Preach it, Queen Constance.
Last week, I decided to start the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I mostly enjoyed the first season (save for the ridiculous immigrant Asian stereotypes – I’m so, so sorry Ki Hong Lee – and Jane Krakowski’s obnoxious and pretty infuriating redface, though that’s a story for another time because, dang), so I wanted to give season two a chance. Jacqueline’s story is still so wrong and annoying to me, so it was hard trudging through most of the first few episodes, but I was glad to see Dong lose a little bit of his ridiculous (and very clearly non-Vietnamese) accent from season one.
However, when I got to the third episode, Kimmy Goes to a Play!, I cringed more times that I did watching Age of Ultron. Why? Take a look at this:
In this episode, Titus Andromedon (who has been, for the most part, one of my favorite characters) has a newfound cashflow after he is no longer considered legally dead (don’t ask), and is thinking about what to do with his money. Kimmy suggests that he put on a one man show! After mulling it over, Titus decides to write about his past life as a Geisha.
After promoting the show around New York, Titus decides to look up kimonos for his show on a computer at a public library. Instead of kimonos, he finds posts about his show. He is elated that people have been talking about his show, only to find that they’re not the most kind of comments from…
…which made my heart drop down to my stomach, because I knew what was coming after that. Titus heads home to complain to Kimmy about the haters on the internet who call him “The Second Hitler”. Kimmy says, “How can they criticize something they haven’t even seen?” To which Titus replies:
This is so meta, considering the backlash over the character of Jacqueline last season. Yeah, it’s supposed to be “comedy”, but truth does exist in comedy – the creators don’t care about what you think. This comes after weeks of hearing about whitewashing in Doctor Strange and the release of the first image of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi (no, wait “Major” #lol) from Ghost in the Shell. The season was written and produced well before these pieces of news broke out, but #OOF. All of this in a month? Really?
Anyway, Titus’ show premieres, and Kimmy accidentally invites all of his internet haters to watch, and, um, yeah, just look at this:
Titus tries to explain that he really was Murasaki in a past life. I mean, if that argument were considered valid, people who do blackface, redface, and the like, can use that to justify their racist portrayals.
The activists sit down and boo the show for a little bit, the “activists” start to feel for “Murasaki/Titus” after he sings a Japanese lullaby, and suddenly lose all hatred for him because the head of the activists hadn’t “heard that song since he was a kid”.
See Constance Wu’s tweet above – she basically summed up how I felt after that. Just because Titus sings a sad Japanese lullaby and ~touched their hearts~, he gets off scotch free?
It frustrates me that that Tina Fey, a woman I very much looked up to growing up, and the other writers on the show are saying that my voice doesn’t matter. They’re implying that we as Asian-Pacific Islanders should relax and shut up when Asian mockery is, as Constance Wu said, “sweet & well-intentioned”.
I’m not criticizing the show for the sake of criticizing it, Tina, I’m criticizing it because yellowface and whitewashing are two deeply rooted issues in Hollywood that need to be addressed and fixed. This isn’t some “PC shit”, it’s basic human decency. Asians have always been considered the “other” despite the fact that we make up a huge amount of the U.S. population. We’re always the butt of jokes and it’s always considered okay when it obviously isn’t. We are a part of this country, too. We have voices that have been silenced, and bodies that have been erased for far too long. Don’t tell us how to feel.
Let’s hope for louder voices, representation behind and in front of the screen, compassion, and ultimately, a better understanding of our society today.
EDIT: Wow. Looks like Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment spells out “RAPE”. Disgusting.