Sometimes, protesting works. It took about a week of buzz on the blogosphere to get the attention of Paramount Studios for the obnoxious racism disguised as satire in the trailer for the comedy starring Jeremy Piven, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.”
The scene shows car salesmen worked up by the thought of Pearl Harbor being attacked by the Japanese and chanting “never again,” until they all pounce on an Asian character in the film. Piven’s character then tries to make light of the hate crime by trying to blame the Asian.
It’s a clumsy reprise of anti-Japanese sentiment from 70 years ago, with a scary flashback of the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, who was beaten to death by two Detroit autoworkers who thought he was Japanese (he wasn’t) and somehow directly responsible for them losing their jobs.
Well, enough outrage over this scene built thanks to coverage from Asian American blogs including Minority Militant, Angry Asian Man and 8Asians, that the JACL released a statement expressing outrage a couple of days ago, and several national organizations announced a protest yesterday. (There were also letters of protest sent around by individuals like actor Ken Narasaki and Soji Kashiwagi.)
The protest was held yesterday, and though I haven’t noticed if national mainstream media had picked up on the issue, Paramount has heeded the protest. A little while ago, I received this email from JACL:
PARAMOUNT APOLOGISES TO THE JACL
Los Angeles — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the nation’s largest and oldest Asian American civil rights and community advocacy organization, welcomed Paramount Pictures’ apology for “racially demeaning language” in its recently released film, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Continue reading →
Towards the end of the trailer are two segments showing an Asian character played by Ken Jeong. In the first scene, which we’ve seen in the G-rated TV version of the trailer, he opens a bank bag a customer paid him for a car, and his face gets covered in the blue dye they put in stolen money. Ha ha, make fun of the short Asian dude who can’t catch a clue. I can live with that, though it makes me squirm a bit.
In the second scene, which ends the R-rated version of the trailer, Piven’s character, an uber-salesman, is motivating the sales force (which includes Jeong’s character) by citing Pearl Harbor.
“The Japs… flying in low and fast,” he says. “We are the Americans, and they are the enemy.” Huh? Is this about the art of war applied to the art of sales? Or is it about Japanese cars vs. American cars?
“Pearl Harbor. Never again! Pearl Harbor. Never again!,” Piven screams and gets the others to yell along, even the Asian guy. But one of the older Caucasian guys starts eyeing the Asian guy and then shouts, “Let’s get him!” A free for all ensues, and all the salesmen kick and pummel the Asian guy. Continue reading →
I grew up being apprehensive every December 7. I’m Japanese American, and was born long after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, but for a long time I felt an inescapable sense of responsibility for the attack.
My early years were spent in a military environment — my dad was in the U.S. Army. But I still felt… guilty every December when people started mentioning “Pearl Harbor Day” and when I started to hear comments and sometimes jokes about those “sneaky Japs. ”
Being Japanese American means feeling an ambivalence because for many Japanese Americans, 120,000 of them, December 7, 1941 wasn’t just the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and drew the United States into World War II. Japanese Americans were just as outraged at the attack as everyone else in the U.S. — Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a WWII veteran and medal of honor recipient, tells the story of being a young man in Honolulu that day, and shaking his fists at the Japanese planes and screaming, “damn Japs!”