Two-time-Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee is among a group of two dozen members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences asking for the AMPA board to deliver “concrete steps” to prevent the “outright bias and racism toward any group” in future ceremonies.
The letter, addressed to the Academy’s President Cheryl Boone Issacs as well as its CEO and producers, denounced the treatment of Asians at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony last month.
“We are writing as Academy members of Asian descent to express our complete surprise and disappointment with the targeting of Asians at the 88th Oscars telecast and its perpetuation of racist stereotypes,” the letter read, according to Variety. “In light of criticism over #OscarsSoWhite, we were hopeful that the telecast would provide the Academy a way forward and the chance to present a spectacular example of inclusion and diversity. Instead, the Oscars show was marred by a tone-deaf approach to its portrayal of Asians.”
The 2016 Academy Awards had come under fire for a lack of diversity and representation prior to the telecast, with critics expressing their frustration using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. While host Chris Rock addressed the issue throughout the ceremony, he also included a bit involving three “accountants” responsible for the Oscars results.
The three children brought onstage were of Asian descent and introduced as “Ming Zhu, Bao Ling, and David Moskowitz.”
“If anyone is upset about that joke you can tweet about it on your phone, which was also made by these kids,” Rock added.
Sacha Baron Cohen, as his character Ali G, also made a joke that some found offensive to Asians.
Lee and other members of the Academy, including Sandra Oh and George Takei, denounced the jokes in their letter.
“We’d like to know how such tasteless and offensive skits could have happened and what process you have in place to preclude such unconscious or outright bias and racism toward any group in future Oscars telecasts,” the letter read. “We look forward to hearing from you about this matter and about the concrete steps to ensure that all people are portrayed with dignity and respect.”
Update: A spokesperson for the Academy told the Hollywood Reporter Tuesday afternoon that it "regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive."
In a letter sent to the Academy members who signed Tuesday's letter, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson wrote, "It pains us that any aspect of the show was considered offensive, and I apologize for any hurt the skits caused."