Rallying behind the National Latino Media Coalition and NAACP-led brownout of the fall TV season, several Asian-American advocacy groups Tuesday denounced the “whitewashing” of network programming.
Leading the battle cry at a news conference in Little Tokyo, “Star Trek” alum George Takei said that the current shows “present a version of America that’s a bald-faced lie … this reinforces the notion that we are a white nation and feeds into delusions of white supremacy.”
For example, Takei pointed out that no Asians have prominent roles on either “Dharma and Greg” or “Suddenly Susan,” two shows set in San Francisco, a city that’s 30% Asian.
The Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a grass-roots org created in 1992 to lobby the nets for increased diversity, is also upset. The group is currently circulating a petition, endorsed by 800 national and local orgs, encouraging TV execs to colorize primetime.
MANAA also supports the two-week boycott (officially ending Sept. 26), and urges nets to develop ethnically diverse casting policies because when “people see themselves on TV … it validates their existence,” according to MANAA founding prexy Guy Aoki. “So if you don’t see yourself on TV, don’t watch and don’t buy products that are advertised on those shows.”
Aoki thinks the nets are just plain missing the boat in casting mostly white actors. “Including people of color is not a creative imposition, but a creative opportunity. … Think how many more story ideas you’ll have.”
Other press conference attendees included Screen Actors Guild VP Sumi Haru and East West Players artistic director Tim Dang. While “a dramatic change in network programming will not happen overnight,” Haru admitted, “we see this as the beginning of a long-term educational process.”
As a TV alternative, East West Players are giving away free tickets to Sept. 16 and 17 perfs of its season opener “Leilani’s Hibiscus.”