Dear Goofy

I have been stewing on this whole Miley Cyrus “chinky-eyes” photo thing all last week. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here it is:

Apparently, the photo of Miley and her friends “goofing” around making funny faces (i.e. making fun of slanty-eyed Asians [including the one sitting next to her]) leaked out last week. It didn’t surprise me that such a photo existed but it did make me sad. And then it made me angry after Miley came out with her weak-ass apology.

It came to a head for me yesterday at a small gathering of Asian American friends around some Vietnamese spring rolls. We agreed (in very loud angry tones) that something needed to be done about this, but my one friend insisted that going after a 16-year-old white girl would just make the Asian American community look hyper-sensitive and mean. My solution was that we need to start a letter-writing campaign to Disney. We need to let them know that we are effected by this whole thing. The only real way to effect change is to go directly to the people in charge.

Below I have pasted my letter to the two executive producers and the head of Disney Channel Worldwide. Below that I have addresses to which you can send letters as well. The more actual mail they recieve, the more likely they are to do something about it. Do not start an email campaign or a facebook group to protest Hannah Montana — that stuff will just disappear into the cyber-ether.  Actual viewer outrage in the form of a US postal delivery is a highly effective tool. For them to know you took the time to actually write, stamp and send a letter to their offices is a very big deal. If you are as outraged as I am about Miley’s insensitivity and her lack of a proper apology, you will take the time to write your own letter.

On a side note, I feel like this Asian kid in the picture completely captures what the experience of growing up Asian in America is all about. Halfway in on the joke, halfway a butt of the joke — the blind-sided “I-don’t-know-how-to-react-to-this-racist-bullshit” look on his face sums up so many awful moments in my own life.Does anyone know who this kid is?

My letter:

Dear Michael Poryes and Steven Peterman,

I am writing in response to the recent controversy with the Miley Cyrus “slanty-eyed” photograph. As an industry professional, a concerned parent and an Asian American, this incident has struck me deeply. I am very disappointed in the lack of response by the Disney Corporation.

Miley Cyrus is a sixteen-year-old girl from whom I would expect immature and irresponsible behavior. But as a company that prides itself on diversity, I would hope that as a responsible parent would to a child that knows no better, you would take measures to explain how hurtful and disrespectful her actions were.
As an Asian American who was born and raised in this country, I have had to endure similar humiliations throughout my youth. When I saw the aforementioned photo, it conjured up memories of schoolyard teasing that cast  me as an outsider simply because of my race. Perhaps naively, I had thought we, as a country, had grown past this kind of outright racist taunting. For Disney to allow this incident to go unaddressed confirms that not only have we NOT evolved as a society but that those with the power to do something about it deem such actions as acceptable.

I am a card-carrying member of the DGA and WGA and have made two feature films that deal head on with representations of Asian Americans. While I don’t think anyone can claim to be an expert in this area, I come pretty darn close. I have witnessed my own struggle and the struggles of fellow talented Asian Americans in the film industry. When incidents like this occur, it chips away at my hopes that  Asian Americans will one day be accepted in mainstream culture. It validifies that Asians will always be seen as foreign and in addition, easily mocked without fear of repercussions. Would this incident have been dealt with as much silence had the photo been of Ms. Cyrus in blackface eating watermelon in the guise as “goofing around?”

I was fortunate enough to take part in the ABC New Talent Directing Fellowship in 2006-07. During that time, I shadowed Roger Christiansen on episode 116 of Hannah Montana entitled “Good Golly Ms. Dolly.” While I found it a worthwhile and educational experience, I did make note of the fact that on the Hannah Montana set there was a lack of people of color both in front of and behind the camera. This was unique because on almost every other ABC show I had observed (e.g. LOST, Desperate Housewives, George Lopez, etc) this was not the case. In fact, as best as I can recall, I think I was the only person of color on the set of Hannah Montana.

What further disheartened me was that Ms. Cyrus issued what she called an “apology” on her blog. Her tone was defensive and lacked any taking of responsibility for her actions. She demonized the press, framed herself as the victim and used the excuse that she was just making “goofy faces.” What she failed to recognize was that her “goofy face” was at the expense of Asians worldwide. Whether she intended to make fun of an entire race of people or not is not an excuse for doing so. If someone isn’t aware that drunk driving is against the law, they are still responsible for crashing a car into a telephone pole. As a public figure, she needs to understand that the example she is setting for the millions of girls that look up to her is cowardly and irresponsible.

As a new father,  I am disappointed that my baby girl will have to suffer the same lack of good role models as I did growing up. Is this the best that Disney has to offer her? I hope not.  Please take the appropriate measures to remedy the situation. I would like to think we could all grow from this experience.



Michael Poryes (Executive Producer/Creator Hannah Montana)
c/o Debbee Klein
360 N. Crescent Dr.,  North Bldg.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Steven Peterman (Executive Producer/Creator Hannah Montana)
c/o It’s A Laugh Productions
201 N Occidental Blvd Bldg 6
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Rich Ross
President, Disney Channel Worldwide
3800 W Alameda Ave #2026
Burbank, CA 91505


23 thoughts on “

  1. I just don’t see the racism. Stupid – yes. Being a kid – Definetely.In grade school I remember stupid ethnic jokes, like the song “meChinese, me play joke…”  Dumb, certainly not “politically correct”,but i don’t remember any kids being so upset about it that it harmedtheir development. I remember being teased and picked on for beingskinny, not Asian. I remember kids getting beat up for their clothes,or haircut, or the bike they rode. I remember much less teasing basedon race. Even as kids, we knew that it was unfortunately normal,stupid, schoolyard teasing.As I got older, the teasing instead came amongst friends. We tease eachother based on race, our clothes, who we like, our car, our sportsteams, anything that we can try to get a rise out of. This teasing isbased upon liking each other, it’s not racist or mean.As for her apology, it is weak.  I’m sure they’re like any group offriends making fun of each other and someone thought it a good idea tomake a slanty eyed gesture in one picture.  I’m sure we all havepictures we’re not too proud of.  But, she is a public figure, whichmeans every thing she does is publicized and scrutinized. In today’smedia driven, and a racist under every rock society, no apology isacceptable.  But she could really have used this opportunity to use herinfluence in a positive way, and become a true role model. 

  2. Hi Mike,Thank you for the contact info.  I already e-mailed a letter in protest of Miley’s conduct on February 5 or 6.  I have a child too and I found it outrageous that no one cares about the demoralization of Asian American kids in particular.  Luckily, I do not have a little girl who is crazy over Hannah Montana – Thank God!  Nevertheless, my little guy watches Disney no more and they are not getting my business at the stores either.  I do not understand how anyone can characterize her defensiveness as any kind of apology.  She just poured salt in the wound. So did Katy Perry by having one of her Asian dancers pointed out by AngryAsianMan, do the chinky eye gesture.  Talk about oppression in the workplace.  The Asian female dancer was probably asked by her boss Katy Perry to help Miley out and do you think she had a choice but to say, sure!  It was either go along with the boss (I am sure she conned herself into believing it was the right thing to do) or never dance. I noticed that Miley was invited to the Obama White House to perform.  I wonder what Obama would say if he found out about the incident – “I was not aware of the photo or I never had any contact with her office, Disney  (like he distanced himself from Blagoyevich; or I can not disown her like I can not disown my white grandmother (like he distanced himself from Reverend Wright; or She is the only one who can save the economy by having citizens under 16 years of age spend money to see her perform (as he tried to excuse Tim Geitner’s (now treasury secretary) tax evasion)  I think if the President is made aware, he will probably brush it off by telling us, the Asian American community to suck it up, just ignore it, she’s just a kid. I think the President will espouse the same “color blind” racism that people engage in today.   If he condemns what she did, then I will truly be impressed and never underestimate him again.  I honestly  hope I have to eat my words about the President.  I had only e-mailed Disney’s general corporate e-mail address so I was glad to find the info. you gave. 

  3. “As a new father,  I am disappointed that my baby girl will have to suffer the same lack of good role models as I did growing up. Is this the best that Disney has to offer her? I hope not.”You know what guy, go fuck yourself, that is a lame ass excuse your the parent be the role model and quit expecting everyone else to raise your kids. For your information this stupid ass photo of her is protected under her rights of expression, if she wants to walk around with slanted eyes all day she can, you know the same way “adults” can keep posting their shit about her all over and calling her a whore and every thing else.  People need to get a fucking grip, grow a set and if they don’t like what their child is exposed to then parent and don’t let them watch her or any other thing you dont seem to think fit for your little darling, but quit blaming everyone but yourself because you rather do something besides be a parent and then let tv, video games, ect raise your children!  Yes she may have had some controversy but if you would really get down to it, its nothing other teens haven’t done, and will continue to do the only reason you attack her is because she is a celebrity well guess what she is also a teen! And maybe if you asstards would quit putting celebrities on such a high pedestal maybe you wouldn’t be so disappointed in them when they are human!

  4. @solshine702 – “Excellent letter! I hope things continue to change for the better in this country.”So pretty much forcing someone to apologize for a photo that was taken out of context for one, and for two was a private photo not even meant for the public eye, is a way continue change for the better in this country? Yeah? so taking away rights of our citizens that are protected are ways to better this country huh? hmmm… so this country will be better if we get rid of Hannah Montana amazing! I guess she is responsible for the war in Iraq, shitty economy, and the dumbing down of America also, even though this country was in the toilet long before her show aired.

  5. RE: FRED1952I would normally just delete your comment right away because of how unwarranted your level of anger is and just for flaming me. But I am going to leave it up to show others how big an asshole you are. I am surprised you actually got to the end of my letter with so much bile frothing at your mouth. I think you need to ask yourself why you are so angry about my letter. I think I approached the whole ordeal maturely and respectfully. There must be something underneath that you find threatening. Fuck you very much!

  6. Seriously…that photo is pretty horrible… I have a 9 year old niece who loves Hanna Montana, but I will show her this photo and explain what the word “racist” means.That is a great letter… I don’t think I can even write something close to that…

  7. Fred,Part of being a good parent is working to change society for yourkids.  Responsible non-Asian parents do it too, so quit acting so highand mighty.Michael,Thanks for posting the addresses and information.  I’m going to write a letter myself.  I found your blog through another blogger, and I just published those addresses on my own site. more of us continue to speak up, hopefully someone will listen.

  8. Thank you very much for posting this! I was outraged when I discovered this latest Miley Cyrus “sh*t.” Sorry, but yes, sh*t, because she is a disgrace to Disney!I will surely be writing a letter and spreading this to all of my Asian and non-Asian friends! Oh, just to let you know, I found your blog from a discussion on the Facebook group, “Asians Not Brain-Washed by Media.” -Ceres

  9. Everyone is making such a big deal about what this little girl did.  I doubt she was sending a political message, it seems to be just friends goofing around.  I feel sorry for her, that a private picture was released and now she is labeled racially incensitive.  I have so many Korean friends that mimick how other races talk, walk, look, etc, etc.  And I am sure on occasions I have  done so also.  I’d be horrified if someone took a slice of such action and published it for all to see.  Yes she is a public figure but she is also a kid. Rather than to crucify her I’d like them to show her compassion and forgiveness from Asian comunity is perhaps better served.  I doubt she will make the same mistake again.

  10. Hi MikeAny chance of making a movie or doc about pathetic asians such as that one you have shown in this article?  Apathetic and blind asians and asian americans make me sick, usually its always females are like this.

  11. Please keep writing! Waiting for new updates.Also, what are you working on now? With all the shit coming out in 2009, it’d be nice to see some Asian American Artists representing Asian Americans authentically.

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