Thursday, February 9, 2012

Passing the Blame

Earlier this week, an Asian-American actor email list I’m on was abuzz over this ad, which ran locally in Michigan during the Super Bowl.

Attack-the-other-candidate commercials are common in an election year, but this ad seemed to have an additional “Let’s blame China!” message that felt inappropriate. Opinions were tossed back and forth – "That actress should have known better." "No, she was just someone taking an acting job." "Who’s this icky politician who approved this message?"

Upon further research, I realized it wasn’t just people in the Asian-American acting community who were talking about the ad, but the entire news media and blogosphere. Gawker, The Washington Post, and Politico, and more condemned the ad as racist and chastised the candidate for perpetuating stereotypes.

I prefer to focus on the poor actress in the middle of this bad publicity storm. I side with the people who support her, saying she’s not to blame for the ad. After all, she didn’t write it! She’s probably just a local non-union actress in Michigan who was excited about getting a paid commercial gig. It’s likely the job only made her a few hundred bucks.

I’ve blogged before about being willing to do stereotypical accents for a job and I still would. Because ultimately, I’m an actor and I work for hire.

Of course, there’s a line of appropriateness and taste that I won’t cross, but I’m guessing this actress didn’t think in a million years that those six lines would plaster her face would end up all over the Internet. I'm sure if she could go back in time, she'd refuse the job. But if she had done that, someone else would have done it instead. You can't blame actors for wanting to work.

Lawrence O’Donnell pretty much told the actress she should have been ashamed of herself, but I say back down off her. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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