Fake Asian accents don't have to be racist


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    Fake Asian accents don’t have to be racist

    As a Chinese-Canadian, Adrian Lee has always felt uneasy about accents.

    “Accents really, for me, and for a lot of Asian-Canadians like me, can be a really tricky subject that gets our hackles up.”

    Those hackles are raised by a long history of Asian caricatures in North American pop culture: from Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mr. Yunioshi, in 1961, to Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong in 1984, to Rob Schneider as an “Asian Minister” in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry in 2007.

    “Accents really, for me, and for a lot of Asian-Canadians like me, can be a really tricky subject that gets our hackles up.”

    • Adrian Lee

    “The shadow of Long Duk Dong is a long one, and I think a lot of Asians who engage in pop culture specifically in North America, really cringe when they hear accents, as a result.”

    Lee says the bad accents, and the stereotypes reinforced by Asian characters who are sidekicks, kung-fu masters, or “the sort of socially-awkward eunuch who has no idea what he’s doing,” cause immigrants of all backgrounds to worry about what they’ll sound like, and how they’ll be perceived in North America.

    But a new wave of TV shows about immigrants, and the children of immigrants, has Lee changing his mind.

    Among them is Kim’s Convenience, CBC’s new comedy set in a family-run Toronto convenience store.

    Actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee plays the family patriarch, and does so with a Korean accent. The actor himself doesn’t have an accent, but Adrian Lee says the one he puts on finally made him see that accents can be done right.

    “What I realized is that this is actually part of his character. You, know it’s not a caricature. The joke is not on the accent, the accent is part of who this character is. This character who immigrated from Korea, who made a life for his children, and started this store…is a very smart person but simply cannot engage in English yet, because it’s not his first language. And I think that’s a totally reasonable and understandable, appreciable way to deploy an accent.”

    “What I realized is that this is actually part of his character. You, know it’s not a caricature. The joke is not on the accent, the accent is part of who this character is.”

    • Adrian Lee

    And as the child of immigrant parents himself, Adrian Lee says there’s a lot of humour to be found in the misunderstandings that come from both linguistic, and cultural differences.

    If it’s done right, he says, this a great time for comedy.

    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/opioid-clickbait-on-screen-accents-and-trump-is-no-capitalist-1.3803835/fake-asian-accents-don-t-have-to-be-racist-1.3804005


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