In recent months, some Asian-Americans have taken to Twitter to call out incidents in the media they see as racially insensitive, or downright racist — most recently the Kung Fu movie-inspired episode of the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”
And they're getting attention.
Asian-American viewers and others unleashed the #HowIMetYourRacism hashtag after watching the show’s most recent episode — which aired Jan. 13 — in which its white stars dressed up as Asian grandmasters who drank tea, ate noodles, killed flies with chopsticks — all the while Asian extras hovered in the background.
Writer Suey Park kicked off the hashtag the day after the show:
I used to watch @HowIMetMother but I now refuse to and hope they apologize for yellowface. #HowIMetYourRacism— Suey Park (@suey_park) January 15, 2014
Which was followed by other Tweets:
people of colour more like punchlines of colour #HowIMetYourRacism— wake up flawless** (@kikosenpai) January 15, 2014
#HowIMetYourRacism is latest in long line of film & TV that somehow still finds it okay—no, finds it hilarious—to overtly caricature Asians.— Michael Suen (@poetichentai) January 15, 2014
By Wednesday, show co-creator Carter Bays acknowledged the backlash on Twitter.
From his apology:
With Monday's episode, we set out to make a silly and unabashedly immature homage to Kung Fu movies, a genre we’ve always loved.— Carter Bays (@CarterBays) January 15, 2014
But along the way we offended people. We're deeply sorry, and we’re grateful to everyone who spoke up to make us aware of it.— Carter Bays (@CarterBays) January 15, 2014
Bays is the latest entertainment figure to bow to pressure from Asian-Americans upset over racial stereotyping.
Last month, Questlove asked for forgiveness on Facebook after mocking the way Japanese people talk. In October, Jimmy Kimmel apologized for a skit in which a kid joked about killing people in China to erase U.S. debt.
An Asian-American Twitter?
Just as black Twitter users are credited with helping to kill a book deal for a juror in the George Zimmerman trial, is there an Asian-American Twitter that's effecting change?
L.S. Kim, associate professor of film & digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said yes, Asian-Americans are using Twitter and other social media platforms in place of a public square.
"The Internet has become an alternative ground for Asian-Americans to not only express perspectives and opinions but to really assert themselves within the American citizenry," Kim said.
It was on social media that Asian-Americans voiced outrage over Katy Perry's performance in a geisha outfit at the American Music Awards, and slammed producers of the Fox sitcom Dads for putting Asian-American actress Brenda Song in a Sailor Moon costume.
Phil Yu, who was among the first to criticize the "How I Met Your Mother" episode on his Angry Asian Man blog, said in an email that insensitive media portrayals of Asians are not new or happening more often. What's changed, he said, is how Asian-Americans "engage with these incidents. We're no longer passive viewers."
"Funny enough, we're actually encouraged by mass media to interact— marketing for any given movie or TV show encourages viewers to use prescribed hashtags," Yu said. "Thanks to the Internet and social media, awareness is swift and widespread when these things go down, and we now have some pretty powerful tools to respond."
Kim agreed: "With the technological engagement that social media allows, there is an increase in commentary traffic and, I think, the feeling that different opinions can be voiced."
For example, Asian-American women in the last month have carved out a space on Twitter to talk about feminism and race, using #NotYourAsianSidekick - a hashtag also started by Park, the writer behind #HowIMetYourRacism.
The Asian-American backlash to the "How I Met Your Mother" episode came in stark contrast to rave reviews. An A.V. Club critic gave the episode an "A-", calling it "pure appointment television for HIMYM fans."
Some Twitter users also found the episode if not funny, harmless, and blasted critics of the episode for being too sensitive.
Calm down internet. Asian here. I wasn't offended by #HIMYM's episode. It was a parody of stereotypical kungfu movies. #HowIMetYourRacism— Laura (@lsirikul) January 15, 2014
#HowIMetYourRacism just goes to show how little sense of humour so many Americans have. Sad times. #irikekungfutoo— Jason Bay (@wateveritwas) January 16, 2014
What do you think of the "How I Met Your Mother" episode? Click here to watch the episode yourself.
This story has been updated.