Chris Rock’s second stint as the host of 2016 Oscars has been generally well-received, but he has been widely panned for one segment involving children of Asian descent.
The segment saw Rock bring on stage three Asian children as PricewaterhouseCooper accountants, the firm that tallies the Oscars’ votes. Introducing the children, Rock said: “They sent us their most dedicated accurate and hardworking representatives. Please welcome Ming Zhu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz.”
The joke played on the stereotype of Asian-Americans as a “model minority” who are diligent and excelled at maths, website Quartz reported.
Rock then continued by saying that anyone who was upset at the joke could tweet about it on phones “that was also made by these kids,” a punch line that was a reference to sweatshops and child labour in Asia.
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The segment has met with criticism from various media outlets and online.
The Huffington Post wrote: “Here we have an unfortunate and outrageous case where a black comedian, in the midst of his crusade to skewer Hollywood for being racist and exclusionary towards people of colour, went on stage to millions of American viewers and made fun of three Asian children on the sole basis of their race.”
Actress Constance Wu called the joke the “antithesis of progress”. She tweeted: “To parade little kids on stage with no speaking lines merely to be the butt of a racist joke is reductive & gross.”
Basketball player Jeremy Lin also criticised the joke on Twitter, saying: “Seriously though, when is this going to change?!? Tired of it being “cool” and “ok” to bash Asians smh #Oscars.”
Meanwhile, an editorial in the Washington Post said that the joke highlighted “a lack of diversity in the lack of diversity”.
This year’s Oscars had been dominated by debates about lack of diversity in Hollywood. For the second year in a row, the 20 nominees across the four acting categories had all gone to white actors, giving rise to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on social media.
As host, Rock won praise for his opening monologue in which he tackled the issue head on.
He welcomed guests to the “white People’s Choice awards”, and quipped: “You realise if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job.”
However, the outspoken comedian also made barbs towards a number of black actors who had decided to boycott the ceremony in protest, namely Will Smith and his wife Jada.
“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” he said. He also mocked her husband, saying: “It’s not fair, I get it. It’s also not fair that Will was paid US$ 20 million for Wild Wild West.”
The issue of diversity was also highlighted by Best Director winner Alejandro G Inarritu, who said in his speech: “What a great opportunity to our generation, to really liberate yourself from all prejudice and this tribal thinking and make sure for once and forever that the colour of skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
At the awards, actor Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar for Best Actor after four previous failed attempts, while first-time nominee Brie Larson was named Best Actress.
Spotlight, the biographical film about the team of journalists who exposed the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal, won Best Picture in a surprise result. It had been an underdog in the category, but beat favourite The Revenant to take home the night’s biggest prize.