Tina Fey is facing backlash after TikTok videos showing the comedian-actor making Asian people the butt of her jokes and purportedly normalizing anti-Asian racism went viral.
TikTok user @Buiside uploaded the videos earlier this month.
A clip from a 2014 interview with Jimmy Fallon is shown in one of the videos, where Fey is heard talking about her then 2-year-old daughter’s newfound ability to talk.
“She has a very specific way of talking, that I realized she kind of sounds like a prostitute in a Vietnam movie,” Fey says, drawing laughter from the audience. Fey then goes on to mock a Vietnamese accent, comparing her daughter’s speech to the lewd, stereotypical depictions of Vietnamese women on screen.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Fey, who starred in and wrote the screenplay for the 2004 hit teen drama “Mean Girls,” is also receiving criticism for another video which shows how the Vietnamese characters in the movie were portrayed. Two teens belonging to North Shore High’s “Cool Asians” clique, as they’re dubbed earlier on, engage in an argument in Vietnamese. The English subtitles incorrectly translate one of the lines to say “N*gga, please” or “Bitch, please” depending on the version, when the actual translation is something akin to “Please, I wouldn’t dare.”
The offensive language was added in for “shock value,” @Buiside claims, a point that other users have gathered as further evidence of Fey’s “problematic” writing.
“Tina fey did a lot of problematic stuff that definitely did not age well,” one user wrote in the comments. Another reads: “Tina has made amazing comedic masterpieces, but I think we can recognize now looking back how offensive some of the writing was.
@Buiside also goes on to mention how she makes a joke out of Asian people in several of her movies and shows, from Korean nail salon workers who speak broken English in the 2015 comedy movie “Sisters” to Dong Nguyen’s character in the Netflix sit-com “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
“She casts a Korean guy to play a Vietnamese refugee. And the problem that I had with that is that he had to speak Vietnamese for his lines,” says @Buiside. “He also needed to have a Vietnamese accent, which he butchers both because he’s Korean.”
The TikTok user continues, “The worst part is she named him Dong Nyugen. And there’s a running joke that his name means ‘penis.’ She even makes him say a joke that ‘Kimmy’ means ‘penis’ in Vietnamese — which it doesn’t. But she doesn’t even care to be correct. Because at the end of the day she makes being Asian the joke, itself.”
“If you want to know why racism is so normalized in the U.S., it’s because of people like her. And how she portrays Asian people in her media. It’s disrespectful,” he concludes.
The videos together have reached over 2 million views, with many users in the comments reflecting on Fey’s work. Many agree with the TikToker’s caption that alleges Fey has an “obsession” with Asians/Vietnamese people. Others have also come to her defense, arguing that Fey’s jokes came during a time when they were more acceptable to the public.