Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | CBS’ Farnsworth & the Fox has a racist ‘yellowface’ puppet
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CBS’ Farnsworth & the Fox has a racist ‘yellowface’ puppet

Sept. 24 update: Good news — CBS appears to have pulled all of the Farnfucious clips off their YouTube channel.

It’s hard to believe that a major U.S. broadcast network can get away with it, but there it is on YouTube: “Farnfucious Say,” a regular (apparently) skit on the “Farnsworth & the Fox” show produced by CBS. The show’s co-host, “Farnsworth,” is a puppet a la “Sesame Street” and the “Fox” is (not surprisingly) a woman cast for her sex appeal.

“Farnfucious” — they couldn’t even spell the pun on Confucius correctly — is a puppet character with Fu Manchu mustache and traditional Chinese-looking garb, talking in a slimy broken Chinese accent the way white people like to parody Asians speaking. The puppet is introduced by a woman’s voice speaking in the same cheesy accent intoning, “And now, anothah episode… of Farnfucious!” and afterwards the outro: “Words of wisdom… from Farnfucious!”

Just hearing the intro makes my stomach clench. I grew up with white kids talking that way to me, baring their front buck teeth and squinting and pulling back their eyes (just like the Spanish athletes’ slanty-eyed Olympics pose), spouting garbage like “ah-so” and “ching-chong, Chinaman” as if I couldn’t speak English. So it’s doubly insulting to have to put up with such juvenile racism as an adult.

Farnsworth & the Fox isn’t a children’s show — the puppet and the chick review movies like “Death Race,” so it ain’t meant for first-graders.

Why is such a racial stereotype accepted in 2008 — and by a major TV network, no less? Is it because it’s a cute puppet, and not a person? Would it be acceptable if it were a white man with makeup and a Chinese costume, making it much more overt an act of yellowface? Maybe it would — yellowface is still very much with us, after all.

Think about it — this depiction of an Asian stereotype is my community’s version of the Frito Bandito or L’il Black Sambo — caricatures that were long ago banned from the mainstream American pop culture landscape. So why exactly does the Fu Manchu image persist as an Asian archetype?

Is it because we don’t complain loudly enough? Do we have to march on CBS’s studios?

Maybe we’ve been much too patient and uncomplaining — an Asian value, to be sure — and assuming that mainstream America will suddenly grow a conscience and see that Asians are being treated differently from other minority groups.

Whatever the reason, it ain’t working.

Thanks to Angry Asian Man, one of my favorite blogs, for posting about Farnfucious.