Watchdogging and complaining is appreciated in a democratic society, but for a watchdog organization to pressure artists and filmmakers to change their titles or alter their work is simply against the foundation of America. To pressure artists and filmmakers to change their work because of an ideological disagreement is simply undemocratic and must never be tolerated, or entertained, in one of the most free countries in the world.
Not only did the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) try pressuring Fox’s upcoming series Dads to change its pilot due to MANAA perceiving a couple of scenes to be “racially problematic,” MANAA also tried pressuring three Asian American filmmakers (including me) to change the title of their movie Chink because MANAA perceives “chink” to be a racially derogatory word that should not be promoted in any utterance. (read Quentin’s previous blog on this topic here)
It’s truly a rare moment that both a mainstream studio (Fox) and Asian American independent filmmakers (like me) both decide to flip off the same watchdog group.
A watchdog becomes problematic when it claims to create discourse and diversity, but it’s doing exactly the opposite–acting just like a censor pressuring artists to change their works based on its unfounded opinions.
This is the same organization that once tried to crush the most successful independent Asian American feature, Better Luck Tomorrow, by claiming that it was problematic and now has completely changed its tune. “I remember that,” said Offender Justin Lin (and BLT director) to me over an afternoon of xiao lung baos and tea. Years later, MANAA’s Mr. Guy Aoki told me in our fateful meeting that they wanted me to be Justin Lin, who is now a role model for Asian American filmmakers.
It’s problematic when a Japanese American man would tell two Chinese American filmmakers (Chink’s director Stanley Yung and myself) that they didn’t understand how the word “chink” could be used as derogatory to their own community and therefore should not use it as the title of their film.
No words are derogatory or problematic in their definitive existence. When they are used as “fighting words,” then they become derogatory in their usages and contexts.
“My movie is called Chink” is not derogatory because it is an assertive.
If a fellow Asian American calls me a “chink,” then “chink” can indeed be interpreted as derogatory as he’s cussing at me. But it is not derogatory if he’s just using it as a term of camaraderie.
Let’s say if I then yell back at the watchdog, “Nazi Jap!” Then surely my utterance of “jap” can be interpreted as derogatory unless we are just messing around like two black friends calling each other “nigger.”
And if I title my movie “Jap,” it is certainly not in derogatory to use because ‘My movie is called Jap” is not derogatory.
Chink is playing at the Burbank International Film Festival tomorrow night if you haven’t caught it yet.