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Vietnamese-American actress Hong Chau is being criticized for her accent in the movie “Downsizing”, for which she was Golden Globe nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
When the film made its North American premiere in September, Variety wrote in its review that Chau’s performance “entered problematic territory for many as some have noted that its broad strokes veer into the realm of stereotype.”
ScreenCrush called the character’s “broken English” out just for the laughs, further saying that it is an “icky, racist caricature.”
In an interview with Southeast Asia Globe, Chau, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who was born in a Thai refugee camp, defended her portrayal of Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese activist who was forced to shrink by the government, and her accent.
“The Vietnamese refugee community that I grew up with in New Orleans is certainly an inspiration for my character in Downsizing but, at the end of the day, the character is mine. Americans have different relationships with different accents. With the Vietnamese accent, it’s usually because we tend to have service-oriented occupations. That brings up the race and class issue and inequality and discrimination. That’s a lot to unpack, so it’s not just about an accent being problematic,” she said.
Chau also shed light on her character, and denied that her role was one of the submissive Asian women, AsAm News reported.
“My character, and other minority characters in this story, are not there to prop up the White, male character and show him in this great, positive light,” she said. “If anything, we’re showing that he’s part of the problem because he’s not paying attention. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
“Downsizing” was released in theaters in the United States on Dec. 22, 2017. The film, described as “a large canvas, science-fiction social satire,” was directed by Alexander Payne.
Featured Image screenshot via YouTube / FilmSelect Trailer