After explaining to students on the Diag how offensive the
Comedy Central TV show “Banzai” was to Asians, LSA
senior Shana Fu said the students walked off uninterested, saying
that she was just overreacting.
“Instead they said, ‘What are you talking about?
“Banzai” is such a cool show’ and then they
left,” she said.
During a protest against Asian stereotypes in entertainment, the
United Asian American Organization opened a booth on the Diag to
raise campus awareness on the issue. UAAO says “Banzai”
underscores these stereotypes while ridiculing Asians, was one of
the programs the group condemned.
Still, there was a lack of concern among the many students
passing by said Fu, UAAO’s advocacy chair.
“There’s a different understanding between different
ethnic groups. For outsiders, they might not understand why we
think it’s offensive,” she said.
For some viewers, the mocking of minorities in entertainment is
harmless comedy. “I don’t think they are going too far.
Personally I’m not offended, because I realize that they are
trying to be funny,” said LSA sophomore Leigha Dennis.
But for others, the characterizations go overboard and unjustly
taunt an ethnic or social group.
“It’s just mocking people to get laughs,” LSA
senior Josie Najor said.
Regardless, the stereotyping hasn’t stopped. As a result,
many in minority communities say now it’s become all too
common to see on TV effeminate male homosexuals, Asians who always
know karate and the typical black man from the ghetto — all
comedic exaggerations to spur a laugh.
But earlier this month, the April issue of Details Magazine, a
fashion publication, asked readers if an Asian-American male
featured in a story was “gay or Asian.”
Members of the two communities are now in an uproar, saying they
are fed up with the joking, calling for the entertainment industry
to reform its portrayal of minorities.
“If we don’t speak out now, it’s never going
to end,” Fu said.
Many Asians and gays across America have taken offense at the
wisecrack, demanding Details Magazine make an apology while
rescinding the April issue and firing the writer of the
The magazine issued a public statement saying it regretted the
publication of the article and will print an apology in the May
Yet minority student organizations such as the UAAO said they
still don’t feel an apology is enough, and demanded that TV
executives crack down on stereotypes in the entertainment industry
by pulling shows like “Banzai” off the air.
The groups say it’s not just an issue of being ridiculed
in front of an audience of millions, but a larger problem of
stereotypes being taken as truth by viewers.
“Some people just think it’s not a big deal. But a
lot of people already think these stereotypes though. And
they’ll continue to think these stereotypes if they
continue,” Fu said.
Gays are frequently the brunt of the entertainment
industry’s jokes, leading the industry to sensationalize the
gay community in TV shows and movies, said Clay Ming Kwong,
spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation .
“Most of the time, that sensationalizing is negative
… and that causes (gays) to be portrayed
inaccurately,” Kwong said.
Both Kwong and Fu also said they worry that viewers may
subconsciously take the stereotypes in entertainment as truth and
added that they cringe knowing viewers may continue laughing at
those stereotypes without caring about the negative effects.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to stereotype at
all. Viewers who laugh (at those stereotypes) are just being
ignorant and not confirming what they are laughing at,” Fu
said. Instead, Fu said viewers might adopt those stereotypes and
assume them to be accurate.
Those stereotypes become especially dangerous for viewers who
don’t normally interact with other ethnic groups or for
children who don’t yet understand that stereotypes are
untrue, Fu added.
She said that’s why it’s imperative shows like
“Banzai” cease so that viewers can realize that people
of other ethnic and social groups are no different from them.
Rather than trying to pull television programs off the air,
Kwong said GLAAD tries to engage in talks with entertainment
In response to the Details Magazine article, GLAAD plans to
pitch future story ideas to the publication, which will depict a
more positive image of homosexuals.
But while some action is being taken, many students said they
see no end to the use of ethnic and sexual stereotypes in the
Engineering sophomore Calvin Cheung said the entertainment
industry has no reason to stop using stereotypes since ratings are
as high as they’ve ever been. People are just too entertained
by the stereotypes, he added.
“Not enough people care. They are usually not a part of
the other cultures being stereotyped. So they are
entertained,” he said.
Everybody likes to watch these programs, Engineering sophomore
Clinque Brundidge said.
“The general public likes to see stereotypes. It makes
ratings good,” Brundidge said.
“Maybe that’s what they like to think of