By Wei Ran
According to media reports, comedian Jimmy Kimmel has drawn ire from offended Asian Americans for a skit on his late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live” which jokingly suggested that Americans should deal with their debt crisis by “killing everyone in China.” (link to the video: http://widgets.scmp.com/video/video_iframe.php?id=%20576491&movideo_m=576491
The clip in question, aired on the United States’ ABC Network on 16 October, featured a critique of the recent US government shutdown. In it, Kimmel and a group of children preside over a discussion panel titled “Kid’s Table” and spark a satirical debate over how the US should deal with the government shutdown and the debt owed to China.
One of the children’s comments that the US should “kill everyone in China” produced controversy, and critics have taken to YouTube and created a White House petition boycotting Kimmel’s decision to air the comment on his show.
Two MC/MPA students, Wei Ran and Jay Thompson, exchanged their thoughts on this issue. It should be pointed out, though, that the purpose of the conversation is not to force an argument or conclusion on anyone, but to invite more to discuss important social issues concerning us in a constructive and civilized manner.
Wei Ran: The reason why I call Jimmy Kimmel and his program a racist: 1. It is not the fault of the kids, rather the fault of him and his program to broadcast it. 2. Someone may argue: this is just a joke, so don›t take it too seriously. But I would argue: can anyone imagine it can get on television if the subject changes from the Chinese to Jews, African Americans or Latinos? If the answer is no, then this is racism against the ethnic Chinese and even all the Asians in America! I doubt if this racist figure and program should continue to be on a national television channel in this country.
Jay Thompson: I am absolutely not defending or endorsing the comments. Signing petitions and reaching out on social media is a great way to send a message to media businesses that xenophobic statements of killing are bad for business. If it›s any consolation, however, I would consider the context. Late night television is accustomed to «edgy» low-brow statements. The absolute lunacy of stating such a policy is so ridiculous that I am guessing it was the attempted source of the humor. In the greater context, the jab was aimed at Chinese nationally and not ethnically…and the writers probably thought they had more licenses to do it because there is a still present American idea against communism…and the oppression of liberties such as free speech. I wouldn›t take the comment to heart. Jimmy Kimmel and ABC wouldn›t have aired it if they thought it could be taken seriously and cost them business. But don›t take the comment personally. I didn›t even know that guy was still on TV.
Wei Ran: First of all, thank you Jay for your comment. I think your response has fairness in many ways. No offense, but I still would argue: 1. If you cannot say «kill all the Jews or African Americans or Latinos», you basically cannot do that to Chinese or Asians, no matter what kind of late night show that is, because that is not fair. Actually the group being hurt most by this program so far appears to be Chinese in America most of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents here. 2. So far the video has been taken off from this program›s ABC and YouTube site, which indicates that some do get concerned. Otherwise, why cares to delete it? 3. If Jimmy Kimmel or his program, as you said, is targeting the country of China or a certain ideology (which they may do so,) they are welcomed to make that clarification, although I doubt they would do that, given the ongoing gigantic Disney project in Shanghai by ABC parent company Disney and tons of money it makes by selling movies to China every year. Because of the increasing pressure, Mr. Kimmel has offered his apology on his program, but a rather vague one, in my opinion. And I am not sure if that is sufficient to quell the ongoing outrage. 4. Lessons learned: It demonstrates a changing media environment where any inciting content, no matter it is in China, the US or any other country, could easily become explosive everywhere via social media. Therefore, media, no matter where it is located, may need to be more prudent, especially on issues concerning sexism or racism, although differences on other issues such as politics, economy and etc. tend to be more acceptable. Finally, thanks for Jay’s comment again. I really hope this resentment against Chinese would not be commonplace despite all the so-called U.S.-China “competition” depicted in media coverage. After all, most of them are just living a humble life, busy assembling IPhones or making toys for Wal-Mart.
Jay Thompson: I agree on the majority of the citizens of both countries being out of the conflict. Most of the international issues between our countries are due to foreign policy opposing interests. I take a late night comedian less seriously than the hard workers in China. They are assembling good products and he is assembling cheap laughs. Don›t let it ruin your day.