Ang Lee and George Takei Are Among 25 Academy Members Protesting Asian Jokes at This Year’s Oscars

Ang Lee. Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images

At the most recent Academy Awards, host Chris Rock cracked a lame, tone-deaf joke about Asians, bringing out a bunch of children onstage to make fun of them without their knowledgeElsewhere in the show, Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G also made a joke about Asian penises. Now, 25 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, all of whom are of Asian descent, have sent a letter to the Academy's leaders protesting what they see as the telecast's targeting of Asians. The 25 signers — who include Ang Lee, George Takei, and Sandra Oh — say they expected better from the Oscars, hoping that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy would have spurred the Academy to "present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity." They demand an explanation for how the jokes made it to air, and call for explicit efforts from the Academy to prevent racist jokes at the Oscars in the future. In response, an Academy spokesman told THR, "The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive."

Read the letter in full 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.


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