Oscars host Chris Rock came under fire from at least one prominent actress and some commentators and social media users for a joke involving Asian children during Sunday night’s telecast.
During a segment, Rock said that accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers had helped the Academy count up all the Oscar votes.
“They sent us their most dedicated, accurate and hard-working representatives,” Rock told the Oscars audience. “Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz.”
Rock then brought out three young Asian children dressed in suits and carrying briefcases.
“If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” Rock quipped.
Of course, not everyone was laughing at the joke.
“The joke here is garbled at best and doubly offensive at worst,” Slate managing editor Lowen Liu wrote in an op-ed about the moment. Liu added:
It fails as a satire of Asian jokes, because while it flatters Rock to be one step ahead of the audience, it relies on equally base premises: Asian kids are either accountants or child laborers. But is he talking about privileged Asian Americans, raised in graduate-degree households (at least one with a Jewish parent!) now stocking white-collar jobs? Or is he talking about kids from a mostly rural China, whose population is trying to leap into the middle class by soldering circuit boards? He points to the briefcase-toting tots on stage as if they are a single group, when, of course, they are not. And this is the very misapprehension that undergirds every stereotype about Asians: that they are all the same.
Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu was similarly critical, calling the joke “reductive and gross.”
“Antithesis of progress,” she wrote on Twitter.
To parade little kids on stage w/no speaking lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is reductive & gross. Antithesis of progress.
— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) February 29, 2016
And the actress wasn’t the only one who found the joke offensive:
Think my brain shut down for a few minutes. Did that appalling joke about Asian kids actually happen? #Oscars
— Justin Chang (@JustinCChang) February 29, 2016
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) February 29, 2016
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) February 29, 2016
I'm seriously still stunned about that shitty joke with the Asian kids. #Oscars
— Angry Asian Man (@angryasianman) February 29, 2016
.@chrisrock complains about rich people and racism while writing jokes about Asian people while sitting his mansion. Makes sense.
— robert smith (@Robert26Smith) February 29, 2016
The issue of diversity in the entertainment industry was a focal point of the Oscars telecast all night, as host Chris Rock took aim at the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in his opening monologue and never let up. The show featured three pre-taped segments skewering the issue, including a fake “Black History Month Minute” that seemed as if it was going to honor actor Will Smith, only to jokingly reveal the honoree as white actor Jack Black.
Here's tonight's Black History Month Minute.https://t.co/rPBKac5fdl
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 29, 2016