Singapore-based media group Toggle recently drew massive flak for using a Chinese actor in blackface to portray an African-American character on one of its original productions.
The distasteful bit was part of the sixth episode of the program titled “I want to be a Star”, a show which revolves around the lives of bit part actors looking for opportunities in the entertainment industry, Resonate reported.
sg: “regardless of race”
also sg: pic.twitter.com/5nKuPbIK2X
— mr frowny (@seitanclaws) October 25, 2016
In the episode, a casting director was in need of a black actor but was unable to find one. One of the characters suggested to cast an Indian actor instead, saying (translated from Mandarin) “it’s all the same.” Eventually, the director decided to improvise by using the main character’s son with his face painted in black and head covered with an afro wig.
When photos of the episode were posted on social media, the issue immediately went viral with many calling for the episode to be brought down from the company’s website.
While Toggle has since removed the cringe-worthy episode from their website, many displeased viewers continued to vent out on social media to point out the obvious racism.
In response, the channel posted an apology on Twitter, which read:
“The scene has been perceived as being racially sensitive by some viewers, although that was never our intention in the production. We appreciate the feedback and truly apologize to viewers who have been affected by this portrayal. The relevant scenes have also been removed from the programme.”
— Toggle (@ToggleSG) October 25, 2016
Netizens, however, refused to accept the apology, saying that Toggle was “sugercoating” the incident and the scene was “inherently racist, not perceived as racist”.
.@ToggleSG It wasn’t “perceived as racially insensitive by some viewers”. It was called out for its use of black face which is racist.
— Nate (@_anakink) October 25, 2016
A second apology was later issued again via Twitter, saying, “We’re sorry for the blackface portrayal in Ep 6 of “I Want To Be A Star”. We take race-related issues very seriously and that portrayal should not have happened. We’ve removed the offensive scenes from the programme and will ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Blackface, a makeup technique used on a non-black actor to play a black character in the early days of theater and cinema, is partly attributed to the spread of racial stereotypes in the 19th century.