Representation matters. For those of us who aren’t able-bodied White men, it always has and it always will.
#BlackGirlsRock, BlackGirlMagic, #BlackLivesMatter: All of these hashtags were created to remind the world of the importance of Black people to this world, of how much we have contributed to it, and how much we continue to do so. #OscarsSoWhite was created to point out the lack of diversity and representation in the entertainment industry, primarily film, and how more needs to be done in order to change this, both in front of and behind the cameras. The last few decades have not always been easy or pleasant when it comes to Asian-Americans being represented in the media, and in a way that doesn’t make them cringe or want to flip every table within reach.
Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Gedde Watanabe in Sixteen Candles. 21 being based on a true story about Asian-American students at MIT using their knowledge to outwit casinos, and yet it was Whitewashed so that the lead actors could look more like Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth and less like … well, Aaron Yoo and Liza Lapira (who were both in the film, but relegated to minor supporting roles). And these past few months have only made things even more difficult and frustrating for those in the Asian-American community wanting worthwhile representation in the media.
Doctor Strange: When it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing the role of the Sorcerer Supreme instead of Oded Fehr or another non-White actor (especially considering that many people thought that Dr. Strange wasn’t actually White, judging from how he’s drawn in most comics), the film was seen as yet another two-hour-long version of the ‘Mighty Whitey’ trope. As if that wasn’t enough, Tilda Swinton was hired to play Doctor Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One, a character who was originally Asian. Despite many suggestions and recommendations for The Ancient One to be played by a non-White woman, these suggestions and recommendations were all ignored. Not too long after the film’s release, even its own director, Scott Derrickson, acknowledged that he could’ve and should’ve done a better job of listening to what people were saying regarding this character.
The Great Wall: Despite Matt Damon’s…less-than-impressive thoughts when it comes to speaking about diversity, news that he would be playing the lead in a sci-fi/fantasy film set in 1900s China caused many people to respond like so:
Both Damon and the film’s director were insistent that this wasn’t a case of Asians being ignored in favor of Whites as main characters in their own stories, but it didn’t stop the backlash from building against the film as the release date neared. And judging from the tepid critical response and its poor box-office performance, the backlash against The Great Wall had quite the effect.
Iron Fist: When it was announced that this was being adapted by Marvel and Netflix to premiere after Luke Cage, many people expressed their hopes that Danny Rand/Iron Fist would be played by an Asian-American actor, if only to make up for the racism that was involved in the creation of Iron Fist as a character, and to avoid the series being yet another ‘Mighty Whitey’ trope in action. And once again, those hopes were dashed and ignored, and Finn Jones was cast to play the lead in Iron Fist.
The rest is history.
Ghost In The Shell: Based on a popular manga which was later adapted into a groundbreaking anime, and was then adapted by Paramount Pictures, who decided to hire Scarlett Johansson to play The Major. Many people called bullshit on this casting decision and Scarlett responded that her decision to make the film had nothing to do with race, and was more about feminism.
And once again, the rest is history.
Which finally brings us to Chris Hardwick and his Comedy Central series, @Midnight.
Last week, the day before Ghost In The Shell was released in theaters, @Midnight did what it usually does on its Twitter account, and created a hashtag for its fans to make jokes and contributions with, many of which would be seen and read aloud on the show later that evening when it aired. The hashtag for that evening’s episode?
You can take a wild guess as to how well this hashtag and all of its contributing tweets turned out.
'Nuked'— Get SUPER Triggered (@super_triggered) March 30, 2017
And then the sequel, 'Nuked Again'#JapanAMovie
#JapanAMovie Rirry Ronka And The Chocrate Factory— The One Hand (@Diffingers) March 30, 2017
Naturally, there were people who pointed out how much of an ongoing catastrofuck the #JapanAMovie hashtag was turning out to be.
@midnight Based on the hashtag, "favorite things" about Japan seem to be calling them perverts, making jokes about WWII, and mocking their genitals.👎🏻— Ted Geoghegan (@tedgeoghegan) March 30, 2017
@midnight wtf is wrong with you? How is this remotely ok what you're doing?— a stranger (@strangenothings) March 30, 2017
Wypipo spent the last few months getting dragged for Great Wall, Iron Fist, and GITS. Their response? #JapanAMovie. Stay fragile, snowflakes— Zach (@LyricalVanity) March 30, 2017
And one of those people was Shaun Lau (@NoTotally), an Asian-American writer and host of the film/social-issues podcast No, Totally:
Thanks to everyone at @midnight, including all y'all fellow regular people who played, I feel less human today.— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 30, 2017
Those giggles were probably worth it, though, right? Because if we speak out, you can just say we're overreacting and ignore us.— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 30, 2017
Cool, to all of this. Cool. All good. Cool. Cooooool.— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 30, 2017
"Oh they're just talking about the country, they know Japanese Americans are different"— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 30, 2017
Buuuut jokes about internment camps
If you don't see the connection between this and a literal film about a Japanese woman being "upgraded" to ScarJo, wyd?— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 30, 2017
Or a film in which an Asian master is replaced with a white woman because she was "the best for the role"— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 31, 2017
Or the fear that we have when Bannon begs for a war against China while many Americans refuse to see us as American— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 31, 2017
They don't reinforce the idea that you're not human, so I guess I get your point of view.— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 31, 2017
Because whatever's in your enormous, bleeding liberal heart, you're doing the work of fascists— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 31, 2017
How much do they pay you, @hardwick, to react to a show that essentially and graphically reenacted the murder of Vincent Chin?— Studio Glibly (@NoTotally) March 31, 2017
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with Vincent Chin and would like to know more, click here)
And when Shaun called out people who were using the hashtag for their racism and their ‘jokes,’ they responded to him exactly the way you would expect:
Situations like this are enough to make one want to believe in the power of prayer, and all that it provides:
There are more talk shows hosted by Chris Hardwick than by women.— Matt Nedostup (@nedostup) March 30, 2017
For the record, I'm a fan of Chris Hardwick. But it's still true.— Matt Nedostup (@nedostup) March 31, 2017
As word continued to spread regarding #JapanAMovie and Shaun’s anger at the hashtag, one of his followers/friends @ShanelleLittle decided to return the favor and start her own @Midnight-style hashtag in response: #ChrisHardwickAShow.
I'm just giving Chris Hardwick what he wants! Games are fun.— Shanelle Little (@ShanelleLittle) March 31, 2017
Who wants to be a Grand Dragon? #ChrisHardwickAShow— Shanelle Little (@ShanelleLittle) March 31, 2017
Minute to Bigot#ChrisHardwickAShow— Shanelle Little (@ShanelleLittle) March 31, 2017
Wheel of Racists #ChrisHardwickAShow— Shanelle Little (@ShanelleLittle) March 31, 2017
I have Asian Friends Too - The Prequel to Lame Ass Apology (coming soon sponsored by Comedy Central) #ChrisHardwickAShow— [email protected] (@fullofbass) March 31, 2017
Attack of the Mansplainer #ChrisHardwickAShow— Shanelle Little (@ShanelleLittle) March 31, 2017
Law & Order: We’re the Real Victims Unit #ChrisHardwickAShow— Sarah Sekaran (@oh_hey_sarah) March 31, 2017
That 1870s Show #ChrisHardwickAShow— dakotawitch (@dakotawitch) March 31, 2017
How to get away with racism #ChrisHardwickAShow— M. Dameion ✊🏾 (@M_Dameion) March 31, 2017
The Price is White #ChrisHardwickAShow— 🌼nope™ (@rainebowboi) March 31, 2017
You don't have to be an asshole to be funny. It takes work and thinking before you speak but it's possible. #ChrisHardwickAShow— [email protected] (@fullofbass) March 31, 2017
This is not the first time that Asian-Americans both in and out of the public eye have spoken up about how piss-poor their representation in the media has been, and how piss-poor much of it continues to be. And if you’re that determined to make jokes that demean an entire culture, if you’re that determined to continue making those jokes even when people tell you that they’re offensive and give you an entire list of reasons why they are, if you’re that determined to continue treating Asians like they’re an acceptable target for your pathetic excuse of a sense of humor, if you can read about the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japanese internment camps and your strongest reactions are a Kanye-shrug followed by variations of “They’re just jokes”/”This all happened a long time ago”/”Why don’t you just get over it?,” you know…things that you rarely ever say when it comes to Jesus, 9/11, the troops, your stupid fucking #BlueLivesMatter hashtag, and White people who originally emigrated to America from their home countries (and who did so of their own volition, mind you)…if you’re that determined to continue being a planet-sized asshole, then by all means, please…
And yes, Chris Hardwick and the folks over at @Midnight, that definitely applies to you too.