The letter to AMPAS, signed by Ang Lee and George Takei, expressed 'disappointment' with 'perpetuation of racist stereotypes'

By Devan Coggan
March 15, 2016 at 08:24 PM EDT
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
02/28/16
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  • Movie

UPDATE: The Academy has a released a statement in response to a letter calling out the show’s “tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.”

“The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive,” an Academy spokesperson said. “We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”

The letter, signed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee and Star Trek actor George Takei among others, was sent in protest of the Oscars’ “tasteless and offensive skits.”

EARLIER: More than two dozen members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences signed a letter asking the Academy to address the “tone-deaf” portrayal of Asians at this year’s Oscar ceremony.

Two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee was among the 25 AMPAS members of Asian descent who sent the letter to the Academy, protesting the ceremony’s “tasteless and offensive skits” and calling for “concrete steps to ensure that people are portrayed with dignity and respect.” 

“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,” the letter reads. “Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians. 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.”

The letter was addressed to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, Oscars producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill, and the Academy’s Board of Governors, and it was delivered just before the Academy’s Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, the first such gathering since the ceremony. Three former members of the Academy’s Board of Governors signed the letter: sound branch member Don Hall, documentary branch member Freida Lee Mock, and documentary branch member Arthur Dong.

“We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world, of whom 60 percent are Asians and potential moviegoers,” the letter concluded.

The Chris Rock-hosted ceremony came under fire for its multiple jokes about Asians, including one by Rock that portrayed three young Asian children as the accountants who count Oscar ballots. In another bit, Sacha Baron Cohen made a joke about Minions that got laughs because of crude Asian-American stereotypes.

See the full text of the letter below.

Dear Cheryl, Dawn, Members of the Board of Governors, Reginald and David:

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.

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.

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.

We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.

We are proud that the Oscars reach several hundred million people around the world of whom 60% are Asians and potential moviegoers.

Sincerely,

Don Hall, Sound Branch, John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, Academy Governor, 18 years

Freida Lee Mock, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner, Academy Governor, 6 years

Arthur Dong, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee, Academy Governor, 4 years

Ang Lee, Directors Branch, Two-time Academy Award winner

Chris Tashima, Shorts and Feature Animation Branch, Academy Award winner

Christine Choy, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee


David Magdael, Public Relations Branch


France Nuyen, Actors Branch

George Takei, Actors Branch


Janet Yang, Producers Branch


Jessica Yu, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner

Jodi Long, Actors Branch


Laura Kim, Public Relations Branch


Marcus Hu, Executives Branch


Maysie Hoy, Film Editors Branch


Nancy Kwan, Actors Branch


Peter Kwong, Actors Branch


Renee Tajima-Pena, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee

Rithy Panh, Documentary Branch, Academy Award nominee


Ruby Yang, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner


Sandra Oh, Actors Branch


Steven Okazaki, Documentary Branch, Academy Award winner

Teddy Zee, Executives Branch


William Hoy, Film Editors Branch


Yung Chang, Documentary Branch

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