Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee

On March 9, Ang Lee and 24 other members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) of Asian descent sent a letter to the organization protesting the disparaging skits on Asians at this year’s Oscars ceremony.

►Related News: “Asian Joke” In The Oscars Raising Discussion Among Taiwanese Netizens

Lee, a three-time Oscar winning Taiwanese director, is joined by other signees, including actors Sandra Oh, George Takei, Freida Lee Mock and Jessica Yu, voicing their disappointment over the Academy’s decisions.

They slam AMPAS for the two derogatory jokes that featured three children of Asian heritage who were portrayed as the accountants of the Oscars and implied discriminative messages about East Asians. The skits were seen by many as a blunt demonstration of the long-lasting stereotype of East Asians.

In the letter, the protesters write, “We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes.”

They also express how their expectations for the Oscars’ efforts to include minorities were failed by the ceremony. “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,” reads the letter.

In response to the letter, AMPAS issued an official apology on March 15.

The statement 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.”

Taiwanese netizens debate over the incident

The series of the incidents has drawn attention from East Asian communities, not only because the jokes were directed towards them, but also because East Asians account for a big portion of Hollywood’s consumers.

The letter mention that AMPAS has to hold more responsibility of promoting diversity and inclusion of the minorities as 60% of the world population are Asians, according to the International Energy Agency. Yet, it is estimated that Asians currently only represent less than 1% of the Academy.

Responding to the incidents, Taiwanese netizens have expressed strong opinions over the discrimination and the decisions the Oscars has made.

A netizen says, “I don’t think that Ang Lee and Jeremy Lin are overreacting. They are striving to protect the bottom line of our race’s dignity. If they don’t protest this time, discrimination against East Asians will just build up. That’s it. Making people feel uncomfortable is discrimination. If we compromise, the label on us would be harder to rip off.”

Another netizen writes, “Only an apology issued by AMPAS? Isn’t Chris Rock responsible for this? Is the Oscars getting away with this by just issuing a statement?”

But there are netizens that have expressed different opinions on the subject. “The Oscars isn’t wrong! We do have a lot of child labor and overworking issues here in Asia. If we don’t want others to jeer at these problems, we should change. But is it possible? It’s very difficult to make a change even in Taiwan!”

Another netizen also says, “Even though these jokes are very inappropriate, aren’t they telling the truth? It’s true that a lot of child labor is being exploited by employers.”

Edited by Olivia Yang

“Ang Lee, Sandra Oh, George Takei Protest Asian Jokes at Oscars” (Rolling Stone)
“Ang Lee, George Takei Among 25 Academy Members Protesting Oscars’ Asian Jokes” (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Ang Lee slams Oscars over Chris Rock’s ‘racist’ joke about east Asians” (The Guardian)
“Academy Apologizes for Asian Jokes on Oscars, Vows to Be More Sensitive” (Variety)