Asian American Groups Protest THE GOODS at Paramount Studios: Hate Crimes are not Funny

Asian American groups protest THE GOODS: hate crimes are not funnyAs reported by Angry Asian Man and also by 8Asians, various Asian American groups protested The Goods in front of Paramount Studios for its "Pearl Harbor" scene which depicts Ken Jeong’s character getting attacked by fellow auto salesmen for looking Japanese.

In addition to using this particular scene in the trailer, Paramount Pictures released an unapologetic statement:

“We understand that when presented out of context, jokes and situations in the movie about a variety of topics might be offensive to some people,” it said in a statement.

“To be very clear, ‘The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard’ is in no way meant to be mean-spirited, disparaging or hurtful to any individuals and we regret any offense taken,” it said.

In other words, "A hate crime can be funny in the right context!"

As I type this, MANAA and JACL, along with other community groups, are wrapping up the protest outside the front gates of Paramount Studios. When I stopped by about an hour ago to take some snapshots, Friday night traffic was at a peak and cars (including mine) honked their horns in support of the protesters.

For more after the jump…

I’d like to excerpt Ken Narasaki’s letter to Sumner M. Redstone (Executive Chairman of the Board & Founder of Viacom, Inc., which owns Paramount):

I’m writing to protest the disgusting depiction of a hate crime-as-humor in the film, the television trailers, and the online ads for THE GOODS. I know, I know, everyone keeps saying that "it’s a joke," "it’s satirical," "the film is intentionally offensive to many different kinds of people," but this is beyond hurt feelings and offended sensibilities – this is racist hatemongering disguised as humor. I’m assuming you’ve heard similar analogies, but I have to ask:
If those white car salesmen had beaten up a Jewish salesman "for killing Christ", and Jeremy Piven’s character egged them on by describing "the Kikes nailing our Savior to the cross", would you expect your Jewish audience to just take it as a joke? Especially if your company ran the clip as part of its ADVERTISING on network TV? How about if Ken Jeong’s character was black and Jeremy Piven’s character urged the white salesmen to cover up their hate crime by saying he attacked them with a spear? Can you imagine your African American audience sitting still for that one?

…I have a personal incident to share with you: On December 7, 1991, the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it was impossible not to see the footage of the bombing, playing over and over on all media outlets. Fair enough, it was the Day that will live in Infamy. It didn’t matter that my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all put into concentration camps as a result; it didn’t matter that my father fought in Europe as part of the famed segregated Japanese American fighting unit, the 442nd: Someone decided to commemorate that day by throwing a brick through my front window. The brick and the glass landed on my then baby daughter’s changing table. Luckily for us, we were not at home at the time.

I’ve seen Paramount’s incredibly lame non-apology, and I, for one, am sick to death of Asian bashing masquerading as humor, and ask that you, in your capacity of Executive Chairman of Viacom, demand that this scene, which laughs at the very idea of hate crimes, be removed from the film and that Paramount Vantage issue a very real apology this time.

15 Replies to “Asian American Groups Protest THE GOODS at Paramount Studios: Hate Crimes are not Funny”

  1. Asian American actors no longer fight each other for precious Asian roles however the Actor Ken Jeong should have turned down that role. I wonder if he was playing the role of a Korean car salesman would he have turned down this role?

    I suppose if they portrayed the role as a German carsalesman and uttered phrases like remember D-day it would not have been funny, then again remember 9-11 has nothing funny to laugh at either.

    Anyway thank you JozJozJoz for your awareness of the issue, time will tell if this protest will have any effect or not.

  2. 1. The movie is going to bomb. The trailer isn’t funny for a moment. This protest will give the film more publicity than it will ever receive in the mainstream press.

    2. This 5 second moment is honestly considered offensive to the Asian community? If anything, the joke is about the arrogance of bigots. Replace Jeong with anyone looking remotely Middle Eastern, and replace Pearl Harbor with 9/11… heck, didn’t they make an entire movie, Harold and Kumar Go To Guantamo Bay based on this same concept? Nothing funny about racial profiling or torture either.

  3. I’ll tell you why this trailer offends ME…

    1) The trailer, especially this part of it, just isn’t funny. The fact that this “funny” racial beating incident is depicted in the ADVERTISING of the movie means that someone thought this was one of the funniest scenes in the film and would entice people to see it.

    2) This scene too eerily mirrors the circumstances around a real hate crime that occurred in June 1982 when a Chinese man was beaten to death in Detroit for looking Japanese.

    At the time, the rise of the Japanese auto industry forced many layoffs in Detroit. A former Chrysler plant superintendent (Ronald Ebens), sparked the incident when at a bar where Chin was celebrating his bachelor party by saying, “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work,” even though Chin was not Japanese.

    Chin and his friends left the bar but Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz got a baseball bat and searched the neighborhood for half and hour until they found him. Chin tried to get away, but Nitz him down while Ebens repeatedly bludgeoned Chin with a baseball bat. Chin died 4 days later after slipping into a coma on-site and later going into braindeath.

    To add to this injustice, even though off-duty policemen witnessed the beating, neither men served any jail time.

    The similiarities of this “funny” scene to the real life events of Vincent Chin’s death (the beating of a non-Japanese man for looking Japanese in an auto-related world) is too uncomfortable.

    3) This issue of “context” that Paramount says people aren’t getting? After the beating scene in the movie, Jeremy Piven’s character says, “Alright, stop! We have all just participated in a hate crime. Let’s get our stories straight. Dang came at us with a samurai sword, fire extinguisher and Chinese throwing stars.”
    What? Is that funny? This “samurai sword” and “Chinese throwing stars” line doesn’t offend me as an Asian American. Again, it offends me because it’s just not funny.

  4. I’m surprised no one else was reminded of this Metblogs post.

    I agree with David. Joz, you seem to spend as much time complaining that the scene isn’t funny as that it’s a hateful racist depiction. If the movie isn’t funny, that’s not a crime. It will suffer the penalty in the marketplace. Protests tend to reward movies with more ticket sales.

    More importantly, in addition to H&K II, there is a tradition dating back decades of comedy movies having scenes that are extremely offensive to certain ethnic and other groups. OMG in “Airplane” there was the scene with the two black (I mean “African American”) guys talking “jive” that was so hard to understand that the movie makers used subtitles and Mrs. Cleaver herself had to come in and translate. The Farrelly Brothers’ “There’s Something About Mary” makes fun of “retards.” Their “Kingpin” makes fun of Woody Harrelson’s handicap, i.e., his artificial hand. And of Amish people (ditto for the comedy “For Richer or Poorer”). Many Jews found “The Passion of the Christ” extremely offensive to them. Personally, I’m more offended by any role featuring Lanie Kazan as the pushy, overbearing, loud Jewish mother. In addition, gays, midgets (I mean “little persons,”), Italian-Americans, people from Kazhakstan (my Kazhak friend was NOT happy about “Borat”!), Native Americans, Catholics, fat people, bald people, etc. have all been the targets of extremely offensive movie scenes, some intending comedy, some intending irony, some just plain awful.

    The First Amendment exists precisely because of speech that some find offensive and would like to ban. Paramount has the First Amendment right to include that scene. We get to vote with our wallets, by staying away from the movie if we think it’s too offensive. You have the First Amendment right to protest the movie and educate people about how offensive it is. But I won’t be joining you in demanding that Paramount cut the scene, because I find that to be much more offensive than any movie scene could ever be.

  5. This too reminded me of the Vincent Chin tragedy. I don’t know how someone would think reenacting that scene, which is what I know inspired that scene (because who hasn’t read about that if you grew up in an urban city.)

    The first amendment also protects jozjozjoz right and anyone else to say they don’t like something and to ask that it be removed because it is offensive. If people don’t write posts like jozjozjoz people who are ignorant of the scene and the message might give the film money.

    This film won’t be getting any of my money and I’ll be sure to pass this around to my circle of friends.

    Standing up to ignorance isn’t easy, but it’s something that must be done, because if you don’t you have things like Prop 8 passing…see this is all connected…people who think that it’s ok to vote on things like should we make it official that gay people don’t have the same rights as straight people also think hate crimes are hilarious, in the right context.

    You desensitize people to other people by marginalizing them, see Birth of Nation as a demonstration of this.

    Don’t you find it odd that the people who usually bring up the first amendment first are always the people telling you how you shouldn’t have said something.

    Browne

  6. @D.Markland:

    Your Harold & Kumar analogy only works if the lead characters were Middle Eastern. In H&K 2, the characters are Korean and Indian respectively who are MISTAKEN for terrorists.

    @MattMason:

    You miss the point. The sequence is offensive because it uses a hate crime scenario.

    The examples you cite are offensive because they perpetuate stereotypes. Perpetuating stereotypes – like Long Duck Dong in “Sixteen Candles” for instance – can be offensive to people (both the offended minority and empathetic others), but while it may embolden some knuckleheads to think that seeing it in a mainstream movie makes it okay to say racially offensive comments it doesn’t do what “The Goods” sequence does which is utilize VIOLENCE against a minority for comedy and then offer up a racially offensive excuses for the hate crime. Nobody is being physically battered in “Airplane” or “Borat” or any Lainie Kazan movie. In “The Goods” the whole sequence in question evolves around the BEATING of Ken Jeong’s character. (This is very different than a jive talking sequence in “Airplane”.)

  7. I love this crazy notion that if someone’s opinion is challenged, that the challenger is somehow disrespecting the other’s freedom of speech. Crazy talk is what that is.

    I actually do agree that racial stereotypes of Asians have been frequent and even still exist and are all too tolerated. But, again, in this trailer the filmmakers aren’t stereotyping the Asian character, but the ignorant white guys.

    Keekle, I don’t see how the Harold and Kumar reference is any different. Jeong’s character is mistaken for somehow being responsible for Pearl Harbor, just as they’re mistaken for terrorists.

    More importantly, I don’t foresee that this scene is going to inspire anyone to go out and beat an Asian man or woman for any reason. What it did do was inspire me to watch the horrible trailer and give what will likely be a bomb anyway a bit of free publicity, which it desperately needs.

  8. This whole movie should be avoided, just because it’s a sad riff on the much better Used Cars, with Kurt Russell. Do yourself a favour and rent that instead.

  9. I can’t wait until POC get to make their own movies in which we casually beat up on the white folk for a good laugh. That shit is going to be fun! I hope they understand and “get it” then.

  10. @marshall I was about to say the same thing.
    Also, whatever movie Ari stars in, he’ll forever be overshadowed by “PCU.”

  11. So all of the people who post here (looking at who answered) think this completely cool? None of the writers at LA Metblogs other than jozjozjoz gets at all why this offensive?

    Seriously, I mean David ok, consistently he’s like that, but everyone else too.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but do you guys have friends of color and does the topic of race ever come up and do they think these kinds of jokes are funny? To be in LA I find this this kind of group think mindset in one group pretty mindblowing. Not that you can’t think it, but wow, it’s just amazing. It’s like going back to the 80s or something.

    Maybe you should take a look throught the Angry Asian Man’s site. It’s pretty informative and entertaining, just so you guys can get how poc might feel about stuff, yeah we get how you feel, but can’t you just try to have some empathy?

    Browne

  12. Where has a single person in this conversation thought these sorts of jokes were funny?

    And yes, I have Asian friends who think this whole argument is ridiculous.

    Of course hate crime isn’t funny, but does that it mean it can’t be exploited for parody?

    If you want to readily protest taboo subjects, watch South Park. As mentioned above, “The Producers” totally makes a mockery out of Hitler.

    But in defense of the film, the CHARACTERS ARE RACISTS. (and if you want to avoid films or TV shows that shouldn’t be made because of racist protagonists, stick to Sesame Street). This is the source of their attempted comedy. This doesn’t make the scene itself racist… it wouldn’t even be construed as comedy if the audience assumed Dr. Ken was responsible for Pearl Harbor. Its the ridiculousness of this idea, of outlandish prejudices, that is being portrayed.

    The scene isn’t encouraging anyone to go beat up an Asian any more than Airplane inspired someone to become a pedophile airline pilot.

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