A controversy over a lack of diversity permeated this year’s Oscars ceremony on February 28, 2016. Host Chris Rock was not the only person outraged by the Academy’s all-white nomination list; in fact, numerous people decided to boycott the ceremony in its entirety. The show began with Rock’s piercing monologue, using humor to directly criticize the racial exclusion displayed in the Academy’s nominations. However, Rock’s support of diversity in the nominations did not stop him from making some culturally insensitive remarks of his own. At one point in the show:
“Rock hailed the firm’s ‘most dedicated, accurate and hard-working representatives,’ and then three Asian kids walked onto the stage carrying briefcases and wearing tuxedos, according to CNN. The joke played on the stereotype of Asians being extremely smart, studious and hardworking.” (Click here to view the video of Rock’s insensitive joke.)
Despite the fact that he is obviously aware of issues surrounding cultural differences, Rock nevertheless played on false stereotypes in order to get a few laughs. He has received a lot of backlash for these jokes, as I believe is warranted after his hypocritical display of both cultural awareness and ignorance.
This incident is evidence that cultural and racial stereotypes are still very much entrenched in our society, even though we have made notable efforts to combat them. Asians are often stereotypically characterized as being intelligent and highly motivated, while African Americans are frequently categorized in quite the opposite way. I was reminded of this part of the Oscars when we listened to a podcast called “Birds & Bees” from This American Life in which an African American husband was mistaken for a homeless man when he tried to talk to his wife in a restaurant. The waitress made this false judgment purely based on the fact that the man was African American, thereby reinforcing the stereotype that people of color belong in lower socioeconomic classes. Such scenarios as demonstrated by both the Oscars and the podcast really drive home the point that although race is not biologically significant, it certainly has many deeply rooted cultural implications.
It is clear from these events that we will have to increase our efforts as a society if we are to lessen our reliance on and association with these offensive and inaccurate cultural and racial stereotypes. Awareness of the issue is clearly not enough– what we need is actual change in the way we think and perceive others.
Dailymail.com, Valerie Edwards For. “Academy FINALLY Apologizes Weeks Later for Chris Rock Jokes That Offended Asians with ‘tasteless and Offensive Skits'” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.
“#OscarsSoWhite Controversy: Which Camp Are You In?” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.