Oscars,” tweeted basketball star Jeremy Lin.

“Umm, no @chrisrock. Using little Asian kids to joke about math stereotypes and child labor isn’t funny,” said Grace Hwang Lynch (@HapaMamaGrace).

“Did that appalling joke about Asian kids actually happen?” asked Justin Chang (@JustinCChang).

Even politicians got involved. CA Rep. Judy Chu of District 27, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, released the statement: ““It is not right to protest the exclusion of one group by making jokes at the expense of another. I am so disappointed that the Academy and ABC would rely on such offensive characterizations, especially given the controversy over the lack of diversity.”

“While much attention was paid to the way African Americans have been ignored by Hollywood, true diversity must include other minorities as well. It is outrageous that the only role that Asian Americans had at last night’s Oscars was to appear as the butt of a joke. Young children stood up on stage as the audience was made to laugh at Asian and Jewish names,” Chu continued. “Reinforcing stereotypes of Asians as good at math or child laborers runs counter to multicultural understanding and inclusion. It’s time for Hollywood to see Asians as more than just punchlines.”

The historic lack of Asian and Asian American representation and recognition at the Oscars was also called out by viewers. According to The Economist and NBC News, Asians make up less than 5 percent of the “Hollywood breakdown” of actors, writers, and directors nominated for an award.

“How unnecessary to make fun of Asians on the Oscars, when Hollywood isn’t even evolved enough to give Asians Asian-specific roles yet,” tweeted Jen Chae (@fromheadtotoe).

Several familiar Asian Americans appeared onstage to present, including South Korean actor Lee Byung-hun, Priyanka Chopra, and Dev Patel. Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an award for her short subject documentary, “A Girl in the River.”

Disney/Pixar’s ‘Inside Out,’ a colorful story about emotions and the wide complexities of the human brain, took home the prize for Best Animated Feature. It was the eighth Pixar film to win in the category, according to USA Today.

“Regardless of whether we get a gold man or not, we get to make stuff,” said the film’s director, Pete Docter. “This film was really born from watching our kids grow up, which is not easy. Anyone out there who is in junior high, high school, working it out, suffering, there are days you’re going to feel sad. You’re going to feel angry, you’re going to be scared. That’s nothing you can choose, but you can make stuff.”

The movie’s co-director, Ronnie del Carmen (from Cavite City and alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas), is the first Filipino to codirect a film at Pixar, as well as the first Filipino to earn an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.

“Ronnie should be up here, too,” said producer Jonas Rivera in the backstage press room at the Oscars. “Ronnie is an essential part of the movie. He contributed so much to the emotion, the heart of the movie, and we are incredibly lucky to work with him.”

“I am so grateful to be a part of this movie, working with Pete Docter and being part of Pixar! This movie would not be made if our champion, John Lasseter, did not push for it and support it all the way,” Del Carmen told Inquirer. “As an immigrant from the Philippines, I kept my goals modest and stayed realistic. Because of where I come from, we worked so hard for so little back then. So this means so much to our family for our story.”

At Sunday night’s show, Del Carmen and his wife Theresa wore Philippine-made creations by Hollywood red carpet designer, Oliver Tolentino.

“This is for my parents who worked so hard to save us; my country where so many are like me wishing for what seems impossible,” he continued. “For my people in the Philippines, I can tell you—dreams keep you going. Awards or no awards, let this be a point of reference that anyone can dream the impossible. Do the work, be as good as you can be, fail and learn as you go and you’ll get to a grand place where you’ve become the dream.”

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