UPDATE, JAN. 17: It took longer than I thought, but Google finally removed the app from its Play Store. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
Phil Yu got pissed off about this on his Angry Asian Man blog back in November, but CNN just noticed the story is still simmering on the interwebs. So I downloaded it for posterity, to use as an example in lectures about racist stereotypes.
“Make Me Asian” (and the related “Make Me Indian,” both shown at left) is an Android mobile app that you can download for free from the Google Play app store.
Say what? Yes, it’s true.
There are a series of these apps, and though they’re all dumb and rely on tired, cliche, stereotypical visual semiotics (the headdress and “war paint” for an American Indian, a fur hat with a hammer and sickle emblem for a Russian or a bald pate for a bald person — duh), the Indian and Asian apps are the ones that step over the line because they rely on racial stereotypes, not just cultural clues.
With “Make Me Asian,” the app oh-so-cleverly uses technology to allow users to shoot a photo of a person’s face, line up a couple of identifiers over the eyes, press a button and — voila! the face is now magically turned into a racist Asian stereotype, with sallow, yellow skin, eyes squeezed down to slits, a “rice paddy” or “coolie” hat and a Fu Manchu mustache. Yes, add those four elements to any human face (hell, I bet it even works with animals faces — them Japs, Gooks and Chinks are nuthin’ but monkeys, after all, right?) and presto change-o, you have… and Asian!
You can share the image with your friends via email or social media, and show you don’t give a hoot about diversity, or cultural sensitivity or even political correctness.
It’s just some funny stuff you can send around to your friends and have a good guffaw or two.
Oh hey — what happens if you use the app on someone who’s already Asian? What a concept — they must turn super-Asian! (They don’t… here’s me on the right shot with the stupid app.)
Phil was right in November when he said he didn’t want to give this offensive app more publicity than it deserves. But I think a healthy dose of public outrage might be what the app’s maker, Kimbery Deiss, and Google, which inexplicably has done nothing about this piece of poop for almost two months, need to take the damned thing down.
To that end, you can sign two separate petitions to urge Google to remove the app from its store: Change.org and 18 Million Rising.
I refuse to allow ignorant people to think it’s OK to think of Asians the way we’re portrayed by this outrageous app. You should too. And geez, Google should too.